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Four more weeks: PM says end in sight, vows to kick-start economy

After a phone hook-up with state premiers and chief ministers, Mr Morrison warned Australian life would not be returning to normal overnight.

“It’s going to be step by step, there is going to be trial and error, it is completely uncharted territory… no country in the world has worked this out yet,” he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says "pro-growth" policies will be needed to kick-start the economy after the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says “pro-growth” policies will be needed to kick-start the economy after the coronavirus pandemic.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

The government is now looking at how to get the post-virus economy growing, with Mr Morrison saying cabinet would start to look at “very pro-growth” policies.

Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe and Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy both addressed the national cabinet, outlining the economic challenges facing the country in the wake of the pandemic.

“If you think we can grow the economy under the old settings then we need to think again,” Mr Morrison said.

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“They also highlighted .. that any sense of business as usual when it comes to the policy framework we had before the election will need to be reconsidered on the other side.

“It will be a different world on the other side of the virus and there will be many challenges.”

The national COVID-19 economic taskforce boss Nev Power is expected to offer suggestions to boost the economy through new policies, including national building infrastructure and industrial relations reform.

The Prime Minister would not be drawn on what policy changes could be considered, but pointed to talks between the federal government and the states about infrastructure projects that could be brought forward.

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said Australia “cannot afford to do relaxation” of social restrictions until the public health system was bolstered, with new modelling of Australia’s COVID-19 spread showing containment.

He said more than half of Australia’s 6457 confirmed COVID-19 cases had now recovered but warned 42 patients remained in hospital on ventilators, on top of the 63 deaths across the nation.

On Thursday, the government’s debt agency sold another $13 billion in debt, taking federal debt beyond $600 billion for the first time.

Mr Morrison said he was “particularly sensitive to the issues of increased debt and deficit” and the best way to drive down debt was to get the economy growing.

The full economic fallout of the policies aimed at halting the spread of the coronavirus is now starting to filter through key data.

Unemployment edged up to 5.2 per cent in March but the Australian Bureau of Statistics survey took place through the first half of the month, before major employers started announcing lay-offs in response to social distancing restrictions.

Unemployment rose to 4.8 per cent in NSW (from 4.6 per cent) but fell in Victoria to 5.2 per cent from 5.3 per cent.

There was a 20,300 lift in the number of Australians looking for work.

Analysts expect the April result to show a much bigger hit to the national jobs market. On Thursday, Crown Casino revealed it had stood down 95 per cent of its 11,500 staff.

Separate data compiled by the Commonwealth Bank, which tracked JobSeeker payments into customers’ accounts, points to a major increase in unemployment.

Senior economist Belinda Allen said there had been a 20 per cent jump in the number of accounts receiving JobSeeker payments with much of that occuring in the first week of April.

“We also believe there is a lag between registering and receiving the JobSeeker package which suggests the official ABS labour market data will deteriorate sharply in April,” she said.

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