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Thus Spake Mungo: crystal balls

In last week’s truncated edition of parliament, Scott Morrison declared stridently that he did not have a crystal ball.

By this he meant that he could not be blamed for any previous pronouncements about the economy, because coronavirus had made them irrelevant, assuming they were ever relevant in the first place.

And it also allowed him to say that he had no real idea of how or when things would get back to normal in the aftermath – except that the elastic band had well and truly broken, and would not snap back. The past could be forgotten, the future was unknowable, and even the present looked a bit hard to fathom. As someone had mentioned, the situation was unprecedented.

But his trusty Treasurer, the indefatigable (and fortunately disinfected) Josh Frydenberg, was on hand to set him straight. Frydenberg was justly criticised for telling us nothing new in his State of the Economy speech on Tuesday, but it did provide a succinct summary of what we already knew: we are up shit creek in a barbed wire canoe.

The government was paddling like buggery and even if it was unlikely to actually get us back to shore, it would at least do a lot of splashing about in the process

But not to worry; the government was paddling like buggery and even if it was unlikely to actually get us back to shore, it would at least do a lot of splashing about in the process.

The oars, as Frydenberg saw them, would be pretty much the usual ones, if suitably supercharged for the occasion: ‘reskilling and upskilling the workforce, maintaining our $100 billion 10 year infrastructure pipeline, cutting red tape to reduce the cost burden on businesses and the economy, and tax and industrial relations reform as a means of increasing our competitiveness.’

In case there was any doubt, tax reform was not, and must not be, about more or higher taxes, even including the SGST; it was about reducing company tax in the tired and discredited old formula of trickle down economics. And industrial relations reform was, as always, about plain old union bashing.

This was the good news; if there was to be a second wave of COVID-19 infection, and we had to reimpose the restrictions which are now being gradually lifted, the cost would be all but unimaginable

He would not hazard a guess about the size of the budget deficit, but most forecasters are looking at well over $130 billion. And the horrendous debt bill would take many years to repay – try about ten of them. And this was the good news; if there was to be a second wave of COVID-19 infection, and we had to reimpose the restrictions which are now being gradually lifted, the cost would be all but unimaginable.

Ominously, there was a series of mini-outbreaks all over the place last week – not necessarily a precursor to the dreaded second wave we have seen in other countries, but enough to worry both the politicians and the public at a time when reassurance is desperately needed.

And the other bad news was Morrison filling in one of the gaps; reducing government spending, doubling down on his determination to end the necessary and worthy stimulus measures – for which he has been widely applauded – as soon as possible. So back to the dole queue and starvation assistance for the hapless victims who may have finally had a taste of what welfare actually meant. And as for the ones who missed out on the brief, current bonanza, what they don’t know won’t hurt them.

On Thursday the bomb dropped: almost 600,000 extra jobs lost in April, nearly five per cent of the workforce

It better not, because suddenly there are a lot of them. On Thursday the bomb dropped: almost 600,000 extra jobs lost in April, nearly five per cent of the workforce. The statisticians massaged this down to a rise of just one per cent in unemployment, mainly due to a big drop in the participation rate – a lot of people have simply given up looking for non-existent jobs, and, absurdly, are thus not included in the numbers.

And JobKeeker is also an effective masker – those on it theoretically remain employed, although whether they still will be when Morrison pulls the rug from under them is highly problematic. And even if you accept the 6.2 per cent jobless statistic, it avoids the awkward reality that nearly one in seven classed as ‘in work’ are underemployed, and wages growth has fallen to an all time low.

So being somewhere close to honest, not a known characteristic of the Morrison government, the real unemployment rate is already hitting the ten per cent mark, with a lot more on the brink; even Morrison and Frydenberg admit that there is worse to come.

In the circumstances, it is both silly and heartless of the gruesome twosome to keep rabbiting on about resilience, innovation, and the great ability of Australians to turn disaster into triumph

And they should know, because September, when they have promised that JobKeeper will end, is already looming. In the circumstances, it is both silly and heartless of the gruesome twosome to keep rabbiting on about resilience, innovation, and the great ability of Australians to turn disaster into triumph. The vast majority of those still standing are already on some form of welfare, but if that is snatched away from them, they too will be socially distancing their way to Centrelink.

