Australia, Coca-colonial US satellite and missile guidance base is abruptly distracted from its Dear Leader’s sweet dream of a gas-led El Dorado; a nation great again with tax cuts and other handouts to the rich; a people soon to be joyously back at toil in … Continue reading Trump is the architect of his own decline.
In any other universe, recovering from one public health crisis by worsening another would spark immediate backlash. An “asbestos led recovery” would be career-ending; as would a “tobacco led recovery” or a “AK-47 led recovery”. But fossil fuels have locked their harm so deeply into … Continue reading Stop the lies, Morrison. Your gas-led recovery is a toxic sham.
“Trump puts his stamp on the politics of other countries … both overtly and subtly. Populists, nationalists and authoritarians look to Trump and know that they may proceed unchecked. Countries more committed to the decades-long liberal international order scramble to respond to scrapped cultural, institutional, … Continue reading Just who are the losers and suckers, Mr Trump?
“We haven’t got everything perfectly right … we continue to learn from the experiences of previous events”. Richard Colbeck appears as this week’s poster-boy for the Morrison government of cruelty and neglect. Yet in a blink of an eye, he is eclipsed by Tony Abbott, … Continue reading Let our old folk die? Abbott sets the tone for a cruel and heartless government’s next act.
We have to think that we have to work together as a human species to be organized to care for one another, to realize that the health of the most vulnerable people among us is a determining factor for the health of all of us, and, if we aren’t prepared to do that, we’ll never, ever be prepared to confront these devastating challenges to our humanity.
Canadian Bruce Aylward, leader of independent WHO mission to study the spread of the virus in China:
In the dark night of the soul, the pall cast over us all by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2, a pandemic virus strain that causes coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, a respiratory illness, which also triggers fear and despair, there is more than a glimmer of hope.
While the toll is shocking, COVID-19 infects almost 2.5 million and causes over 170,000 to die, (2:00 pm) Tuesday 21 AEST and puts our global economic and social interactions into deep freeze – and while WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warns “the worst is yet ahead” countless acts of kindness, courage, decency and humanity, shine through.
A Sydney local fills a wooden mailbox with books and pantry supplies, urging passers-by: “take what you need.” In the UK, over four thousand doctors and nurses come out of retirement; risking their lives to help in understaffed hospitals. Dr Alfa Saadu, 68, dies of coronavirus caught while volunteering at the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital, in Welwyn, Hertfordshire. He is one of four – all minority ethnic doctors -to lose his life so far.
Rethink Food, a New York local non-profit organisation, launches a pop-up soup kitchen outside Salem Methodist church, forced to close its own kitchen because its volunteers are elderly and at too high a risk from infection, serves 600 to 1,000 meals a day, five days a week.
“We could easily do 5,000 meals a day,” Rethink founder Matt Jozwiak says. And lines would be even longer were it not for fear of infection. Endless numbers of other acts of compassion, altruism and self-sacrifice are taking place around the world as people follow their hearts.
“Tireless healthcare workers and researchers seek medical breakthroughs to prevent and cure this new disease. Countless healthcare providers care for the sick, often putting themselves at risk, particularly before the nature of the disease was known. Even the heartache of families who wait helplessly as a beloved family member dies alone quarantined in a nursing home reminds us of the deep bonds that hold us together,” writes Search Institute’s Eugene C. Roehlkepartain.
But Donald Trump’s Operation Re-open America is only about following the cash nexus.
“LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” “LIBERATE VIRGINIA.” He tweets. Crowds of protestors magically appear for news cameras in the streets of centres in key states. Give me Liberty or Give Me COVID-19 reads a sign held by a young man in a red cap in Austin Texas. He seems to have utilised a torn-up cardboard carton to add credibility to his improvised sign.
It’s certainly no improvised protest. The demonstrations are orchestrated by a group of far-right, pro-gun Facebook groups calling for anti-quarantine protests throughout the US, reports The Washington Post’s Isaac Stanley-Becker and Tony Romm. The images help skew viewers’ impression away from the reality that most Americans want the shutdown to continue.
Nearly 70 percent of Republicans say they support a national stay-at-home order, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll. Ninety-five percent of Democrats back such a measure in the survey.
The work of the work of Ben Dorr, “political director” of a group called “Minnesota Gun Rights,” and his brothers, Christopher and Aaron, the groups attract 200,000 members combined. They continue to expand rapidly in the days after Trump endorses such protests by suggesting citizens should “liberate” their states. Expect to see more images.
“Jesus is my vaccine,” reads a message on a tractor, driven past the crowded statehouse in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Monday. “Shutdown the Shutdown” says a Maryland sign.
Like Scott Morrison’s Pro-Growth Agenda, Trump’s campaign to shut down the shutdown implies a false choice mimicked in Australia and elsewhere; we need to get back to work; back out into social circulation, rather than remain at home for everyone’s safety or we blow up the economy. Trump has his devotees here. Our Prime Minister is a big fan. So, what is going on?
Health crisis or economic crisis? An open letter published Monday is signed by 157 economists who call it a “false distinction”. While the economists, who include RBA board member Ian Harper and former member Warwick McKibbin, back the government’s $200 billion-plus spending measures they oppose prematurely loosening social distancing restrictions.
They also warn of the consequences of a second wave of infections: “We cannot have a functioning economy unless we first comprehensively address the public health crisis.”
Is the President of the United States actively promoting insurrection? A second Civil War? Washington Governor, Jay Inslee, accuses Trump of encouraging “illegal and dangerous acts”.
Or is Trump merely campaigning in his typically gonzo fashion? Each state has a Democrat Governor; Michigan could be crucial to Trump’s re-election campaign in November’s General Election. As a rule, it’s all about Trump. And as another rule you can’t trust a word he says.
“It’s not about me,” Trump says during Sunday’s briefing. Yet he just has to be at the microphone for all but 13 of its 90 minutes. “Nothing’s about me.”
If the Donald doth protest too much, his toxic tirades are over the top. “He is putting millions of people in danger of contracting COVID-19. His unhinged rantings and calls for people to “liberate” states could also lead to violence. We’ve seen it before,” Democrat, Inslee tweets.
The reality TV star has completely politicised this pandemic, writes Charles M Blow for The New York Times. Blow argues Trump’s “briefings” are his political tool to achieve this. “He is standing on top of … 40,000 dead bodies and using the media to distract attention away from them and instead brag about what a great job he’s done.”
Trump’s call to citizens to rise up against state governors does little to comfort those friends and family mourning over 42 thousand deceased. Nor does it inspire hope in the 792,913 victims of COVID-19 (Tuesday 21, 3:30 pm AEST) yet another scourge of globalisation, the destroyer of space and distance which surged in 2001.
Why? China joined the WTO and modern India forsook its nationalist economic and social ideals to embrace neoliberalism, an ideology which puts the market above the state and which commodifies human relationships. By 2001, global travel and globalisation had ceased to be the privilege of an elite and began to reach deep into the hinterland of these vast populations, as Guy Rundle reminds us. Coronavirus coincides with this new level of globalisation.
The coronavirus is now setting off a cascade of health, economic and social effects that may lead to a collapse of economic globalization, writes Anthea Roberts. This may play out better for Trump than his bungling of America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. He knows his re-election depends on voters’ perceptions of his handling of the crisis. So he has a cure.
The golf-cheat-in-chief, himself, unable to play in lockdown is quick to exploit a snake oil sales opportunity. Trump promotes the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a possible cure for COVID-19. It’s untested – clinical trials are too small and inconclusive. Experts warn against it.
Some of the twenty-two million Americans, who are now out of work, doubtless, will rush to be guinea-pigs. In Australia, we’ve fast-tracked it so that it can be used in hospitals. After all, anything Trump is spruiking has to be good. Our Chief Medical Officers appear impotent.
Clive Palmer has invested a lazy million dollars of his own money to a “coronavirus action fund” to develop the anti-malaria drug which has toxic side effects when used inappropriately.
It’s OK when treating malaria or lupus or rheumatoid arthritis but perpetrating the myth that it is a cure for COVID-19 is reckless endangerment. It also has led to stockpiling of the drug with the result that those who genuinely need the treatment cannot obtain it.
“Liberate” is more than a bizarre word for men, women and children who are merely obeying the advice of their public health officials and their state government; citizens who are not being repressed or incarcerated but merely complying with advice to self-isolate for their own sake, their community and the nation.
It is pitched to resonate with the alt-right, a dog whistle to all gun nuts, psychopaths and others who mistakenly believe the Second Amendment was written to enable the citizenry to violently resist the government of the United States.
“Liberate” is an abdication of responsibility, by a malignant narcissist who cannot feel for others but who is acutely attuned to the stock market. Trump is gambling that a return to work will somehow restore the nation’s prosperity. He never ceases to fret about his own.
The Trump Organisation needs to service its debt. With some Trump golf courses and hotels closed in the coronavirus lockdown, the family firm, trading since 1923, is seeking to defer payments on some loans and dues such as its lease payments to Palm Beach County to run its golf course on county land. But it’s all cool. Trump calls himself “the king of debt”.
To safely reopen businesses, shops, schools, more COVID-19 tests need to be done. Because tests are scarce, largely due to Trump’s bungling administration, they are rationed to America’s sickest people. In order to liberate; re-open closed businesses and revive social life, those tested must include all those likely to spread the disease – not just the sickest.
Trump’s option is a type of roulette, a gamble on herd immunity, a phenomenon which first requires a vaccine to be invented, a breakthrough which may never come. Even then, experts warn, herd immunity may not even exist for COVID-19. If the four coronaviruses in the common cold are a clue, immunity may be ephemeral, lasting only a few months to a year.
Too little is known about the novel coronavirus and too much is known about other coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS to make it safe to assume that exposure will confer lasting immunity. Too little credence is given to the fundamental truth that a healthy population is the key to a prosperous economy. Much time and money are spent in media worldwide prompting us to choose jobs crisis from the false dichotomy jobs or health.
In Canberra, Trump’s satellite of love and public health pioneer, our PM aka “steam me up Scotty”, star of “The Love Rub”, a 1970s Vicks Vaporub commercial, now re-appears as Our Nation’s Saviour, a miracle play from Pandemic Promotions. Scotty’s just busting to follow Trump’s lead. Saviour is a show with two flags, medical experts and regular egging-on from Health Minister, the unctuous Duttonista, Greg Hunt, who patronises us for our obedience; praising our curve-flattening, as if we’re all on some bizarre weight-loss contest.
Saviour makes a beaut distraction from reports of shortages; stories of doctors and nurses who are forced to re-use single-use masks or who are told to wear plastic aprons because there are no gowns. Psychiatrist Karen Williams’ survey of 245 Australian frontline medical workers finds sixty-one per cent of doctors feel pressure from other staff not to wear a mask, and more than half feel guilt or shame for wearing one.
“The chickens have come home to roost” for Tasmania’s healthcare system and a “decade of austerity” explains Tim Jacobsen, Tasmanian state secretary of the Health and Community Services Union, who reports to The Saturday Paper’s Rick Morton of such dire shortages that staff are forced to rob Peter to pay Paul; “strip” supplies from some parts of hospitals in order to plug gaps in more exposed areas.
“No one has said this overtly, but we clearly have national shortages of personal protective equipment,” Jacobson says. “Masks, gloves, the protective jumpsuits: they have all been very, very difficult to source. It is all being rationed. We have seen mixed messages going out to staff over the last three weeks. Reuse your masks, you need to keep your masks, that sort of thing…”
Yet, however much Hunt pats us on the head, for the “sustained and genuine” way we self-isolate, his PM quickly queers his pitch. Morrison shrinks his six-month lockdown into “a four-week minimum”. Saving jobs outweighs saving lives. Besides if Trump’s America is open for business, how can its client-state stay closed?
Helping the Health Minister succeed, former PM, Malcolm “Fizza” Turnbull’s memoir, “A Bigger Picture” doesn’t flatter Hunt; painting him as a potty-mouthed prat whose abusive, vulgar language and overweening ambition helped everyone to hate him, while Morrison is merely untrustworthy. Scotty damaged his government with leaks that put the government on the back foot, Turnbull reports. Yet Morrison was offside with some major players.
“Mathias regarded Scott as emotional, narcissistic and untrustworthy and told me so regularly,” Turnbull writes. Dutton was also hostile to Morrison. “Of course, if Mathias had a poor opinion of Scott, Dutton’s dislike of him was even stronger,” he says. It’s evident in the strained working relationship between the pair in drought and pandemic.
Yet Greg Hunt seems to have made himself universally detested. Turnbull recalls the day his successor, the Machiavellian Morrison, won the Liberal leadership ballot over his challenger Peter Dutton, the Home Affairs Minister.
“If looks could have killed, Hunt would have fallen over dead. He’d been Dutton’s wannabe deputy and had been working towards this day for months. Never liked, he’d never been more despised than he was at that moment.”
“None of us are perfect, I absolutely acknowledge that,” Hunt says archly. Tellingly, no Liberal MP contests Turnbull’s verdict on Scotty. Or Dutto. Or Hunt. Marise Payne, fails to persuade ABC Insiders’ host, David Speers, or any of his viewers, with her lame claim that she “received and deleted” her pirate copy of A Bigger Picture. When she declares she did not receive her emailed copy from the PM’s office, she reveals that other Liberals were emailing, too.
It seems to have been a bit of a hoot. Take the Toff down a peg. But nothing Turnbull says, now, will dent the commanding fictional narrative the Morrison junta has established; how it acted quickly and, in the nation’s, best interests and how citizens have been so compliant that we’ve stopped the toxic pathogen in its tracks. Besides, Hunt rises to the occasion; takes any high road he can salvage by saying he won’t be reading Turnbull’s The Bigger Picture.
A blizzard of electronic copies of Turnbull’s book is pirated by a staff member in the Prime Minister’s Office, publisher, Hardie Grant alleges, Saturday. Recipients obligingly forward them on. For Hardie Grant, it’s malicious conduct and a massive breach of copyright. Not only were unauthorised copies freely distributed, recipients were urged to forward them to others. Some MPs report receiving five or six copies reports Malcolm Farr for The Guardian Australia.
