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Byron Shire
June 22, 2021

Thus Spake Mungo: the cost of a job

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It has only taken a week for the simple beauty of JobKeeper to become a little tarnished.

Some employers and unions are squabbling over how, or even if, the $1500 a fortnight, to the 6 million workers affected, should be delivered.

And those who have missed out are complaining more loudly about being dudded. They include some million casual workers without a year’s continuous tenure; about the same number of migrant workers on temporary visas, a swathe of foreign students, and virtually the entire arts community.

On top of that, the aviation industry has got in for its chop, and the universities are only the most aggressive group demanding subsidies of their own. Be in it, mate.

And on the other side, some of the country’s lowest paid will receive an unexpected and unearned pay rise – a free gift from a government not known for disbursing welfare. This has produced howls of outrage from the envious rich who want their own handouts indexed in proportion to their previous salaries. Grumbling all around. Even without the impasse over the schools; which should open, and when, and by how much?

It should be emphasised immediately that JobKeeper is overwhelmingly good policy. Sure, it was conceived in haste, and birthed before its bureaucratic midwives were entirely ready for it, but the glitches can be fixed

It should be emphasised immediately that JobKeeper is overwhelmingly good policy. Sure, it was conceived in haste, and birthed before its bureaucratic midwives were entirely ready for it, but the glitches can be fixed.

However, they will not be cheap, and nor, of course, is the original package. So it is fair to ask just how the cost-benefit analysis will deal with the horrendous expense: will it be worth it?

As the name implies, it is primarily about keeping jobs – keeping the dole queues as short as possible, and last week we got a guesstimate from Treasury about the potential numbers involved.

The bean counters modelled the most likely outcome as unemployment rising by some 700,000 workers, with the rate rising to 10 per cent by the end of May.  A pretty grim prediction – but it could have been a lot worse. Without JobKeeper it would have been 15 per cent, nudging into serious depression territory. In other words, JobKeeper will save about another 700,000 jobs.

And with the total expenditure at $130 billion, with almost certainly more to come, this works out at the privileged price of a bit under $200,000 per job.

JobKeeper may keep sections of the economy breathing during its indefinite period of hibernation, at least until the rainbow gold of ‘Snapback’ miraculously emerges from the darkness

Of course it is not as simple as that – JobKeeper will have numerous side benefits as well. It may keep sections of the economy breathing during its indefinite period of hibernation, at least until the rainbow gold of ‘Snapback’ miraculously emerges from the darkness. And it should help in instilling a modicum of confidence in both business and consumers desperate for reassurance that the government is actually doing something.

And it would appear that saving jobs is still cheaper than saving lives – just. Last year Treasury calculated the cost of a life at $213,000. Obviously all that really demonstrates is that you can prove anything with statistics. But those are the Treasury numbers, and they are the best we are likely to get.

And they may well add to the debate about just how you can compare lives – are they all sacrosanct, all of equal worth? The question has now moved out of the metaphysical and into the economic.

On that level, there can be no real argument. I am 78 and in poor health – I have only a short time left, and even that will be limited in productivity and achievement. My grandchildren are flourishing  teenagers with many worthwhile decades ahead of them.

If I was faced with an irrevocable choice over which of us would survive and which would perish, it would be a no-brainer and I would not hesitate to step aside as gracefully as possible

Obviously, if I was faced with an irrevocable choice over which of us would survive and which would perish, it would be a no-brainer and I would not hesitate to step aside as gracefully as possible.

But – and it is a non-negotiable but – I would want it to be my decision, not that of the government, or any of its agencies. Life and death decisions must be personal ones, without either permission or refusal from the state.

This has always been the case over issues the politicians and theologians describe as matters of conscience; abortion is a matter for the women concerned, not for a cleric or parliamentarian. The same applies to euthanasia, or any other form of voluntary suicide.

And for this reason I have been a lifelong opponent of capital punishment and a pacifist, although, I admit that the latter stance is not always a practical option. When some bastard is kicking you to death it can be hard not to resist.

Through a combination of good management, good discipline and, it should be admitted, good luck, COVID-19 appears to be coming under control

But with any luck, the dreadful options of whom to triage into the ventilators, and whom into the grave, will not confront us. Through a combination of good management, good discipline and, it should be admitted, good luck, COVID-19 appears to be coming under control. So much so that Scott Morrison is foreshadowing a relaxation of some restrictions for some people in some places.

The idea seems to be that in another week or so the trend will be solid enough to be declared definite. Then, for the next three weeks, the emphasis will be on making sure that the most important tools, testing and tracing, can be consolidated. And this, controversially, may be contingent on at least 40 per cent of Australians embracing  new technology to tell the authorities which contacts they have had that have led to infection from the virus.

