The disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to take a good look at the world and think about how it should change on the other side. For Australia, that means changing the way we have positioned ourselves in the world and the type of economy on which our lives are built.
What the pandemic, and the lockdown it has caused, has shown us is that we cannot be too dependent on traditional sources of export income.
For decades, we have relied on China as the chief buyer of our raw materials. We've also become addicted to cheap products manufactured there, at the expense of our manufacturing industries. While consumers have lapped up inexpensive clothes, electronic good and now even cars, this has come at the expense of our own manufacturing industries. The sudden disruption of supply and trade has given us a short, sharp lesson about the folly of relying too heavily on a single country as a trading partner.
Our relationship with China has served us well in normal times. The resources boom helped see us through the global financial crisis but is also got us addicted to easy Chinese revenue. As we dug up the iron ore and shipped it off-shore, our own steel manufacturing industry withered.
We allowed ourselves to become a country which dug raw materials out of the ground but stopped making things. The factory became a quarry.
Our universities swelled with cash as they attracted overseas students. Now, the students on which these institutions relied, have dried up, by necessity forced to stay home. In our own region, this has led to a $90 million shortfall for the University of Wollongong.
Our tourism industry has also taken a massive hit, with overseas travel now stopped for the foreseeable future. Much of that inbound tourism market came from China.
This week, we've seen how vulnerable we are, with China threatening trade boycotts if we pursue calls for an indedpendent inquiry into the source of the novel coronavirus.
But it's not all gloom and doom. We have a great opportunity to rethink our concept of "business as usual". The pause on the global economy has given us breathing space to look at what's important and what's not. Self-reliance has become the new buzzword.
We need to manufacture the products we require. It's time the lucky country grew up and became the smart country.