While Australia continues to float aimlessly without a clear recovery plan, no economic winds will be favourable, writes Tarric Brooker.
As 2020 finally begins to draw to a close after a year of challenges, uncertainty and hardship for many Australians, a quote from the ancient Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger comes to mind:
“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable.”
In many ways, Australia heading into 2021 is broadly summed up in this way.
Aside from committing to throwing $507 billion at the economy, a “gas-fired recovery” and infrastructure spending that is a fraction of what experts believe is required, the Morrison Government doesn’t really have much of a plan to recover from this crisis.
We are a nation set adrift upon the tides of the struggles of the global economy, which begs the question: What are the Morrison Government’s priorities in 2021? To what ultimate goal will it attempt to guide our nation?
Despite the pandemic proving to be a transformative event for everything from retail to working from home, the Coalition Government has generally taken a steady-as-she-goes approach to the nation’s recovery from COVID-19.
However, when you look at the economic data from prior to the pandemic, it’s not really a goal that is worth aiming for, with deteriorating or stagnating outcomes for many Australians.
Inflation-adjusted disposable per capita household incomes have gone almost nowhere in the seven years the Coalition has been in government, wage growth was stagnating at historically low levels and the economy was in and out of contraction in per capita terms.
Hardly a goal worthy of Australia’s aspirations.
With over half a trillion dollars in stimulus measures committed by the Morrison Government, one would think such an enormous amount of money could fund policies that could transform the lives of millions of Australians for the better.
To put the Government’s $507 billion stimulus commitment into perspective, it’s almost ten times larger than the Rudd Government’s Global Financial Crisis response package.
It’s enough to give each and every household in Australia an average income of over $50,000.
It’s enough to house every single one of the 116,000 homeless people in the country and still have over $489 billion left over (based on the average cost of newly constructed WA social housing).
It’s enough to maintain the current rate of the JobSeeker supplement ($250 per fortnight) for 1.5 million recipients another year and still have over $497 billion left over.
So for less than six per cent of the total stimulus spend – not including the money the government will get back in additional tax revenue – we could effectively eliminate most homelessness and ensure that unemployed Australians are provided with a more adequate social safety net.
While there are limits on government spending and not all the funding committed to stimulus could be redirected to other projects, there are legions of transformative policies that would represent a seismic positive shift for the Australian people.
Yet despite this unprecedented amount of resources at its disposal and the political capital to pursue a broad agenda, the Morrison Government continues to embrace may be termed “small target government”.
With Prime Minister Scott Morrison currently enjoying near-record level approval and preferred PM ratings across multiple pollsters, it’s not hard to understand why.
Unfortunately for the Australian people, the Morrison Government setting course for election victory is not going to provide the fuel the nation needs, to drive an enduring and prosperous recovery in the long term.
With a rapidly changing world amidst the pandemic, technological advancement and an evolving labour market, the coming years may be a now or never moment for Australia to lay the groundwork for its enduring prosperity.
As we head into the new year, Australia largely remains adrift, caught between the tides of continued unimaginative stimulus from the Morrison Government and the hope that someway, somehow, the global economy can avoid the solvency crisis of which many experts are warning.
Ultimately, with the resources at their disposal, there are many courses the Government could set in pursuit of a better Australia for all of us, but as things stand there seems little appetite to set off into those largely uncharted waters.
Tarric Brooker is an IA columnist, freelance journalist and political commentator. You can follow Tarric on Twitter @AvidCommentator.
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