Ai Group welcomed the opportunity to contribute to the Commonwealth Government COVID-19 Response Inquiry.

This submission focuses on the experience of Australian businesses – particularly the approximately one million businesses with employees – during the acute phases of the Covid pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

These businesses were forced to contend with the most challenging operational environment in living memory, managing both the impacts of the pandemic and the public health measures put in place to contain it.

At a time of extreme social and economic stress, business played a critical role in keeping Australian supply chains open, ensuring continuity in essential services and infrastructure, and protecting the jobs of the 11 million Australians employed in the private sector.

Australia's ability to successfully navigate the acute phases of the pandemic, and then emerge into a strong post-pandemic recovery, depended on the resilience and adaptability of our businesses.

The challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic were extraordinary and will hopefully not be faced again. However, it is crucial that if we face a similar disruptive event in future – whether that be of a public health or other cause – that we have learnt lessons from the experience of 2020 and 2021.

Of particular importance are lessons for how governments can support business to flexibly maintain operations, and preserve employment relationships, during a period of abnormal and unexpected societal disruptions.

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