The final, crucial step, is that when the outbreaks have been detected, they must be controlled. We have had considerable success at that; it is now a matter of hanging on, at least with the prospect of a silver lining glimmering on the horizon.

And if everything works, we can start the long process of supercharging the economy – an ambitious aim given that Australia’s growth rate has been stagnant for at least the last five years, and without the prospect of an indefinite global recession.

And, importantly, we can start with a limited resumption of parliament. Some may not regard that as much to look forward to, but they should. If ever there was a signal that the panic is over, and we are attempting to get back to normal, that will be the best indication that the government is fair dinkum.


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21 COMMENTS

  1. Seven days after the government announcement of Jobkeeper and the long queue at Centrelink is causing people to go round the bend.

  2. What a wonder! I’ve always wanted to be
    a statistic. My life’s worth $213,000? Ah,
    ‘if I was a rich (wo)man’ I’d learn the
    fiddle. Thank you, Mungo.

  3. Can you imagine the confusion and incompetence the would have reigned down upon us had little willie and his mongrel mob had to deal with this It would be all over red/commie rover .

  4. Tito, too much is too much. Admit it. They are
    all ‘unsavoury’ users & abusers. It’s getting
    closer to ‘pay back’ time. We will cop-it and
    it’ll be king-sized – we will just have to live
    with a totally buggered country and even
    more empty pockets. Don’t you worry
    about that.

  5. Totally buggered country ? Are you in the Country Stefanie? What a load of rubbish
    We haven’t Rudd Gillard Rudd in !!
    And yes Tito absolutely on the money
    If bill and his super party ..and that being
    The Greens – labor coalition were in
    That would be a 100% concern ..
    At least Mungo even in these trying
    Times knows the value of this governments
    Handling of this crisis!!

  6. Yes it is strange times in politics, we seem to suddenly have a Coalition Govt. that is actually listening to experts instead of completely ignoring the entire world scientific community for the last decade about the dangers posed by anthropogenic climate change. Instead of continually peddling their usual outdated right-wing ideology, amazingly they even seem to be taking a lesson from the Labor party, when Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan so successfully guided Australia through the Global Financial Crises without sliding into a damaging recession. It remains to be seen just how successful this massive stimulus package will be in preventing another looming recession, but present signs are not looking good. However one thing is a certainty, with the massive debt Australia is now going to be in post COVED-I9, a Coalition Govt. isn’t going to be talking “snap-back” it’s going to be “claw-back” and we all know what section of the community will be targeted for this operation, workers beware.

  7. My fear is that the coalition is all about power and supporting the wealthy because they still believe in ‘trickle down’. The Government response toclovid19 has been to do the exact opposite of their normal policies and ideology – surely even they can see that their approach certainly might increase GDP, but it also increases polarisation between wealthy and the rest. We have a wonderful opportunity to create a system that looks after people and the environment first with the economy as a tool,, not the end goal. Wealth isn;t Wellbeing,, and its wellbeing we should be fighting for – for the whole society. GDP is a false goal that has led us up the creek without a paddle.

  8. My fear is that the coalition is all about power and supporting the wealthy because they still believe in ‘trickle down’. The Government response toclovid19 has been to do the exact opposite of their normal policies and ideology – surely even they can see that their normal policy approach certainly might increase GDP, but it also increases polarisation between wealthy and the rest. We have a wonderful opportunity to create a system that looks after people and the environment first with the economy as a tool,, not the end goal. Wealth isn;t Wellbeing,, and its wellbeing we should be fighting for – for the whole society. GDP is a false goal that has led us up the creek without a paddle.

  9. The way all these ‘handouts’ will be repaid via the economy will be to mine the guts, heart & soul out of the country.
    Chances you will be labelled a subversive if you try to protest, possibly jailed… The ministers surrounding Scumo while parliament is suspended are all either current or ex mining bureaucrats… covid19 is not all what its portrayed to be…

  10. Tito & Barrow…….. it could be time to ‘jump the rattler’.
    That way you’d get to know the country. Brake the
    journey when stomachs need a corned-beef sanger
    but be prepared to chop the wood since even in debt
    land-owners will be on food rations. Nah. It couldn’t
    happen here. It’s not 1918 all over again. I’m with the
    ‘new commonwealth-bank mob’ & Katter. Risky times
    & looming near marshal law needs costing in. N.Z.s
    already beaten us at the post by truly caring for its
    people & not just money-grubbing pay-back pollies
    expecting kick-backs.