A letter of complaint is sent on Saturday to senior Morrison adviser Nico Louw by Nicholas Pullen of lawyers HWL Ebsworth, on behalf of Turnbull and his publishers. Louw admits to forwarding 56 copies. Pullen writes that he has been instructed Louw was “responsible for unauthorised distribution of my client’s book” in digital form.
While the publisher threatens to refer potential criminal breaches of the law to the AFP, copyright lawyers advise a civil lawsuit may be more productive. Hilarious. The AFP has never, since its inception in 1979, brought a case that would embarrass a sitting government.
A journalist receives half a dozen. It’s a rip-off on “a massive scale”, say Turnbull and his publisher’s lawyers, a state of affairs that would trouble legitimate purchasers seeking Turnbull’s explanation of his National Broadband Network (NBN) debacle, a $51 billion catastrophe which has spectacularly failed to deliver.
Readers pay good money expecting to learn Turnbull explain why for at least twenty years, Snowy 2.0 will store coal-fired electricity. Not renewable. Snowy 2.0 will also create additional demand for coal-fired generation; increase greenhouse gas emissions. Why? ABC 7:30 Report’s Leigh Sales fails to put these posers to Tuesday night.
A letter of complaint is sent on Saturday to senior Morrison adviser Nico Louw by Nicholas Pullen of lawyers HWL Ebsworth, on behalf of Turnbull and his publishers. Pullen writes that he has been instructed Louw was “responsible for unauthorised distribution of my client’s book” in digital form.
But amidst Turnbullian threats by the publisher to refer potential criminal breaches to the Australian federal police, copyright law specialists say the company and the former PM might have a better chance of bringing a civil lawsuit. But look over here!
When all else fails, cue the spin-machine. Or the dead cat on the table. Forget quarantine, or social isolation, Scotty’s fellow evangelical, prosperity gospeller and prayer-mate, walking disaster area, Stuart Robert has knocked off a fabulous app from Singapore we can all put on our blue-tooth-enabled phones. Download. If we want to.
It’ll be an opt-in thing, Scotty says, airily, back-flipping only one day after threatening to make it compulsory. He’s working hard at what he does best, stirring up a diversion.
Apart from the ten per cent of us who don’t own a mobile phone. It’s “a big Team Australia moment” says the Services Minister, wowing us with his oratory and his capacity to reference notorious Liberal Party Luddite, a keenly contested title, tiny Tony Abbott.
“There is no geolocation, there is no surveillance, there is no tracking,” Robert promises. Besides, a lot of that stuff can be got from the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) which has been spying on citizens for years. As Sally McManus says, you expect your phone to be tapped.
Various other intelligence agencies pitch in. Federal and state police, can also request access to your telephone and internet records. These can reveal information about your whereabouts and whom you talked to, emailed or messaged. As Turnbull boasts in A Bigger Picture, as he takes credit for creating the Office of National Intelligence (ONI), PM had access to the collective wisdom and insights of our 7000-person-strong intelligence community.
Yet as Singapore’s increasing rate of infection shows, either contact tracing is too slow, or SARS-CoV-2 is too fast to enable intervention to slow community transmission.
At least the app will help keep more tabs on us. What could possibly go wrong? Above all, Morrison loves the war-talk his mentor, America’s most revered Vietnam bone-spur deferment veteran, uses to inspire states to rebel.
It’s no less than an … “historic battle against the invisible enemy” that amounts to the “greatest national mobilisation since world war two”, says Trump’s autocue.
It’s rhetorical nonsense, probably penned by slumlord millionaire, and “tier-one predator”, son-in-law Jared Kushner, Trump’s fixer on Middle East peace, or Opioid crisis which may have killed 450,000 Americans since 1999, or winning hearts and minds by dithering with COVID-19.
Six weeks are lost as a result of Trump’s dithering and downplaying of the crisis when the virus first struck. His administration’s initial response is “one of the greatest failures of basic governance and leadership in modern times” says Jeremy Konyndyk, a central figure in the US battle against Ebola. The Morrison government dithered, too, before the secretary of the Treasury, aided by Labor and the Unions pressed for a stimulus package.
Trump’s number one fan Downunder, Aloha Morrison is keen to match his mentor’s rhetoric while basic governance and leadership have eluded him from the start. He’ll never recover from his Hawaiian holiday nor his plan to go to a Rugby League game.
Now he’s channelling Trump in his bullshit that we must put the economic crisis ahead of the pandemic; rush back to the workplace just in time to catch or infect workmates with the ‘rona.
The next few weeks will severely tax the PM. Lacking his party’s trust, unable to delegate, let alone work with others, Morrison’s done well recently out of letting the real leaders, particularly Labor Premiers tell him what to do, especially over schooling.
Now he’ll have to do some work himself; something he can’t abide. Being awarded Turnbull’s Plumber’s mate award for his leaks, is unlikely to deter Scotty from his “front-running” – media leaks that weaken the government during high-stakes cabinet debates. After all, his office leaked advance freebies of Malco’s new e-book.
Being “emotional, narcissistic and untrustworthy” won’t bother Morrison, either. Since when did he give a fig? Besides, he’s already got his revenge. The bootleg preview of A Bigger Picture came from a senior staffer – before being forwarded so eagerly to a cast of thousands – copyright given such a thorough thrashing that the memoir, its author and his entire political career became some sort of electronic piñata.
But pushing Trump’s rush-back-to-work barrow is going to be hard yakka. Especially when there isn’t any work for millions of workers to return to, in an economy bled dry after six years’ Coalition mismanagement – before the virus helps tip it into recession.
Above all, his “pro-growth agenda” which is austerity budgeting under an Orwellian name is nothing but a desperate attempt to walk two sides of the fence. Granted it’s Morrrison’s speciality but no good can ever come of it. The Keynesian stimulus giver cannot reveal himself “on the other side” as a monetarist with a closed fist.
“On the other side of this virus and leading on the way out we are going to have to have economic policy measures that are going to have to be very pro-growth, that is going to enable businesses to employ people, that is going to enable businesses to invest and businesses to move forward”. Scott Morrison
It’s going to take a lot more than stale rhetoric. Or platitudes about growth. Lies about the “other side” don’t cut it either. Australians expect the truth, harsh as it may be, not some pie in the sky. There can be no snap back. The world has changed forever.
Morrison’s hollow words reveal that he has no idea what to do to get Australia open for business again. He knows only how to close things down. The nation deserves better; real leadership – for starters – of the sort we’ve seen from some state premiers.
Humanity is a big part of the leadership required. We see it everyday from extraordinary “ordinary” people just doing their best; doing their jobs. Taking care of one another. That’s where true hope lies. Not in sucking up even more to the business class.
Keep the National Cabinet going until 2022, Scotty; you just keep low in the back seat.
The ritual killing of a water buffalo, by Ifugao villagers of northern Luzon, Philippines, the bloody, brutal slaughter of an innocent, sentient creature, a shocking intrusion of cinéma vérité (filmed by his Francis’ Ford’s wife Eleanor) spliced into the last, dark scenes of Coppola’s self-indulgent masterpiece Apocalypse Now presages the savaging of our body politic to keep us safe from COVID-19.
Premiers hack away at our civil liberties. Our pass-the-parcel federal government hands over its job to a congeries of police proto-states where democracy is hollowed out. Unlike their counterparts overseas, our Federal MPs take a break while the pandemic wreaks its havoc. Genius. Much as it suits Morrison’s secretive style to run a closed shop, someone has to turn up to work, along with teachers and healthcare workers.
To be fair to Scotty, being mugged by reality is a relief. His government has always lacked any agenda. Its dearth of policy ideas, programmes, principles is embarrassing. Forlornly, it kicks a busted legislative can or two down the road. Where is that Morrison priority, his tits-on-a-bull religious discrimination bill? All that seems still in play are its stage two and three tax cuts – cuts it can’t afford and can’t afford to give up on.
Bernie Fraser tells The Sydney Morning Herald that Team Morrison’s policies plus tax cuts face a “reckoning” as public sector debt reaches $1.5 trillion. Plus a potential budget deficit of $200 billion this year, reports The Saturday Paper‘s Max Opray. New company tax cuts for sprats – firms earning under $50 million start next in 2020-21. Personal income tax cuts further bleed the budget by $132 billion over ten years begin the following financial year. None of this will help our economy over-reliant on mining in deep recession.
As Frank Bongiorno puts it, Morrison has governed like a political billionaire yet without a hint of a policy agenda thanks to his vacuous, platform-free election campaign. The rest of his team are back-slapping and high-fiving on the close of parliament’s token day back, Wednesday – as if they had something to celebrate.
Other democracies aren’t shutting down. Peoples’ representatives in the US, the UK, Canada and New Zealand will all return to parliament, later this April. Congress, on the other hand, hasn’t cut its schedule at all.
It’s not easy being Antony Albanese, you get bad press, cut off mid-sentence or mostly no press at all. Jokes about your combover? Yet Albo has it sussed. Parliament “wasn’t suspended during the Spanish flu, or World War I or World War II”.
Barry Jones argues cogently that it is precisely in times of crisis that we need our parliament the most. Without transparency and scrutiny, there is no democracy. He quotes lawyer and journo, David Allen Green.
“If it were not for this public health emergency, this situation would be the legal dream of the worst modern tyrant. Everybody under control, every social movement or association prohibited, every electronic communication subject to surveillance. This would be an unthinkable legal situation for any free society. Of course, the public health emergency takes absolute priority. But we also should not be blind to the costs.”
Who’s to help our Kangaroo National Cabinet and NCCC run the show? SA and WA adjourn their parliaments, mothball democracy, but for other states, it’s see you later (on the other side) and may the fuzz be with you.
“Don’t be surprised, this Easter, if you are stopped by the police and asked what you’re doing” warns Tasmanian Premier, party-pooper, Peter Gutwein who, at least, concedes that if “this were a game of football, we’re not yet halfway through the first quarter”. Apple Isle Peelers will be out in force over Easter. Anyone holing up in the shack; hunting eggs in holiday homes can expect a knock on the door. Or a boot.
Never one to be outdone, Victorian Premier, despotic Dan Andrews, in bed with Big Gas, suspends parliament indefinitely and – unlike Gutwein – seriously contemplates a bonking ban on couples living apart. Andrews warns Victorians high-tailgating it out of Melbourne to caravan parks or already at it like rabbits in their holiday homes to expect an Easter visit from a flop-eared friend in uniform. “…it’s not an Airbnb weekend.”
You can holiday with your family only in a property you own, says Dan. Own? That’s around five per cent of the state’s population. But there’s always been a better set of rules for the ruling elite. Get used to it. Inequality’s only going to increase.
For SA Easter hot cross bunnies, first the good news. Steve Marshall who like climate giant, Craig Kelly, ran a family furniture business before getting into politics and middle-class welfare is giving $10,000 to 19000 gyms, hairdressers, beauty and nail salons, restaurants, cafes and cellar doors, who’ve had to close their doors or who’ve lost income because of the CoVID-19 lockdown. It’s a handout to help you through a crisis which News Corp’s flat-curvers tells us will be done and dusted soon. It’ll buy a lot of chocolate at least. But does trickle-down really work?
Trickle-down is a delusion conservative economist Arthur Laffer sketched on a napkin at a free lunch in 1974 to bullshit Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, two giants of US Republicanism, a once-proud party which now panders to demented despot, aspiring-president-for-life, Pussy-Grabber in Chief, Donald Trump.
A senile Ronald Reagan fell in love with trickle-down. If governments cut business taxes and ease up on the rich, (or, give hand-outs like Scotty’s (Keep my own) JobKeeper or Marshall’s cash splash,) they’ll invest that extra money in productive enterprise, which, in turn, creates more jobs and growth, which will ultimately maximise both the return on endeavour and government revenue. Fantastic? Literally. It hasn’t happened yet.
For Ron Reagan Sr, revenues fell, the deficit doubled and government debt tripled. The US turned from the world’s largest creditor to its biggest debtor. But the theory thrives.
A huge body of evidence exposing the trickle-down myth is probably all fake news. At least if you’ve shut up your SA nail salon, you can buy a few Easter eggs. The bad news? Going away is “completely and utterly off”.
As it is for those in Queensland or NSW. But cheer up Crow-eaters. If at home in SA, the two person rule is just a recommendation – you can have up to ten attending your Easter rave parade and you won’t be busted. But don’t be surprised when your local coppers drop by just to count heads. Human, that is. There’s a rogue virus to patrol.
Every day, we become a less democratic nation, warns lawyer Michael Bradley. The PM and Premiers lecture us with a heavy-handed paternalism. Leaders don’t make sense? No. It’s the people who can’t be trusted to do the right thing. A novel coronavirus brings a brave new world, Bradley writes in Crikey. It’s a world with,
” … police cars circling inside public parks, lights flashing, ordering stationary people to either get on with their exercise regime or go straight home. A tense debate on social media about whether visiting your boyfriend who lives in a different house qualifies as a “reasonable excuse” to leave yours.”
Follow our leaders’ authoritative, timely advice? Listen as they clearly explain restrictions to us? Impossible. They’re experts in equivocating, spin and bullshit.
Eagerly, NSW, Victoria, SA and other tinpot dictatorships reach for the big stick; vying with each other to impose the strictest lockdown. NSW and SA put their top cops in charge. And they look the part. Overpower-dressing. Flaunt the braid; flash the badges, patches, epaulettes and the rest of their quasi-military rig. Inspire trust.
It’s not just the uniform. Our cops are increasingly militarised. Front-line officers in Queensland and Victoria, and specialist units across the country, are being trained in military-style tactics and thinking. Lawyer and former ADF officer, John Sutton warns of a slow and disturbing “convergence”. But is it a good fit?
“Typically, a close ideological and operational alliance between the police force and the military has always been associated with repressive regimes,” he says. Despite John Howard and Tony Abbott and other uniform-fetishists, “Australia has a very strong democracy and a very robust civic mindedness among its population.
Erik Jensen agrees. The Saturday Paper’s editor in chief, agrees that restrictive public health measures are vital. There’s just no evidence to justify any lurch to the right; any special powers of enforcement. “Australia is an exceptionally law-abiding country with a national character based on the false belief we are not.”
