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Editorial – Bring in a UBI for the crisis

Like other offices across the nation, Brunswick Heads Centrelink was inundated by many who are in immediate need of assistance, owing to the COVID-19 restrictions. Photo Jeff Dawson.

Aslan Shand, guest editorial

The Sydney Morning Herald has reported that in Australia we are expecting to see a jump from 5.1 to 15 per cent (two million people), unemployed as the COVID-19 crisis deepens. Around the world there are suggestions for nationalising railways, electricity, water, airlines and other essential services.

Around the country we have people lining up down the streets outside Centrelink offices, attempting social distancing, to ensure they don’t starve and lose their homes as they lose their jobs. What we don’t need is more mixed messaging from our prime minister or state premiers; what we need now is visionary leadership, and one key action should be to bring in the universal basic income (UBI). 

The idea of a universal basic income is not a new one. It comes in many guises, including citizen’s income, guaranteed minimum income, and basic income, and has been tried out in various forms around the world.

A recent proponent of the idea is former US presidential candidate, Andrew Yang. While he was proposing the idea in relation to the future loss of jobs due to automation, it is now gathering support as a way to assist people during the current crisis.

In an NPR radio interview with Michel Martin on the issue last week, Yang pointed out that putting money directly in the hands of Americans, (in our case Australians) ‘is the obvious and, frankly, only move that we can make that could keep our economy from collapsing into a new Great Depression… Money in our hands is necessary for us to stay alive during this time.’ (https://n.pr/3dovnPz)

Supporting the value of the long-term approach of a UBI, rather than short-term one-off or multiple payments, was the recent Canadian experiment with the UBI in Ontario. Running for only 17 months, cut short by a change of government, it nevertheless created a number of positive outcomes. These included improvements in mental health, reduction in use of alcohol and tobacco, improved physical wellbeing and a reduction in visits to both the doctor and emergency departments, as reported in New Atlas: (https://bit.ly/2QCpfcQ)

According to Tim Ford from CBC News, 2018 modelling of a national UBI plan projected it would cost Canada about CAD$76 billion annually. However, once payments and subsidies that would no longer be required if the program was introduced were accounted for, ‘the cost would actually end up closer to CAD$43 billion’. (https://bit.ly/2QErWuD)

The Australian government needs to take quick and effective action to get money into every Australian’s hands, not through complicated, drawn-out Centrelink applications, rebates and tax deferrals, but through directly giving people an ongoing income; the ATO already had all our bank account details.

It is clear that quick, effective action now will not only help save people’s lives medically, but a UBI will ensure that people can eat, and continue to have a home. It will reduce stress, help prevent suicide and allow communities the chance to rebuild once this pandemic crisis has passed.

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11 responses to “Editorial – Bring in a UBI for the crisis”

  1. Sky Wesolowski says:

    The UBI is probably the only solution to avoid complete chaos and debacle. Thank you for raising the issue.

  2. Colin Westwood says:

    Thanks, this is the most intelligent editorial that been seen across all news services, in quite some time.
    Simple effective and fair. To share all the income that the mining industry has greedily pocketed using the false argument that ‘trickle down’ is in any way fair or equitable.
    Congratulations.

  3. Simon Chance says:

    Scotty from Marketing is giving out Claytons relief, as with the Bushfire relief programs, much fanfare on announcing the progaram, then …nothing.
    His innept Social Security Minister Roberts, whose first inclination is to lie, is incapable of getting his department up to speed and the system is being swamped. People cannot access the MyGov web site because it is not intended that they do, has always been a clumsy awkward site to use.
    Tens of thousands of people are losing thier employment every day. They need instant access to money for food and rent.
    UBI does away with the bureaucratic heavy New Start or Jobseeker progarms.

  4. The Sheriff says:

    The way to go.
    Income tax still paid by those who earn more than the UBI.
    Great for the artistic community!

  5. Jennifer Hodgson says:

    UBI great idea and it cost less than people think. No more trying to cheat the system and tax rebates and extra payments. Everyone gets $550 a week and can still work and pay tax from their employment. Stops judgement frees people up and stops anxiety and the billions spent on the job network. People would become more productive because they wouldn’t lose their basic income.

  6. Wanda says:

    Great idea – yes, now is the time to try something different to Business-As-Usual… Damascene ideological conversions-in-a-crisis aside, a UBI would go against the Political classes core ideology that the poor are to be punished for being poor as it’s their own fault (or God hates them, if you’re of a Pentacostal bent), as otherwise we would have to recognise as a society the crippling structural inequalities that result in wealthy people’s wealth generally *not* being due to their own hard work/intelligence etc., and I’m afraid their egos just couldn’t handle that.
    Still, we’re living in *unprecedented* times and it’s fairly obvious the current economic system has failed to prepare us for a disaster on this scale, so maybe there will be broader support for trying something different? One can only hope.

  7. Matt Taylor says:

    The United Worker’s Union (and other sources) are advocating $740/wk.

  8. Elizabeth says:

    Bring in the UBI! As a 65 year old I consider myself luck I’m safely tucked away in an affordable little rental, with an income of sorts already set in a crazy system and not lining up like thousands are for food and help! Ive had many hard times gaining employment for years! So finally did a refresher course (Ive done many courses!), to get back into Austswim teaching, (for my age there’s no age or sexist barriers and it offers a better income), though now that’s been put on hold due to the COVID-19 scare and aquatic centres closed in Victoria. But it’s sad and scary for me to see so many thousands more now out of their jobs and many more to follow. I truly hope that they all get urgent help ASAP & the long drawn out Centrelink system overlooked as it’s is really painfully slow, at times just idiotic in the way it’s run!
    BRING IN UBI! HELP OUR AUSSIES OUT!

  9. The UBI should be a done deal.

  10. Rosemary McCoy says:

    How much better off we would all be. A UBI would allow governments to get on with the task of governing while allowing citizens to pursue the many ways they can contribute to society e.g. through the arts, sport, caring for their own children, the elderly and disabled and so on, without having to go to work 5 days a week, often spending many hours traveling. People could work less hours if they wished thus reducing the large numbers of unemployed. This would greatly reduce the stress in people’s lives and the huge toll on mental health and other health issues. There are so many other ways in which it would positively impact our society and would be very easy to implement.

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