'Making the boat go faster': PM's theory on how Australia can bounce back from virus

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Scott Morrison has called for Australians to focus on “what makes the boat go faster” as the nation looks to kick-start its lagging economy.

Addressing media at the National Press Club on Tuesday, the prime minister called for a united focus on Australia’s small and medium businesses to spearhead the nation’s return to economic stability and a route back from the epidemic.

Mr Morrison retold a story from his days working as the director of New Zealand’s Office of Tourism and Sport that he believes will help Australia lay its path out of economic struggle.

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As New Zealand looked to defend its Americas Cup title in 2000, Mr Morrison recalled the moment he realised the focus of their efforts needed to be on how to increase the performance of their vessel and nothing else.

“Team New Zealand, led by the late Sir Peter Blake, was competing in one of the richest sporting events in the world,” he recalls.

“Biggest sponsors, enormous global media investments, broadcast rights, high-tech sport, like you have never seen. You would think no expense spared by any team in that great quest.

Scott Morrison addressing the National Press Club in Canberra. Source: AAP
Scott Morrison called for a focus on Australia's small businesses. Source: AAP

“But early on I learned the key to Team New Zealand's success.”

He recalled the sailing team, its entourage and backroom staff met in Auckland in a room filled with “rickety old chairs” and a “scuffed up table”.

Mr Morrison said he questioned the conditions of the room yet was shot down immediately.

"In Team New Zealand you only ask one question - what makes the boat go faster?" he was told.

“Those chairs weren't going to make any difference. Their united and focused effort brought a whole country together. Not just the team.

“And they won. And so can we.”

Getting the Australian economy ‘out of ICU’

Mr Morrison said it was vital the same mentality is adopted by Australia in the current health and economic crisis.

He identified ‘the boat’ as the “hundreds of thousands of small and medium and large businesses that make up our economy” which create jobs and “the value upon which everything else depends”.

And while he said the federal government was committed to helping those businesses find their feet with its stimulus packages as they look to bounce back post-COVID-19 restrictions, the economy could not rely on handouts for ever, Mr Morrison warned.

“You’ve got to get your economy out of ICU,” he said.

“You've got to get it off the medication before it becomes too accustomed to it.

“We must enable our businesses to earn Australia's way out of this crisis. And that means focusing on the things that can make their businesses go faster.”

Government shelves union crackdown measures

Mr Morrison also announced the government has abandoned controversial laws making it easier to deregister unions and ban officials.

The "ensuring integrity" bill was defeated in the Senate late last year.

But the draft laws were reintroduced, with the government insisting the harsh measures were needed to deal with misconduct in the construction industry.

He said the government had decided not to seek a further vote in the Senate in a show of good faith to unions.

"The government maintains its complete lack of tolerance for the kinds of behaviour we have particularly seen from the CFMEU on Australian construction sites in recent years," he told the National Press Club in Canberra.

"It's not only illegal, it's costing jobs."

Mr Morrison wants to foster greater cooperation with unions as he seeks to reform workplace laws after the coronavirus pandemic.

But the government will still pursue measures to stop unions breaking the law.

"We are committed to ensuring that this happens in the simplest, fairest and most effective statutory form possible, which we will consider going forward," the prime minister said.

with AAP

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