The wildly optimistic prediction that jobs will be surging back – 850,000 of them by the end of July – is simply not believable, and is unlikely to be believed by the many thousands on the brink. It is certainly not believed by the economists, who keep warning that unemployment is a lag indicator – it rises very quickly, but takes a long time – years, in fact – to fall back to what we used to call normal levels.

And there is very little Morrison can do to hasten the process. Instead, he is being forced to fall back on a wait-and-see policy, urging the states to ease restrictions, and hoping that if anything goes wrong, they will be blamed.

But this is not what he wants; he needs to keep the momentum going, which is why we are still getting announcements, like the one on mental health, and ramping up of the we-warn-the-czar campaign on China.

Morrison needs to maintain the feeling of crisis, the idea that we are still in deep trouble, and that he is the only one who can save us

Morrison needs to maintain the feeling of crisis, the idea that we are still in deep trouble (which indeed we are), and that he is the only one who can save us (which is considerably more contestable). And when the recovery has gone as far as it can be pushed, he needs to be the unquestioned saviour, the man of vision, courage and achievement.

It can be done, he could get lucky.

And he is no doubt praying with more than his usual fervor. Because, if it all falls apart in September, a disillusioned electorate will be ready to give him a big kick in his crystal balls.

 

Crystal Ball Earth

 


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14 responses to “Thus Spake Mungo: crystal balls”

  1. Emily Stewart says:

    As we pull out from under the bed the trunk from last week and we muse over what happened last week’s truncated edition of parliament, we saw prime minister Scott Morrison, him being the prime person in the government, he declared stridently as he strode to the microphone that he did not have a crystal ball.
    Just joshing folks. Hey treasurer, Josh Frydenberg pass him that wand.

  2. We need a juggler. No dropped balls. Instead the truth
    went missing & the fibbing Bad-News-Morrison’s act
    of doubling down to end the promised stimulus, died.
    False numbers. They look better on-the-books. So,
    JobKeeper [it’s okay to lie] says the unemployed are
    working? Who’s surprised! Forget the cost of living
    even in good times for those who are ill, aged or
    now broke & broken by this world virus. Which Royal
    was it who notated ‘Let them eat cake’? Enough. Let
    us focus on the next election & an unbought party.

  3. Barrow says:

    Sure is a crystal ball Mungo , the world is in such disarray due to this pandemic !! But how did it all come to this we may ask ? Well 62 other countries
    Are asking the very same Questions ! Will the likelihood of any transparency occur for answers
    Into the origin of this Virus , well lets ask the WHO
    Impartial organization one would assume, time will
    Tell as to how impartial this organization really is ?
    Rest assured if this Virus was the doing of the
    USAs President, well that would certainly be a
    Different outcome . The ABC would go into
    Meltdown perusing the President. The Russian
    Collusion into the Last American election?
    The taxpayer funded ABC sent reporters all over the world for Answers , wont mention any reporters
    Names ! I wonder what was the outcome of those
    Investigations that the ABC perused and at what
    Cost ?

  4. Joachim says:

    Memo to ScoNO. Forget the bulldust language that you and the Joshua trot out at the beginning of each presser, crystal balling is just the latest example. Just grow a pair and do the right thing by all those that you have, with the Covid situation, currently deliberately left behind. How about starting ‘good government’ ( we’ve been waiting since September 2013 for the promised ‘good government ) for ALL citizens. No more treacle down economics that is Liberal DNA as Mungo has fingered in his piece. No more punishing those that need help. No more attacking workers conditions, pay and the broken record play of bashing unions. Climate Emergency, Bushfires Catastrophe, Sports Rorts, Covid have all exposed ScoNO as the ‘PM with no clothes’. It always about The Marketing and ScottyfromMarketing is not fooling me for a minute.

