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Thus Spake Mungo: the second wave

If this isn’t the dreaded second wave of COVID-19, it will do until the real thing comes along.

Which leads immediately to the question: are we ready for the second wave of economic stimulus we will need to ameliorate it? And the answer is, unfortunately, almost certainly not. For weeks, months, Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg have been assuring us that JobKeeper, the boost to JobSeeker, and all the rest of them, are one-off programs, strictly limited and temporary.

But this thinking was predicated on the idea that coronavirus was also a one-off, a limited and temporary infection that could be contained and shut down within a maximum of six months.

As we have seen, not only in Victoria, but around the world, this was far too optimistic. COVID-19 is roaring back in all its former ugliness – perhaps even worse.

In recent days ScoMo and Josh have been making conciliatory noises about tweaking some of the more vocal claimants for assistance – notably in tourism – for a bit longer than they anticipated. But with virtually an entire state in lockdown and the smashing of revenue that that will entail, something considerably more ambitious will be required.

The borders of the cabbage patch state

And if the second wave spreads across the borders of the cabbage patch state, a likelihood that only the incorrigibly sanguine think can be avoided, our resident miracle-worker ScoMo will need to find a few handy rabbits to produce from what his trusty assistant Josh has shown to be an absolutely empty hat.

Frydenberg, as ever, is reassuring. Promising full economic support for his home state; whatever that means. But encouraging words will not be enough, and it is clear that he, in common with just about everyone else, has been caught short by the speed and virulence of the new outbreak.

Premier Daniel Andrews acted decisively and drastically, locking down nine housing commission blocks and their 3000 victims, but the infection rate continued to accelerate. Almost immediately he upped the ante to more than five million across the Melbourne metropolitan area and beyond.

‘…the towers were like vertical cruise ships’

But his initial reaction smacked of unprepared panic. As deputy chief health officer Paul Kelly (the one who does science, not music or pomposity) pointed out, the towers were like vertical cruise ships – sealed environments in which close contact was inevitable; petri dishes in which the virus could flourish.

So it did, and Andrews was stuck with the problem of what to do with the mounting toll when the first lockdowns of five days (nowhere near the incubation period for the disease) had elapsed. But the problem solved itself. The internees in one tower remained in solitary, but the others were allowed to join their fellow inmates in limited detention, under the less onerous restrictions.

Various degrees of alarm

Meanwhile the rest of the country was similarly bemused. All the other states and territories reacted with various degrees of alarm, and all took steps to effectively isolate Victoria. In New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian appeared almost paranoid, switching from staunch opposition to the border closing to draconian implementation where Victoria was concerned.

She had her reasons; between them, the two big states cover well above half the total economy of Australia. If the second wave crosses the Murray, and similar shutdowns need to be imposed, the consequences will be horrendous.

And for Morrison, after days of muted self-congratulation over the country’s relative success in suppressing the pandemic, the backdown will be at least equally embarrassing. The September cut off of government aid must now be considered inoperable, but the alternatives are hard to come by.

The tax cuts of Morrison the marketeer

Morrison, always the marketeer, is talking about the old standby of tax cuts, bringing forward the measures already legislated. But this knee jerk reaction, if it eventuates, will be far too little and too late. The cuts Morrison is pondering involve just a dollar a week for low incomes, and would not start until July next year.

If genuine help for consumers is to be tried, a big hit, like that devised by Kevin Rudd and Ken Henry, the one that kept us out of recession over the Global Financial Crisis, would be needed. But Morrison can’t afford one, and in any case it goes against his instincts – he has always been more interested in boosting the supply side. So perhaps more company tax cuts will be on the table?

But that too would involve considerable lead-time to be even marginally effective, and time is what Morrison – and the rest of us – have not got much of. Tax cuts, if they are on, will presumably not be announced officially until the October budget, although it is a safe bet they will be strategically leaked well before then.

