Once upon a time, the newly elected progressive Australian Government was told by their advisers that financial calamity was to sweep the world, bringing financial ruin, uncertainty and pestilence (the last one might just be made up) to humanity. The newly elected government, being of the mind that they employ specialists who have likely forgotten more about their subjects than the politicians had ever known, asked what to do. The advice was ‘to go early and go hard’. Provide short term, medium term and long-term economic stimulus to the community.
So the government wrote pretty well everyone in the country a cheque for $900, which some saved, some bought the ‘new-fangled’ wide screen TV or made repairs to their homes and others distributed to the community by consuming the products available at the local bar or pokie palace. Short term stimulus done.
The government then devised a program that would improve the living conditions of thousands of people around their fair land. They decided to support those that wanted to insulate their houses. This would ensure that energy consumption to heat or cool the populations’ homes would be lower forever more. Regrettably a small number of insulation installers lost their lives, predominately due to lax occupational health and safety standards in a number of states where those out for a quick buck cashed in on the largesse without care for the employee or customer. As it took a while for people to decide if they wanted insulation and for the material to become available – medium term stimulus, tick.
The newly elected government believed in providing educational opportunities to all. Observing that a lot of schools didn’t have appropriate facilities for indoor sport, assemblies, performance spaces or even a place to run around when it was wet outside, the government determined that its long-term stimulus would be to fund the design and construction of multi-purpose school halls. Anyone who has ever designed and built anything will know that the process can easily take two or three years. Bingo – long term stimulus.
Those that followed a more conservative ideology were aghast! Some of the $900 cheques were being spent ‘inappropriately’, including the casinos or pokie palace! Exactly said the government, that keeps the casino or pokie attendant in a job and earning money. Others claimed insulating houses would increase energy efficiency, to the detriment of the large companies that mined the coal and owned the power stations. Exactly said the government, the homeowners will reap the benefits of lower energy prices for decades while reducing carbon emissions as less power, gas and heating oil would be consumed across the country.
Those that didn’t get the economic stimulus message also asked why schools that couldn’t afford to build their own hall were being given the money to do so. The government explained that the halls increased the opportunity for all students to excel at sport or become a famous actor and if nothing else provide a play area in wet weather. Besides, the construction would employ thousands of people for years. Those employed as a result of the program would then have the confidence to buy the new wide screen TV, spend a bit on the pokies as well as continue to provide economic stimulus to the shopkeepers and construction material manufacturers of our fair land. They would also probably return a bit to the government through income and payroll taxes as well as GST.
The result – Australia was one of the few developed economies that didn’t fall into recession between 2007 and 2010.
After a few years waging war on the government’s ‘feckless’ spending, amid claims of maxing out the credit card, rorts that benefitted political friends and finding every little process and procedural failure, the conservatives were in power. There was no recognition given to the ‘go hard and go fast’ mantra’s quick implementation, leading to some finding the inevitable flaws in the process and exploiting them.
Twelve years after the financial crisis that was going to affect the entire world, a global pandemic swept the world. In early 2020, the government’s ‘fearless leader’ (so named because he stabbed his predecessor in the back for having the hide to attempt to introduce an emissions trading scheme) addressed us all one Friday afternoon and advised that financial ruin, uncertainty and pestilence (the first one might just be made up this time) were going to be experienced across our fair land. From the following Monday there were going to be some restrictions on our ability to gather together and move around, but they were only going to be introduced after he saw his favourite footy team, ‘the Sharkies’, play their first game for the new football year (and presumably attend his Pentecostal church on the Sunday).
The restrictions caused a lot of employees to either not be rostered for their casual shifts or stood down from their permanent employment. Our ‘fearless leader’ claimed there was nothing he could do, as less than a year earlier he had gone to an election claiming that the government’s budget was ‘already back in the black next year’ despite the logical tautology. You could even buy the ‘back in the black’ coffee mug from the Liberal Party online store! We had unlikely bedfellows, the Union movement and the Business Council of Australia, together with the states, imploring the Australian Government to do something to avoid widespread financial calamity and ruin across the country (maybe the first one wasn’t made up after all).
The government, still hurting from the marketing and sales disaster that was the ‘back in the black’ coffee mugs finally agreed to introduce a system where they would pay the employers of stood down staff who would in turn pay the employees a fixed sum. Despite Johnson’s UK having the skills to calculate a percentage of the normal wage payment for each employee, it was too hard for our ‘fearless leader’ to work out someone on $700 a week and someone on $1500 a week probably had different levels of financial commitment and some would struggle on a fixed payment. Always looking at the marketing hook (remember the black coffee mugs) they christened the payment JobKeeper but put conditions on the payment that it would reduce after some time and be eliminated towards the end of 2020 when the pandemic had gone away.
The states, fearing the effects of the calamity on their health systems of people infected with the pandemic coming into the country and straight out into the community volunteered to oversee the federal responsibility of mandatory quarantine of returning travellers in hotels because all but one of the government’s purpose-built quarantine facilities around the country were sold off years ago. Our ‘fearless leader’ imposed caps on the numbers of arrivals into the country. Our ‘fearless leader’ also agreed to look after the sourcing and purchasing of vaccines and to ensure that the pandemic didn’t run riot in aged care homes.
In June 2021, The Guardian was reporting that the management of the vaccine rollout was ‘a dog’s breakfast’. While the purchase of 1 million Pfizer COVID 19 doses from Poland, announced in August 2021 was helpful – it begs the question why a comparatively rich country such as Australia is scouring the world in the second half of 2021 looking or something it had the ability to reserve and purchase half way through 2020. Our first purchase of Pfizer was only made in November 2020 with additional purchases in February and April 2021. But there were still ‘back in the black’ coffee mugs for sale.
Aged care homes have been subject to visits by the pandemic on a number of occasions and unfortunately hundreds of residents have died ahead of their time, with little ability for their relatives to say goodbye, ensure that the resident was comfortable in their last moments on earth or, on a number of occasions, even attend the funeral. At the time of writing this, there are still significant dangers for residents of aged care homes as the staff were not vaccinated at the same time as the residents – and the staff are far more likely to pick the virus up in the community.
Some firms that received ‘JobKeeper’ funds chose to keep the funding even though they were fortunate enough to increase profit during the pandemic. For example, when Harvey Norman totted up their annual financial statements in July 2021, they found their profit increased by 116%. Did they return their $14.5million in ‘JobKeeper’ – not a chance. Who would have thought that people would be online shopping to purchase equipment for their ‘home office’ when they had been told to work from home?
The government’s response was the program was designed quickly to create the most stimulus and there was no mechanism to recover the funds from those that found out after the event they didn’t meet the criteria. Sounds like the same thing they pilloried the progressive side of politics for about a decade earlier. At the same time, the same conservative government considered chasing individuals who received JobKeeper as well as JobSeeker during the 2020/2021 Financial Year. In the government’s eyes this isn’t a correct and proper use of resources.
The story is pretty clear – the progressive political party really couldn’t market themselves out of a wet paper bag. The conservative political party is all about the marketing.
Anyone want a black coffee mug?
What do you think?
This article was originally published on The Political Sword
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