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  • Writer's picturePete Jonson

Economic and coronavirus views.

Updated: Jul 19, 2020

Today I present views from three more or less reliable newspaper.s My focus is on the dramatic increase in Covid-19 illness in Victoria and the reasons for this. This is important as Australia was doing very well until several mistakes greatly spoiled Victoria’s performance. Sadly, it is beginning to look as if NSW may be catching our problem.

The Australia’s ‘Inquirer’ section is headed ‘Code red for Andrews.’ There are several very interesting contributions. John Ferguson says ‘The Premier’s blunders in managing the pandemic have returned Victoria, and the nation, to a crisis footing’.

‘The Andrews blunders have created a national challenge. The blunders are not limited to quarantine, and include the weak messaging on the Black Lives Matters protest march, contradictory messages on schools, prevaricating over the use of the Australian Defence force to help the response, and questions over the testing and tracing .’

And almost at the end: ‘What the [Victorian] health system lacks overall is credible leadership, falling victim to bloating, indecision and a sense of bureaucratic complacency that stems from six years of using the portfolio as a political weapon to win and retain government’. Hard words and a regular theme is ‘No-one was in charge!’ and no-one, including Premier is willing to come clean of the mistakes and to take responsibility for them.

Greg Sheridan, the Foreign Editor of the Australian, starts by asserting: ‘As COVID-19 wreaks global havoc, it has accelerated international power struggles’. Sheridan reveals that Senior ministers, Foreign Minister Payne and Defence minister Reynolds have been invited to Washington to participate in an AUSMIN meeting, and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has recently chaired a virtual meeting of Five Eyes Finance Ministers. It could be said that the world is in a mess, various players are trying to cause trouble and it is time for Australia and its allies to put the wagons in a tight circle.

The third member of the Australian’s trifecta is Bernard Salt, Demographer. He addresses the matter of what has happened to Melbourne. ‘My point is that if there is one major [Australian] city where interfamily connectivity is likely to be the strongest, for a number of reasons, it is Melbourne. …

‘’Strong and connected families help make communities more resilient. But in a time of contagion, the deep-seated strengths of Melbourne can turn into something of a liability due to clusters of infection’.

But there is another factor in the mix, a dramatic difference of relative geography. ‘Sydney’s five million residents are scattered over a vast flooded river system. As a result, the urban landscape is dissected by rivers, bridges, the harbour and the coast. It leads to a pattern of settlement that is disjointed.’ …

‘In contrast, Melbourne is laid out on a vast and uninterrupted plain that wraps around Port Phillip Bay from 9 o’clock to 6 0’clock. … Melbourne’s suburban development radiates out like the white of a fried egg, and is never really interrupted in most directions.’

Read on (P17 of today’s Australian) and you will find lessons of the effect of geography on Australia’s pandemic. (I now wish I had taken more notice of geography whilst at school!)

My next newspaper on Saturday is the Australian Financial Review. Today my eye was caught by an article by a former colleague Andrew Mohl. Andrew was a fine colleague at the Reserve Bank, a predecessor at the Funds management business of ANZ bank, then Chief Executive of AMP and is a former director of the Commonwealth bank.

Andrew wants to ‘Stay the course on suppression'. He presents an optimistic view, one much needed for people, like me, who tend to worry more about the dark aspect of events. ‘At a national level, the suppression has contained the spread and allowed a significant relaxation of the lockdown. [Ignoring the Victoria debacle, of course.] ‘Even in the deepest recession in a century, Australia’s economy today is in better shape than the economies of most countries in the industrial world’.

'Our capacity to increase public debt to soften the ongoing economic pain also remains high. Monetary policy is at full throttle , and hopefully we will never see negative interest rates’.

On the following page, Laura Tingle, a more pessimistic person I judge, leads with ‘Unemployment train wreck is slowly emerging’.

I will admit that I rarely reach for the Melbourne Age until all other forms of communication are dealt with. Today’s front page shouts ‘The fight of our lives’, one my pessimistic soul is attracted by. The editorial says that ‘Public deserves to know the full picture’. Hear, hear to that.

Then Chip Le Grand hits a six with ‘State in Crisis: who’s in charge?’ Memo to self: ‘Must read the Age more often’. This is a recurrent theme in conversations by the Watercooler, conveyed in my case on the phone. I assume that Dan the man will not be long for Victorian politics. Never before have I seen such a litany of screw-ups. Please re-read the third and forth paragraphs at the top of this article.

And Fiona Prior shares some ‘aha’ moments involving slavery and agency. More here.

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