  11. Barrow old son we very well know the value of SlowMO ProMO ScoNO’s handling of the crisis so far. Slow to get a grip on affairs in the beginning as he donned his Captain Catchup cape and we are forever counting the cost of the failure of Peter Dutton and his Border Farce Department over the Ruby virus Princess catastrophe. Then when he rolls out tranche #3 of his stimulus he has no guilt at all in leaving millions of people behind with this JobKeeper business – 1 million casuals, 1 million migrant visa workers, U-16 workers, local council workers are all struck off ScoNO’s ‘Team Australia, you know the one yes, the Team that we all NOT in it together. Yes, Barrow old son, we know the true value of your ScoNO’s handling of affairs.

  12. Tito!! news flash has Stefanie lost the plot ?
    Its easy stefanie if you so much approve
    Of what is happening in NZ and your admiration
    For the NZ Prime Minister move there ?
    However you might be disappointed
    Because the mail is Ms Ardern will not be
    Re – elected this year , that put aside
    Ardern cares more for the people’s of NZ
    Then Morrison for the population of Australia
    Right Stefanie? Very easy transition..

  13. Goof on all you like, mate… Official COVID-19 figures
    underestimate spread by ‘order of magnitude’ experts
    & say as high as 30,000. False confidence by the
    government to ‘relax lock down’ is a warning to be
    listened to. Ah, where am I. I’m sitting in the middle
    of your dart-board in Northern Rivers & I’m not
    going anywhere. The Australian Citizens Party is
    here as well. Media Release Tuesday 21/4/2020.
    “DUMP THE JARGON OF DISCREDITED
    ECONOMICS TO REVIVE THE ECONOMY; use
    the CEFC to invest in new manufacturing and
    badly needed productive infrastructure.” Now,
    while we’re at it, give the students & kids a go.
    They’ve got more sense than most adults.

  14. Err, news flash for you Barrow old son, New Zealand has closed its border so no matter how much we’d love to live under the reign of PM Jacinda we can’t get into the country. About that election, my mail is that PM Jacinda will be Re – elected this year and will romp it in!

  15. Joachim dealing with facts here . Ms Ardern
    Was elected by the smallest of margins
    And can thank Mr peters . Ms Ardern has
    Certainly stepped up with the recent disasters.and so has our own Prime Minister and how !
    However cant preach the rest of the world
    About climate change, “What ever that means”
    And not do anything about her dairy industry
    Not to mention her embarrassing comments
    Do not send Australia’s problems back to
    NZ . Kiwi citizen’s or any other foreigners
    Who commit a serious crime are to be deported
    Never heard leaders from other countries
    Complain about this , in contrast if Australians
    Abroad commit serious crimes deport them
    Works both ways .. having said that wish NZ
    Well with the upcoming Election , some of the
    Most intelligent people on the planet ! And a great
    Friend of Australia!! Joachim taxpayer’s should
    Not pickup the Tab for foreigners backpackers
    Etc . Why are they not being supported by there
    Own countries governments ?? What other countries are supporting Australians Abroad
    Joachim? Zero is the Answer. NEVER forget
    Joachim Government’s dont have any Money !
    Only what the Taxpayer’s give them .. its not a endless pit!!

  16. The great delusion (assuming our rulers are just dumb – always a safe bet – rather than concealing the dire truth, it’s a 2 horse race) that when, eventually, sometime in the far, distant future we crawl out of lockdown it will be into the sunlit uplands of virus free world.
    Not so.
    It ain’t going away and most likely the enforced co-infection between the asymptomatic within our huddled masses will mean it’ll have lots of siblings & cousins to play with us.
    The vast majority of us are going to get it and most, judging by millennia of history, will not succumb.
    The only thing we now know for certain is that recovery seems NOT to confer immunity – and certainly not to mutations – which means, ipso facto, that no vaccine is possible.
    Humans have always co-existed with lethal disease, some better than others.
    Them’s the facts. Deal with it.

  17. Bread and circuses , and while our heads are turned, the marionettes sell our children and theirs to the devil, who is laughing and licking it’s chops at the plates, already.

  18. A 2 horse race it is. Another reason for all the cross
    talk. Add to that the smartness of the well-to-do.
    The itch-rich gift to private foundations looks and
    sounds good. So it should. It’s poppycock. All
    that’s happening is their own tax deductable
    charitable donations are simple gift-gives to
    themselves. Billionaires and their political
    side-kicks know how to play the game in both
    sickness and in health. Who’s slow in catching
    on… we are.

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