In June 1982 a Boeing 747 traveling from London to Auckland flew into a cloud of volcanic ash over Indonesia, stopping all four of its engines.
The plane could only glide, and began to lose altitude. It would almost certainly have crashed, but for three of the engines coughing back to life and generating enough power for an emergency landing in Jakarta.
Much like that 747, Australia’s economy is currently straining along on three engines, none operating at full capacity.
One engine – Victoria, which accounts for around one quarter of Australian economic output – is spluttering badly.
Right now, more than ever, it is vital for states like NSW – where the virus is under control – to do everything we can keep Australia moving.
That is why our Government has announced a “Summer Summit”, to bring together policy makers and the business community to work out what steps we can take to get as much of our economy as possible firing in the months ahead, while avoiding a COVID-19 resurgence.
NSW is starting from a strong financial position. We have been able to open up, and stay open, to a significant extent already.
That has not happened by chance – it is the result of a determined effort to adapt our state and our economy to life in a world where COVID-19 remains a threat.
Rather than shut everything down and hope the virus just disappears for good, we have taken the pragmatic view that life can and should go on to the greatest extent possible.
This has only been possible because of the heroic efforts of our health personnel, and I cannot commend highly enough the world-leading contact tracing work that has kept the curve in NSW low and flat.
Their success has illustrated how getting the health settings right creates opportunities for people to get back to work and for businesses to reopen their doors.
While the work done so far has enabled tens of thousands of people to return to work in NSW, we have a long way to go, and we cannot rest on our laurels, even for a minute.
This time of year is when Sydney is usually springing back to life, emerging from its winter doldrums, getting out and about in the sun and celebrating the joys of living in the most beautiful city in the world.
For many businesses, particularly in retail and hospitality, the coming months are typically the busiest of the year.
This year, however, the city – and much of the state – remains eerily quiet.
Part of this is because of restrictions that are still in place, like capacity limits on buses, trains and in pubs and restaurants.
But a lot comes down to confidence. After all, Sydney isn’t in lockdown, and at present, many of the business districts across the state have ample capacity to safely handle more foot traffic.
With the traditional Christmas period just around the corner, and travel options limited, now is the time for everyone to invest in supporting our local businesses.
This is why I believe the number one agenda item for the Summer Summit must be to generate ideas on how we can restore confidence, and get the city buzzing with people as much as possible without compromising safety.
The focus of tomorrow’s event is predominantly on helping boost the CBD as it has been particularly hard hit by reduced patronage with thousands of people working from home, but of course successful initiatives can often be replicated elsewhere.
One critical piece of the puzzle is to keep making our health system even smarter, faster and more effective in preventing the spread of the virus, and we will continue to give NSW Health every resource it needs to make that happen.
Businesses must continue to look for ways to adapt so that they can operate safely, and if that requires changes to government regulations, those should be considered too.
What I am most looking forward to is hearing some out-of-the-box ideas for how we can make Sydney buzz again, not just in the context of a pandemic, but long term as well.
Working in tandem with the business community to get pragmatic, positive outcomes has been one of the hallmarks of NSW’s approach to managing life with COVID-19, and the Summer Summit is an opportunity to continue that work.
A lot is riding on the Summit’s success, because coming months will have a huge bearing on the economic fate of our state and its people for years and decades to come.
If we do nothing, the coming summer could go down as the one Sydney lost its soul, and NSW stagnated. We can’t let 2020 be the year that hollowed out the city’s heart.
I am confident history will tell a different story – of a summer where the people of our state pulled together and did everything they could to get NSW back on the road to success.