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Thus Spake Mungo: the coalition’s relief

To the manifest relief of the coalition and its supporters, Scott Morrison’s approach to the coronavirus crisis has been cautiously endorsed by the voters.

They have not yet embraced him – even his most enthusiastic spruikers use phrases like ‘so far he had hardly put a foot wrong,’ a long way from the unstinting praise he craves. But it is a huge improvement from the shellacking he received after the serial stuff-ups during the bushfire disasters.

Then the feeling was that he had clearly lost control, he didn’t really know what was happening and he didn’t care.  But this time ScoMo has grabbed the initiative; it would be nice to be seen as compassionate and empathetic, but these are optional extras.  What matters is that he is seen to have taken charge.

So he can report progress; so far so good. And this means he can get on with milking it for all it is worth, and then some. Last week we barely saw him off the television, one grave and portentous speech after another, assuring a bewildered public that whatever the situation actually is, he is on top of it, alert but not alarmed, ready for action.

To set the scene, Tuesday opened with the announcement that there would shortly be more announcements. And true to his word, he returned on Wednesday to talk about the substantive issue

Or if not immediate action, at least an announceathon. To set the scene, Tuesday opened with the announcement that there would shortly be more announcements. And true to his word, he returned on Wednesday to talk about the substantive issue – what his government was doing about the health of a nervous public.

It was not before time; the official response, especially on the key questions of who should be tested, and where, when and how it was to be done, had become confused and confusing – in some cases simply unworkable. So arrangements have been re-jigged and ramped up, and crucially there is to be a hefty PR campaign, a solution dear to our leader’s heart.

Thursday was make or break, money day, shitloads of the stuff to be shovelled out in the hope of averting a recession

And then came the big one – Thursday was make or break, money day, shitloads of the stuff to be shovelled out in the hope of averting a recession. A recession is normally defined as two successive quarters of a fall in the GDP. Just about all the economists regard the current March quarter as a write-off – it is too late to save it now. So it will all be up to June – no expense will be spared to push the figures across the edge into positive territory.

This, obviously, is the whole point of the exercise, and for Morrison is it is of paramount importance – not just economically, but politically. Having denigrated and derided the way Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan had managed to avoid one over the GFC, it would be the deepest of humiliations if one occurred on his own watch some thirteen years later – an unprecedented full generation of economic growth for Australia, the only country to have ever achieved such a feat.

Actually, he might even get away with it – it appears that the public, clearly panicked by the pandemic, is prepared to be forgiving as the politicians switch policies and directions, break undertakings and promises, in the hope they might ride this one out too. The loss of the long-promised surplus has apparently been received with equanimity.

Morrison is preparing to take out insurance – one of his many tergiversations has been to announce that contrary to his earlier reassurances, COVID-19 is actually a greater threat than was the GFC

Explaining away a real recession, with activity going backwards and unemployment soaring, would be tougher, but there are already signs that Morrison is preparing to take out insurance – one of his many tergiversations has been to announce that contrary to his earlier reassurances, COVID-19 is actually a greater threat than was the GFC.

But then, he also says that unlike the GFC, the disruption will be temporary – the economy will snap back, barely touching the ground before rebounding to resume the search for the holy surplus. And this typifies the muddle surrounding Morrison’s Friday announcement, which even his claque in The Australian admitted was a farrago of mixed messages rather than an enunciation of the ‘clear plan’ he was claiming.

He has now effectively followed two-thirds of the Keynesian advice of the then Treasury head Ken Henry in 2008 : go hard, go early, go households. ScoMo has certainly gone hard; the scale of the current package far exceeds what Rudd envisaged, with the likelihood of more to come – ‘scaleable’, as Morrison calls it, meaning he has no real idea whether it will be adequate or not.

The only households which will receive a direct handout will be recipients of welfare, who obviously need it, but in the current uncertain times may be reluctant to spend it in the way Morrison hopes

And, for reasons previously mentioned, it is certainly early. But he has squibbed on the households bit: the bulk of the cash splash goes to business, and is unlikely to trickle down into the pockets of consumers in the foreseeable future, if it ever does. The only households which will receive a direct handout will be recipients of welfare, who obviously need it, but in the current uncertain times may be reluctant to spend it in the way Morrison hopes.

The whole point of the Rudd stimulus was to instil confidence across the board, which is why the money followed the same path. But Morrison is instilling not confidence but confusion – off the cuff changes about travel restrictions, advice to cancel some, but not all, gatherings, daily announcements amounting to overload. It reeks of ad hockery, of reacting to events instead of anticipating them.

Morrison assured the world that the medicos had told him there was no need for him to be tested, let alone quarantined, but that he was after all not going to the footy as promised because – well, because why?

A fine example was that when Peter Dutton succumbed to infection, Morrison assured the world that the medicos had told him there was no need for him to be tested, let alone quarantined, but that he was after all not going to the footy as promised because – well, because why? We weren’t told, which leads to the suspicion that there are other things we are not being told either.

And in the end Morrison resorted to the old standby: an appeal to Team Australia, patriotism – the dubious quality that Samuel Johnson described as the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Morrison is not seen as a scoundrel, but he is still a fair way from political redemption. Morrison obviously sees himself as a great leader, omniscient and omnipotent; but he has succeeded only in making himself omnipresent. To get to the next stage he will have to channel the tsunami of announcements into a message which is rational, convincing and trustworthy.

