In times of crisis we look to the Government, and in Australia at least, the public sector has stepped up. Trust in Government is at an all-time high in this country, due in part to the early, proactive, and successful intervention in avoiding a severe health crisis, and the economic relief provided by federal and state Governments. As we slip into a deep recession, I pose the question: what roles will the public and private sectors play in the recovery moving forward?
To gain an insight into the changing roles and public perceptions of the private and public sectors in Australia, I spoke with Charles Cho, General Counsel at NSW Treasury. Charles heads up the Office of the General Counsel as well as being a member of the NSW Treasury executive leadership team.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed people’s perception of the role of Government in society alongside the private sector,” said Charles.
“People’s sense of security, of having a job and having a place to live, have been shaken.”
“When large amounts of people have lost their jobs so suddenly and are worried about paying their mortgages or paying their rent, what they found was that when they didn’t have a job it was only Government that could step in to help,” he said.
The past two decades of economic prosperity in Australia has allowed the Government to support the private sector, and for many this has taken the focus away from the public sector and shielded people’s perception of Government’s role in society.
“In the current crisis there’s been a dawning realisation that actually Government is very important and sometimes only Government can do things which the private sector can’t,” highlights Charles.
Australia’s economic position relative to other OECD countries, highlighted in this ABC article, indicates that we are faring better than most and arguably much as of this is a result of the economic stimulus and financial relief provided by all levels of Government.
Much is still to be done and we are not out of the woods yet, but at NSW Treasury at least, there is a strong plan in place.
According to Charles, NSW Treasury outlined three phases to the COVID-19 pandemic: response, recovery, and reform.
“Most of the recent activities have been focused on response, which is to save lives and to save jobs,” says Charles.
“We’re now moving into the recovery phase, followed by reform, and I think it’s going to be critical for the public and private sector to work together on that,” shares Charles.
The recovery phase will focus on how Governments can support those industries which will encourage the rapid creation of jobs to replace those that were lost during the COVID-19 crisis.
“We don’t want Government to be employing people. I know that during the Great Depression in some countries, Government hired people to dig holes and fill holes. That’s not what we want,” said Charles
The focus is on creating jobs which are sustainable.
“We want to be creating jobs which are going to reflect the needs of society going into the future,” said Charles.
The private sector is going to be vital for sustainable job creation, leaving the public sector to focus on how it can best support the private sector during this recovery phase.
“The third phase, which is the reform phase, is really exciting to me because there’s been a lot of really hard reforms which have been sitting on the shelves, but which before this crisis, I think we would have said that would have been difficult to implement, but they’re back on the table,” enthuses Charles.
Tax reform and harmonising vocational training are two examples of reforms on the immediate agenda.
According to Charles, reforms should be focused on supporting and promoting productivity.
“Productivity will lead to greater jobs,” explains Charles, “which is the focus of Government at the moment.”
Charles is passionate about transformational reform and highlights that for lawyers and General Counsel it “is going to bring great opportunity for them to work on once-in-a-generation changes to society.”
“The post-COVID-19 work, business, and regulatory environment will not be the same, and Government and private sector businesses will need sound legal advice to help navigate through it,” he said.
As we immerse ourselves in the recovery phase of the crisis, we will be looking for leadership from both sectors to work together to create sustainable jobs, innovative industries, and a stronger future.
View the full video interview with Charles Cho below and follow Lawcadia on LinkedIn to stay up to date with our Fireside Chat series.
Lawcadia and Gadens have developed a COVID-19 Legal Workflow to help in-house legal teams manage the breadth and scale of pandemic-related legal issues. This solution is available with pre-configured workflows and can be deployed in a matter of days