At last Morrison goes a little in the right direction

Scott Morrison

Contributed by Joe Montero

It’s a start. The Morrison government has at last made some positive moves, on a scale that might have some effect.

This small but still significant shift should be acknowledged. In more turbulent times than usual, change This marks a notable shift from just 24 hours ago. Such is the pace of change in the turbulent times we are living in now.

Businesses will get $1,500 per fortnight for each worker to keep them on during the Covid-19 breakout. The package $130 billion could help 6 million.

Speaking on this, Scoot Morrison said; “We want to keep the engine of our economy running through this crisis.” no one can argue with this, so long as people’s health is not compromised.

A war chest of $320 billion or 6.4 percent of GDP has finally been set aside to take on the outbreak.

Still, there is no guarantee this payment will go to the worker, who still needs enough income to make ends meet when laid off. We know already that money handed over is not always used for the intended purpose. Qantas is a good example. There should be a legal compulsion that this does not happen.

Employers should be compelled to make up wages. Unions are campaigning that this to be 80 percent of pay.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has been campaigning for wages to be protected

Video from Sky News Australia

ACTU calls on govt to provide wage subsidy to out-of-work Australians

ACTU President Michele O'Neil says unions are calling on the government "to act today" to introduce an 80 per cent wage subsidy for out of work Australians.

Posted by Sky News Australia on Friday, March 27, 2020

Nevertheless, this subsidy does throw something of a lifeline to small business owners, including subcontractors, and not for profit organisations, which are more vulnerable to going out of business.

Unfortunately, it does not cover those who have not been with the current employer for less than 12 months. This means many will continue to go without. This is a matter that needs attention.

Big business will also get the subsidy, if at least 50 percent cannot come in to work, and turnover is more than $1 billion, so long as they apply. The reality is that a big portion of the subsidy will go to them.

Payments are due to begin on the first week of May, with backpay available till the beginning on March, on the condition that legislation passes through parliament.  

The flagged announcement that the Reserve Bank of Australia might help to superannuation funds, to cover a likely spike in early withdrawals by those needing an income, may also help.

The third positive in the new announcement is the move to tighten foreign investment rules, to make it harder to take advantage of Covid-19 induced difficulties to take over businesses.

The banks have made their own move to defer loan repayments and cover commercial landlords not receiving rent. they had earlier provided for the possibility for the deferment of household mortgage repayments for up to 6 months. It makes good business sense. A wave of defaults would suit no one.

Guaranteeing income is important. But it is not the whole of the response needed. While acknowledging the positive aspect of the latest package, it is important out point out that it is still limited, for the very reason that it relies too much on market self -regulation. As long as this remains, the response to the outbreak of the Covid-19 outbreak.

This is the reason why there is no compulsion to ensure the money is used properly. Why more effort is not being put into taking on government responsibility for mobilising people and resources. Without these additional measures, the impact is going to be limited. Asutralia still needs to ask for more.

There is the matter of those who take advantage of the difficulties and restrictions that Australians are facing. Profiteering is a problem. Then there is the case of insurance company TAL, which has moved, according to a leaked document, to deny payments to people who die of this virus. Doctors treating Covid-19 patients will not be covered either. Something has to be done about those not doing the right thing.

I know this has been said before. It’s not good enough for politicians to just suggest we trust and leave everything up to them. They should engage with the population, involve it in a partnership to actively take on the challenge. There is rather too much compulsion from the top down, substituting for this.

It the Morrison government wants to do a thorough job, it must put attention to ensuring organisation tofacilitate citizens volunteering their time and effort in a much more comprehensive way is in place.

The government must ensure enough hospital beds, equipment and staffing in hospitals. It must taking charge of producing and distributing protective equipment needed by the community.

An engaged and participating population is far more likely to be responsible, practice self-isolation, and do whatever else when needed. An engaged population will make it easier and quicker to pinpoint and treat infections.

Australia still has some way to go to get to this point.

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