Nor is there any sign police have been trained to deal with the health measures detailed in the public health order. Worse, Bradley and others note, the “lockdown state” reverses the onus of proof fundamental to our legal system. In coronavirus times you need to prove you’re doing the right thing by others at all times.
To protect against wrongful convictions, the criminal law, ordinarily, requires proof “beyond reasonable doubt” and the onus of proof lies with the accuser. If there is no case to answer for, a defendant’s silence should be sufficient to render them innocent. Only after proof is brought, should the defendant need to present some defence to their supposed actions.
Old as the law itself, the presumption of innocence lies trampled underfoot. States vie on TV to signal their virtue as guardians of public health, a task neatly handballed, along with such responsibilities as the criminal investigation of the Ruby Princess by a Morrison government always happy to hand-ball trouble.
Are we flattening the curve or flattening freedom? Of course we need to self-isolate and observe other social distancing and health precautions. Self-quarantine is imperative in halting contagious disease. Surviving the coronavirus pandemic means following expert advice, but do we need to be coerced?
Michael Bradley makes a case for a less arbitrary more workable system of policing lockdown.
“I wouldn’t object to a regime under which I was required by law to remain home, with the proviso that I was able to lawfully leave home and go outside if I had a legitimate reason for doing so, subject to all the rules of physical distancing. I also wouldn’t object if that regime gave the police power to reasonably determine that my reason was not legitimate and to order me to go home; or to fine or arrest me if I refused and they reasonably believed that I may be presenting a danger to public health by my actions.
No-one disputes the need for a lockdown. It is a reasonable and proportionate response to the threat of community infection but are we really that complacent or recalcitrant? Or is our allegedly wilful disobedience simply the result of our leaders’ mixed messaging? Confusion abounds. Just look at Victoria.
Not every couple lives together. Can you visit your partner at his or her home? No says Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton. State Police Minister, Lisa Neville also says it’s not on. Well mostly. Sort of. That’s a definite mabybe, then.
“You cannot visit your partner for social reasons. There are select reasons you can go to the home of your partner.” Daniel Andrews, on the other hand, who knows a bit about public speaking goes off into a riff:
“That’s not work, that’s not caregiving, that’s not medical care, that’s not shopping for the things that you need when you need them. And you know, it does not comply with the rules. So people should not do that.”
Newsflash. The rules have been relaxed. It’s now OK. But there’s no guarantee things won’t change as the number of Victorians infected with COVID-19 continues to climb. And climb as they do when community transmission is under-reported thanks to a limited testing regime – (expanded since Monday).
Our leaders fail to communicate clearly; consistently. In part, they, themselves, are confused. Or prefer evasion. At the start, in his self-styled role as Bronte bogan, Ocker Morrison urged us to continue with our normal lives. He was off to watch his Cronulla Sharks, or so he planned. It’s vital to his self-marketing.
Being a macho Sharkies fan is vital to Morrison’s everyman branding – as Van Badham says, although he fools no-one, he’s a “fauxgan not a bogan” – a Sydney eastern suburbs spiv who needs the westie blue collar vote. Yet in February, there were echoes of his mentor Donald Trump in his message of business as usual.
“There is no need for us to be moving towards not having mass gatherings of people. You can still go to the football, you can still go to the cricket … You can go off to the concert, and you can go out for a Chinese meal. You can do all of these things because Australia has acted quickly.”
Yet there was a need. Morrison gave dud advice based on a lie. Australia did not act quickly, argues Bill Bowtell, adjunct professor at The Kirby Institute for Infection and Immunity at the University of New South Wales and architect of Australia’s world-leading response to the AIDS epidemic several decades ago.
The federal Government knew about the severity of Coronavirus three months before it did anything. It should have accumulated testing kits, brought in necessary emergency equipment and medical supplies, provided money for science and vaccine research and immediately begun a public educational campaign.
Confusion from the top helps create a broader, underlying problem of vagueness at law. In the US a law can be unconstitutionally void for vagueness as former convenor of criminology, Deakin University’s Darren Palmer writes in The Conversation; a law becomes invalid because it is insufficiently clear.
People must have trust in any new powers given to authorities, he continues. New powers must be clear to all; applied consistently and transparently. Pandemic powers currently meet none of these criteria.
Pandemic powers are vague, inconsistent and opaque. A Victorian teenager is fined $1600 (later withdrawn by Victorian Police) for a driving lesson that is deemed non-essential travel yet NSW Police say the lesson would have been OK in NSW. Mick Fuller tells Fran Kelly that travel to a holiday home at Easter is not essential travel whereas in Victoria, it’s OK if quarantine is observed on arrival. And you own the home.
Do we really need to see soldiers in the street? Fine a man for eating a kebab? A homeless person is fined washing windscreens in south-west Sydney. Another man is pinged for drinking outside a closed pub. Exercise is OK but not elbow-raising.
But,sit on a park bench to catch your breath and you risk a fine in Victoria or NSW.
In SA, as in NSW, top cop, Police Commissioner, Grant Stevens, is the designated emergency co-ordinator. Accordingly, Stevens is practically licensed to kill.
He may use “such force as is reasonably necessary in the exercise or discharge of a power or function under this section or in ensuring compliance with a direction or requirement under this section.”
Not only are you are expected to quietly obey the new laws in SA, you forfeit your right to remain silent. “no obligation to maintain secrecy or other restriction on the disclosure of information” when you are “ … required to disclose information by a direction or requirement” issued under the new powers. Experts in civil liberties warn that we’re on a bit of a slippery slope – and we’ve been on it for about twenty years.
“Australia is now the only democratic nation in the world without a national human rights law such as a human rights act or bill of rights,” warned UNSW Professor George Williams in 2011.
Williams calculates that between the September 11 terrorist attacks and Howard’s end in 2007, a new anti-terror law was enacted every 6.7 weeks. Since then, increasingly draconian – and often unworkable – legislation has ballooned out well beyond any sane or reasonable response to its original worthy aim. Coronavirus extends the trend.
“There’s been a massive amount of legislation passed that prior to [September 2001] would have been unthinkable”, Pauline Wright, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties says. “There have been incursions into freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of movement, right to protest, all basic legal rights that underpin our democracy”.
Luckily, we have a PM who is alert to creeping crypto-fascism. Scotty from marketing makes it clear he is sensitive to the term “lockdown”. He fears it may prompt panic buying of toilet rolls and hand sanitizer.
“I would actually caution the media against using the word ‘lockdown’ because I think it does create unnecessary anxiety because that is not an arrangement that is actually being considered in the way that term might suggest,” he says with typical laconic brevity. Yet Police Commissioner, Mick Fuller, who once took Morrison’s wheelie bin in for him, and is now the most powerful man in the state, begs to differ.
“You’re in a lockdown wherever you live,” Mick says last Tuesday after NSW announces its strict rules.
The latest lockdown laws in all states are rushed, unnecessary; “overzealous” writes ANU’s Peter Collignon, a professor of infectious disease. Not only do they seem a tad arbitrary and excessive, however, they are based on guesswork, extrapolation from extractions; cherry-picked, overseas data as Our Nation’s, Flat-Curve Saviour, Morrison confirms in his over-hyped, long-awaited, Release the Modelling show, Tuesday.
Asked whether the exotic modelling “indicated anything about the relative effectiveness of different measures” deployed in Australia. Chief Medical Officer Murphy replies: “It doesn’t, unfortunately.”
In brief, we’ve set up petty despots to protect us from spreading infection who don’t really know what they’re doing or why they are doing it. There is broad agreement on restricting movement but without any clear rationale to inform their arbitrary and inconsistent decrees to restrict the spread of the virus.
Duck-shoving responsibility to the states but taking all the credit for a flattening of the coronavirus pandemic curve, the federal government suspends parliament –
Even Jacqui Lambie’s not happy.
“This idea the government has of calling us in on a whim, whenever they feel they need, it’s not the most functional. They’re spending billions of dollars, so it’s time to apply a bit of scrutiny. We’ve been very nice to the government, we’ve played very nice. But with no parliament – is that a sustainable way for a democracy to go? No, it’s not.” The Independent Tassie Senator,makes the right call this time.
The Morrison government continues to hack away at the practice of representative democracy. Adding insult to injury, Federal Parliament is recalled, Wednesday, to rubber-stamp Job-Keeper. Labor is asked endlessly if it’s going to block the legislation – as if it has the numbers -when it’s already promised its support. The subtext in ABC news reports is that it would be heresy to challenge the Morrison government’s plan.
In fact, there’s a lot that needs challenging. Over a million Australians are ineligible. The Very Christian Porter doesn’t care. There has to be a line drawn somewhere he says. The Australian Bureau of Statistics report only 47% of businesses in the arts and recreation sector are still operating at the end of March.
But because short-term contract work is rampant in theatre, television, film, live shows and the wider arts sector of the economy, many of the 50,000 artists and 600,000 workers in the sector miss out on JobKeeper.
JobKeeper is touted as a $130 billion stimulus package, vital to Snap-Back, Morrison’s six-month miracle cure for our Coronavirus economic recession – which, amazingly, is yet another subsidy of the Liberal Party’s business pals. No-one asks where’s the money coming from; ask which spending will be cut or what additional revenue will pay for it. Few bother with the lack of any “mutual obligation” to bosses attached to it.
Yet the package will help Scotty counter toxic images of queues outside Centrelink offices, snaking along pavements and around the block. Not only will JobKeeper workers be kept out of unemployment queues, moreover, they won’t appear in statistics. Best of all, employers get to choose which workers to keep and which to lose. Workers’ gratitude will be lavished on big-hearted bosses, not endorse Big Government.
JobKeeper is yet another “package” – Morrison jargon to help evade accountability. Many drought relief packages, for example, are yet to materialise. JobKeeper subsidises six million workers’ wages to keep one million in work, as Richard Denniss observes, in a cunning transfer of wealth to prosperous business owners.
Expect little debate. The News-Corp-led media Hallelujah Chorus hails the PM as the Messiah. David Speers on ABC Insiders is full of applause. Others ask: how good is our socialist government? But both are lies. By pumping hundreds of billions into existing businesses, there’s little capital for investing in projects that actually create employment. And Morrison expects things to snap back, once we’re on the other side.
It cannot last. The PM is very keen to impress this on us. “There is a snap-back there, a snap-back to the previous existing arrangements on the other side of this,” Morrison warns Thursday. “There is an intensity of expenditure during this period. And then we have to get back to what it was like before.”
Except, he has no idea how to do this. Or when. Turning off the economic stimulus tap too soon, however badly it’s targeted, would deepen any recession – and it’s likely to be a deep one. It’s wildly optimistic to talk in terms of a six months’ cure.
Other problems are just as intractable. How it will be possible to snatch back JobKeeper or “free” childcare or the JobSeeker allowance, a doubling of the not so new Newstart and tacit admission that its forty dollars a day was woefully inadequate? Meanwhile, JobSeeker still promises punitive “mutual obligation” requirements after 27 April 2020 which force unemployed workers to look for jobs that simply won’t exist.
Greg Jericho reports that Callam Pickering, economist at global job site Indeed, estimates that currently job adverts are running about 33% below what they were last year. “It would actually be surprising if they don’t drop by more – during the 1990s recession they fell by half.”
Some prosperous businesses will receive a big boost from JobKeeper, notes Richard Denniss, The Australia Institute’s chief economist. For example, childcare which underpays and overworks its staff, exploiting a largely female workforce. But for many, it is no help at all. Worse it further divides the working poor.
A glance at current ABS statistics on businesses in the hospitality sector, already rife with wage theft and underemployment and now hit by the coronavirus social isolation decrees, reveals that seventy per cent are forced to further under-employ their workers, reduce the hours of their staff. Forty three percent are estimated, by ABS sampling, to have either laid off workers, or placed them on unpaid leave.
Federal Parliament is suspended until 11 August at least, although as government leader in the House of Reps, Attorney-General Christian Porter makes clear, it’s not due to resume until September. The recession-busting brains trust running the joint has “better things to do” than sit in parliament.
Non-essential outings are banned in NSW and Victoria in a zealous interpretation of a recommendation by Morrison’s oxymoronic adhocracy, his National Cabinet; a marvel of self-promotion and self-preservation by a PM who’d struggle to raffle a duck in a pub but who is a past master of the duck-shoving of responsibility.
Scotty grandstands, whilst ensuring responsibility for containing the coronavirus pandemic lies with the states. But it will all be OK because he’s agreed to a senate committee which will provide oversight. Seriously.
We’ve seen too much already of the contempt for democracy and transparency displayed by his government and senior public servants called before senate committees – including the ADF’s top cop, Reece Kershaw, whose boast was that he’d set a record for taking questions on notice. In other words, avoid answering.
Nowhere is Scotty’s buck-passing more apparent than in the five star scandal of the monster cruise ship Ruby Princess, our Typhoid Mary, an eighteen deck behemoth linked to over a dozen deaths and up to a thousand cases of infection.
Is it a cop-out by federal government as NSW Senator, Kristina Kenneally alleges? She’s being diplomatic about dereliction of duty compounded by a very clumsy cover up of Dutton’s Home Affairs failure to stop the one boat that mattered.
The shadow minister for Immigration and Home Affairs, accuses the Coalition of ducking its responsibility by expecting the states to take the lead – albeit in co-operation with federal Border Force officers. The federal government’s “dragged its feet” on crucial border protection measures, such as temperature checks at airports or mandatory quarantine for cruise ship arrivals.
“The wider Australian community is now seeing the calamitous results of their decision to allow the Ruby Princess to dock in Sydney,” Kristina Keneally says, “a moment we have quickly realised was a tipping point in the spread of coronavirus in Australia.”
This will be regarded as the worst public health disaster in America in a century,” says Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research in San Diego. “The root cause of the disaster was the lack of readiness to understand where, how and when the disease was spreading.”
It’s been much the same in Australia but now with Carnival and other companies’ ships of shame no longer visiting, there’s been a drop in our statistics. Whether we are flattening the curve, it is too early to tell but there are encouraging signs of a decline in reported cases although community transmission continues to be a major concern.
