Tag: Video Scott Morrison

Australia is now a nation in self-isolation — but are we ahead of the curve?


There’s new official lingo about tackling COVID-19’s economic challenge. A “bridge” is being built to take us to the other side of the crisis.

Meanwhile, the government is preparing a “cushion” for businesses and individuals who are already or soon will be its casualties.

Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe came up with the bridge metaphor, Scott Morrison loves it and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is using it.

The Reserve Bank on Thursday unveiled its bridge-building package. It cut the cash rate again, to 0.25 per cent. It will also put a staggering $90 billion into the banking system, with the government injecting another $15 billion, to encourage low interest lending targeted at small and medium sized businesses.

But the bridge requires constructing a foundation of confidence, at a time when many businesses and consumers feel only fear.

In present circumstances, normal economic incentives have a much lesser effect. The market signals don’t work properly. If small businesses have their customers disappear and don’t expect them back any time soon, owners won’t be too interested in cheap loans.

Video: Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg announce latest coronavirus measures

(ABC News)

The nation self-isolates

Morrison has stressed Australia is not in shut down. Not officially. But out of a combination of alarm, caution and government measures to contain the virus’s spread, many activities have shut down and more do so every day.

Less than 90 minutes after the Reserve Bank produced its measures, Morrison announced the government was closing Australia’s border to foreigners, which will take effect late Friday.

As a health measure, this is sound, given the spread of the virus overseas and the extent to which arrivals have driven its early stage in Australia.

But it will be yet another brake on the economy, even though foreign arrivals have already fallen drastically.

Two days earlier, Australians were told not to leave the country. Australia is in national self-isolation. And unlike for individuals, there is no set end point.

Video: TWU boss Michael Kaine slams Qantas for forcing workers to bail out airline

(ABC News)

Qantas has stopped international flights and stood down 20,000 staff. It is hoping flexible leave arrangements will preserve jobs, but for how long?

A measure of the strange times is that Qantas is talking to Woolworths about some of its employees working there. The hoarding frenzy has become a job creator.

A trade-off

During this week, Morrison seemed on top of his messaging and the pioneering “national cabinet” of federal and state leaders was showing there is such a thing as “co-operative federalism” (albeit it has taken a national emergency to put it on display).

But federal and state governments and the community are a long way from having any certainty what measures — health or economic — might eventually be needed.

In circumstances unprecedented in living memory, difficult judgements are being made day by day that juggle health, the economy, and public sensibilities.

Devising rules for nursing homes pitted health against the humane. COVID-19 is lethal for the frail aged. But this week the government decided visits to these facilities should be restricted rather than stopped.

It was a trade off. A ban would have been safer in medical terms, but for residents a devastating isolation from family.

A ban could have carried another danger. Families are often watchdogs on how people in these institutions are being treated. Even after the royal commission’s indictment, constant eyes are needed.

The balance struck was sensible and has been generally accepted as such.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

The school question

In contrast, the debate about schools has been fraught and is unfinished in the public mind. The government advanced several reasons for not closing them (at this stage). Few children are affected by the virus. If kids were not at school, many would be minded by grandparents in the most at-risk age group.

And shutting schools could mean a 30 per cent hit on the health workforce.

The last is crucial in the government’s thinking. The health system will be under enormous pressure in the next few months, with no guarantees about how well it will cope, despite the reassuring words.

Rejecting the arguments of health officials and governments, certain schools have closed and some parents are removing their children from others.

If the schools are eventually closed under public pressure, it could be devastating for many students in their final year.

Anger and bad behaviour

Clearly, the bad behaviour the crisis has triggered has not abated — the out-of-control supermarket scenes, and the abuse of shop staff, health workers at some testing places, and even teachers.

Deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly went to the length of highlighting the last by referencing the experience of his sister, a teacher.

Country town residents are angry at their shop shelves being stripped by non-locals.

On Thursday, restrictions were announced for the dispensing and sale of drugs by pharmacies.

Video: Scott Morrison's comments came as supermarkets struggle to cope with shortages amid the coronavirus pandemic.