The real action on July 23

But in any case, the real action will have to be on July 23, when the big reset is due, and Frydenberg has promised a review of how we are going so far. The spin, of course, is that we are right on course, the economy is looking a picture, that business will be humming back before you know it.

The truth, however, is likely to be more than somewhat less rosy. Frydenberg is resigned to preserving some form of assistance – cautious, targeted, and of course temporary. But sooner or later he will have to face the crunch. Whether COVID-19 persists or not, either the stimulus must continue indefinitely, and to hell with debt and deficit, or it will cut off; risking closures, bankruptcies, unemployment and prolonged recession.

Even The Australian is gloomy at the prospect. Drawing breath (through a mask, we hope) from the constant lambasting of Victoria in general, and premier Daniel Andrews in particular, the national daily unleashed its editor at large, Paul Kelly (the one who does pomposity, not science or music) to offer a different diatribe.

Under the heading ‘Recriminations splitting our unity when we most need it’ Kelly chided that divisions were a threat to economic recovery. Presumably Kelly does not read his own paper. Well, who can blame him?


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20 responses to “Thus Spake Mungo: the second wave”

  1. Len Heggarty says:

    If the first wave is not extinguished without a vaccine, then this wave is still the first wave.

  2. Blue says:

    The elephant in the room of course, is the question of how will the stimulus, the welfare, the tax cuts, the hotel quarantine, etc etc etc be paid for? Wage earners alone are not numerous or wealthy enough to pay for it, and coaltion governments will never increase business taxes. So what does that leave? There are some scary possibilities – raid super funds, raise the pension age, sell off the last remaining public assets, increase the already unsustainable immigration numbers, or worst of all, sell our sovereignty. It’s a depressing future.

  3. Barrow says:

    Talking about “Rudd”you know the Far lefty fearless leader, who had a surplus big enough to spend at will during the GFC, complimentary to the
    Coalition . So here is RUDD scaremongering the population when in government regarding Global warming and the likelihood of future sea – level rises will be catastrophic !! And those predictions as those of others were meant to have us in such position that those living on the eastern seaboard
    Would have to relocate inland !! Just book your seat on cruise liner by the time you get to Tamworth you should be high and dry .
    Funny about that because his predictions have come and passed !! Well we all presume so !! Otherwise why would he purchase a 17million
    Mansion” YES ” right on the Beach ??? Did he not heed
    His own advice? and also the Noosa shire Councils
    Declaration of the Climate emergency???
    Hypocrisy in the very first order !!
    “Do as i say not as i do “

  4. Tony Kelly says:

    Well said again Mungo – trying times indeed

  5. Yeah, Josh & Scomo were unjustly too optimistic.
    So, what about that September cut-out? There’s
    no dingos or rabbits in anyone’s hat & that’s just
    that. It’s all in the timing that became a runaway.
    The Aussie poet Ken Slessor [one of our best if
    ever there was one] wrote:

    Time that is moved
    by little fidget heels,
    be always on our hands
    and not our heels.

    We need to heed Slessor. Not ‘best sellers’.

  6. Ray Armstrong says:

    I am sick to the back teeth of scientists and medicos announcing ‘a vaccine for the virus is imminent’. It is bu!!$4!t and gives people false hope. Even if a vaccine is discovered, the human trials sometimes take years. I just wish they would all shut up until a vaccine is readily available that has been fully trialled. Then make the announcement instead of blind daily fishing expeditions. The virus will be around for yonks. The problem is the asymptomatics-those who carry the disease, have no symptoms but pass it on to everyone they touch. Some studies have shown between 50 and 80% tested were asymptomatic,mostly young people. Pollies trying to make political ground via the virus need to be very careful.There is a good chance the virus will spread all over Oz=egg/face. Scumo will extend the financial support so that he can ‘buy’ the next election.which is already in the bag for him. The only thing that will kill him are mortgage foreclosures and nobody wishes that on any family. His tax cuts are a waste of time. Direct cash payments work best (Rudd) because the poor spend nearly all of any disposable income on the basic necessities of life. This creates jobs much quicker than ‘in the never never’ tax cuts.And forget unemployment figures improving even with a stronger economy because employers have discovered they can survive with a much leaner workforce. Sadly, many will not be re-employed.

