The other day a relative said she felt uneasy and that the present situation seems unreal. She described a sense of foreboding despite warm weather and clear, blue skies.
She is correct. We are experiencing an inexorable transformation. It is quieter. We are adjusting to isolation to save our lives, and by so doing witnessing a transformation on how we carry out our daily tasks.
Each night we watch this phenomena unfold across the world.
July 20 1969 is the last time I recall a similar occurrence, when humanity stopped and watched men walk on the moon. But in this new century, a virus is calling a halt and by so doing changing everything … at least for some.
There is no such change for neo-conservatives. The spawn of Friedrich August von Hayek, Ayn Rand and others, as typified by Donald Trump and Scott Morrison, truly believe business as usual once the pandemic subsides. But nothing could be further from the truth.
As I walk around the block for daily exercise I notice abandoned taxi cabs — parked nose to tail, on quiet inner city streets where I live. And there are tradie vans, valuable work equipment stashed on their roofs, similarly abandoned. Each vehicle is a rusting, dust-covered talisman of a crashing economy.
And yet Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg persist with the notion of Snap Back. In my opinion this is as dangerous an illusion as Donald Trump promoting the virtues of Hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID-19.
A democracy beset by deflation cannot and will not return to normal with the snap of a finger. Those abandoned taxis will not pull away from the kerbside and convey passengers to mythical cross-town destinations.
So why persist with the illusion that Australia and the world will return to the way things once were? The answer is stark. Neo-conservatives consider the pandemic an economic rather than a health and social crisis.
When people are ill En masse, as is the case now, they cannot go about their daily lives. Thus our only option is to do as we are doing, namely stop everything, stem the spread of the illness and remove the threat of the virus infecting the citizenry. Developing a vaccine is a hallowed grail, but until this is achieved, it is the role of government to sustain the populace no matter the cost. To not do so is to flirt with social chaos.
As far as I am concerned neo-conservative delusions can take a long walk off a short pier and yet this twaddle peddled by John Roskam of the tax-exempt Institute of Public Affairs, makes yet another neo-conservative demand. You can guarantee this asinine rubbish will become a rallying cry of The Australian newspaper and its addled cousin Sky After Dark. Both enterprises by the way, are haemorrhaging cash, courtesy of a crash in advertising revenue.
If Roskam’s demands are heeded, particularly cutting tax, an accelerated economic collapse is inevitable. Yet this ideologue of the right wing of the Liberal Party ignores stark facts. For example, the dissipation of daily revenue for states and territories due to a shortfall in train and bus fares could endanger a slew of public amenities such as schools and hospitals. So it is fair to demand Roskam’s bankers, the coal industry et al, to pay their fair share. If Roskam or Gina Reinhardt acquires Covid 19, chances are they, like England’s Boris Johnson, will be treated by publicly trained nurses and allied health staff.
Roskam goes on to say, it “isn’t only an agenda for (tax) reform. It’s an agenda to provide what Australia needs most at the moment, which is hope for a more prosperous future”.
There are two problems with his opinion; income is collapsing at an alarming rate vis a vis those abandoned taxis, and hope for a prosperous future is for now, illusory.
Thankfully Australia is led by a National Cabinet comprising three Labor premiers and two Labor chief ministers. As long as this arrangement remains in place, we will probably be spared the worst excesses of those IPA’s spruikers Scottie from Marketing and Peter Dutton, whose culpability over the Ruby Princess debacle verges on the criminal.
Those abandoned taxis I mentioned earlier, line inner city streets which, three quarters of a century ago became known in Sydney as The Hungry Mile.
If we remain calm and ignore the lunatic demands of the far right, we just might avoid the formation of hundreds of hungry miles snaking across the roads and highways of the United States.
So no more calls about tax reform please, Mr Roskam. Instead demand a fair wage for our public health workers, our teachers, our internet technicians, our police officers and the underpaid workers in local grocery stores, who are keeping us fed, healthy and connected.
Henry Johnston is a Sydney-based author. His latest book, The Last Voyage of Aratus is on sale here.
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