“I was lucky enough to get 812 rolls of toilet paper before the panic-buyers grabbed it!”
If Scott Morrison were accused of rearranging the deck chairs on The Titanic I’m sure he’d tell us that he wasn’t going to be rushed into anything and that he and his first mate Just Joshing are currently working on a plan and pretty soon they’ll respond in a calm, measured way and be able to tell us exactly where those deck chairs should go.
It’s part of his schtick: To sell himself as someone who won’t be rushed into anything, as the calm, thoughtful person who considers things and then announces the solution which, almost without exception is to chuck $2 billion at the problem. Drought, “Here’s two billion!” Bushfires: “We’ve established a two billion dollar Bushfire Relief Fund”! Coronavirus: “We’re working with the states and there’s a two billion dollar fund for extra resources to deal with the problem.”
Now you may have heard that some of the people affected by the issue at hand are having trouble accessing the money, Well, it is taxpayers’ money and we need to be very careful to ensure it’s spent wisely so there’ll be none of this elimination of red tape that the government loves to spruik whenever big business is involved. Environmental impacts? Red tape! Safety audits? Red tape! Effects on local community? Red tape!
Of course, it could also be because – until recently – our prudent economic managers were trying their level best to ensure that the coming budget was in surplus. In order to help with this, as much of the spending as possible had to be put off until future budgets in the hope that circumstances had improved. That’s probably why Andrew Colvin suggested at Senate Estimates that the money in the Bushfire Recovery Fund wasn’t in the Budget Papers because it was “notional”.
Ok, just about every economist who doesn’t worship on the altar of Milton Friedman thinks that a surplus when the economy is more anaemic than a haemophiliac at a Vampires’ Ball would be the wrong thing, but Scott Morrison announced that we had a surplus and when you announce something has happened before it actually has, and argue with people who say that it hasn’t happened yet, you look mighty silly when it turns out that they were right.
Calling yourself a good economic manager is fine when times are good or average, but when the iceberg hits, nobody really thanks the captain when he announces how much was saved by not equipping the ship with lifeboats. The quiet Australians may have been able to forgive moving money from the NDIS to prop up the budget, but now that this coronavirus thing has hit, it’s time to panic because it might affect anyone. No, it’s not just Tiny Tim missing out because Bob Cratchet works for Scrooge, it’s anyone and everyone.
Quick everyone, stock up. We could all be isolated at any moment. And there’s no toilet paper left in the supermarkets!! Shit… No, don’t!!
While the GST on toilet paper may be exceeding expectations, the government has decided that they need to announce a stimulus package. Let’s be quite clear here. It’s only these unexpected things like Coronavirus, Drought, Bushfires, etc. It certainly wasn’t the falling revenues, rising unemployment and any of the things that government had control over. Anyone suggesting that the budget was never going to be in surplus was just wrong because we’d already announced that it was in surplus and once we’ve announced something then it’s true and any suggestion that it’s just notional, is quite unpatriotic!
Yes, we can forget the surplus. It was never that important. No, today we’ll have announcements about a big stimulus package, but not like Labor’s because that was a waste of money. They spent money to avoid a recession, but they didn’t need to because we didn’t have one anyway. The Liberals are going to spend money and we’ll still have a recession, so they’ll be able to say that the circumstances they had to deal with were harder. Today we’ll hear that people on welfare are eligible for a bonus payment. Eligible? Does that mean they have to apply and the Sports Minister will decide who gets it? Or is it eligible like volunteer firefighters were eligible for a payment providing they could prove that they were financially impacted by not being at their normal place of work?
Of course, the main focus seems to be on the economic impact of the pandemic. To a certain extent that’s understandable. At this precise moment, the way the world economies are reacting is more likely to affect people than the actual pandemic: Supply shortages, stock markets crashing, people lose wages because their employer shuts down are all having a direct effect on billions of people, while the virus itself has only touched a relative few. However, that could quickly change.
And that’s where it’s so hard to find the correct level of panic. When you hear about the empty supermarket shelves, it’s easy to wonder if one should have watched more of those shows about zombies for educational reasons about preparing oneself by stockpiling and boarding up the house. But on the other hand, when someone says that it’s nothing to worry about because it’s probably going to kill less people than your average flu, there’s a certain soothing reassurance about that and I’d like to believe them.
And I would. It’s only the fact that Andrew Bolt is one of the people saying it that makes me think I should start shopping and watch an episode of “The Walking Dead”.
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