Scott Morrison has appealed to Australians' sense of patriotism to guide the nation through the spread of the deadly coronavirus as his government prepares to sacrifice its planned surplus.
In a speech to business leaders on Tuesday, Mr Morrison warned the global health crisis has the potential to have an even greater economic impact than the global financial crisis.
But the prime minister has reassured Australians his government won't look at further cuts to essential services such as schools, hospitals and the NDIS as it deals with the economic impact of the health crisis.
"COVID-19 is a global health crisis," he told the AFR Summit in Sydney.
"But it also has very real and very significant economic impacts, potentially greater than the global financial crisis, especially for Australia. The epicentre of this crisis as opposed to that one is much closer to home."
His government is putting the final touches on a stimulus package, expected to be worth as much as $10 billion.
Mr Morrison outlined the seven principles guiding that economic response in his address.
He argued it must be proportionate; timely and scalable; targeted to specific issues; aligned with other areas of policy including the RBA's actions; use existing delivery mechanisms; temporary; and lift productivity.
The coronavirus was a "new, complex (and) rapidly evolving challenge", he said.
"Whatever you thought 2020 was going to be about, think again," Mr Morrison said.
"We now have one goal in 2020: to protect the health, wellbeing and livelihoods of Australians through this global crisis, and to ensure that when the recovery comes, and it will, we are well-positioned to bounce back strongly on the other side.
"It is important to remember the problem is only a temporal one, not structural, and learn the lessons of the global financial crisis", he said.
Mr Morrison said response measures must be temporary and accompanied by a fiscal exit strategy.
"They cannot be baked into the bottom line for years to come, keeping the budget underwater," he said.
"It's about a biological contagion, not a financial one. In our response, we must be careful to solve this problem, the one we're facing now, not the last one."
Surplus no longer focus
The prime minister described the crisis as a "team Australia moment" and told businesses they can help out by paying suppliers promptly and keeping their staff in jobs.
"We need your perseverance, planning and enterprise. We need your common sense, calm and commitment. And we need your patriotism," he said.
"Hold on to your people, you will need them on the other side. Wherever possible, support them - whether full-time, part-time, or casual - including with paid leave if they need to take time off due to the virus."
Unions have raised fears about the fate of about 3.3 million Australians in casual jobs who don't have access to paid sick leave.
Business Council of Australia president Tim Reed says the government should provide temporary tax relief for small business, so they can retain staff
"If we can get businesses investing right now, they will come out stronger on the other side," he told ABC radio on Tuesday.
Mr Reed expects one quarter of negative economic growth to occur because of the virus, and says people who lose their jobs because of the health crises shouldn't have to wait the regular time period to receive welfare.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the government is no longer focused on its promised surplus.
"Our package will have an immediate impact across the economy, it will be targeted, it will be responsible and measured," he told ABC news.
The workers' groups will raise the issue with Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter when they meet with him on Tuesday.
Stock markets plunged on Monday, shedding about $155 billion as a looming oil price war added to fears about the coronavirus.
Mr Morrison said China was now "substantially larger" and more interconnected with the global economy "magnifying the reverberations throughout the world".