Unfortunately these are not the traits we associate with the master marketeer. 


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15 responses to “Thus Spake Mungo: the coalition’s relief”

  1. Barrow says:

    Yes Mr Rudds stimulus handouts and Mr Swans
    Avoidance of a recession were complementary
    Thanks to the coalition , once again , handing over the reins with a big surplus correct Mungo ?

  2. Len Heggarty says:

    As the nation’s Health climate changes, their was heart-felt relief of the coalition and its supporters to Scott Morrison’s approach to the coronavirus crisis that has been sceptically endorsed by voters as much as Climate Change.

  3. Rollin says:

    Mungo,
    naming ScoMo “a master marketeer” is a bridge to far in my book.
    Better the master salesman of spin. “I’m going to the footy” why not?
    We want the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but!
    I won’t hold my breath.
    Rollin

  4. Come on you guys… ScoMo was doing his thing
    by saying he was going to the footy. No little
    germ-bug was gonna keep our iron man away
    until dag Dutton got put to bed. He didn’t go
    because the country needed him & the press
    needed answers even though his back-patting
    Australian somewhat strangled him for a lack
    of intelligent info. Rollin… I’m not holding my
    breath either. Just wait & watch. What ScoMo
    ‘gives with one hand the other takes away’ as
    always.

  5. Ill fares the land says:

    There is, to be sure, good stimulus and bad stimulus. Scotty from Marketing’s stimulus is “good” and Rudd’s was bad, solely because …. Morrison says so. Even if the economy slips into recession despite his stimulus (the ASX hasn’t exactly fallen in behind it yet), his stimulus will still be better than Rudd’s. In the same way, there is a “good” deficit (Morrison’s) and a “bad” deficit (anyone directly and indirectly connected to Labor, the Greens, all lefties ….). Again, it is thus because Morrison assures us it is thus and this is independent of the size of the respective deficits. Then there is debt and you guessed it – there is “good debt” (it doesn’t matter how much debt the LNP has added during its flaccid reign – it is all good debt) and there is “bad debt (Labor’s debt, which is so bad that the LNP has jumped through hoops, using every accounting trick in the book to show us that it is repaying Labor’s debt, which is, regardless of how much less than the LNP’s debt it may be, it is all bad, bad I tell you).

  6. Jack says:

    The good, the bad ….. and the ugly. No prizes for guessing “the ugly”

  7. John ellis says:

    Dangerous times in that scomo stimuli has mainly gone to business. Casual workers, im an ex barista, will be dumped, nothing for casuals or sole traders in scomo packages so far. Revolution as people on mortages cant pay, run on banks? Not happy days and like trump scomo not the greatest leader to have.

  8. Ginga says:

    Dont you mean ‘Miracle’ Mungo, rather than relief. They can float along on the horrendous onset of mystery created.

    It’s up to everyone how they see it. It’s a time of these things being ‘flashed’ like cue cards to show where they’re really at & a monumental moment of massive opportunity to choose the type of planet we want to live on.

    Lots of amazing changes… use every experience to learn. Learn by watching what others do… there’s no need to repeat the same thing.. learn from the mistakes of others. Of history.. even if it’s as recent as last month.

    Choose love.. stay focussed, in your
    sweet spot! Don’t muss the moment.. it’s fantastic!

    Brilliant afternoon sitting on the beach in the weatherproof jacket my Pa bought me when I was a boat dweller, sporty red see through brolly in the blowing rain, in the centre of the full rainbow.. it was perfect bliss!

    Great contribution Mungo!

  9. Ginga says:

    Sorry! First line of previous comment.. misery… apologies.. the correcty thing got me.. I did not check it before I posted it. Changes the entire context. Please accept my apologies everyone.

    Love & blessings???

  10. brid bulga says:

    Run on banks?
    Not going to happen. Nobody has any savings left.
    Actually I can foresee the bank chasing their customers!

  11. A cool head & a warm heart is what’s needed
    because it’s the people – not the government
    & its ‘them versus us’ – that will get us over
    the line with this virus. Add the medical ones
    as well [no pun needed]. ScoMo can do his
    conducting & have his ‘look at me’ moments
    of being a champion… however, the people
    will not forget all he could’ve done re; fires,
    ecological support, the dole & his runaway.
    Coal kissing & the selling-out of the Great
    Southern Land will haunt him & his chums
    forever.

  12. Jack says:

    Ask : WHO benefits from the Coronavirus panic?

    Mostly those buying stocks/shares at unprecedented low prices !!!

    If you had a ‘surefire’ method of seriously depressing ‘blue-chip’ stock prices (for stocks you don’t already hold) wouldn’t you celebrate and buy-up big when the prices hit an all-time low?
    Because, eventually when the panic subsides the prices will rise again.

    Who benefits from corona virus ? Look in the stock exchanges.

  13. You got it, Jack. Many will
    pray on ‘the preying’. Now
    that sends chills down the
    spine. No love’s lost with
    that lot.

  14. Barrow says:

    What are you talking about preying on who ?
    And who benefits from record low Shares
    Some people who want to eventually make
    Money !! Know different to buying bricks
    And mortar at the low end of the real estate
    Market… great for young people who want to
    Invest.. !!

  15. Those who already have the ‘loot’
    & contacts. It WILL NOT be the
    the average Jo & Jane with a
    minimum Super.

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