There have been a lot of phrases bandied about in recent weeks that would have been unthinkable just a short while ago (like ‘illegal diner party’, for example) and some that have been around for a while but are now enjoying an extended moment in the sun. One of these latter phrases is ‘the new normal’, and business sectors that are making the best job of adapting to the reality of the world since the arrival of COVID-19 are the ones that will find a way to prosper despite the adversity and support the Australian economy while doing so.
So which sectors are adapting, and how are they doing it?
The Federal, Queensland, New South Wales and Victorian governments have all declared that infrastructure projects and construction generally are essential services. Construction of the Queen’s Wharf in Brisbane is continuing without interruption, and there are many other major projects in the pipeline. Permitted working hours on some sites have been temporarily extended, in an effort to support the industry. At the same time, groups representing both employers and unions have expressed concerns about the health and safety of the workforce, and have united in urging that guidelines be adhered to, covering strict hygiene practices, social distancing and separation of workers on meal breaks. The Master Builders Association has produced a COVID-19 Best Practice Guide for building and construction.
The Australian manufacturing sector is also staking its claim to be considered an essential service. Over 1500 companies have stepped up to the plate in the COVID-19 Manufacturer Response, declaring themselves ready, for example, to switch to making face masks, hospital beds, portable buildings, sanitiser, ventilators and more. And that’s not counting the heroic efforts of manufacturers of toilet paper, tissues and paper towels, and many food products, in the face of retail shortages caused by panic buying.
The pandemic has also re-ignited calls for Australia to become more self-sufficient in manufacturing in the future, instead of relying on imports. Once this is over and global supply chains are re-assessed, there could be many new opportunities in the manufacturing sector.
Australian farmers have recently come through both drought and bushfires. And now that rains have eased the drought in many areas, they’re telling the public, “We’ve got your back” during the COVID-19 crisis. They’re reassuring consumers that they can produce enough high-quality food locally to feed 75 million people, even though our population is only 25 million. The demand for local produce has certainly increased and is likely to be sustained while consumers look to boost their immunity with fresh fruit and vegetables, probably long after the lockdown is a distant memory.
Meanwhile, the government has rolled out a $110 million support package to airfreight fresh produce to key international markets, now that cargo space in passenger flights is no longer available. Additionally, there will be a $10 million waiver of fishery fees and a $50 million boost to the existing exports grant program.
Transport and logistics
Australia is relying heavily on truckies to keep on rolling during the crisis, delivering food supplies, essential materials and equipment to keep industries operating, and vital medical items. As a result, the transport and logistics sector is particularly strong and needs to expand its workforce. The federal government has launched an online portal, Jobs Hub, listing all job opportunities currently available in transport and logistics, along with other sectors showing increased demand. It’s a resource able to be used by both transport businesses (to list vacancies) and jobseekers.
Essential services will see us through In times of adversity, these essential services continue to support the economy and keep Australians working. While most of us are still struggling with ‘the new normal’, small and medium construction, manufacturing, agricultural and transport businesses are adapting and performing as never before.