After facing some dark months in the grip of the pandemic, Australia is cautiously emerging from one of the biggest challenges we have faced as a nation, and as of this month, is officially a connected federation again. With states and territories shutting borders to fight the virus from early 2020, for most of this year the country has been disconnected from its eight jurisdictional parts, the first time in 100 years since the Spanish flu in 1919.
December has marked the first month since Covid hit that Australians have been freely able to move about the country. While welcomed warmly by some and with dismay by others, this has meant that flying for work is now back on the agenda. For myself, this meant making the pilgrimage to Canberra this week, Australia’s political heart, to talk the topic that can open the door of a politician’s office like no other at this point in time – hydrogen.
Walking the corridors of Parliament House, it’s obvious the building is a very different place to what it was pre-pandemic. Despite being the last sitting week of the year, the building is strangely quiet with security outnumbering visitors, entrance procedures reconfigured and the staff canteen re-jigged to minimise interaction, and handshakes continuing to be a no-go.
Nevertheless, there is still optimism in the air. Australia’s decision makers are turning their minds to the country’s economic recovery and how best to harness our strategic advantages as a nation to bounce back quickly. With the service economy one of Australia’s biggest export sectors and encompassing international education and personal travel, the prospects for these sectors in a world that will not be fully connected again for some time, are not positive. However, Australia’s commodities industry, our second-biggest export sector, continue to boom – with iron ore, coal and natural gas the most dominant.
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