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Chief economist update: ScoMo cannot miss new vaccination target

Some move the goalposts when they can't hit the target, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison did one better and all but abandoned his government's vaccine roll-out target.

Taking to Facebook, Morrison announced on April 10 that: "The government has also not set, nor has any plans to set any new targets for completing first doses. While we would like to see these doses completed before the end of the year, it is not possible to set such targets given the many uncertainties involved. We will just get on with the job of working together to produce, distribute and administer the vaccines as safely and efficiently as possible. These daily data reports will enable Australians to be kept informed of the progress."

No target, no miss.

While this represents a significant let down from Morrison's claim earlier this year that all Australians would be "fully-vaccinated" by October this year, it hasn't cause much of a stir from many citizens.

Perhaps, it's because the announcement was drowned out by news that broke on the same day of the death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Perhaps not. A more rationale rational is that with cases of COVID-19 infections in Australia virtually nil, life Down Under has been returning to normal, vaccinated or not.

So much so that recent business activity surveys continue to indicate continued strong expansion - Markit Composite PMI rose to a reading of 55.5 in March (from 53.7 in February); the services PMI increased to 55.5 (from 53.4); the manufacturing PMI marked its 10th straight month of expansion with a reading of 56.8 in March.

Markit Economics' PMI survey is consistent with the findings of the Australian Industry Group (AiG) surveys. The AiG performance of manufacturing and services indices rose to three-year high readings of 59.9 and 58.7, respectively in March, while its performance of construction index reached an all-time high of 61.8 in the same month.

Wait there's more. While Australia's international trade surplus declined in February, it's still in surplus. The country's surplus on goods and services to the tune of $7.5 million in February, notwithstanding China's restrictions on a number of Australian imports.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics' (ABS) latest report on job vacancies provide a good forward view of the domestic labour market.

According to the ABS, "job vacancies were 27 per cent higher than 12 months earlier in February 2020, just before the start of the pandemic".

"The seasonally adjusted estimates for the February 2021 quarter are as follows:

  • Total job vacancies were 288,700, an increase of 13.7% from November 2020.
  • Private sector vacancies were 260,300, an increase of 14.0% from November 2020.
  • Public sector vacancies were 28,400, an increase of 11.1% from November 2020."
These are in line with the recent sharp gains in employment reported in February and run counter to concerns over the ending of JobKeeper in March. Australian businesses wouldn't be advertising for and recruiting more workers if they're solely relying on the government's handout, would they?

Australia may not be "at the front of the queue for a safe and effective vaccine", as Morrison declared back in November 2020, but it's certainly leading much of the world in containing the virus and strengthening economic recovery.

Read our full COVID-19 news coverage and analysis here.