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Hungry miles

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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  1. RomeoCharlie29

    Well said Henry. What will it take, if not a calamity like this, to persuade Roskam and his ilk, that their economic prescriptions haven’t worked and will not work. Blind to the homeless, the unemployed, the under-employed and the inadequately paid, they judge success by flawed metrics such as lower tax rates, subsidies for environment trashing (but export earning) industries, rising house prices and endless wealth for the drones who run companies, or run companies into the ground. We cannot allowa return to business as usual where the country’s wealth was predominantly benefitting the already wealthy. Tax reform, but reform that ensures avoidance and evasion end; industrial reform which sees the work of employees appropriately rewarded, their safety protected and casualisatiin ended. Sadly, on present indications, this present government is not the one to oversee the new age.

  2. nonsibicunctis

    Sense – not common-sense (of which usually only the adjective is true) but just, sense, and just sence, at that.

  3. Bronte ALLAN

    Great & very wise words Henry! I sincerely hope & wish we do not “snap back” (?) to pre-corona virus days once this virus condition goes away. We MUST ensure that ALL Australians are able to get a decent, fair wage or pension etc. No more of this extrerme IPA influenced right wing, flat earth, climate change denying, lying conservative rubbish this COALition mob wants to inflict upon us! It is criminal how Slomo & his cronies seem to think that the unemployed have to exist on $30:00 a day! The “new” look & idealism exhibited by the failed bloke from advertising & the rest of his rag tag bunch of right wing loonies with regard to the monies now distributed to all & the surprisingly high rate of the Dole being allotted at present is a fair way to a much more realistic financial state than what was the “norm” so recently, so why not continue on with this new status quo? WTF??

  4. Kerri

    Here’s to the Garbos, the shelf stackers, the cashiers, the nurses and orderlies, cleaners and food servers, delivery drivers,
    posties and other underpaid, undervalued and essential workers who have an ideal opportunity at this point in history to remove their dedicated and essential work and campaign for appropriate payment for it but don’t because unlike Mr Roskam, they are not opportunistic and ideological 💩s.

  5. whatever

    Roskam and his ilk won’t be happy until we have the same ThirdWorld social infrastructure that America always aims for.
    Maybe he should drink some bleach along with the KoolAid.
    Trump says it will cure everything.

  6. Phil Pryor

    Well said and all true and good. Roskam of the repulsive ignoramuses of the IPA, the Institute of Politicised Anuses, is nothing but a perverted form of wishful thinker on matters unproven, uncivilised, unacceptable, and, corrupted by the contrived bribery and corruption of hidden donors and patrons whose greed must be satisfied. The I P A represents, through its petit fuhrer, is a rotten form of romanist lay catholic fascist supremacist politicisation, an overbearing triumphal assertion of repression. Bastardry in Benito’s image, it is a way to be exclusive, blessed, pontically righteous, narrowly superior. It is nothing but intellectual shit being painted over a policy of greedy bitter exclusion of the non faithful, the savage, the heathen, the unwashed, i e, US, but we are not that. We are the ones that count as citizens and the fantasy filth and fraud of corrupt little political perverts like Roskam is to be denied, exposed, fought and crushed.

  7. leefe

    It’s not when a vaccine is developed, but if.

    The people they want to throw under the bus are the ones who have been working through this, the real essential workers; supermarket staff, hospital cleaners, garbos, call centre staff (except for Telstra’s), Centrelinkers, etc.

    Every time I think I couldn’t despise the contemptible clods in charge in Canberra any more, they excavate another level of vileness.

  8. Keitha Granville

    The entire planet is in the same boat. We will all have to leanr a new life, a new way of surviving – not necessarily working because there won’t be jobs for all. It will have to be a grow, build and barter system for many. Living simply so we can all simply live.

  9. Josephus

    Millions of Americans want change too. Are we facing class war? In Africa, in Asia, the gap between rich and poor is much greater even than here. Bread riots began the french revolution.

  10. Jack Cade


    Millions of Americans wanted change when they voted for Donald Trump. And despite his blatant unsuitability for ANY public office, 44% are reportedly happy with his performance. So his base has actually grown marginally. On those figures, and with the prospect of a disastrous Democrat candidate in November, Trump could have another four years to continue his destruction of the USA’s already parlous world image.

  11. nonsibicunctis

    Thanks for making my day just a little worse …

    (yes, I know, don’t blame the messenger)


  12. alan karslake

    The dry monetary policies of the past create a delusion that is all well and functioning as it should. Nothing is further from the truth.
    Surely ordinary people ..if given a chance.. can see that our entire monetary system has to change. Where is all this money coming from? Well let me assure you all it is not anything more than numbers on a ledger sheet in a computer or two. Now the numbers in these computers are meaningless until the obscenely wealthy caste their greedy eyes over them and start thinking they deserve it all.
    They, in fact deserve nothing, they don’t work and they don’t value the very people that keep them alive. The money is not based on gold reserves and cannot just be printed, as we never use large cash transactions, we use numbers in a computer to tell us what is ours and what is owed. No matter how I look at it, my opinion is, China is already using a form of MMT and, combined with free trade agreements is able to buy anything and everything in the world. Western societies are spell bound by systems of the past and are selling our societies, cultures, and everything else. It is time to honestly and objectively look at where money comes from!!

  13. New England Cocky

    I doubt that Smirkie Sacked from marketing has ever heard of Hayek, Jevons and Ayn Rand but that would not be surprising because it would require a curious mind seeking knowledge rather than an unthinking acceptance of religious fairy tales that everything will be put in place for you by something or other.

    @whatever: The aim of the IPA financial backers is to turn Australia into the worst third world export economy in the OECD by allowing the rampant takeover of Australian natural resources for export to overseas processing, manufacture and subsequent sale back to Australia at enormous profits …. and without paying any taxation in Australia LEGALLY!!

    The thought of SKY and News Ltd bleeding money does my heart good. SKY has about 3% of the television audience, The Australian has lost credibility while the Sydney Smellygraph is written in a style suitable for excitable primary school drop-outs.

  14. Andrew Smith

    Not much will change till the co-opted cohorts of WASP and wannabe WASP managers in business, politics and ideology aka LNP (and too many Labor types), IPA and NewsCorp, joined at hip with and subservient to US (and lesser extent UK) radical right libertarianism, pass on (i.e. baby boomer generation), allowing Australia to embrace and innovate using its great cultural diversity versus aggressive retro move of decades to conserve and embed 19th century economics, eugenics a power.

  15. Roland Flickett

    ‘Sky has about 3% of the television audience.’
    And 100% of the television arseholes.

  16. wam

    This appeared on my page from a retired journalis: ”
    Three men stand out at present in this country in my mind. Of course it will be debateable (sic) but they are:
    Prime Minister, Minister for Health and the Chief Medical Officer.
    Well done from someone who values what you have done, do now and will do in future.”
    Any attempt to show the politicians as lying hidden agenda charlatans is met with ‘lying labour(sic) wanker’
    Albo needs to arm his supporters ith reasons not to trust smirko et al or ^^@& are we.

  17. Bruce White

    It’s about time that John Roskam got a real job.
    A noble occupation.
    Doing something truly useful for society.
    Cleaner at Wynyard Railway Station public toilets.
    On permanent award wage rates, of course.
    He might even consider joining the union!
    Do you think he could last the distance?😆🤣😁

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