  7. Liz L says:

    Given that the rescue package budget was for six months (over budgeted in the case of Jobkeeper) how much more sensible might it have been to stick with that timeframe and really get a stranglehold on the virus à la NZ. Remember how we were told to be careful what we wished for because whatever measures we adopted would have to be in place for 6 months? (A line that was used to staunch the premiers and delay earlier action that would have curbed the first wave)

    When it emerged that we were doing much better than anyone thought possible, there were at least two national courses of action –
    a) stick with the time-frame but revise the strategy from suppression (living with the virus) to more ambitiously going for as close to elimination as possible or
    b) declare gleefully we’ve earned an early mark, produce glossy posters that outlined a prompt path to normality. At the same time put constant pressure on the states to open borders and schools.

    I freely admit that the whole world is learning as it goes with this ‘novel’ pathogen but I worry that much of the conservative response is filtered through the banshee cries of shock jocks, the Murdoch press and the IPA even though there is probably a genuine desire amongst them to protect the community. There is probably even a limited understanding that the economic and health outcomes are interdependent not mutually exclusive. Look at Sweden as an example.

    We were very close to repeated cycles without community transmission but a combination of factors (including the gleeful early mark pronouncement) gave too many the green light to see the only alternatives as lockdown or party time when, with winter and easing of restrictions, the protocols were even more important.

    The idea that we could live with suppression and quickly staunch the odd spike has been well and truly challenged in Victoria where the situation is way worse than back to square 1 – it is now well and truly in the community not largely a problem with overseas acquired infection. How much fiscal and physical pain may have been averted with a little more patience and discipline.

  8. I had no time for Kevin R. in office. Still don’t.
    Julia Gillard had his number but the ‘peckers’
    did their best to get rid of her – Alan Jones &
    the rest of the shock-jocks supported by the
    great ‘Murdoch’. Julia did fight on. The man
    ‘budgie’ did not get the better of her. The
    woman Prime Minister out-did the wimp &
    that was that. The ALP’s betrayal then
    reminds me of now. They are all far too
    cute for their own good. It’s the electorate
    who cops the falsehoods & weaknesses.
    Shouldn’t be the way it is though. Robber
    barons & all. Goodbye lucky Country…

  9. roger says:

    In my twenties, if I didn’t like something, it was Tony Abbott’s fault.
    Now I’m in my forties and I have mellowed and am far less projectionist – so I am confident it was me, in my twenties, who is to blame.

  10. Margot Waring says:

    Excellent analysis, thanks Mungo

  11. Joachim says:

    First wave is still a rolling, through second places.

  12. Joachim says:

    Barrow old son, you run out of defence for your ScoNO and Joshie have you? So go the deflection and diversion game with Rudder and his new house. I know, it is devastating times for you and your ScoNO – ‘Mr 69%’, who just lost the Eden-Monaro by election. Maybe ScoNO and Joshie will have some better luck next week, announce we ‘Back in Black’ and sell some more of their $35.00 coffee mugs.

  13. Rudd’s wife, Therese Rein, has always brought
    home the bacon, Barrow. In 2019 – 2020 she
    managed to collect [after tax] over 15 million. It
    is possible she does not give a damn about
    climate & rising oceans. The woman owns quite
    a few companies. A check-out chick she isn’t.

  14. Barrow says:

    Oh really Stefanie ?? That Morrison and his Capitalist mates how dare they be rich !! So whats wrong with a check out chick Stefanie ? The double standards you behold when it suits is unbelievable
    Stefanie !! Rudds wife is a 100% global warming
    Alarmist as is Rudd !! Trying to make excuses
    Is not what i would have expected in this clear cut case of” Do as i say not as i do ” Stefanie it is not right to defend this hypocrisy !

