It’s All About the Science, Right?

by | Oct 5, 2020

A welcome recent development has been governments paying more heed to science and evidence with important decisions. Long may it continue. Regardless, political leaders will reserve their own versions of the truth. 

Like you, I’m watching the differing and sometimes bewildering rules being applied by different States and countries to contain the pandemic. Leaders everywhere justify restrictions imposed in their jurisdiction as a response to the advice of health experts.

Observers like you and I then see jurisdictions within the same country apply a host of different rules. Is it science or politics? A little of each, of course.

The proliferation of different rules in response to the pandemic reminds me of the extraordinary global growth over the past 25 years in the non-tariff measures (NTMs) that now plague export industries everywhere.  

Importing countries may agree to remove tariff barriers to trade, but then apply all manner of technical and other requirements that add costs or even prevent trade altogether. For example, recent research showed that Australian agricultural exports are subject to nearly 18,000 NTMs worldwide. Firms trying to export to Australia similarly face NTMs. 

Sometimes the restrictions are valid, but more often they are driven by competing interests. 

The pandemic has revealed how businesses and industries have become clothed in red tape that stifles interstate and overseas trade. There may well be objective, consistent health advice. However, the conflicting imperative for government leaders is to stand out from political rivals.

Business groups from farmers to the airline industry and various business councils and The Chamber of Commerce are stepping up to ask a simple question of governments – can we at least have a consistent response and plan that is evidence-based across our country?After all, governments are looking to businesses to lead economies out of recession.

So far, the evidence says it’s not politically attainable.

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