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Former bank MD joins economic recovery taskforce

The former managing director of a regional bank has been appointed to a new federal government taskforce charged with supporting the economic recovery effort.

Mike Hirst, former managing director of Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, has been appointed to the new National COVID-19 Commission (NCC) advisory board as a financial services consultant to the federal government.

Mr Hirst served as Bendigo and Adelaide Bank’s managing director for nine years before retiring in July 2018 and has also served as deputy chair of the Australian Banking Association (ABA) and as a director of the federal government’s Financial Sector Advisory Council.  

The former Bendigo MD is one of six new advisory board members, which include Samantha Hogg (resources and infrastructure), Su McCluskey (agriculture and regional Australia), Bao Hoang (business and healthcare services), Laura Berry (indigenous business and procurement) and Paul Howes (superannuation, workforce and workplace relations). 

The board will be charged with harnessing the JobMaker program to spark a “business-led” recovery following the coronavirus pandemic.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has expanded the NCC’s remit (formerly known as the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission) from its initial task of advising the government on its health response to the COVID-19 pandemic, to focus on the economic recovery of the country.

“While the health response continues to be of the utmost importance in managing outbreaks as they arise, we have to continue our focus on recovery and reform,” the Prime Minister said.

“The government’s JobMaker plan is built on enabling a business-led economic recovery. We are driving skills and training reform, bringing business and unions together to create the industrial relations conditions to get people into work, locking in affordable and reliable energy, expanding opportunities for small business in the digital economy, boosting our manufacturing capability, underpinning renewed housing construction, delivering a record infrastructure investment pipeline, deregulation and streamlining project approvals and federation reform. 

“And there is more to do on issues such as taxation, research collaboration and ensuring regional Australia prospers in the years ahead.”

The advisory board will continue to be led by Nev Power, who has served as chair alongside existing board members Jane Halton, Paul Little and David Thodey.

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Mr Power welcomed the expansion of the board’s remit.

“There will continue to be a concerted effort from across governments and health authorities to get on top of outbreaks, but at the same time we’ve arrived at a point where we need to sharpen our focus on the government’s plan for recovery,” he said.

“I am delighted that our board of highly committed and engaged commissioners and secretaries of key government agencies will be joined in this task by six additional leaders from across the private sector.

“I welcome our new members to the board and look forward to continuing our important work.”

The announcement has come just days after Commonwealth Treasurer Josh Frydenberg shed light on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the nation’s economic and fiscal position.

Mr Frydenberg revealed that the Commonwealth budget is projected to fall from balance in 2018-19 to an $85.8 billion deficit in 2019-20 and a $184.5 billion deficit in 2020-21.

According to Treasury, the record-high increase in the projected deficit reflects the federal government’s $289-billion stimulus program, a cumulative decline in tax receipts of $95.6 billion over the course of 2019-20 and 2020-21, and a $15.7-billion increase in payment variations.

The fiscal response to the COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to have increased real GDP by 0.75 per cent in 2019-20 and 4.25 per cent in 2020-21, and estimated to have lowered the peak unemployment rate – expected to hit 9.25 per cent by the end of 2020 (highest since September 1994) – by around 5 percentage points.

However, despite the government’s stimulus program, Australia’s real GDP is forecast to contract by 7 per cent in the June quarter, and by 3.75 per cent over the 2020 calendar year, before recovering in 2021, with real GDP growth of 2.5 per cent.

[Related: Government confirms record-high budget deficit]

Former bank MD joins economic recovery taskforce
Former bank MD joins economic recovery taskforce
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