Finally Morrison’s snapback is an illusion. Many who lost their jobs in past recessions never found another another, even years later.
In the recession of the early 1980s the unemployment rate almost doubled, increasing from 5.5% to 10.5% in two years. The number of unemployed Australians increased by 330,000. An equivalent proportion of today’s workforce would be about 650,000. It took six and a half years, to the end of the 1980s, for the unemployment rate to claw its way back to somewhere close to where it started.
And there were other, deeper, consequences. During the recession of the early 1980s, the proportion of Australian males with a job fell by about 7%. Only half of that fall was reversed in the ensuing recovery. Then workers were hit with the recession of the early 1990s. In the following three years, the proportion of males with a job fell by a further 10%, Macrobusiness’ David Lewellyn Smith reminds us.
Morrison needs to step up, however, much he fears accountability. Parliament needs to be recalled immediately. The nation deserves no less. Our public health and the health of our body politic, our democracy depends upon it.
“There’s a concept of economy and efficiency. You should have just enough beds for what you need tomorrow. You shouldn’t prepare for the future. Right? So the hospital system’s crashing. Simple things like tests which you can easily get in a country South Korea, you can’t get here.
So the coronavirus, which should be controlled in a functioning society, is going out of hand here. We’re just not ready for it. What we’re good at, what our leaders are good at, and have been very good at for the last 40 years, is pouring money into the pockets of the rich and the corporate executives while everything else crashes.”
Noam Chomsky on a US health system which has many parallels with Australia’s.
Shock and awe seize the nation in Scotty’s Dad’s Army war on Coronavirus. It’s a sound and light show. The PM does the narration. Lights go up Monday to reveal a helicopter gunship. Alongside an SAS chap at the controls, but keeping his social distance, is nifty Nev Power, a battle-hardened former Fortescue Metals (FMG) CEO.
Every PM’s Office press drop repeats the battle-hardened mantra as Nev abseils into our political theatre while Scotty explains Power’s new power, without really making anything any clearer. Truth is the first casualty of war but Morrison cloaks his communications with a thicket of evasions, distractions, diversions and outright lies.
Having no clue what he’s dealing with, or how to deal with it, only compounds his straight talking problem. A third tranche of measures to support the economy is on the way, he tells a mystified nation, Friday.
How he loves that word, tranche. A slice. There will be a plan, he says, to hibernate Australian businesses. This means on the other side, the employees come back, the opportunities come back, the economy comes back, adds, baffling everybody.
His big lie is that COVI-19 will only hurt a little bit. The PM loves reassuring platitudes. He invokes verbal images of cushions, bridges – including his favourite pneumatic children’s castle; “bouncing back” all figures of speech washing over us in a torrent of fatuous, flatulent garrulity.
And boosterism. Scotty and Hunt love to pat themselves on the back. We’ve done more tests than the US or the UK, two of the world’s worst COVID-19 testers. Our 163,000 tests, are almost five times as many as Britain; 25 times as many as the United States, ScoMo crows.
Give the man a lapel pin. But our results suggest an infection rate increase of twenty five per cent per day. Morrison neglects to say we can expect 90,000 Covid-19 cases by Easter; 2.5 million by Anzac Day. Surely a PM could stress how infectious the virus is. One Australian can infect three others. 400 can catch the virus in a month. And in contrast to other countries such as Singapore and South Korea, we are slack at following up results.
If between five million and 15 million Australians are infected … it would mean 35,000-105,000 Australians will die from the Coronavirus, an upbeat Peter Van Onselen calculates cheerily. But what of the recession or depression it brings? We are poorly equipped to help those hundreds of thousands of workers who no longer have jobs.
Close to three million workers could find themselves unemployed as a result of an estimated twenty-two per cent decline in household spending, calculates Melbourne University economist, Professor Jeff Borland, basing his estimate on the two main groups of industries likely to be most affected – ‘other store-based retailing (that is, retailing apart from food, fuel and motor vehicles)’ and ‘food and beverage services’.
Morrison’s big lie to those “decent Australians” who find themselves jobless overnight is predicated on a social welfare system which has been fine-tuned by successive coalition governments to punish needy dole-bludgers for being improvident and a drain on the system. This animus extends to all pensioners, be they aged or disabled. You must, moreover, furnish proof of your entitlement. The Robodebt extortion racket reverses the onus of proof.
It will take until 27 April before anyone gets any Centrelink money because that’s how the system’s designed.
Dutton coup numbers man Matthias Cormann confirms “even using the existing system, the existing processes and programs, this is the amount of time it takes to get this additional level of support into the community”.
Labor asks why the government doesn’t deploy the single touch payroll system which gives real-time data on employees — to create a different base from which to pay wage subsidies. But that would involve dialogue. Compassion. And the empathy consultant seems to have gone into social isolation. Or is it hibernation?
The ABC’s Laura Tingle notes that boofhead Boris Johnson’s Tory government in the UK is already able to provide a wage subsidy of 80 per cent of your previous wage capped at 2,500 pounds a month. Our bonzer, newly renamed with bonus reduced stigma, Jobseeker payment offers a mere eighty per cent of the minimum wage.
Instead, we have announceables and an alarming absence of good faith in Morrison’s government by spin. Keeping us safe is his greatest priority?
Conspicuously missing from the the PM’s “conversation” his buzz-word for lecture; talk down to, is the great hoax of border protection – which is now surely well and truly exposed for what it always was – a lie based on the greater lie that others mean us harm.
At LAX there had been masked staff controlling the spacing in such areas. In Australia there was no sanitiser on counters, nor were staff using any as they stood close and took our smeared customs forms. The crackdown on foreign arrivals is symbolic bullshit. Those of us who arrived are as likely to have been infected by under-protected airport staff as they were by us, reports Guy Rundle on his recent return to work in Crikey.
We were quick to close the door to China but far too late to take similar action with Italy and the US. Then there’s the inexplicable fiasco over the Ruby Princess, our own Typhoid Mary which let 150 sick passengers ashore – a figure disputed by NSW Health – while passengers departed to a dozen different countries.
Or visited local nursing homes. And other states, making it the single, biggest source of infection in the nation.
Jewel in the crown of the extraordinary story of our nation’s epic battle with Coronavirus pandemic terror, is the Ruby Princess, a cruise ship, aka gin palace, named for a precious stone symbolising purity, nobility and passion which let 2647 passengers disembark at Sydney’s Circular Quay, Thursday, despite a ship’s doctor’s treating thirteen on board for symptoms of respiratory illness.
158 passengers report ill yet Sydney port officials are told that there is no-one sick on board. Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt is adamant that ships “arrive under strict conditions”. NSW Health classifies Ruby Princess as low-risk. Why? It comes from New Zealand. Seriously.
What could possibly go wrong? Luckily our fabulous “abundance of caution” kicks in, explains Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant in an hilarious disclaimer; all cruise ship passengers’ swabs are tested for COVID-19.
At least four prove positive, but other infected thrill-seekers swarm ashore to hit the high spots in Sydney and beyond – despite an inspired Inspector Clouseau-like expedient of texting passengers a full day after they have gone ashore. Border control by text?
Our highest priority is keeping Australians safe, the PM insists. His empty rhetoric is now self-parody. His government wants to keep Australia trading as long as it possibly can before its corporate sponsors succumb to economic recession. Or worse. At the same time, he’s shutting things down; stage 3 restrictions are imminent.
Scotty’s verbiage betrays his fear that the virus will find him out; we are woefully unprepared as the result of a series of funding cuts to public health launched by Tony Abbott. Our hospitals and healthcare system is already stretched beyond its capacity. We ignored COVID-19 warnings from the World Health Organisation months ago.
Top marks to Brad Hazzard, the wonderfully named dud NSW Health Minister -who may have failed to do his job with any degree of competence – but who is at least prepared to fess up publicly; own his own egregious stuff-up.
“If I had my opportunity to have my two bob’s worth, with the benefit of what we now know about those … people, I’d have said yeah, maybe we should hold them on the ship,” he says in marked contrast to his boss.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian blames the Federal government and the Australian Border Force (ABF). Peter Dutton perks up in recovery from his own COVID-19 infection to say it’s all the fault of the NSW state government. An edifying slanging match erupts.
Ruby Princess passengers boost NSW’s confirmed cases. Total infections in the state jump by 186 to more than 1,617 on Saturday morning. It is the second consecutive day that the total number of new cases in the state is up. Abundance of caution? Or panic stations? At least 26 other passengers test positive to the virus outside NSW.
But, look over there. Command and control fuse seamlessly with chaos and confusion in the latest twist in the plot of our edgy national political soap opera. Clueless Scotty gets in a former mining CEO to do his job for him.
Nothing shrieks medical expertise and nuanced public relations as much as Nev’s career digging rocks out of the ground. He was CEO at the time FMG lodged its Solomon Hub Pilbara land rights decision appeal to the Federal Court, an appeal which the company lost on all counts in 2019.
Local Yinjibarndi people keep their native title to their 2,700 square kilometres of Pilbara land and are eligible for compensation. But Nev is moving up and on.
Nifty Nev will get on well with Morrison’s Chief of staff, John Kunkel, a former CEO at the Minerals Council of Australia, (MCA) who fits in like Flynn with Scotty’s senior adviser, Brendan Pearson, another former MCA CEO, who once worked for ecocidal monster US coal miner Peabody Energy.
Pearson provided Morrison’s infamous lacquered lump of coal for the then Treasurer’s notorious 2017 show and tell (no props allowed) of energy agnosticism in parliament. “This is coal. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared.”
What is truly scary is that Morrison has just created a whole new layer of government, his own National COVID-19 Coordination Commission or NCCC. Morrison calls his jumped-up junta “eminent Australians”.
Eminent Australians are next rung up from decent Australians who are losing their jobs; distinguished in government despatches from unworthy bludgers who don’t have jobs and who must be punished by Robodebt.
Eminent? They are certainly part of our corporate ruling elite. Deputy Chair of Power’s power elite, is Dave Thodey who did big things for six years as Telstra’s CEO.
How big is buying video streaming company OOYALA for over $500m in 2014 and writing it down to nothing in 2018? Dave’s also chair of what’s left of the CSIRO, cut down to size by the anti-science Coalition. No longer a portfolio on its own, Science is a bit-player in the portmanteau, Industry, Science and Technology.
But Dave’s had a fair bit of help. In 2014, Abbott’s $110 million science funding cut preceded a loss of 1400 staff across CSIRO. In 2013 CSIRO’s annual report listed 6500 staff overall. By 2015, staff had fallen to 5100. It’s just lost twenty per cent of staff from its Energy Business Unit just days ahead of the Morrison government’s carbon reduction roadmap.
Yet our ruling junta can’t be accused of being exclusively corporate fat cats. Greg Combet, now a lobbyist for industry super, is token leftie on a team of business types which includes career mandarin, Jane Halton, who headed the government’s people smuggling team during John Howard’s children overboard fraud. Catherine Tanna became MD of Energy Australia, which hates paying tax and is on the boards of the RBA and the BCA.
True, big Paul Little, amassed a net worth of $950m running Toll Group for two decades. And from property investment. But just because you are one of Australia’s richest men, doesn’t mean you lack insight or compassion. It may just be very well concealed.
Speaking of compassion and rounding out the team are our top two Canberra shiny bums, Home Affairs Secretary, Prime Minister and Cabinet, head, Mike Pezzullo and Phil Gaetjens, two of our most powerful if not public-spirited mandarins, both of whom are always eager to assist senate committees with inquiries.
Or, in fabulous Phil’s case conduct their own exemplary-how-to exonerate- Bridget McKenzie of breaching the ministerial code in a secret Star Chamber inquiry.
Is this Covid-19 pandemic, a medical emergency or an economic meltdown? Will the economic considerations take priority over social issues? Morrison’s staffing of his NCCC leaves us in no doubt as to his government’s view. Sadly, as Michael Keating writes, it seems unaware that good health policy is good for the economy.
Scotty waffles on about how the new commission will coordinate decisions across governments and the private sector. Co-ordinate decisions? How good is that? It will also advise government on re-purposing manufacturing for essential equipment, and shifting staff from defunct industries to areas that need them.
It will be spoilt for choice there. Given the way the economy is tanking, defunct industries will be in abundance. Virgin Australia, for example, has taken a bit of a hit, as has QANTAS now that no-one’s allowed to fly.
A colour-coded spreadsheet, perhaps? Someone at the PM’s Office should be able to help with that.
Commissioner Power will solve problems with supply chains and staff. It won’t be easy. Someone at HQ forgot to order tests, face-masks and other PPE. Fart-arsing and dithering over what we’re doing in the policy space with a lethal pathogen needs a bit of a fine-tune. The National Cabinet, a rebadged COAG with a few tame medicos on hand to baffle media is doing a top job. But it’s a bit bolshie. Even with the Leader of the Opposition excluded. The NCCC will run things Scotty’s way. There’s been a bit of States’ rebellion over letting children got to school. Nev’s boys will fix all that.
How will NCCC work? “They will say ‘Prime Minister, we need you to do this. We need you to authorise this. We recommend that you take these actions to get these problems sorted’,” Scotty from marketing explains making the blatant out-sourcing of his own cabinet’s job sound so terribly democratic. Morrison seems dead keen to be spared the hassle of being a democratic leader – or making any decisions at all for a good five months at least. Or clearing up the sports rorts mystery.
The logo NCCC is emblazoned on the Hawk’s undercarriage to help get the message out that the brand spanking new National COVID-19 Coordination Commission is hi-jacking our democracy a little bit for a while.
Scotty’s been copping a bit of stick for not getting his message out and generally confusing everyone over hairdressers and his crafty herd immunity by stealth approach to Coronavirus. ‘It’s essential, unless it’s not. Then it’s essentially not essential. I can’t be clearer,’” tweets Shane Warne.
Never has the accidental PM’s addled thinking been on such public display. Nor at such great cost to so many.
Every job is essential. Sacred. You can’t have a virus wrecking the Holy Economy, amen. Children who don’t always suffer COVI-19 severely are great at spreading the virus. But they must attend school. Parents may be vital healthcare workers.
