At the Liberal party launch on Sunday, Scott Morrison basically declared that Australia has had the best Covid recovery in the world.
Our economic growth was higher than any other advanced economy, our AAA credit rating is intact, one of only nine countries to do that in the world … On almost every measure, growth, jobs, debt levels, fatality rates, vaccine rates, Australia’s recovery is leading the advanced world.
But is Australia’s record as unimpeachable as that? And which countries are we referring to when we say the response is world-beating?
If the standard of “advanced economies” is G7 nations, then Morrison’s boast is correct, but if the standard is the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, it is not.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia’s economy at the end of 2021 was 3.4% bigger than it was at the start of the pandemic (December quarter, 2019).
According to the OECD, that beats G7 nations over that period, although the US is a close second (3.1%), and France (0.9%) and Canada (0.2%) were also positive.
In the G20, however, Australia’s performance lags Turkey (14.5%), China (10.2%), India (5.4%) – although these are developing economies, which in turn dragged the G20 average higher than Australia’s result (4.1%).
Broadening out further, there were some developed countries in the OECD that performed even better.
Australia’s GDP shrank 2.2% in 2020 then grew by 4.7% in 2021. That performance was bettered by Denmark (-2.1% then up 4.7%), Israel (-2.1% then up 7.9%), Ireland (up 5.9% then up 13.5%), New Zealand (-2.1% then up 5.6%), Norway (-0.7% then up 3.9%). Still, Australia had a better fourth quarter of 2021 than all these nations, except Israel.
According to the OECD, Australia’s March 2022 unemployment rate of 3.954% is higher than the Czech Republic (2.3%), Germany (2.9%), Hungary (3.2%), Israel (3.8%), Japan (2.6%), Korea (2.7%), Mexico and the Netherlands (3.3%) and the US (3.6%).
So, let’s just say this is one of the stats Morrison excluded with that all-important caveat, that Australia wins on “almost every measure”.
Australia’s government debt, 84.38% of GDP, is lower than the OECD average of 94.3% but higher than 24 other OECD countries.
These include Germany (78.66%), Israel (73.16%), Sweden (59.73%), Korea (58.77%) and New Zealand (55.33%).
Australia has now had a total of 7,794 Covid deaths: 2,239 over 2020 and 2021 and 5,555 in 2022 so far.
In a November 2021 paper on excess mortality since January 2020, Australia beat almost all OECD countries, except Denmark, Iceland, Korea and Norway.
According to the World Health Organisation’s Covid-19 dashboard, Australia reported 246 Covid deaths in the last seven days, more than several countries with larger populations including Germany (220), South Africa (159), and Spain (94).
The United Kingdom reported 377 deaths in the last week, despite having a population of 67m, more than double Australia’s (25.7m).
While Australia’s death rate was relatively low in the first two years of the pandemic, the health response is no longer world-beating.
According to the WHO, Australia sits near the top of countries ranked by total vaccine doses per 100 people, with 227 jabs per 100 people.
Australia is nevertheless behind: New Zealand (229), China (231), Singapore (239), Korea (244), and some countries with much smaller populations.
Australia is also doing better on the measure of primary vaccine doses than on number of people who have received their booster. By the measure of people boosted, much of Europe – including Italy, Germany, France and Greece – is beating Australia.
On most measures, Australia’s economic and health response to Covid-19 has been better than other comparable nations over the first two years.
But Australia’s world-beating health response is now a thing of the past. After Australia ended its strict caps on international arrivals and other domestic health restrictions, fatalities have increased despite high vaccination rates.
On the economic measure elevated by Morrison, growth, his claim is true in comparison to the G7 but not the OECD.