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A world we can’t explain

By 2353NM

Up until recently, the last worldwide pandemic was the Spanish Flu at the end of the First World War. According to the National Museum of Australia, 50 million people died across the world. Australia introduced a quarantine in October 1918 however around 40% of our population were struck down by the disease and 15,000 Australians died.

Once we as a nation were recovering from the Spanish Flu, the prices for our exports fell in the lead up to the ‘great depression’ of the early 1930’s, caused by a share market crash on the New York Stock Exchange in 1929. Again, according to the National Museum of Australia the Australian economy crashed and by 1932, 32% of the population was unemployed. The unemployment rate was still 11% at the beginning of World War 2 in 1939.

Prime Minister John Curtin set up a Department of Post War Construction in December 1942. Don’t forget that in 1942 and 1943, Japanese bombs were still falling on Australia and the Allies didn’t land in France until mid 1944. Arguably, Curtin’s actions set Australia up for the growth experienced in the second half of the 20th century.

Essentially, the Australian economy only recovered from the hit of the Spanish Flu and the Great Depression due to the economic activity of and subsequent to World War 2. The 1930’s also tell us the social and economic consequences around having a large number of unemployed. By contrast this century, when required, governments have stepped in to prime the economic pump, attempting to reduce the consequences of a long-term economic slowdown.

Conservatives can no longer argue that the Rudd/Swan reaction to the Global Financial Crisis earlier this century was too much, completely irresponsible or inappropriate as Prime Minister Morrison’s recent stimuli announcements to attempt to manage the economic fallout from the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has by far exceeded the Rudd/Swan stimulus packages (with possibly more to come). The value of an economic stimulus can be higher this century because Australia no longer relies on the ‘gold standard’, The potential for a large ‘government debt’ really isn’t the worst possible outcome and there will be structural flaws with Morrison’s package of stimuli, just as there were with Rudd’s.

Morrison claims that the package of economic measures he has announced to date are designed to be quickly withdrawn when the economy ‘snaps back’, rather than the ongoing debt added to the economy by Rudd and Swan. But how realistic is Morrison’s claim?

So far in 2020, Australian Governments at all levels have introduced quarantine measures that have severely restricted the ability of the population to move around and socially interact. While there is probably more science to it this time around, effectively it is the same principle as the quarantine imposed during the Spanish Flu pandemic. This has significantly and detrimentally affected economic activity around the country.

Morrison’s economic stimulus package includes the doubling of the unemployment benefit, gifting of money to those who receive a government benefit, quasi-nationalisation of private hospitals, paying the wages of those that don’t have meaningful work (through their existing employer) plus a number of grants, ‘free’ loans and other measures to a number of businesses. It reflects the lessons of the recovery after the Great Depression (without the need for the world to go to war again).

Morrison (like other governments around the world) has given the economy a sugar hit. And like all sugar hits, it’s much easier to keep getting them than wean yourself off them. Soft drink and confectionary manufacturers have been relying on this fact for centuries. There has been considerable pressure on this and previous governments to increase the level of the unemployment benefit to a value that people can actually support themselves with dignity while looking for work and it could be argued that the ‘temporary’ doubling of the benefit is a tacit acknowledgement that the benefit is far too low.

In addition, government agencies such as Centrelink are frantically employing people to cope with demands for actual service and action driven by people who have never had to enter the byzantine world where clients are presumed to be rorting the system until they prove otherwise. There is also a frantic effort by government agencies and companies to bring call centres up to an appropriate staffing level to match the level of demand. Health services are also being frantically rejigged to ensure that they can provide the services demanded of them through the current pandemic.

Australia has an opportunity here. Say, for example, we did fund government benefits so that those reliant on them could live with decency. Health services for those that needed support could get it without waiting years to go on the ‘official’ waiting list and those that needed a hand who use programs such as the NDIS received support in appropriate timeframes with appropriate funding. Most of the staff at government agencies such as NDIS and Centrelink would love to help people to the extent that they need, rather than impose processes and procedures that deliberately demoralise and victimise those that need support.

It would also be appropriate to ensure that independent state funded media, such as the ABC and SBS were funded sufficiently to support their ‘essential’ purpose of providing information 24/7 for 365 days a year (because the next adverse event somewhere in Australia is just around the corner). No government is going to find all of the content of an independent media outlet to be sympathetic to their particular ideology.

Lenore Taylor, the Editor of The Guardian recently wrote an article that suggested that ‘Australia can be a much better, fairer place after the coronavirus if we are prepared to fight for it’. The ABC’s Laura Tingle has made similar comments Even the Sydney Morning Herald’s editorial on 3 April 2020 discussed why a wind back from the ‘sugar hit’ should be gradual, suggesting that raising taxes is probably a better option than reducing welfare.

We are all heading to a new world and at this point we can’t explain how it works. If we all work together to create understanding and equality rather than revert to the ‘greed is good’ mantra that served us badly from the 1980’s to the 2010’s — it will be a far more equitable and pleasant place for all of us.

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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  1. Josephus

    A view shared by many I believe. Scotty the socialist is really a populist , and cannot afford mass riots as occur elsewhere; or as in war weary Iraq people are starving indoors or risking death by going to a food market .
    Mines and corporations must pay reasonable taxes.
    Ban donations to parties from any business foreign or national.
    Cap salaries at a far lower rate , no argument, at x times minimum rate, ten times?
    Cap expenses too.
    Stop sending wealth off shore as turnbull did.
    Fund health and education as well the arts and the public broadcaster, which has declined somewhat thanks to vicious cuts.
    Never imprison refugees longer than a year or so that it takes to process and vet them.
    Listen to the appeal from the heart, even though not all first peoples support it.
    Change the date that commemorates those other uninvited boat arrivals.
    Stop mining coal and fracking.
    That will do for starters…

  2. Joseph Carli

    “…it will be a far more equitable and pleasant place for all of us.