  15. Tweed says:

    It is always been, not what the LNP say or “Promise” at pre-election or any other time that in the end ever matters, but what they do not say, that usually always prevails.
    It has always been found that if you do the exact opposite of anything the LNP advise, you will be reasonably safe from their ideology, rhetoric or devastating economic and social failures they inflict.
    And make no mistake, we have suffered massive failures these last 8 wasted years of the LNP ATM, “Abbott, Turnbull, Morrison” nightmare both in loss of lives and a ruined economy.
    This is not going to get any better until they are removed from office, along with their corrupted political appointments and media propaganda units, dismissing the premiss of any and all questions on the unending now completely predictable chain reaction of “LNP CATASTROPHIC FAILURES”!.
    The biggest problem is not enough people can see this now clear and present danger to our Commonwealth!
    Hey stupid LNP voters, the problem is the LNP, everything else is just a by-product of their failures!

  16. I have no problem with the well -to -do…. My
    Italian Grandfather & his 2nd wife owned 3
    hotels in Brisbane, an office block in The
    Valley, a 4 storey apartment building, a Gold
    Coast residence, several houses in New
    Farm – one of them set aside to house the
    Queensland Youth Orchestra because
    Frank Currow was their benefactor. His son,
    John Currow, was the conductor. Barrow –
    your repeated assumptions get you into a
    twist & a half. I’ve nothing against Check
    -out-chicks. I was one when I was young.
    Before I owned a restaurant – held shares
    in a construction company while still finding
    time to write over a dozen books. It’s the
    ‘snakes in the grass’ that turn my stomach.

  17. Hell… I dictated my Barrow reply & the
    ‘spelling of Curro got mis-spelt.’

  18. Barrow says:

    Lets if we shall get a few things into perspective
    Joachim !! Your inept Greens and Labor collectively
    Lost ground more than 6 to 7 percent, and infact
    It was liberal who gained in the by – election
    Just more of your deflection !! And talk about the
    Greens in all the time the greens have had leaders , the one you have now is a complete waste of taxpayer’s money, and so is this Mehreen Faruqi
    What a piece of work this person is ..told the Prime Minister to F -OFF and then lectures about how
    Colonialism has been so bad for this great nation
    And has had enough !! Really Mehreen well stop taking the base salary of 205k that we pay you
    if it concerns you so !! The country you were born in dos not exactly had a good record on human
    With Sharia Law , and in particular with women
    And you are trying to preach how bad it is here
    In Australia. Expect anything different Joachim
    From your Greens . And if Climate change was so concerning why dont the greens get more than 8 % of the vote Joachim?? The left go to the Media
    And the quiet ones vote on election day .

  19. Joachim says:

    Barrow old son, Hypocrisy is spelt… M O R R I S O N. Case closed old son.

  20. KEITH DUNCAN says:

    Well done Kristy McBain for her gutsy win in the Eden-Monaro bi-election, “certain people” have been implying that Labor was not “travelling well at the moment”. It was a huge achievement for the Labor Party to retain such a marginal seat after losing such a popular Local Member in Mike Kelly, and at a time when the Coalition Govt. is riding a wave of popularity due to the COVID19 pandemic, (they should have won in a canter).
    Labors win was a massive blow to Scott Morrison (SFM), who threw everything into yet another hard sell marketing campaign including some well-timed dog whistling on defence and “highly suspect” Federal Police raids on Labor politicians. Conservative apparatchik along with the Murdoch media, were up to their usual dirty tricks trying to discredit Kristy McBain, to divert attention away from the real issues, like lack of real action on climate change.
    Anthony Albanese’s leadership has now received a huge boost, and after this dismal failure, Morrisons leadership will be under even more scrutiny. The deep divisions existing within the Coalition were again laid bare for all to see with the vicious infighting between the Liberal and National Parties, and will now obviously dog them right up to the next election.

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