Infect Mum and Dad or Grandma? Hairdressers can stay open but beauticians must close? Childcare must continue while some schools close? The NCCC will fine-tune the rules. Don’t you worry about that.
Expect a lot of operational secrecy and deference from Power, a man who owes his loyalty to Morrison alone.
“When I rang him the other day, I simply said, ‘Nev, I need you to serve your country.’ And he quickly responded … and he stepped up.” How good is Scotty’s authority? Puts this whole Coronavirus thing on to a war footing. Ticks a lot of boxes. Nationalism. Despotism. Secrecy. Smart-arse questions will just be un-Australian.
Morrison is ever in quest of a populist paramilitary, patriotic note or vote. Doubtless, Commissioner Nev’s lapel badge is in the mail already. Along with a salary commensurate with experience. Iron ore is falling in price as the coronavirus pandemic lowers demand from China so it may well prove Power’s golden parachute.
Some experts predict acute oversupply, a scenario which could cut prices from US$80 to $50 per tonne.
Nev’s our new dictator for the next five months or so. At least. Scotty’s got him in to not only to dodge questions but to chair our brand-spanking National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC). NCCC will “coordinate advice” to Morrison’s utterly clueless government on “actions to anticipate and mitigate the economic and social effects of the global coronavirus pandemic”.
In brief, Nev will do a fair bit of damage control and disaster relief. Power’s mining background makes him a perfect captain’s pick to poppet-head the junta of lobbyists, state premiers, media and other mineral lobby Muppets who already run our kakistocracy.
Not only that, Nev’s got stacks of self-saucing, trickle-down magic pudding stimulus mess-kits to chuck at unlucky punters out looking for work. Lucky punters who own businesses or run banks get the bulk of the money which the government’s printing up as we speak, just to keep the wheels of trade and commerce oiled.
Surprisingly, Nev’s entrance upstages ScoMo and Co’s Ice Follies Show, Morrison’s long-running tableaux vivant of bunnies frozen rigid in the headlights of a monster, runaway debt truck. News Corp critics give Nev rave reviews. No-one listens to Dr Norman Swan who is always, full of sage advice and timely warning. What would he know?
Boosting Cash Flow for Employers (BCFE) is a bill which allows businesses up to $100,000 to small and medium size businesses which employ people. It is an article of neoliberal faith which trumps experience, both here and in the US when tax cuts did not trickle-down into increased wages but were more likely to boost share dividends, paying debt or extra cash reserves. In the Coronavirus recession, how many businesses will even be trading?
The frenetic turd polishing on display is a record-breaking, world class spectacle. The magic pudding trick, or corporate welfare is already into its third, new, improved, upscaled, version before its world premiere.
It’s a spectacular stunt, a patent cure-all miracle message in a basin – a centrepiece of Dr Scotty’s Flatten that Curve, fatten a banker, salvation by corporate welfare, Travelling Medicine show.
A standing ovation erupts across the self-isolation void of our times. Few spot the failure of our caseload curve to flatten at all, as cases quadruple in a week. Or our reverse Robin Hood Treasurer who nicks a nation’s housekeeping to keep needy banks, airlines, casinos, coalmines and other essential services afloat.
Luckily, there’ll be no awkward questions. Parliament is suspended for five months. Our hand-picked crew of fat cats and business-class passengers who’ll be doing Scotty’s job for him are accountable only to him.
Scotty’s been setting the tone. Panic-buying – unless it’s the government’s quest for face-masks and PPE or new stationery is “ridiculous” and “un-Australian”. ScoMo also has a go at all those thronging Bondi or St Kilda Beach for not taking seriously the requirements for physical distancing. There’ll be an ADF team taking care of that.
A monstrous double-standard stalks the land, as Simon Longstaff notes in Crikey. Morrison can lecture us all he likes on how we must take responsibility for our actions. Let him wag his finger until it falls off.
“It’s just a terrible pity that the potency of the message is undermined by the hypocrisy of the messengers — a group that has refused to take responsibility for pretty much anything.”
Warnings of a global meltdown just around the corner comes as a bit of a shock to the mug punter. Morrison’s magical medicine show helps keep it that way. Before the week is out, his government’s spin that the recession is caused solely by a rogue, Far Eastern, pathogen, a Wuhan flu, hardens into gospel truth. Coronavirus is a perfect scapegoat for seven years of coalition economic mismanagement in a world facing a growing debt crisis.You never hear a reporter challenge the PM on it.
“We know everyone is overleveraged, full bore, full risk,” says Lindsay David of LF Economics. “All we were waiting for was a trigger and unfortunately that has come in the form of a health crisis.”
COVID19, the disease resulting from severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is not only a world-wide pandemic, infecting 601,536 people worldwide by 9:30 pm AEST Saturday, causing 27,441 deaths and wreaking havoc with trade, commerce and industry – it may help blow up a financial system which rewards businesses for borrowing well beyond their capacity to pay back, just to keep operating. Cue Philip Lowe.
Thunderous applause breaks out at 4:00pm, Thursday 19 March, as the nation thrills to a bravura soft-shoe shuffle from Reserve Bank Boss, Pianissimo Philip Lowe, our High Priest of polymer money has an act which is reserve personified in a gig where bland is beautiful and cautious, tortured, understatement rules.
In Lowe’s low-key lowdown is one key line: “funding markets are open only to the highest quality borrowers“. Or the shit has hit the fan for companies, fattened on a decade of cheap money, who now find themselves about to go out of business thanks to a virus which has caused the cost of borrowing to sky-rocket as skittish foreign lenders seek to stay afloat in the wen of corruption and deception that is the international money-market.
Masters of illusion, the Morrison government will pump our money into monopoly capitalism’s deepest pockets, while making it appear as if it’s a rescue package for small to medium enterprises.
Why? Banks are risk-averse. When lending money, they will avoid high-risk small to medium enterprises and do business instead with a government guaranteed airline, for example, or an oil or gas multinational paying no tax or an essential services oligopoly paying little tax.
As Michael West points out the government has surrendered control of its money-printing programme to the Reserve bank and its club of banksters. Paragons of fiscal virtue. They include a Commonwealth Bank which can take money from people who’ve been dead for a decade as evidenced at Kenneth Hayne’s Royal Commission.
It’s also helping out the banks by giving them cash for assets which the banks are keen to offload. To West it’s confirmation that Morrison and Co “really have trouble governing”.
Job-seekers will get to eat for at least six months as the old New Start becomes a Job-seeker Allowance topped up by $550 a fortnight via a thoughtfully “time-limited” Coronavirus Supplement (about half the median weekly rent in Sydney) while businesses get “up to $100,000” to stop them laying off workers if they haven’t shut up shop.
Of course there’s more to Morrison’s corona-recession busting but it’s a timely shift of focus as the evidence mounts that our federal government has a lot to answer for in its phony war on the pandemic, its own show of Much ado about Nothing. The truth is that it’s bragged, boasted, self-promoted and talked itself up a treat but at every turn it has failed to hatch any plan for action. We need to demand more of our politicians.
“They were warned twelve weeks ago by the WHO what was coming”, Bill Bowtell tells The Saturday Paper’s Mike Seccombe. Architect of Australia’s response to the AIDS epidemic, Adjunct professor at the Kirby Institute for infection and immunity at NSW University, Bowtell articulates every Australian’s dismay at the Morrison government’s inertia; its paralysis in the face of impending disaster.
They ignored the warnings. They did not accumulate test kits. They did not accumulate the necessary emergency equipment. They did not undertake a public education campaign. They gave no money to science, no money to research, no money to the International Vaccine Institute, no money to WHO.
Bowtell’s interview follows his appearance on Q&A, where he challenges the government’s disinformation. He holds to account former chippie, Senator Richard Colbeck, Minister for Aged Care, Youth and Sport, who fills in for the PM or his Health Minister who must be in social isolation or witness protection somewhere. Perhaps, they’ve gone to the footy or are booking flights to Hawaii for when it all dies down.
“I’d like to ask the Minister, where are you getting this idea that older Australians are more vulnerable than anybody else? On the figures released tonight in New South Wales, almost 80% of the caseload in New South Wales, which we’re assured by Brad Hazzard is going up exponentially, 80% of them are younger than 60.” Colbeck defers to the CMO but misinforms his audience.
Later in the week, Bondi and other popular Sydney beaches are closed because young people are flouting government instruction regarding distancing. The World Health Organisation is worried.
“Today I have a message for young people: you are not invincible. This virus could put you in hospital for weeks – or even kill you,” warns World Health Organisation’s Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
“Even if you don’t get sick, the choices you make about where you go could be the difference between life and death for someone else.”
Yet it would be unfair to say the Coalition is doing nothing; the need to act on Coronavirus and the global economic meltdown it brings with it vastly energises Aloha Morrison and his government. It’s hard work causing panic. And pressers to tell a nation just how great a job you’re doing don’t run themselves, you know.
In the sunny uplands of international politics, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) is flooding the market with dirt-cheap Saudi crude in a mad attempt to break Russia, whilst arresting rivals uncle, Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, and cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, whom he usurped as Crown Prince in 2017 – it’s a diversion, at least, from dismembering journalists who dare speak the truth about his despotism. It certainly helps depress Wall Street.
King Salman, MbS’ 84 year old father, will be sidelined soon as his son jockeys for power, lest chief ally Donald Trump lose the November presidential election to Joe Biden. But the oil strategy is foolhardy. Demand is collapsing given the economic recession triggered by the Coronavirus – our Great Plague 2.0 – MbS is just like his mentor Trump. Neither will tolerate dissent; nor heed practical advice.
Equally headstrong and peerless when it comes to dud judgement or malignant narcissism, Trump’s poodle, Boris Johnson, backs down on his herd immunity excuse for doing nothing which would put at least six million Britons at risk of severe symptoms and kill off the UK’s run-down public health system. Ironically he gets the plague himself.
Britain, along with Australia and the US, has ignored warnings published by Chinese doctors and scientists in The Lancet 23 January, detailing the virus in Wuhan a city of eleven million, the capital of Hubei province. The virus had already spread to Thailand, Japan and South Korea. They urged careful surveillance in the light of its pandemic potential, editor Richard Horton reports.
Belatedly, the UK has implemented new social distancing measures based on modelling by Imperial College and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine which predicted 260,000 deaths – not just from COVID-19 but from other illnesses a stretched NHS could not treat.
Our own NCCC and its inept Morrison government would do well to take note.
By Sunday, novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 causing COVID-19, a respiratory illness and worse has infected 157,197 and killed at least 5,839 in 146 countries in just three months; a 3.4 per cent mortality rate, WHO estimates.
No-one knows when the pandemic will peak. Yet just as incalculable is COVID-19’s capacity to disrupt the world economy. The virus, moreover, is advancing faster than any financial crisis; government officials who must deal with it, risk becoming infected by a deadly pathogen, which is pretty enough under the microscope to be mistaken for a spring blossom, Maureen Dowd discerns.
Jason Furman, Barack Obama’s chief economist warns that coronavirus could harm the economy more than the GFC. Worse, he frets that politicians can’t fashion an adequate response. Certainly that’s abundantly true in Australia.
“If two months from now we go back to normal, I think we’d be OK. If this lasts six months or longer — and I think that’s the more likely scenario — all of that just compounds. Even if you discover a cure in December, you still have people out of jobs, broken balance sheets, bankrupt companies that won’t be particularly eager to hire.”
Its economic effects are bound to outlast COVID-19’s impact on our health. Unlike Australia, where some token stimulus measures are applied, even if three out of four dollars is spent on business, in the US, the world’s largest economy, rescue measures betray no sign that the administration even understands the nature of the task before it.
Morrison at least uses the coronavirus to hide the Coalition’s seven years of economic mismanagement. Of course, the PM was treasurer or PM for only five of these years and on that basis, given his Sports Rorts inquiry model, is completely innocent of any fiscal negligence or the fact that the Australian economy has not once grown above its trend rate.
Scotty’s recent shot at Coronavirus busting, something, he says, will soak up $17.6 billion is a ruse. It has to be seen, Richard Denniss argues, in the context of the PM’s failure to do a single thing to the fix the economy his own party has wrecked. Just as he did with the bushfires and just like his mentor Trump, he’s airily dispensed with expert advice. He’s never once seen fit to take advice from an economist. He’s not waving; he’s drowning in malignant narcissism.
Even the RBA can go down on its knees to plead he do something to stimulate the economy as it did in July 2019. But instead of listening, Scotty from marketing and Josh the wannabe stand-up comedian slapped each other’s backs in public about how they were back in black – next year; how the economy was about to take off.
Instead it tanked. It’s been tanking for seven years. Just take the ABS record of increase in household incomes. 1995 to 2012, sees a healthy increase during the Howard and then Rudd/Gillard governments. It collapses in 2013; never to recover.
Morrison’s rosy picture of the economy is based on a farrago of lies. Labor’s shadow finance minister, Katy Gallagher, is quick with some key facts; net debt has more than doubled under the Coalition even before the outbreak, from $175 billion or just under 11 per cent of GDP in September 2013, to $430 billion or over 21 per cent of GDP seven years later.
Back in black was never going to happen. There is no budget surplus of $7.1 billion as predicted. Never would have been – coronavirus or not. Even the “back in black” slogan was ripped off from former Kiwi PM John Key’s 2014 ad which appeared on a Young Nationals’ Facebook page. Back in black is also an AC/DC song, a tribute to late singer Bon Scott.
In 1998, Sneaky Pete Costello used “back in black and back on track” in his budget speech. What he forgot to explain is how he squandered the proceeds of the mining boom on middle class welfare and lowering taxes, as part of Howard’s cunning plan to put short-term vote-winning policies ahead of the long-term interest of the nation.
Apart from a $750 sop to pensioners and others on government payments, which may help a few pay the arrears on the electricity or gas bill, or pay the rego on the car, the stimulus package is pretty much a non-event. True, there is a great, big, huge, instant tax write-off. But all this does is tweak the depreciation schedule from $30K to $150K.
To stimulate the economy, you have to be a business rushing out to invest thousands in plant, just because you can write it off – at a time when you’re likely to struggle to earn enough just to stay in operation – especially in tourism, hospitality or education.
