Australia divided!

We are NOT all in this together

SINCE the devastating COVID19 virus lockdown in early April we’ve been assailed by the togetherness mantra/‘chantra’. 

Health-wise yes, we get it. But economically NO! We are NOT all in this together’. Only half of us are. The rest are still living high on the hog, just as the federal government is about to wind back JobKeeper, a vital economic rescue package especially for small business.

To date neither the PM nor any members of the federal government, its well-heeled bureaucracy, or even folk working in the big end of town including in banks, have stumped up one dollar from their own pockets as part of a government strategy to fight the viral ‘war’. Not one dollar. Not one cent.

By contrast, the Chook along with many other small businesses have taken a battering on the front line.

In a nutshell, we have foregone hundreds of thousands of dollars in our conscripted ‘war’ against the lethal virus.   

And we are not alone. There are tens of thousands of businesses in the same boat. They represent up to half the economy, in particular that 30 percent of the economy – mainly small business – shut down by government decree because they were at the crossroad of our nation’s social interaction. 

They have largely borne this burden alone after the government took the sledgehammer to their commercial hearts ‘for the common good’. 

Freeloaders

Meanwhile the other half of the economy, those yet untouched by the virus have yet to pull their weight. They are truly the ‘freeloaders’, as yet economically unconscripted in the fight against the killer virus, living life with nary a care in the world. 

And along with the politicians you know who you are: you are the ones with no sleepless nights worrying about your mortgages. Or where your next pay cheque is coming from.

Now, for the past few weeks the prime minister and federal treasurer have been softening up the country to expect major changes to its poorly-crafted JobKeeper business support programme, with a crucial announcement in a few days, possibly signalling its end. 

JobKeeper was born out of political panic by a completely unprepared federal government caught on the hop by a virus. 

It was launched after Melbourne billionaire retailer Solomon Lew, on the first day of the lockdown, shut hundreds of his stores across Australia, said he would not be paying rent as he turfed 10,000 staff onto the dole queues in one fell swoop. Many other businesses followed suit.

The spectacle of thousands of Australians milling in the dole queues shocked the government into action to extend an economic safety net for the hardest hit.

But now even before the virus is contained, with Victorians exploding their viral loads across their state and possibly the nation, the chief ‘freeloaders’ in the federal government – the prime minister and treasurer – are now moving to reduce the economic rescue package.

Instead of talking about how the economic safety net can be improved the Morrison Liberal government has started to target those who have done all the economic heavy lifting as the problem: small business, the artists and entertainers, the young and women, our ‘Viral War Heroes’. You can hear it in his tone.

Unless he changes course, Morrison will surely end up like that hugely popular British war time prime minister Winston Churchill who was turfed out unceremoniously by struggling, weary, ‘forgotten’ war hero voters in 1945. 

In Morrison’s case the voters will be the ‘war heroes’ who carried the brunt of the ‘war effort’ against the killer virus while he, so far a true ‘freeloader’, sat far away behind the front lines in Canberra. 

By ANDREW SMITH

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