With the curve allegedly starting to flatten, writers and political commentators are already speculating about what might happen in the immediate future when the virus has run its course and the damage it caused has been assessed.
The Prime Minister has already said that things will just “snap back” and return to where they were. But is that really the case? Is it even politically feasible?
I would like to think that this event might be the catalyst for change: Economic and social change for the better.
Let’s take a look at what might happen in the aftershock of the coronavirus?
Before we do let’s keep in mind the words of Greg Sheridan (pay-walled):
“The government’s massive fiscal intervention in the Australian economy, entirely justified by the gravity of the COVID-19 crisis, will change center-right politics in this country forever. You cannot make the need for small government, free markets and less state intervention your chief political narrative if you have just used government on a scale never before imagined to rescue the nation from a desperate health emergency”
Will the government – when the time comes for “snap back” to occur – just pull the switch and magically everything will return to its unfair and unequal state?
How would you feel if you were already on Newstart and were then required to return to an amount that all and sundry believed to be grossly unfair and below the poverty line?
Will the “dole-bludger” tag of blame for those who remain unemployed be reinstated by a reinvented philosophy?
Or you are part of the 10% plus who lost their jobs and found themselves on Newstart’s new fortnightly payout only to find it reduced to a pittance.
How would you feel if after you had experienced free child minding for six months that helped save your job and then found that you were back paying the full fee?
What if your wages had been subsidised by the government to keep you on your employer’s payroll only to find that when eventually you returned to work the company had lost a contract and had to put you off. On top of that, the government had reverted to once again calling you a “dole bludger” or a “leaner”..
The Prime Minister is on the record as saying: “We have to get back to where we were before.”
Is he serious? Does he think politically speaking that he could explain the politics of such a move in a few interviews?
The conservative mindset of paying down the debt might be chaffing at the bit to do so, but is it politically feasible?
You simply cannot use one philosophy to resolve an issue and then revert back to your own when the job is completed. It would be political suicide.
He has ruled out any restructuring of franking credits and indicated that the tax cuts will go ahead.
Our stimulus measures were “temporary, expenditure,” he said last week, adding:
“There is a snap back to the previous existing arrangements on the other side of this … So there is an intensity of expenditure during this period, and then we have to get back to what it was like before, and then we have to deal with the burden that will be carried out of this period of time.”
After spending $200 billion on stimulating the economy and then to go ahead with tax cuts when raising them seems to be the logical thing to do is a bit beyond me.
Guardian Australia’s Greg Jericho also said last week that:
“… the tax cuts were predicated on rosy budget forecasts over the next decade, which are now laughable and will either have to be shelved or paid for with deep cuts to expenditure.
‘Given we are very likely to experience a period of ongoing low revenue, the only way to have the tax cuts be budget neutral is to cut services – and the cuts will have to be much larger than previously expected’.”
Paying back the debt (the $200 billion in stimulus measures), according to Scott Morrison, is:
“… going to put a great strain on the country, clearly, but … one that is absolutely necessary given the circumstances that we face.”
“ruled out franking-credit reform or the shelving of tax cuts.”
We will have to wait until October’s “Snap back” budget to find out just who is going to pay back this debt and how. There are only three areas where that sort of money is available. It is in education, health or social services, although I’m sure they will take the opportunity to give the ABC a going over.
My sarcasm aside, most Australians are sitting on their bums at home in perfect isolation without the faintest idea of what is about to hit them. The word “recession” doesn’t have the tone of alarm about it but having experienced every one since Menzies’ 1963 through to Keating’s one that we had to have, they are most unpleasant.
Might we see a 2 per cent budget repair levy or the GST increased to 15 per cent and extended to everything including food, but no new taxes?
Morrison may be receiving accolades for his handling of the COVID-19 crisis but it doesn’t make up for seven years of appalling governance. Can you trust a government that has been lying to you for seven years?
But let’s move on. Now that all sides of our democracy have tasted the salt of bipartisanship is it not possible to use the events of the last year as a catalyst for change? To recognise that now is the time to give economics a human face and cement a marriage between it and society.
The big banks have set the scene for change and accepted that money should have a humane face going into the future. Why not the government?
ANZ Bank chief executive Shayne Elliott in an interview with Clancy Yeates of the Sydney Morning Herald spelt it out:
“We’re already being a shock absorber by being able to say to customers: ‘You know what, if you want a deferral and not pay us for six months, you can do that,'” … “Does it come at a cost to shareholders? I would argue it already has.”
“… He predicted the crisis could have lasting impacts on consumers’ attitudes to debt, the housing market, and how people do their banking.”
“Australia in the future won’t look the same,” he said. “It won’t look the same because it will impact a whole generation of our customers, the way they think about technology, the way they think about borrowing, the way they think about employment, the way they think about frankly the capitalist system and democracy.”
Both major parties – during this crisis – have shown a spirit of bi-partisanship that has been both encouraging and enlightening, but can it last? The Premiers’ responses have also been welcome.
However, all the emergency measures are undoubtedly designed with all the elasticity needed to snap back into place at the end of there usefulness.
As I said earlier, it must be problematical as to whether the public will accept the “snapback” or consider it a “payback.”
Only we get to decide if Australia will emerge from this pandemic
❤️ Kinder and more empathetic, or
😡 Stone-hearted and mean.
Our CEO Emma King had a bit to say on ABC Radio National's Life Matters program. pic.twitter.com/YhCvZPqr3T
— VCOSS (@VCOSS) April 5, 2020
The government will be forced to explain its adaption of “flexible ideology“ and if it will be ongoing. After all, it is a form of political philosophy never tried before – an experiment of great economical and societal significance.
Even conservative commentators have acknowledged that the centre-right, or the further-right, of politics will have to find a new narrative to sell to the electorate. “The centre-right politics is going to be in desperate need of a new political narrative,” suggests Lenore Taylor.
The National Cabinet has proven to be an effective way to manage a crisis but there will come a time when normality will regain its place. Is it then that we will likely witness an inevitable return of ideological differences?
If we can have ‘free‘ childcare for six months why can we not have it all the time?
When the current wave of stimulus has reached the shore and all but evaporated into the waiting sand the country and its householders will be left in a sand pit of debt.
How will we possibly repay it? How will we resurrect our economy our society and everything that goes with it?
As unpalatable as the choices are, decisions will have to be reached. Given the track record of this government my mood is grim and foreboding.
My thought for the day
One of the oddities of political polling is trying to understand how 51 per cent of the voting public would willingly return a party that has governed so abysmally.
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