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UNSW Press UNSW Press

Australia’s Pandemic Exceptionalism

How we crushed the curve but lost the race

Steven Hamilton, Richard Holden
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In many ways, Australia handled the COVID pandemic as well as any country in the world – but what did we get wrong?

Economically, Australia handled the COVID pandemic as well as any country in the world – and dramatically better than most. Was this inevitable? Was it luck? Was it the product of great institutions? Or the product of a few talented individuals? Conversely, Australia’s public health response was decidedly more mixed. Grave failings meant we escaped the pandemic many months after we should have and were plunged into unnecessary lockdowns. Failings that led to loss of life and economic and human damage.

In Australia’s Pandemic Exceptionalism, internationally acclaimed economists Steven Hamilton and Richard Holden explore the public health and economic responses to the pandemic. By analysing the many successes – and startling failures – of Australia’s pandemic response Australia’s Pandemic Exceptionalism provides crucial lessons for future crises.

‘This book pulls no punches on the good, the bad and the baffling in Australia’s response to the pandemic. Hamilton and Holden deliver a vital independent assessment of the hard decisions made and the powerful lessons that should be learnt from this extraordinary period.’ – David Speers

‘This is a book for our times, a compelling substantiation of the case for nurturing state capacity, and a powerful exposition of both the benefits and essential elements of timely, high quality decision-making in periods of heightened uncertainty.’ – Ken Henry

‘Holden and Hamilton deliver a sobering account of the duality in Australia’s pandemic experience – near perfect crisis decision making in the heat of the moment followed by a notable lack of forethought as the pandemic unfolded. In terms all Australians would understand, we played a blinder in the first half, had an awful third quarter, and limped over the line in front.’ – Dr Nick Coatsworth

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