MARK BUCKLEY. Scott Morrison’s crisis management

Scott Morrison is proving to be adept at crisis management and Australia is benefiting.  There have been missteps, and mixed messages, and the occasional catastrophic blunder (the Ruby Princess springs to mind), but in a global pandemic we have, along with our cousins across the Tasman, apparently slowed the progress of the virus.

It is not empty patriotism to be proud of our achievement.

Against many predictions, Scott Morrison not only turned up, but as the weeks unfolded, he began to shine. His confidence grew, and he stopped enumerating the steps he had already taken, and he concentrated on the present. His press conferences began to resemble real information sessions, and to look less like infomercials for the Liberals.

Of course he began by taking on the workload single handed, but he then gradually introduced us to Greg Hunt, the Health Minister. He was formerly known as The Minister for Announcing New Drugs on the PBS, but he has, similarly to Morrison, grown in this time.

The real change has been in his attitude to us

During his time in parliament, he has shown a woeful lack of compassion towards “the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame”, as the Bible would describe those who struggle (Luke 14:21), for whatever reason. But he seems to have put aside his disdain for those who do not always “have a go”, and included them in his stimulatory package, at this terrible time. I still wonder that he did not make more political capital from his doubling of the Jobseeker Allowance, but perhaps he did not want to confront the IPA types directly?

He also, for once, listened to the Labor Party, and the ACTU, and broadly adopted their suggested wages subsidy, which is revolutionary for a neo-liberal Government. Boris Johnson had also done it in the UK, so there was precedent. But he continued to elevate the good of the citizen above the needs of the budget.

In another break with federal orthodoxy, he convened a ‘national cabinet’, made up of the leaders of the states and territories. This from a man not seen as naturally amenable to the idea of sharing power, but the Premiers have all been impressed with his growing spirit of co-operation.

It seems that he is governing with compassion, for most of us, and that he has shrugged off the strait-jacket of ideology.

What did it cost?

So far it has cost us over $300 billion and counting. But it has saved many lives. As of today’s figures, there have been 62 deaths, which is a lot of grieving families, but it is many less than we might have expected. It is worth whatever it costs. And it is money from the communal pot. We can afford it, because we want to.

The shutdown of the economy will be difficult to recover from. But Australia has weathered many storms, and I have faith that the measures he has taken, from an immediate survival perspective, will at least soften the blow for those least fortunate. Many have slipped through the safety net, but he appears to be discovering the fact that it is part of his ‘job description’ to alleviate suffering wherever he sees his fellow citizens doing it hard. Compare that statement with our expectations of him after the bush-fires!

Where to from here?

He will most probably face internal revolt from the hard right within his party, sooner rather than later. His current spending is heavily reliant on Keynesian economics right now. Keynes’ ideas may be the only credible theory for times like this, and it has been instructive to see so many of the world’s governments recently reverted to the old orthodoxy.

This economic theory postulates that “the government should increase demand to boost growth,” amongst other similarly expansionary fiscal measures. It was seen to work through Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’ package in the 1930s. This sort of stimulus is very unpopular with neo-liberals, who tend to be driven by their own ideology, concerning keeping government small, and spending minimal. Already we are hearing from libertarians and right wing think tanks such as the IPA that we need to re-open businesses, and to end the lock-down.

Interesting research from the period 1914 – 1919 shows that cities in the U.S. which maintained their social distancing and lock-downs during the Spanish Flu (1918-20) longer, bounced back more quickly, and more resoundingly. Read about this effect here.

Will he survive the challenge?

Scott Morrison has steered this country safely through the early stages of a profound crisis. He will see clamour for a return to the busy days, in an attempt to re-start the economy. He needs to hold his nerve, because the Spanish Flu pandemic taught us something else – if you take your foot off the brake, the second wave can be more devastating than the first. That happened in 1919, and there is no rule that says it will not happen again.

