Morrison government’s response is pitifully inadequate

Morrison government’s response is pitifully inadequate, by Alan Kohler.

A website has been created for musicians and others in the entertainment industry to post how they are affected by the coronavirus, called I Lost My Gig Australia. Here’s the tally up to Sunday night: number of events cancelled – 10,468; jobs impacted – 84,000; lost income – $25 million.

On Sunday night Senator Peter Whish-Wilson tweeted: “My wife’s small biz is considering closing in line with isolation measures but their wage bill alone for the next two weeks is around $40g, so with no revenue coming in they are buggered.”

Someone tweeted in reply: “Same… 12 employees. What do I do? We employee people on a promise. They build their lives around pay cheques. We have NO revenue now for 3 months as EVERYTHING has been cancelled or postponed. Horrible time… how do I support my employees?” …

Musicians and small business people are at the front line of the fight against the virus, along with airlines, their employees and contractors, as well as the health workers who are exposing themselves to danger every day.

The coronavirus is a health crisis first, an economic one second and a financial markets one third, but each leads to the other, and things are moving very quickly. …

It’s now clear to us all that the problem for authorities is to try to prevent the health system from being overwhelmed without causing an economic depression. …

Enter SloMo:

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is trying to finesse it — announcing incoming travel “self-isolation” and banning events of 500 or more, while acknowledging that domestic spread of the virus is likely to grow.

Why not try to head it off with more drastic measures now, since he knows there are only 2000 intensive care beds and respirators in the country and he knows that these would fill up if only one per cent of the population got the disease, so that those with other life-threatening conditions would miss out? …

Yet Morrison and his advisers are trying to hold off shutting the country down entirely as China did, and Italy, France and Spain have now done, and the United States is probably heading towards, having declared a state of emergency on Saturday morning.

That impulse is understandable, but dangerous and futile. Gatherings of 500 or more should have been cancelled a week ago; soon it will be 100, then full lock down to stop the ICU beds filling up, and then the corridors.

Even if an official total quarantine is not declared for a week or two, it’s happening unofficially already. People who are fighting in supermarket aisles over toilet paper and pasta are not then going out to a restaurant for a nice relaxed meal. …

Two things have increased dramatically over those three decades: the number of people living on variable incomes, in small business, contracting or the “gig economy”, and the number of people who have gone deep into debt to buy investment properties.

It means the rate of unemployment is no longer an adequate measure of hardship or the dangers of a recession to the banking system. …

Scott Morrison stands on the precipice of presiding over a depression.

hat-tip Stephen Neil