Paying half the wages of 120,000 young apprentices is good if the boss has the work to keep them on. Until we know the severity of the recession we are about to enter, it’s impossible to estimate how many apprentices will still be laid off.
As for the grant of $25K to small business, that is small beer to a Small to Medium Enterprise in tourism or hospitality whose work has dried up as a direct result of travel bans or a pandemic keeping people at home. Even to flourishing businesses, it is more of a reward or an insurance policy to the Liberal Party’s traditional base in case, as is not impossible, things really go belly up.
In brief, Morrison’s Clayton’s stimulus only makes Donald Trump’s look good. Trump announces a US$50 billion loan program for small business, subject to congressional approval. Nothing says borrow money more than discovering your income is collapsing.
Trump will get Treasury to defer $200 billion worth of tax payments. Businesses who struggle to turn a profit now will love having their tax deferred. It sure beats watching demand dry right up.
Then Trump runs out of ideas. True, he hankers after cutting payroll tax which Crikey’s Bernard Keane sees as a good idea. Yet he’ll need Congress to support it.
Both Democrats and Republicans call for stimulus measures, but getting them to agree on any one package is fraught. True Democrats have cooked up a batch of measures but we’re yet to see if the GOP will back it and Trump will sign it.
A virulent disease, COVID-19’s rapid spread is sped up by the wilful stupidity; toxic, populism and malignant narcissism afflicting many current world leaders and the even greater number of frauds, from BoJo to ScoMo, who simply pretend to be leaders. Badly. Enter Nemesis, punisher of hubris, writes The NYT’s Bret Stephens.
Nemesis is a Greek goddess of divine retribution who avenges evil deeds and undeserved good fortune. She will level the jumped-up; often Trumped-up post-truth poseurs, hypocrites and con-men who clog up the top jobs.
Also known as Adrasteia, “the inescapable”, Nemesis, hates injustice and rushes to help the arrogant, insolent and depraved get what they deserve. Who better to reveal the empty rhetoric and lies of our top imposters?
Past peak vacuity and a top contender in the keenly contested policy stupidity stakes is political clown prince, Britain’s PM, Boris Johnson. Not for Boris are restrictions, nor indeed policy; that’s for sooky-la-la countries. Boring. Instead, Boris reverts to his signature buffoonery; do nothing.
It’s a novel response to a novel virus. And it’s cheap. When most of the world is hell-bent on prevention, Boris wants Britons just to lie back and think of England.
BoJo’s latest stunt, the non-response, is billed as a “herd immunity” approach. The uncertainty is thrilling. No-one knows if it will work; how long it will take to work, or just how many will die in the process. Yet it parallels Chris Uhlmann’s “war footing” a chilling buzz-phrase which evokes the jingoistic mania which led us into disaster at Gallipoli, The Great War, Viet Nam, Korea, Iran, Syria, or our longest war in history, the war in Afghanistan.
Herd immunity does not spring fully-formed like Pallas or Athene from the head of her father, Zeus. Typically it’s only seen as a preventive strategy in vaccination programmes. If we don’t have a vaccine – as we don’t for COVID-19 – achieving herd immunity would require massive numbers of Britons to be infected and then recover from COVID-19.
Has anyone ever made a vaccine for a coronavirus? Currently circulating in humans are four coronaviruses which cause the common cold. We are yet to create a vaccine for one of them. Pesky, beta coronaviruses are most likely to just become endemic. New variants would crop up each year.
At least it would liven up the doctors’ waiting rooms. Dull and boring cold and flu season could soon become quite a bit more exciting: a cold and flu and COVID season.
Doing bugger all is of course richly attractive to BoJo and many of his compatriots. The theory is inertia will help Britons catch COVID-19 as quickly as possible in the hope – fingers crossed – that when up to seventy per cent of the population is infected, some type of immunity will develop. Genius. If it’s only forty per cent, Daily Kos’ Mark Sumner extrapolates from Italy’s mortality rate, this would cause 27 million cases and about 2 million deaths.
It’s likely to be more. At least sixty per cent of the population – possibly seventy – will need to become infected and recover to create immunity, suggests, Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser.
Paediatrician and former WHO director Anthony Costello, says that the UK government is at odds with other countries in proposing herd immunity. Shifting from containment to mitigation is “wrong and dangerous”, he says. He doubts COVID-19 herd immunity would even last. It’s possible that like ‘flu, new strains will emerge each year and it will need repeat vaccines. By Saturday, Boris is happily selling his brainwave, however, to PM Morrison.
ScoMo and BoJo have discussed international co-operation in responding to the coronavirus pandemic in a telephone call, Boris Johnson’s office says. “The two leaders updated each other on their countries’ respective responses to the virus and agreed on the need to take a science-based approach to mitigate its impact.”
Science-based? There’s little science in either PM’s brief. We are trying to contain; not mitigating. Aren’t we?
But we can’t let Boris steal the hotly contested title Imposter of the Week so easily. Donald Trump mis-reads his tele-prompter in his rushed, unrehearsed and wooden address to the nation Wednesday night. His miscues panic the stock market, prompting an overnight sell-off on Wall Street Friday 13 March which helps erase most of big gains since Trump took office in 2017, gains, albeit, more the result of Obama policy than anything Trump ever did.
Karma? Or more of a SNAFU? His gaffe comes on top of claiming to close borders which happen to be still open. “As you know, Europe was just designated as the hot spot right now and we closed that border a while ago,” he lies. It’s vastly reassuring, nonetheless, to learn that Covid-19 is a nasty un-American foreign disease.
The Donald oozes reassurance. Part of his charisma. An alleged sexual predator, he is accused of 26 incidents of “unwanted sexual contact” plus 43 instances of inappropriate behaviour detailed in a new book last December.
Trust him? Trump can’t lie straight in bed. He did impose a raft of travel restrictions on 26 European countries, Wednesday night, but they were effective midnight Friday. They are not a total shutting down of the border.
A pal of fellow travellers, Prince Andrew and the late financier and convicted paedophile, Jeffrey Epstein, Trump was a passenger on Jeff’s private jet, nicknamed “The Lolita Express” as 1997 logs show. In 2002, Trump called Jeffrey “a terrific guy and a lot of fun to be with.” Doubtless the feeling was mutual given that Epstein had fourteen numbers for Trump and his staff in his phone book, leaked in 2009. Yet everybody lies but The Donald.
“Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign,” the Republican nominee said at a 2016 rally. “Total fabrication. The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”
Trump falsely blames Obama for testing shortages Trump himself has helped create. Whilst COVID-19 is now thought to have evolved in China in November, Trump’s administration is only putting key elements of US testing strategy in place, Friday, two months after the danger of the outbreak was communicated by China in January.
With a highly contagious virus that is lethal to vulnerable populations, the delay amounts to criminal negligence.
The Guardian Australia reports Dr Anthony Fauci, a top US official dealing with the crisis, calls US testing a failure on Thursday. South Korea tests up to 15,000 people a day. More than 230,000 people have been reached. The US, has managed only 11,000 in total. The USA’s per capita rate is about 130 times lower than in South Korea.
There have been delays and stuff-ups with botched testing kits but the origin of the problem lies in The White House. Trump has seen COVID-19 as a foreign problem. Yet he has it all under control. Or so he believes.
In his address to the nation, Wednesday, Trump calls it the “foreign virus”, a dangerous misnomer. Remarkably, he still rambles on Friday about combating coronavirus through “a very strong border policy”, when COVI-19 has clearly been spreading inside the US, undetected, for weeks. Then, incredibly, he invents a Google solution.
“I want to thank Google. Google is helping to develop a website, it’s going to be very quickly done, unlike websites of the past, to determine whether a test is warranted and to facilitate testing at a nearby convenient location,” he waffles and lies, hyping a pilot screening service, which is actually being built by Alphabet subsidiary Verily, a site limited to health workers in the Bay Area, which is still being developed.
Such disinformation will help kill his presidency, which is now terminal, given last week’s stock market losses.
Our pseudo- populist, Team Australia’s Scott Morrison, Bronte’s bogus bogan with the slogan, a conman with a cap for all seasons, will not escape either. COVID-19 may not strike him down, as it has Peter Dutton, but it is setting acid tests of his leadership, especially in public health policy and economics that he is already, comprehensively, failing.
How good are the Sharkies? Originally from the Emerald City’s rugby-loving eastern suburbs, Morrison professes his passion to watch his beloved Sharkies, a Cronulla NRL team he adopted only in 2009, dismissing any hint that he act like a leader and self-isolate, especially since he’s up close and personal with Peter Dutton in cabinet since Tuesday.
There’s a bit of a fuss on Sunday’s ABC Insiders regarding Morrison’s intention to flout his own Chief Medical Officer’s recommendation. Whatever that is. From Monday, we’re supposed to self-isolate; stay away from gatherings of five hundred or more. Whew! This gives Scotty and other Hillsong well-wishers a free pass to mingle at Hillsong’s Colour Conference Sunday at the Hillsong Convention Centre in Baulkham Hills in Sydney’s north-west, Saturday.
The venue has a capacity of 3,300.
“A journalist needs to come straight out and ask Morrison if his reluctance to stop large gatherings is related to the big Hillsong Church gathering with people from all over the world attending. Why only stop gatherings larger than 500 people, Chief Medical Officer?’ a concerned Australian tweets.
“Massive Hillsong conference over two weeks finishing this weekend in Sydney. Tens of thousands of people from all over the world tightly packed in. Millions of tax free dollars for our PM’s best friend and mentor. No wonder there is no shut down of mass gatherings yet,” writes another.
Even more baffling is Morrison’s live broadcast to the nation from Kirribilli Thursday. In true Scotty from marketing style, he doesn’t give away much information but there’s a lot of spin about how well his government’s doing at the economy; keeping people safe; all the regular bullshit and buzzwords. As Matilda’s Chris Graham notes, it takes Scotty barely fifty seconds before he’s into party political mode; back in the Trumpian bubble of his eternal campaign.
“I want to assure you and your family tonight, that while Australia cannot and is not immune (sic) from this virus, we are well prepared and we are well equipped to deal with it, and we do have a clear plan to see Australia through.”
Morrison keeps his speech brief, only 605 words, but, as Graham notes, “plan” gets a plug once in every hundred.
There’s a “clear plan” at the beginning, a “plan [with] three goals”, a “national health response plan”, an “economic stimulus plan”, “targeted local recovery plans”, and another “clear plan” at the end.
This is classic Crosby Textor marketing. It is all to do with pitching and spin; the man with the plan thrashes the living daylights out of the word “plan”; banging on and on about his coronavirus stimulus package at his presser earlier.
Seven times in under two minutes, you hear him utter the words “clear plan” Evading a question from a journo minutes later, he abuses the word plan” another seven times.
Some are troubled by Scotty’s hypocrisy. Oddly, it’s never worried him. After bagging Labor mercilessly, stimulus is not only OK; it’s the new black. The complete U-turn bothers the man who did help get us through the GFC, Wayne Swan.
“For six years,” says Wayne Swan, “there virtually wasn’t a day where they didn’t pour shit all over me, telling lies about the effectiveness of the stimulus.”
The lies have hardened into orthodoxy with the help of the News Corp megaphone. School halls which employed locals and which function today as multi-function community centres remain a brilliant investment in social capital as well as being textbook examples of public money wisely invested. As does the much-maligned home insulation scheme, thank you News Corp.
The opposition’s framing of the issue was reflected in most reporting and commentary, writes Rodney Tiffen. The narrative was one of disaster and incompetence, especially as the controversy gathered intensity. He sums up
As a tool of economic policy, the stimulus worked. Although other factors, including the strong demand from China and the sound position of Australia’s banks, were also important, the stimulus played a central role in making sure that Australia suffered less of a downturn than most other developed countries.
The opposition has criticised the public debt that resulted, but compared with most other developed nations this is fairly small. Moreover, the capacity to repay that debt – and, in the meantime, to service it – has been greatly aided by the success of the stimulus in minimising unemployment and boosting output.
Pensioners the length and breadth of the land enjoy homes made more comfortable. Better insulation has also meant lower heating and cooling bills despite electricity’s continuous rise to record levels due to the rising cost of gas and coal and the abject failure of coalition governments to evolve an energy policy.
The coronavirus crisis is a catastrophe in both public health and in its depression of economic activity. Alternative facts do not help leaders in times of recession, as Trump and Morrison are discovering. Trust and credibility are not rebuilt by talking quickly or by simultaneous mass press drops. A leader who cannot be believed will not be followed – especially in an emergency, Bret Stephens reminds us.
Does Team Australia inspire anything but derision? Did it ever inspire? Morrison will learn to his cost, Team Australia is too closely associated with suppression of dissent; the hoax prime ministership of Tony Abbott, a brief but convincing demonstration of a leadership job that was too big for the man. As for patriotism it is the last refuge of the scoundrel.
The Canberra Bubble has been used so often by Morrison to rule out questions he wishes to dismiss out of hand. It has come to signal a reluctance to be accountable, responsible or open – transparent in the jargon of the day. First there are testing kits in abundance; later in the day, the Chief Medical Officer warns they are in short supply.
In these ways, the coronavirus health and economic crisis will be Morrison’s nemesis as it will his mentor Donald Trump. As Bret Stephens concludes
It should not have had to take a deadly virus to expose this presidency (or prime ministership) for what it is. But it’s fitting that it has. A man who thinks he can twist every truth to suit his needs has at last discovered that he cannot twist the truths of nature and of one of nature’s gods. Her name remains Nemesis.
Coronavirus-panic sweeps the nation. There’s barely a bottle of Dettol hand sanitizer left on a metal supermarket shelf across the land. Panic buying of toilet paper, pasta and rice turns ugly. A fight erupts in a Western Sydney Woolworths. Two Bankstown women, aged 23 and 60 are charged with affray.
Whilst no injury seems to have been sustained, the same cannot be said of the Morrison government which ends the week reeking of corruption after misleading the senate over changes to its rorted sports grants after it had entered caretaker mode 11 April 2019, whilst former Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie departs from the script by insisting she knows nothing of changes made in her name after caretaker mode commenced.
