National COVID-19 Coordination Commission established

By Shannon Jenkins

March 25, 2020

Scott Morrison. AAP Image/Getty Pool, Sam Mooy

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a National COVID-19 Coordination Commission.

During a press conference on Wednesday, the PM said the commission — led by former Fortescue head Nev Power — would “solve problems” that require the public and private sectors to work together.

The commission would work with “all arms of government, right across government”, Morrison said.

A board of “eminent Australians” will be appointed to work with the commission to “help guide this problem-solving task”, with former head of Telstra David Thodey to serve as deputy chair.

Already appointed board members include former secretary of the Department of Finance Jane Halton, Prime Minister and Cabinet boss Phil Gaetjens, and Home Affairs secretary Michael Pezzullo.

Other members include former Labor MP Greg Combet, head of Toll Paul Little, and Energy Australia’s Catherine Tanna.

“I want to give Australians confidence that we’ve got the best people in this country working to solve the problems and the challenges that are going to confront us, so we all get through to the other side,” Morrison said.

Power said he took on the role because Australia needs to “minimise and mitigate the impact of the coronavirus”. He said he would be looking for opportunities to work with businesses to solve the problems caused by the pandemic, such as redeploying those out of work into roles where they are needed, as well as protecting supply chains.

“So my role is going to be looking for those problems and looking for opportunities where we can join businesses together to solve two problems,” he said.

“Where there is a workforce that is no longer gainfully employed and where there is a workforce that’s needed. Where there’s equipment that can be redeployed. Where we need to intervene to protect our critical supply chains and our utilities, and also, very importantly, looking to the future because we know that this virus will come and go.”

The commission’s priorities are to “identify those areas, ask people for their help, and look for coordination across all of those areas to minimise the impact of this virus”, Power noted.

Morrison said the group would ensure the government receives the most comprehensive advice to help “cushion the economic impact” of the pandemic on Australia.

“This is about working cooperatively across private-to-private and public-to-private networks to unlock resources, break bottlenecks and fix problems so Australian families, businesses and communities are supported through the challenging months ahead,” he said.

“The National COVID-19 Coordination Commission is about mobilising a whole-of-society and whole-of-economy effort so we come through this unprecedented health crisis. The commission will assist the government to ensure all resources are marshalled to this vital task in a coordinated and effective manner.”

The commission will be based in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. The Department of Home Affairs’ existing National Coordination Mechanism — which coordinates the cross jurisdictional response to non-health aspects of the pandemic — will report to the commission, as will the Coronavirus Business Liaison Unit based in the Treasury Department.

Morrison said the Department of Defence would also be assisting the commission.

“Logistic support from the military will also be available… [the military] will be at the disposal of the National Coordination Commission for coronavirus, and they will be plugging in heavily with this work with Nev,” he said.

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