  5. Barrow says:

    Crystal ball Joachim !! Look into the Crystal ball Joachim and tell what do you see ?? Well i see the Greens and labor are not running this country and for good reason ! Why ? Because The Majority of the nation, as was the case also in 2016 ,2019, and more than likely to be case in 2022, did not vote them in Why ? “Labor have lost there way with the working class”Albo & Brandt their “policies are no different.
    Labor have learnt nothing from the defeat.Actually Albo is doubling down on this Climate change hysteria, ” can’t believe it ” Morrisons
    Approval ratings are record highs and for good reason ! As preferred PM albo is at 26 % why Joachim? As as for the Sports Rorts , what Labor have not been guilty of such ?

  6. We are……. all aware that we need another political
    party to take on the rest; one that can’t be bought
    no-how. There is one. Check out the Citizens Party
    & see how they fare.

  7. Joachim says:

    Barrow old son. had a good laugh at your conspiracy theory about The WHO. For your information The WHO is a UN specialised agency ( that would be World Health to assist you ) that is made up of nearly 200 world member states / countries. The WHO relies on the information that is voluntarily passed onto it from those nearly 200 member states. Your insinuation that The WHO itself is somehow in the political disinformation game reflects your poor grasp of affairs. But I guess that is par for the course for a ScoNO and Trump fanboy like yourself, two so called Leaders who have not been very good in their jobs.

  8. Barrow, there are lies & bloody lie-lows who’ll stretch
    the point beyond belief. My next-door neighbour just
    phoned to tell me ScoMoo was thinking about giving
    each aussie household $100,000 to help out with
    our debts. Do you think WHO’s paying for that? Or
    China’s dissidents…? Wake up son. These days,
    life’s a scam.

  9. Add this PS to the above. The Economist who suggested
    the Government handout of $100,000 to each person is
    Professor Steve Keen. Channel 7 ran it last night. It’s
    also a cheaper plan than Morrison’s to get the country
    back on its feet.

  10. Barrow says:

    The Greens plead and adviced the Morrison
    Government to let loose another 300 billion
    And yes that was 300 billion!!! To support welfare
    And so on !! What a great idea from the Greens
    Leader , but where will this money come from ?
    Well who knows ,maybe the greens have a private stash hidden somewhere we did not know about .
    Typical greens idea ! A” party that has nothing ”
    “But wants to share ” sound familiar?
    Very ironic from the greens leader is it not
    Every day you would here the Greens inform
    Of the catastrophic emergency we face
    Regarding climate change! And when we have a real emergency on our hands one would assume the greens would offer Australians some advice
    Some empathy ? This party of all parties that go into bat for the” downtrodden and defenceless ”
    Would be front and centre during this Pandemic!
    Quite the opposite really !!

  11. Ray Armstrong says:

    Morrison must be terrible naive,thick skinned or just plain DUMB if he thinks his demonising and taunting of China relating on a range of issues has nothing to do with recent trade disputes.Trying to hide behind
    ‘technical issues’ as the reason is plain head in the sand stuff. It is just megaphone sabre rattling politics by Morrison to get cheers from his hard right wing voter base. If China abandoned us we would be an economic wasteland. Never bite the hand that feeds you! Just SHUT UP and take the money. Bloody hell what notice does China take of us anyway about ANYTHING? It would be like a flea biting a lion’s arse!
    Oh and haven’t the Un Nationals been so quiet on this as they stand by and watch our farmers get shafted!
    No sign of Bonking Barnaby in sight!

  12. Anyone for a game of ‘ping-pong’. Come on, sports.

  13. Caught in the act, Morrison. The numbers are out.
    No Budget Surplus ever existed, people. Look to
    the Letters Page.

  14. Joachim says:

    But,but,but Stefanie, I heard it from ScoNO’s very own lips, “The Budget is Back in the Black” and I saw the coffee mugs as well, “Liberal’ on one side with “Back in Black” on the other side. Please don’t tell me that ScoNO fibbed, AGAIN. The mock monikers of ‘The Liar from the Shire’ and ‘Scottyfrom Marketing’ describe the dude perfectly. How is that we cop 3 dud PM’s in a row…..from Abbott to Turnbull to Morrison, the country dives down deeper still with every handing on of the PM baton.

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