(ABC News)

Is the binge buying just panic? There is a great deal of that, with people unreceptive to the indisputable point there would be plenty of supplies if everyone behaved normally.

Morrison had a strong message for the hoarders: “Stop it”.

But anecdotal evidence also suggests some of the “hoarding” may be for other reasons.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton (who is still quarantined with COVID-19) claims some people are “profiteering”; he declared the police are in pursuit of them.

“They’re hoarding, not for their own consumption — I think they’re either sending some of the products overseas or they’re selling it in a black market arrangement in Australia,” Dutton told 2GB.

Are we ahead of the curve?

The government maintains that on the health front it is keeping ahead of the curve, although critics says it has been tardy and should even now be doing more.

On the economic front, however, it knew it was behind the curve immediately after announcing last week’s $17.6 billion stimulus measures.

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast.

Now it is finishing its second package, which could dwarf the initial one; the combined measures will be legislated by the “mini” Parliament early next week.

Last week the imperative was to keep growth going to try to avoid a recession; now the goal is being cast differently.

“What this second package will be designed to do is to cushion the blow for Australians, particularly those who have lost their jobs, but also for those small businesses who are facing this very, very difficult moment,” Frydenberg told the ABC on Thursday night.

Earlier, after the bank announced its measures, Lowe said in his speech, “At some point, the virus will be contained and our economy and our financial markets will recover”.

At what point and at what cost? That bridge could need to have a very long span.

Michelle Grattan is a professorial fellow at the University of Canberra and chief political correspondent at The Conversation, where this article first appeared.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Video: Dr Norman Swan answers some of your questions about the coronavirus outbreak


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Can Morrison live down his George W Bush moment?


Hurricane Katrina was one of the worst natural disasters in US history. It displaced hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The damage was estimated at $US100 billion, and more than 1,000 people are thought to have died.

When it struck, US President George W Bush was on vacation on his ranch in Texas. The two days it took for him to decide to cut short the vacation and return to Washington was a disaster of a different kind.

It was not just a political disaster for Bush, but a disaster for public confidence in the agencies responding to the storm.

Blame games erupted between Washington and state and local authorities about why the response was so slow.


A decision to publish this picture of George W Bush surveying some of the Hurricane Katrina damage from Air Force One backfired badly. (Reuters: Mannie Garcia)

A decision to publish a picture of him surveying some of the damage from Air Force One backfired badly.

“That photo of me hovering over the damage suggested I was detached from the suffering on the ground,” Bush wrote later in his book Decision Points.

“That was not how I felt. But once that impression was formed, I couldn’t change it.”

Some analysts say Bush’s reputation never recovered.


Protesters give the thumbs down to US president George W Bush’s motorcade in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Reuters: Lee Celano)

As people yell at the Prime Minister when he visits their devastated communities, or howl for his blood on social media, the story of Bush’s failure to immediately recognise a catastrophe and the urgent need for leadership it represented tells us what problems are created by Scott Morrison’s perplexing failures of political and policy judgement in recent weeks.

People are frightened and angry. Some have lived through a fire or just faced the anxiety of trying to evacuate family through massive traffic jams.

Video: Scott Morrison forces Zoey Salucci McDermott to shake his hand in Cobargo

(ABC News)

They may have faced shortages of food and fuel and/or several days without power and communications.

Such people tend to lose their faith in the capacity of governments to comprehend, let alone respond, to a crisis like this that is likely to continue for at least some months.

Nobody cares about Morrison’s problems

A Prime Minister who clearly felt on the backfoot after his trip to Hawaii spent several days defending that decision and then too much oxygen defending how much preparedness was already in place, and protesting too much that he was but a servant of the states.

Nobody cares about the Prime Minister’s problems when their house is under threat, or they feel their lives are in danger. They want to know what is being done to help them.

Video: A group of Cobargo residents vent their anger at the Prime Minister.