    What do you think?”…..Don’t bet on it!

    “. . . It was now, as I said before, the people had cast off all apprehensions, and that too fast; indeed we were no more afraid now to pass by a man with a white cap upon his head, or with a cloth wrapt round his neck, or with his leg limping, occasioned by the sores in his groin, all which were frightful to the last degree, but the week before. But now the street was full of them, and these poor recovering creatures, give them their due, appeared very sensible of their unexpected deliverance; and I should wrong them very much if I should not acknowledge that I believe many of them were really thankful. But I must own that, for the generality of the people, it might too justly be said of them as was said of the children of Israel after their being delivered from the host of Pharaoh, when they passed the Red Sea, and looked back and saw the Egyptians overwhelmed in the water: viz., that they sang His praise, but they soon forgot His works.

    I can go no farther here. I should be counted censorious, and perhaps unjust, if I should enter into the unpleasing work of reflecting, whatever cause there was for it, upon the unthankfulness and return of all manner of wickedness among us, which I was so much an eye-witness of myself. I shall conclude the account of this calamitous year therefore with a coarse but sincere stanza of my own, which I placed at the end of my ordinary memorandums the same year they were written:

    A dreadful plague in London was
    In the year sixty-five,
    Which swept an hundred thousand souls
    Away; yet I alive! ” (Daniel Defoe: A Journal of the Plague Year)

  3. wam

    I think the delay in acting was time to think how not to be associated with the labor solution to the GFC.
    The miracle came in the of the crisis.
    get rid of parliament and remove any discussion or opposition and be safe in the knowledge albo has no media ccess,
    Get the premiers into the news to excise any chance of a pink batt situation
    Then sit back avoiding responsibility to investigate political inconveniences and play the media with a summit as opportunity rises till it is over.
    Then call an election and spend 3 years establishing the new Australia with no unions or labor to interfere.

    The crux being they have no intention of snapback but is has the beaut sound of gabriel’s trumpet for the below average 50% and brims with ‘trust me’ we are the economic managers,
    We know that is bullshit but every media outlet will scream his praise an enough labor voters will switch. Enormous effort by albo may staunch the bleeding but scaredy cats like husic and fitzfornothing will exacerbate the effort. They are already putting up the barricades in their electorate,
    This smirky prick prays every night to reach the lying rodent then pig iron bob then smirko the magbificent
    Arguably unions started with women and eventually these indoctrinated christian men will make a mistake and the women will chuck them out.

  4. Harry Lime

    The first,most obvious and crucial step in the direction of a renewed and considered world is to jettison all governments who have been held captive by the charlatans of market driven economics.Personally, I think that a lot more shit will hit the fan before that happens.

  5. Max Gross

    ‘This ain’t no Damascene conversion, it’s a holding pattern, an act, a charade.

    Sideshow Scott will revert to type the moment the virus is no longer a threat to the “economy”.

    The LNP crime syndicate will go on neoliberal rampage.’


  6. Henry Johnston

    I sense the entire Australian Federation will change inexorably when there is some type of reversion to normalcy. This crisis and the Great Conflagration before it, demonstrated the literal impotence of the central government. Other than deploying troops — and there are precious few of these — the Federal Government is essentially powerless. Other than saying it will pump out trillions of dollars — it has yet to do so — this central government, and others around the world, can do nothing but jibber jabber. State premiers will rightly continue to demand priority funding for public health for the foreseeable future. And to not do so means states will close borders, and tell neo-liberal spruikers to take a long walk off a short pier.

  7. pierre wilkinson

    But how realistic is Morrison’s claim?
    about as realistic as his pseudo religion, his false personas and every statement he has ever made

  8. guest

    In the Australian today (15/4/2020) Paul Kelly tells us: “The fundamentals of Australian life are too entrenched to be swept away.”

    He writes this under the heading: “Coronavirus: Nothing will challenge Australian pre-virus values.”

    But his first paragraph says this: “Following the false predictions from the bushfires – that Australia was forever changed, climate change was the new imperative and Scott Morison was probably finished – the lesson to beware similar apocalyptic declarations from the COVID-19 legacy.”

    Kelly has forgotten already. No problem with the fires, or with climate change, or Morrison’s blunders pre-virus. Amnesia on show.

    Kelly writes of Oz values, sometimes quoting from Morrison himself. “Free trade economy with strong social safety net… no new protectionism or socialism…adjustment to indebtedness within the framework that has guided the country for two generations…national sovereignty, an assertion of Oz traditionalism, values and success…we will restore the nation, not transform it…we will rebuild and restore whatever the battle has taken from us…no mass national subsidies or nationalisation of industries…we will grow the economy.

    In other words: “Snap-back!” Something to look forward to with relish.

    Already Labor and others are pointing out that there are gaps in the response to OVID-19. The response is that, well, we cannot fix everything – so we have to make measured decisions and pain is part of the collateral damage. Bad luck.

    In 2014 Naomi Klein wrote a book entitled “This Changes Everything”. It is about tackling the reality of Climate Change. But associated with Climate Change are matters such as drought, water losses and the death of fish, bleaching of coral on the Great Barrier Reef three years out of the last five, accelerated land clearing, unprecedented bushfires, massive human migration, food and water insecurity, homelessness, military action…and global pandemic!

    And nothing will change in Oz when we snap back from the pandemic? We wish?

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