Sport Australia has refused to answer forty questions, which officials took on notice, effectively denying a senate committee request and failing to meet its Friday deadline. Former Health Department Head, Glenys Beauchamp, did comply but she’s destroyed all of her personal notes following her resignation in January. Genius.
Adding injury to insult, Attorney-General Porter has to be corrected by his own department on his misunderstanding of his own paper tiger DIY federal anti-corruption body he’s been drafting since 2018. Then, from up shit creek, there’s a hullabaloo about all that bushfire crisis money being as scarce as rocking-horse poo. Labor’s Murray Watt makes a convincing case that Scotty’s $2 billion dollar fund doesn’t even exist.
But how good is our chief malignant narcissist for calling a coronavirus pandemic, early despite expert advice? Panic is a great distractor. As with his mentor, Donald John Trump, Scott John Morrison always knows best. Also freakishly Trump-like is his urge to upstage anyone who knows what they’re doing but by week’s end, his shonky public appearances as leader of our fight against COVID-19 look less and less convincing.
Like Trump, Morrison loses interest quickly – especially when things are not going all his own way. Or are not all about him. Time to hand-ball to serial failure Hunt. By Sunday, the hapless Health Minister, now struggling with his fifth portfolio, urges Australia to draw on the community spirit it showed during the summer bushfire crisis.
Luckily, Hunt stops short of invoking the spirit of the fire-ravaged Bega township of Cobargo, or countless other small towns whose residents are underwhelmed by glad-handed Scotty and are happy to let him know it.
Melding bushfire crisis talking points into cryptic nostrums, like some talking fortune cookie, Hunt gushes puzzling, but tremendously uplifting morale-boosters such as “This is the moment to be its best self, and for Australia to be the nation and the community we know it can be … We will get through this together.”
An orgy of public self-congratulation, spun as “Coronavirus updates” not only helps to boost the nation’s spirits with the palpable falsehood that all is well, it helps distract from a barrage of inconvenient truths. There’s still a bit of fuss over General Gus; Defence Force, Chief Angus Campbell, who tells Senate Estimates, Wednesday, he’s given Morrison an earful over the abuse of defence material in the PM’s bushfire promo.
Labor leader, Anthony Albanese is rapier-like in calling Morrison out, saying he “used defence force imagery to try to shore up what was flailing political support due to his lack of action during the bushfire crisis”.
“I talk to the chief of the defence force very regularly,” Morrison blusters in reply, slyly dressing up the dressing down. (Surely every healthy Western democracy has a PM who is bosom pals with the defence chief?) But there is even criticism from within his own party over his politicising of the climate bushfires.
Good Morning Britain host, Piers Morgan, who was recently gob-smacked by Craig Kelly’s climate science ignorance and denialism, calls the video, “a self-promotional commercial with cheesy elevator music.”
“This is one of the most tone-deaf things I’ve ever seen a country’s leader put out during a crisis. Shameless & shameful,” he rages on Twitter. A range of similar comments confirm Morrison’s ear of tin. It will undo him.
The Australia Defence Association – a public-interest watchdog – says the government breaks rules around political advertising. “Party-political advertising milking ADF support to civil agencies fighting bushfires is a clear breach of the (reciprocal) non-partisanship convention applying to both the ADF & Ministers/MPs,”
Other home truths include a mismanaged economy; tanking for four years. Yet the government still has no plan beyond declaring it has a plan. Just as it has a coronavirus plan. Worse, the former Minister for sports rorts loads both barrels of her Beretta Silver Pigeon; takes aim at her PM Thursday. This is not in the plan.
The government’s cunning plan is to help “dodgy” Scotty (as the normally very proper ABC 7:30’s Laura Tingle calls Morrison on ABC Insiders, Sunday) evade questions such as Katharine Murphy’s query on sports grants Friday. Sport Australia tells The Saturday Paper that both former Sport minister McKenzie and the Sport Australia board approved its decision to withhold 25 per cent of the $41.7 million allocated to the Sporting Schools program in 2018 – and that it was “authorised by government under the usual budget processes”.
Sport Australia will soon “transition” to an Orwellian Sport Integrity Australia, due to operate from July or whenever the government comes up with the legislation required.
All Australians will be delighted to hear that Sport Integrity will police threats to Australian sport doping, match-fixing and cheating as befits an organ of Sport Australia which currently enables Liberal MPs to abuse funds in pork-barrel rorting to buy elections.
Yet another mystery hangs over our secretive government’s proceedings. Clover-gate is put in the shade. Thursday evening, McKenzie reveals she made no “changes or annotations” to a 4 April brief which suggests it was clearly altered by the PM or some staffer in his office before it went to Sport Australia 11 April.
Morrison fobs off questions at his Friday Presser. “I’m dealing with coronavirus”, Milli Vanilli Morrison lies. In reality, in between dodging shotgun pellets, he tries to take all the credit for the work of Federal Chief Medical Officer, Prof. Brendan Murphy and his team of state medical officers and staff. Yet it won’t wash.
Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy is shocked by Scotty’s refusal to take her questions on Friday. Tactically, it gives Bridget McKenzie’s revelations a type of legitimacy. The PM appears to be running away. He has every reason to. According to legal experts such as Anne Twomey, there is not one occasion in the sports rorts saga where the government appears to have acted legally.
Not only were its actions illegal, Professors Cheryl Saunders and Michael Crommelin of the Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies at Melbourne University, and Professor Anne Twomey of Sydney University argue in a joint submission published by Senate Committee that the grants are unconstitutional.
The very bad news for Scott John Morrison is that the experts concur that not only did Minister McKenzie have no lawful power to approve the grants, but the offices of the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister had no power to direct how decisions were to be made. No wonder Scotty’s running scared.
The PM’s bushfire disinformation campaign blaming a lack of back-burning is also cackling away. On ABC, Aunty recycles the inflammatory remarks of Ted Bull, superbly-named Gippsland Nationals’ MP.
Last January, killjoy CFA chief, Steve Warrington warned hazard or fuel-load reduction it is not a “silver bullet” solution.
“Some of the hysteria that this will be the solution to all our problems is really just quite an emotional load of rubbish, to be honest,” he says, a comment close to heresy in our current post-fact, anti-expert climate.
Too late. Great swathes are cut alongside roads in Gippsland in Victoria. It’s unprecedented, say conservationists, who report loss of habitat; vandalised ecosystems. Logging contractors clear-fell timber in an eighty to a hundred metre buffer along thousands of kilometres of roads in climate bushfire-affected areas, near Cann River, Mallacoota, Cape Conran and Orbost.
Bushfire consultant, Cormac Farrell, says burns are a useful tool, especially when the hazard reduction burns were completed within 800 metres of urban areas or public assets.
“But in terms of protecting towns and cities on those worst-case scenarios on those really bad days when the fire, the wind and heat are really pumping, we are finding it is able to burn over relatively bare ground.”
Luckily, Scott Morrison has already set up its inquiry, a Royal Commission which will follow its mining lobby script and find value in hazard reduction, praise the role of the military, call for its increase and confirm his sermons on “adaptation” the latest excuse for doing nothing to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Our rort-meister government tries to jumps the shark in Senate Estimates this week. In a fit of sheer, gas-lit genius, rural and regional affairs committee chair, Susan McDonald rules, Monday, that the word “rorts” is unparliamentary.
Senate Estimates continues its theatre of cruelty; or abuse of due process, with AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw, prefacing his evidence by bragging that he set a record for questions on notice in his last appearance. He boasts he’ll beat his record this time.
Say what you will. Our federal government and its fans in big mining and banking and agribusiness are endlessly inventive in their contempt for democracy.
Everything is going to plan. But what is the plan? Wacky, undergrad humourist and Yoga-joker, Hungarian Josh Frydenberg, who is such a crack-up lately with his tacky, racist insults towards Australia’s Hindu community, in response to Labor’s Shadow Treasurer, Dr Jim Chalmers’ well-being budget, suddenly goes all coy.
Morrison helps out heaps with a three word slogan; the response will be “targeted, measured and scalable”.
All the Treasurer will say this week is that his coronavirus stimulus package to rescue a tanking economy “will have a B in front of it“. For business, buffoonery, or bluff? His government’s chronic mismanagement has caused our economy to tank for some time. Not once in six years has GDP been on trend.
Doubtless, details will follow as soon as the BCA, the Minerals Council and the banks put their requests in. But the Nats may still be unhappy.
The Incredible Bridget McKenzie pushes back at her PM from under the bus he drove over her – only to be upstaged by My Corona, a show from Shonky Morrison and his honky tonk combo starring Chief Medical officer, Brendan Murphy, who gets to bare his teeth in a shit-eating grin while Morrison takes credit for Murphy’s work.
Backing vocals are by doo-wah dweeb, Greg Hunt, Minister for flatulent garrulity and advocate for the private health insurance virus; today a six billion dollar impost, crippling our public health system, a subsidy introduced by lying rodent John Howard, in 1996.
Greg tells us, endlessly, how well our sick health system is and what miracles of planning are being wrought, tautologically; “we have a national stockpile that is very well stocked.”
In reality, our masks used to be imported from Wuhan and even dentists have less than two weeks’ supply but government is “close to securing a deal” with local manufacturers claim the Australian Dental Association.
Funding? Funding never ceases to be a good news story. A recklessly generous, federal government will be “shoulder to shoulder with the states”, as former rugby forward, Morrison, puts it. This means forking out an extra five per cent, Hunt explains, patting himself and PM on the back over cutting such a great deal.
“It’s a very, very good outcome for the states. I think they recognise that … Normally, if somebody presented at a hospital without something such as this, we would pay 45 percent of the costs, and they would pay 55 percent of the costs.” Put this way, the federal government seems a model of profligate generosity.
Just imagine. By Friday, GPs, officials, “primary health workers” and those who tend the elderly hold meetings. Medication is stockpiled, they fret. Masks and other protective gear are scarce. Workers already struggle to do their jobs after Morrison ripped $1.2 billion from the aged-care industry budget, a cut which came on top of an earlier $500 million reduction in subsidies to create an industry now on the verge of collapse.
Above all, those who make our medical system work lament the lack of information and real leadership from government. AMA head Tony Bartone, exposes the reality behind the federal government’s interminable spin,
“Communication, timeliness and consistency of messaging about the virus to doctors and the public was brought up by doctors loud and clear. As was personal protective equipment.” Fatuous reassurances follow.
“There was a deep, deep understanding and acknowledgement by the commonwealth that more needs to be done in both of those spaces,” Dr Bartone adds, channelling the “in this space” vacuity, so popular in modern officialese, a virulent disease of communication itself; the enemy of plain speaking. Or accountability.
“It does not look like we are looking at containment, we are going to be managing an outbreak across our community, and we need to be properly funded and need true leadership from government about what everybody’s roles are,” warns Dr Charlotte Hespe, of The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.
Talk about talk it up. Playing to packed houses across the nation, Morrison’s Corona Update Show features a troupe of Chief Medical Officers, state and federal, plucked, reluctantly, from the mounting impossibility of completing his or her day to day duties to publicly suffer the PM’s prolixity; his cheapjack grandstanding.
Worse, we “cross” to apostle of bombast, sidekick Dweeb Hunt who adds his own brand of long-winded spin.
“Our first task as a Government is to keep Australians safe. And as part of that, working together with the states and territories, with the community, with the health sector, to ensure that there’s a seamless approach.”
Clearly, the first task of his government is to divert our attention from the rising stench of scandal and corruption which, as Bernard Keane notes, threatens to eclipse the smell of fear as Morrison almost loses control of numbers in the House over Labor’s censure of his government because it “deliberately misled the parliament and the Australian people about the corrupt sports rorts scheme”.
Yet the message changes. “Get yourself tested” Hunt tells Australians with flu-like symptoms late Sunday. It’s a sudden departure from the confidence in containment script so carefully followed only a week ago. No-one tries to explain how an overburdened General Practice will cope with the sudden demand.
“Even though it can be a little bit of a stress on the system,” Hunt says. “If in doubt, get yourself tested.” If only you could get an appointment at your local medical centre.
The week has been testing for the Morrison government, a government which since its inception has found the challenges of policy-making impossible, let alone those of day to day administration. Whipping up pandemic panic is counterproductive, especially now since consumers see empty shelves; hear empty rhetoric while learning of the spread of the virus. Between reality and the rhetoric of government reassurances falls a shadow.
Exploiting fear while spinning the illusion of leadership and control marks the Coronavirus Update Show as another Morrison failure; another confirmation of the PM’s dud political judgement and the dysfunction of a cabinet of yea-sayers and bootlickers.
Worse, as COVID-19 takes hold in communities the length and breadth of Australia, it is clear that the PM’s initial claims of containment were mere Trump-like bravado.
Finally, fatuous Josh Frydenberg must come up with a miraculous package; a stimulus to businesses which are already foundering based on a trickle-down theory that is economic nonsense. Chris Bowen tries to be supportive on ABC Insiders.
“The economy has been weakening,” he says. “Now the government does need to respond. One of the things that they could do is adopt the policy we took with the election with the Australian investment guarantee – a … 20% upfront for all businesses and investments big or small.
The government has one sitting week before it is due to hand down its May Budget. It is unlikely to provide any relief to workers or the 4.6 million Australians who receive an income support payment of some kind from the Australian Government in the form of a pension or allowance. Or to increase the minimum wage or restore penalty rates.
Yet reputable economists argue that boosting household incomes is most likely to boost consumption and stimulate a stagnant economy. Given its Coronavirus Update Show chicanery, however, expect the Coalition Coronavirus Budget Show to be all about rescuing its business mates while grandstanding fit to beat the band.
On its current performance, it will not begin to be able to factor in the economic dislocation of the virus such as the disruption of education, tourism, trade and supply chains, nor will its limited repertoire of neoliberal nostrums be up to the task.
But you can be sure the virus will be made to take the blame for four years of its own, woeful, economic mismanagement. And the welfare of business mates and wealth creators will matter far more than that of households or pensioners or wage and salary earners. And we’ll never stop hearing about how wonderful it is.
And it’ll be no good asking about sports rorts corruption and illegality or anything unconstitutional because the PM’s presser will always be about something else.
