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Wren's Week: The Liberals are causing great depression

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Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons

Between driving the economy into the ground and a great lack of accountability, the Liberal Party is well past its expiry date, writes John Wren.

THE BIG NEWS this week was the announcement of the June quarter economic figures and the news that Australia is in recession — the biggest since the Great Depression. This was, of course, no surprise to anyone. Australia’s economy was tailing downward even before the pandemic.

The Government’s much-vaunted “Back in Black” surplus was looking very shaky even in February with an unparalleled creative accounting that was pushing spending into future years to make the current year look better. Indeed, those same efforts mean that the recession is now even worse as that spending has been forced into time frames where the Government is already in massive deficit.

As former Federal Liberal Leader John Hewson pointed out during the week:

‘On the basis of longer-term data, our economic growth has been trending down since at least mid-2018, before taking this deep dive in the June quarter.’

This is the final nail in the myth that the Liberal Party are superior fiscal stewards of the Australian economy. They had run the economy into the ground before the pandemic, meaning its impact will now be much more severe than it need have been.

The Murdoch, Costello and Stokes protection racket went into overdrive. Their only defence was that Victorian Premier Dan Andrews’ lockdown in Victoria was the main culprit behind the crisis. This is nonsense, of course — these are the June quarter’s figures. Victoria’s issues did not commence until July. They will impact the next quarter, but clearly, the national economic damage is done.

The reality of all this is that Australia was trending into recession anyway — the pandemic has just accelerated its onset and deepened it. The pandemic is not Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s fault but his response to it definitely is.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but he should have acted as NZ did and shut our borders down sooner. He shut the border to China, but the virus entered via the USA and Europe anyway. Even then, he had to be dragged kicking and screaming to do so, just as he did with the JobKeeper, JobSeeker and other measures. He is a do-nothing PM who only acts when his hand is forced. We saw this same trend during the bushfires.

In Victoria, we saw the ridiculous politics being played by the Victorian Liberals and their media surrogates on the extension of the state of emergency. What made this whole debate really irrational is that Victoria is the only state to time limit its declared states of emergency. Other states like South Australia and Western Australia can simply declare them indefinitely.

The fact that the state of emergency has a six-month time limit is a democratic feature to allow its review and limit the abuse of its application. The Victorian Liberals, led by the usual coterie of Tim Smith, Michael O’Brien, James Newbury and Georgie Crozier, twisted this review into it being an undemocratic extension of the lockdown. Fortunately for Dan Andrews, his prowess as a negotiator came to the fore again and he got the numbers on the Upper House to pass the extension.

Ironically, the Federal Liberal Government extended its own state of emergency declaration today by another three months without fanfare. There were no outpourings of angst against this “dictatorial move” by the Victorian Liberals, or any Liberals, of course. Hypocrisy reigns supreme.

Had the Victorian Liberals got their way, next week, in the midst of a pandemic, the democratically elected (by a landslide) government of Victoria would have lost the power to enforce public health restrictions on individuals and businesses. There would have been a massive resurgence of the virus, thousands of deaths and even bigger negative impact on both the state and national economies.

This is the ideological vacuum that exists within the Liberal Party, that they would seek to kill more of their fellow citizens in the pursuit of profit. The majority of Victorians and, for that matter, Queenslanders and West Australians as well, realise now they dodged bullets by electing Labor Premiers. Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan this week had a record 91 per cent approval rating.

But wait — that pursuit of profit over lives is in itself incorrect. Economist Alan Kohler released figures this week that show countries with higher COVID-19 death rates had even bigger hits to their economies. So had we followed that path, to let the virus rip, as many in the Coalition including Morrison wanted at the onset of the pandemic, we would have been even worse off economically with thousands more deaths.

Even this week, Murdoch’s Australian Economics Editor, Adam Creighton was advocating the Swedish model even though all the evidence is that it killed many more than it needed to with and even bigger adverse economic impact. What is more bewildering is these pundits are allegedly well-educated, mature people. What drives them to advocate such dangerous nonsense?

While we are on the subject of democracy, Parliament was sitting again in Canberra this week, albeit with reduced numbers in the house so as to maintain social distancing. We also saw video conferencing being used for the first time to allow MPs to contribute to debates remotely (they were unable to vote as current parliamentary rules require them to be present in person). The House of Representatives is meant to be a house of debate, a mechanism for the opposition to hold the Government of the day to account.

Unfortunately for Australians, we saw the Liberal Government, ostensibly the great defenders of free speech and democracy, repeatedly use arcane parliamentary rules to shut down any question or debate that challenged them on topics that include:

  • their incompetence on aged care and the hundreds of deaths their negligence has caused;
  • Liberal Party branch stacking in Victoria;
  • their heinous education bill that will make access to tertiary education near impossible for anyone who comes from a family without means (the Coalition seeks only to educate their own); and
  • their gross financial mismanagement.

This is not democracy. The Government has become an unaccountable fascist rabble. We even saw the revelations in senate estimates of Morrison’s direct part in the corrupt sports rorts scandal. The conservative media barely picked up on it. He is corrupt and there is little that seems to be able to be done about it.

My recommendation to Labor leader Anthony Albanese, if he stumbles across this article, is to remove the pair for the ill David Coleman. Remove Morrison’s one-seat majority. Possibly even force a by-election. Get ruthless. Australia needs you to get your mongrel out.

You can sign the petition to have John Wren reinstated on Twitter here.

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