Pubs in NSW have reopened amid an easing of coronavirus restrictions. Image by James Gourley/AAP PHOTOS

Health

NSW virus success spurs COAG shakeup call

2020-05-18 14:42:37

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says the state’s success in halting the COVID-19 outbreak may help attract private investment capital otherwise headed to the virus-hit US and UK.

She also declared the Australian federation was “ripe for economic reform” even before the onset of the pandemic, and labelled the Council of Australian Governments intergovernmental forum as clumsy, overly bureaucratic and mired in red tape.

NSW residents over the weekend ventured back to their local eateries, pubs and bars, with dining venues able to take up to 10 patrons after an easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

Restrictions on religious gatherings, ceremonies and household visits have also been eased.

Ms Berejiklian on Sunday said the state’s success in blunting the impact of COVID-19 – with just over 3000 cases and fewer than 50 deaths to date – would be looked upon favourably by capital markets, particularly given the struggles in the UK and US.

More than 88,000 people have died due to COVID-19 amid almost 1.5 million cases in the US, while almost 35,000 people in the UK have died from 240,000 cases.

This could help redirect investment flows from those financial centres to NSW.

“As much as we love the US and UK, we were often third in people’s consideration about where they go to university or where they invest or what they do,” Ms Berejiklian told Sky News.

“Perhaps this is an opportunity for us to demonstrate we’re a COVID-safe environment where people can invest, can travel to, can even study.”

In a clue about the government’s plans, Ms Berejiklian also said future NSW economic policy would involve “far less regulation” and “flexibility to innovate” for the private sector.

NSW Treasury chief economist Stephen Walters on Friday said the state’s economy was headed for a recession for the first time in nearly 30 years, with Australian Bureau of Statistics data showing 221,000 NSW residents lost their jobs in April.

Ms Berejiklian on Sunday also suggested GST reform should be “put on the table” – and that the current National Cabinet forum of premiers and Prime Minister Scott Morrison had proven far more effective in solving problems than COAG.

“Our federation is ripe for economic reform – our federation hasn’t changed in decades, assumes all the states have the same population, economic diversity, which we don’t. This process has really highlighted that,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“The National Cabinet has demonstrated what can be achieved.

“To be frank, COAG can sometimes be very clumsy, can be very bureaucratic and full of red tape and I think the National Cabinet has really empowered us as leaders to take things forward in a considered but timely way, without being bogged down.”

NSW recorded just one new case of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm on Saturday, Health Minister Brad Hazzard told reporters on Sunday, with more than 10,100 tests conducted.

But he again warned against community complacency as restrictions ease.

“It’s fair to say that there has been, in a sense, a great NSW bust-out – people (are) rewarding themselves for many weeks of sacrifice, having themselves locked inside,” Mr Hazzard said.

“But I also do want to remind people this virus is extremely dangerous and we are all – every one of us – sitting ducks for this virus. We don’t know where this virus might break out.”

Mr Hazzard revealed a previously-confirmed COVID-19 case had attended a dinner party with their partner while ill, causing NSW Health to scramble to trace and test contacts.

NSW Communities Minister Gareth Ward on Sunday also announced some 1200 rough sleepers in the state had been helped into temporary accommodation during the pandemic.