Like a rat up a drainpipe, wildly excited by any crisis not of his own making, panic merchant Messiah Morrison is all over the news this week. Suddenly there’s a pandemic to blame for his government’s monumental ineptitude; its catastrophic bungling. Even a re-boot of the prime ministerial persona may be possible.
Can Hootchie Kootchie Henry from Hawaii morph into Captain Australia, our public guardian?
Cynics see the derelict, deadbeat dad; the leadership failure in the climate fires, avid for an image makeover. Will Scotty soon be modelling a designer range of dinkum Aussie anti COVID-19 combo cap and facemasks?
Others welcome what may be a return to sanity; a willingness by the Morrison government to take Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy and his colleagues’ expert advice. But only because they have no other option. As Peter Hartcher notes, Australia’s state and federal medical officers, convene daily, usually by phone hook-up, is the peak point of the pure medical advice, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC). No politicians sit in on their meetings.
Morrison is forced to take expert and specialist scientific advice? It’s a total contrast with this summer’s climate fires where current fire chiefs were locked out of discussions; forbidden to mention climate change.
Worse, Greg Mullins, former chief of NSW Fire and Rescue reports that a group of former fire chiefs tried to meet with the PM since April 2019 because “they knew a bushfire crisis was coming.” He refused.
But Scotty’s not himself lately. He’s had a rough trot in the $100 million Sports Rorts Arena; 136 emails link his office with former Sports Minister, Bridget McKenzie. Labor is asking smart-arse questions about Morrison’s $4 billion urban congestion fund rort, set up to funnel money into the campaign funds of its MPs in mainly Victorian marginals, originally to fund roads, but later to build railway car parks at stations which had no available land – a car parks in the air scam which makes the Building Better Regions rort look honest.
It’s bound to be all Labor’s fault, of course, but Victoria’s state government was not consulted. Now Labor has the hide to demand answers as to why the bulk of funds bypassed areas of highest population growth; the low-income western suburbs, serviced by forty railway stations, in favour of a few well-heeled electorates.
Several stations were funded in Josh Frydenberg’s well-heeled seat of Kooyong, Karen Middleton reports for the Saturday Paper. Hungarian Josh’s return was at risk, given he was up against The Greens and a high-profile independent. Goldstein, IPA shill Tim Wilson’s electorate, got a grant for Brighton Beach station in the state’s affluent south-eastern suburbs. In brief, all but three of forty-six projects were in marginal Liberal seats.
Morrison’s Rorts R Us campaign plan included The Building Better Regions Fund which gave 94 per cent of its $841 million to electorates held or targeted by the Coalition in the months it took to buy the federal election, where funding was at least shared with Clive Palmer, eager to cruel Labor’s chances for a mere $83 million.
So endemic is its corruption that in most other democratic nations, the entire government would be resigning. But such is the power of vested interest and so domesticated is our mainstream media, we are rapidly losing the means to speak truth to power, let alone hold governments to account. The courts don’t help.
Misleading Chinese-speaking voters in Kooyong and Chisholm is now deemed OK by the Federal Court.
Richard Ackland reports that the court’s night-before-Christmas finding was that in at least 16 polling places (of 42) in Chisholm and 11 (of 37) in Kooyong, corflutes were placed sufficiently close to AEC signage to be misleading or deceptive. Yet there’s no evidence, it says last week, that Liberal apparatchik Simon Frost, had anything to do with their placement. How they got there must be just another Morrison miracle.
Oddly, one or two latte-sipping city-dwelling media leftists not under AFP watch, spot a ship of state adrift.
“Bouncing around at the mercy of the sea” [is] “… where Australia finds itself under Captain Scott Morrison: engine in neutral, rudder jammed, lurching from side to side, with the poor passengers increasingly seasick and the ship drifting closer to the rocks,” notes Paddy Manning in The Monthly Today.
Worse, the arse is falling out of private investment, which drops 2.8% in the December quarter, while construction falls 3%, (bugger building any infrastructure, all that matters to Morrison’s mob is providing buckets of funding). Recession looms. Even The Australian‘s Economics Editor, Adam Creighton says a per capita recession is now almost certain- but – look, over there! Is it a bird? Is it a plane?
No it’s Scotty from PM™
Scotty from Pandemic Marketing has arisen. He spruiks himself and his do-nothing government of mining shills and rorters on steroids as our COVID-19 saviours. On all channels. Even the sonorous piffle that is ABC News 24, interrupts its tepid stream of unconsciousness with a “major” press conference from the PM, Tuesday.
“… we are not immune to the coronavirus and its impacts, but we are as best prepared as any country can be in the world today …” It’s a hollow slogan given our public health system is already over-stretched. By Friday, experts such as Prof Raina MacIntyre, head of the biosecurity program at the Kirby Institute at the University of NSW, predicts anywhere from a quarter to seventy per cent of Australians may be infected.
“If 50% of Australians – 13 million people – became infected that is up to 400,000 people dying, almost 2 million people needing a hospital bed and 650,000 people needing an ICU bed.”
But that’s a worst case scenario – even if it does expose the emptiness of federal government rhetoric and the legacy of cutbacks in funding. Brendan Murphy is less alarmist; more reassuring,
“We are still contained in Australia. We do not have any evidence whatsoever of community transmission in this country. Whilst we are preparing and we are realistic about what might come in future weeks. We are not in a situation where anyone needs to be concerned.”
So, does the Morrison government really have a plan? No. Not ever. Anywhere. What it banks on is spin and the goodwill of health workers.
“Part of the pandemic plan is ‘hospitals opening their surge capacity’. Now, I don’t want to alarm anyone, but there is no surge capacity. It’s all open … we are full every day. We’ve been saying this for years,” past president of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, Dr Simon Judkins tells The Guardian Australia.
Yet capacity can be created by cancelling surgery and outpatients’ clinics and Dr Judkins believes that our system will cope, chiefly because of the dedication of our healthcare workers; not because of any planned inbuilt surge capacity. Queensland University virologist, Mackay notes we can’t put the virus back in the box,
“So it’s really important that we find, test and isolate the ill to slow the spread and give hospitals plenty of time to prepare and manage cases without being overwhelmed. Many countries probably can’t trace, test and isolate as well as China, Singapore, Hong Kong have.”
At Tuesday’s briefing, Morrison throws to Josh Frydenberg, with other well-worn lies. “We are responding on the basis of a strong platform of a resilient economy, a very strong health system that has put Australia in this position to deal with what is a very serious challenge.”
Resilient? The government’s much-vaunted infrastructure boom is nowhere to be seen. In fact non-residential construction is down 3.4 per cent, while private and public engineering fall 0.5 per cent. Residential construction slumps to 4.6 per cent for the December quarter, its fifth consecutive quarterly fall. Forget Morrison’s bare-faced lies and boosterism, Australia is deep in a building recession.
Private investment is falling in mining and in building while business investment adds up to a mere $28.5 billion, a total which follows a revised 0.4 per cent fall in the September quarter. Apart from some spending on equipment and plant, up 0.8 per cent, investment is so weak, in dollar terms the figures look like a retreat to 2017, reports Crikey’s Bernard Keane and Glenn Dyer. Those tax cuts just failed to boost investment, despite all the government hype. There was never any evidence it would.
Morrison deploys John Howard’s Alert but not alarmed V2.0 His government is acting with “an abundance of caution.” “Everyone will get coronavirus,” The OZ obligingly chimes in, misquoting QLD Uni’s Ian Mackay.
Bans are placed on travellers from China. From Sunday, Iran will be included. Yet Brendan Murphy cautions against a policy of stopping the boats 2.0. And the planes. Travel bans won’t work, he says, “… it’s not possible to further isolate Australia”. The focus should be on detection and containment instead.
Saturday, a 63-year-old Gold Coast woman recently returned from Iran has coronavirus, authorities confirm. A beautician, she says she saw 30-40 clients at work on Thursday before going home ill. So much for Hunt’s containment claim two days earlier. COVID-19 – the disease caused by the Sars-CoV-2 virus – has a case fatality rate of between 2-3%. Whilst we don’t know precisely how it spreads, we do know it will spread.
Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch predicts that within 2020, 40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. But this does not mean that all will have severe illnesses. “It’s likely that many will have mild disease, or may be asymptomatic,” he says.
Epidemiologists concur that the most likely outcome of this outbreak is a new seasonal disease—a fifth “endemic” coronavirus. With the other four diseases, people are not known to develop long-lasting immunity. If this one follows suit, and if the disease continues to be as severe as it is now, “cold and flu season” could become “cold and flu and COVID-19 season.”
But you’ve got to hand it to Morrison. He can whistle up patriotic pride in a flash, especially when News Poll has him on minus 20 – up only two statistically insignificant points on last poll. You don’t come back from that an anonymous backbencher tells Paul Bongiorno. But it won’t for want of hide, guile or rat cunning.
Scotty’s shameless, dog-whistling chauvinism, rivals only his brazen self-promotion and ineffable self-love.
By Thursday, Morrison is a man with a plan. He refines his rhetoric, aka the Gospel according to Crosby-Textor. Crosby’s formula is, go negative and go for fear. Two days later you say you have A Plan. Morrison stays on script – even if he’s humiliated by Pig Islander, Jacinda Ardern in a presser wisely scheduled for Friday.
“Do not deport your people and your problems,” the Kiwi PM rebukes him. Publicly. Ouch.
Morrison’s mob has a plan, even if it can’t say what that plan is – apart from such caution as calling pandemic when the World Health Organisation warns against panic. Banning travellers from China? A fake ban. It’s soon exposed as a hoax by travellers such as Rob Garrington who writes a letter to the editor of Nine’s The Age,
The Prime Minister has announced a plan for handling a pandemic. Is he for real or playing politics again? On Thursday I flew from Singapore to Melbourne and my plane included passengers from China. At Melbourne Airport there were no temperature checks, hand-sanitising stations or information about the virus’ symptoms. At the Malaysian and Singapore airports I travelled through, temperature checks were made and hand-sanitising stations were everywhere.
The Prime Minister says he and Border Security are doing everything to protect us and check incoming passengers. None of this was evident between 11.45am and 12.30pm at the airport on Thursday. Scott Morrison again appears to be all spin. Rob’s on to something. Next is the spin given to the word “plan”.
The Guardian’s Katharine Murphy counts the word “plan” twenty times, in Morrison’s Dorothy Dixers, while Amy Remeikis counts sixteen uses of the p-word by Dutton. But first a note of caution. Harping on about having a plan is what Abbott and Turnbull used to do. It’s a tell-tale sign you haven’t a clue what you’re doing.
Caution? We lead the world in shirking curbing our carbon emissions. But even in the relentless self-parody that Morrison summons so effortlessly when emergencies beckon, the PM kicks an own goal this time.
Only ScoMo could whip up hysteria with an “abundance of caution”. Reeking of abundant caution is the orgy of pork-barrelling Morrison’s office directed prior to the miracle election, replete with colour-coded spreadsheets to help it fund club buildings already built. Or it’s eagerness to chip in half a million dollars to help SA’s Old Collegians, a disbanded women’s rugby team in Sturt, to get its non-existent kit on.
How else to describe giving grants to clubs who requested nothing? It’s a super abundance of caution. But it’s not just fun and games, we see that caution also in the doubling of the nation’s net debt since the Coalition took office in 2013. We see it in its climate science denialism, its ecocide and environmental vandalism.
We see it, above all, in the inexorable self-engorging authoritarianism; of the rampaging, malignant growth of Caesar’s mad black eye; the power of the state. 2019 was huge for the Australian Police State, writes Crikey’s Kishor Napier-Raman. Our federal government’s abundance of caution has seen it pass more laws restricting fundamental rights and freedoms than any other Western nation. “No-one is above the law” smirks Morrison.
Children are strip-searched. Icons of caution, the AFP, raid a journo for revealing how our spooks plan to spy on us all. MPs howl to outlaw protest and dissent. The Coalition’s war on whistle-blowers proceeds apace.
“David McBride, the whistle-blower in the Afghan Files case, is in and out of court all year. Richard Boyle, the former debt collector who disclosed unethical practices at the ATO could face up to 161 years in prison if found guilty. The prosecution of Witness K, the intelligence officer who exposed Australia’s bugging of the Timor-Leste cabinet, drags on,” notes Napier-Raman.
Julian Assange’s show-trial proceeds with Morrison’s tacit support. Showing an abundance of caution, the PM ignores the pleas of filmmaker James Ricketson, who spent 15 months as a political prisoner in jail in Cambodia. Ricketson begs Morrison to “pick up the phone” to his British counterpart if only to prevent Assange – whose mental and physical health is rapidly failing – from dying in London’s Belmarsh prison.
Not a word is heard from the very Christian Porter, who is far too busy being the model of a modern Attorney-General, fearlessly at war with unions, whose members, statistically, are typically women teachers and nurses. Assange is publicly pilloried in a grotesque travesty of justice because, as Andrew Wilkie writes, ” … he publicised US misconduct and presented hard evidence of their war crimes.”
Abundance of Caution may well be the name of Morrison government’s heavy metal band. Centre stage, Scotty fronts the massive News Corp valve amplifier; an old clunker with its comforting hum and retro harmonic distortion. Backed by Dutto’s Peter Pan Border Force boy band, the week’s gig features solos from pumped-up Greg Hunt. Our Chief Medical Officer even gets a guest spot. Never let a good crisis go to waste.
But incredibly, our Chief Medical Officer and his band of experts, dedicated to public health and not private wealth have upstaged Scotty; unplugged the Coalition’s COVID-19 pandemic plan for a comeback. The group will have to sing for its supper now.
Of course, the virus will cop the blame for the stock market crash, the forced abandonment of the federal government’s surplus fetish and a recession we had to have but so huge is Morrison’s loss of credibility and legitimacy over its sports rorts pork barrel corruption, that he and his team can bullshit all they like about fundamentals being in place. Praise the economy for its resilience.
But, now, he will be forced to contend with the reality of that economy performing under stress. As his public health system and his other policy-free zones are put to the test.
A hard reckoning is coming. A type of enforced accountability will come with it, too. It’s about six years’ overdue.