On Thursday 12 March, Scott Morrison fronted the cameras with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and addressed the nation. They announced a $17.6 billion stimulus package that, in their best estimate, would avert that most dreaded of calamities – the R word, a recession.
Our communal national worth – measured by our GDP (?) – was budgeted by Treasury – that bastion of supreme economic foresight and wisdom – to decline by 0.5 per cent in the June Quarter.
For the Liberals, the professed arbiters of sound economic management and order, a dip in economic output was simply unfathomable.
In order to stave off a recession, Morrison & Co. shed their hitherto most treasured articles of faith, fiscal rectitude, adopted Rudd’s $750-cheque-for-everyone diplomacy and began their joy ride of the ages – a ride of Government largesse and profligacy unseen in Australian history.
Mad Mouse at the Royal Melbourne Show has nothing on this one.
No sooner had they announced the first of their ‘nation saving’ measures, they found their best (Treasury sponsored) estimates, to be wholly inadequate to counter the cavalcade of events unfolding by the hour across the globe.
Ten days later, on Sunday 22 March, the Prime Minister and Treasurer made their second ‘nation saving’ announcement and unleashed a $66 billion sortie of carpet bombing on Australian SME’s to hold the line against… economic depression.
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Reassuringly (so they thought), for any employer still unable to counter the momentum of worldwide economic contraction, Scott and Josh were only too happy to pick up the tab for ‘the tired, the poor and huddled masses’ by doubling Newstart to almost middle class respectability of $1,100 per fortnight.
In their panic to press the red (economic) nuke button, they were oblivious to the economic cataclysm they had unleashed.
In the following days, Monday 23 – Friday 28 March, 1 million working Australians were stood down by their employers, equal to 8 per cent of the working population! Define tenuous.
At the start of the week it was ‘two-bob’ undercapitalised try hards – normal small businesses – struggling to stay afloat, week to week, in an era of unrestrained liberalism and globalism that were standing down their most valuable resource, their staff.
Hard working, tax paying, law abiding business owners (like myself) were left with no alternative but to adopt that great Trumpism… “you’re stood down”.
By the end of the week, the strategy was being adopted on an industrial scale across the economy as working Australians were being stood down thousands at a time. Scenes of wholesale misery punctured the Australian psyche in a way never before witnessed in this nation’s proud history.
The economic effect of World Wars and the Great Depression were sustained and severe. This time, however, it was over the top of Niagara Falls in a 44-gallon drum.
Adrenalin and pressure can make even the boldest of men go to water.
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Having witnessed their ‘punt on the red’ be swallowed up by the house, eight days later, on Monday 30 March, Morrison and Co, played a double or nothing hand on the black – a (Labor initiated) $130 billion wage subsidy to 6 million (previously) working Australians. Forty five per cent of Australia’s 13 million strong workforce were to be paid a subsistence wage by Government, for six months.
Our banks have been underwritten by the Reserve, our private hospitals have been nationalised and university funding for 2021 guaranteed. Quarantine in five-star hotels is free. Child-care, free. Preps, free. How good is socialism!
Having decided to shut down the economy, Australia’s political leaders were compelled to simultaneously dump previously held positions of piety and adopt an Indiana Jones… a leap of faith. With the benefit of Harry hindsight witticisms (like this) are easy. Apo ekso apo to xoro…
No other nation in the world has established, for the benefit of its citizenry, such a broad and deep economic safety net. And few have managed the health crisis as comprehensively. God bless Australia.
Sheltered from the ravages of anarchy, we have been asked to hibernate for six months and find solace in the comforts of… home. Not a bad gig if you can get it.
Suddenly we are spending time around the home, in our gardens with our wives/husbands, our children and they with their siblings. We are walking, riding, saying hello to our neighbours and connecting, not just being connected.
The shrill and panic of late March seems a world away as we remember what life was like in the hazy days of the 1970s, before economic aspiration rode in on a white horse and subsumed our most precious resource – time.
As we enter Holy Week and reflect on the meaning of Anastasi and wonder at nature’s regenerative powers (Easter represents the coming of spring in the northern hemisphere) perhaps we can ask ourselves how is it that we had previously allowed our politics to morph into a vacuous vessel of racketeering for powerful vested interest when in fact, bullshit and self-interest aside, in a matter of weeks politics can change society like no other.
And given the pollies have struck a rich vein of form, whilst they’re at it, over the next couple of months they can bang out a Republic, a new Australian Flag, real and lasting Climate Change Policy, social housing for the homeless, an infrastructure revolution and Tax Reform on multinationals. Uber anyone?
Whilst we acclimatise to our slow cooked lifestyle, awaiting lock downs to be lifted we can reflect on what we had become. Just one more text, email, tweet, insta, meme, emoji, scroll…
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In our quiet moments, where diaries aren’t stacked three appointments deep, as we indulge in the company of our loved ones, we are reminded that our health and the long term welfare of society more generally, are what’s really important.
The economy et al, are a mere subset of the above.