(ABC News)

Morrison’s language has gradually started to reflect this: a press conference in Bairnsdale on Friday saw him talk more, for example, of the Federal Government’s role in rebuilding East Gippsland.

But the scale of this ongoing catastrophe — which on Thursday saw the one of the biggest peacetime evacuations in our history — and its likely length, means the Prime Minister and his Government will be daily confronting the realities of climate change in their response, however much they continue to choke on the words.

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These fires have made climate change a reality of the present tense for many Australians, not something that we can put off to the future.

To give some scale to what has happened here so far, international media outlets have been reporting the 2018 California fires burnt 2 million acres; the 2019 Amazon fires 2.2 million; and the 2019 Siberian fires 6.7 million.

So far Australia’s 2019/20 fires have burnt 12 million acres.

For starters, that poses big problems for all those glib “meet it and beat it” responses to climate change questions by Morrison and his ministers.

It is estimated that the fires to date represent between half to two-thirds of Australia’s annual emissions budget.


It is estimated that the fires to date represent between half to two-thirds of Australia’s annual emissions budget. (Supplied: DELWP Gippsland)

And politically, all the accounting tricks with emissions and targets, and boasts about meeting international targets in 2030, don’t mean anything to anyone here anymore.

Parroting references only blocks the focus

Realistically, if our climate change “debate” was able to be weaned off whatever hallucinogenic drugs it has been on for the past decade, it would wake up in 2020 facing a very different balance of demands.

Yes, the ongoing war about reducing emissions will continue. But perhaps now equally important and urgent are the difficult policy and leadership questions about adapting to climate change.

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The parrot-like references to “meeting and beating” targets has been very effective at blocking any real focus on what policies the Government claims are actually driving this emissions reduction miracle without any pain to anybody.

When you look, it turns out that the policy cupboard is pretty bare. The Government’s quarterly figures on what has driven emissions lists figures without any real obvious help from government policy.

For example, in the most recent report released late last year, one major factor helping drive an emissions estimate that had been revised down was “the agriculture sector — due to floods in early 2019 and the ongoing effects of the drought”.

Treasurer and Deputy Liberal Leader Josh Frydenberg said on Thursday that what the Government is focused on is “the most effective way for Australia to meet its international obligations, recognising that we are, as a planet, seeing climate change and we need to be part of the global solution, which we are”.

“We will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure there is a smooth transition across the economy. But in the most cost-effective way,” he said.


Josh Frydenberg said the Government was focused on “the most effective way for Australia to meet its international obligations”. (AAP: Mick Tsikas)

Really, Josh? It’s just on 18 months ago that you appeared at the National Press Club in your then capacity as environment and energy minister.

Even then, doing something about emissions had to be snuck in to the entrails of a policy pitched as driving energy prices down while increasing energy reliability: the National Energy Guarantee (NEG).

Politicians need the fortitude to stand up

The NEG, despite its limited ambitions, received widespread support.

“Governments at all levels and parties of all persuasions must put ideology aside and work together to put the national interest first,” you said that day at the Press Club.

“The National Energy Guarantee is our chance to secure a lasting consensus. We must not miss this opportunity to deliver a more-affordable, more-reliable and lower-emission energy system for Australia.”

Except your party did.

In its place, you put a range of Mickey Mouse policies like the Climate Solutions Fund which purchase miniscule amounts of reductions through things like forestry sequestration that will take decades to have any effect.


These fires have made climate change a reality of the present tense for many Australians. (Unsplash: Markus Spiske)

And you are relying on things happening like the take-up of electric vehicles which your party so cheerfully slagged off at the last election.

The real test, however, may not be on what the Government does on cutting emissions, but on how it leads us to confront the sorts of brutal adaptations current events show us we now face: not just the immediate effects of disasters, but the questions they raise like building standards, towns that governments will not able to afford to rebuild, and communities that have run out of water.

These are decisions which various levels of government will have to make together and support each other on.

And have the fortitude to stand and explain to people, not simply walk away.

Laura Tingle is 7.30’s chief political correspondent.

More bushfire coverage:

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

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