We have yet to see the worst of this particular crisis. India, Russia, Indonesia and the United States are all entering unknown terrain, and we are very, very lucky to live where we do. The last thing we need is to listen to populists and ideologues, whose concern for society is zero. Remember their leader, Maggie Thatcher, who in 1987 uttered these words: “They are casting their problems at society. And, you know, there’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first.”

Not much of a belief system, if you ask me.

Mark Buckley is a writer from regional Victoria. He is interested in politics, history and ethics in public life. His work can be found at www.askbucko.com

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Mark Buckley is a writer based in regional Victoria. He has a particular interest in politics, history and ethics in public life. He blogs at www.askbucko.com

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3 Responses to MARK BUCKLEY. Scott Morrison’s crisis management

  1. Avatar George Wendell says:

    Of course Scott from marketing will claim he saved the country, while it is quite obvious that there are two elephants in the room he will avoid to even mention. One is the fact that Australians made a great deal of effort to socially distance themselves and take care, and the other is so obvious it is mind numbing: we live in a country where there is a very low population density and much space between towns and even your neighbors. Most of the population lives around the coast, and unlike countries such as the USA or Italy, there is a massive desert between one side of the country and the other which naturally stops transmission.

    Of course we would have never had any Covid -19 in the country at all if it had not been for blunders with letting incoming international passengers find their way home on public and private transport which was a massive failure of either state or federal governments. Borderforce has been deliberately eliminated from discussion on that matter so far, and the main stream media do what they can to push their right wing pro-Liberal party views instead. Keep blaming China and the Ruby Princess and protect the Liberals at all costs.

    Morrison’s response has a mainly been about re-popularizing himself after the Summer bushfires, and it continues in the same manner as his election campaign. This is to keep himself in the media limelight as much as possible (borrowed from Trump) while other members in the government (apart form Hunt and Frydenberg) have been kept out of the picture – especially Dutton. Great advertisements from Scott on money flowing to Australians, but the truth is that many workers will fall through the cracks because of government chicanery in the same manner as they use with Centrelink, and how unnecessary red tape has blocked financial help for victims of the recent bushfires (well forgotten by the media).The mainstream media never does an evaluation of the success of anything the Liberal party does, they just accept what Scotty saying he’ll throw X amount of money at something, and never see whether it actually hit the target. Big on advertising, but what about the follow through?

    The funny thing is that coalition members like Barnaby Joyce made more noise about Johnny Depp’s Pistol and Boo entering the country, but he and the rest of the government seem to have been AWOL when it comes to Covid-19 flowing into the country.

  2. Avatar Michael Tierney says:

    I don’t believe our government and it’s leader have done that well. All governments neglected coronavirus vaccine research following SARS and MERS. Relevant agencies have not held regular drills under a supposed pandemic response strategy. We did not have an adequate stockpile of protective equipment, testing kits and reagents or any strategy whereby we could quickly manufacture them. Minister Hunt failed to commandeer available stocks much of which were bought and shipped overseas. Government claims that thermal sensing was deployed early at airports have been challenged by other P&I writers. The government was too slow in closing the borgers. Testing criteria were initially restictive; more to ration test kits. Ruby Princess and flaws in the support package have been raised above. I fear Morrison’s empathy has a 6 month life span; although he may be forced to extend it. His belief in a V-shaped recovery is niave especially when major drivers of our economy, ie migration, international student education and tourism, will take time to recover if and when restictions are eased.

  3. Avatar Richard Ure says:

    Am I too cynical in saying the PM has been successful in designing support so that the important distinction between Lifters (JobKeepers) and Leaners (JobSeekers) has been maintained? JobSeekers, which, of course, includes 1,000,000 unworthy employees and other untermenschen have been deliberately excluded from JobKeepers. Unlike JobKeepers many of whom will be idle, JobSeekers still have job application responsibilities in a market in which the number of unemployed is being cunningly concealed because jobs have vanished. The JobKeeper volte-face was allegedly motivated by the length of the Centrelink queues where social distancing is often not observed. But the queues are still there. And there is still nothing workable for residential rents.

    P S: I hope Google is not stealing this content.

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