Remote business never easy in PNG
Am I A Whore Now

After the crisis – more of the same?

Harvey
Australian businessman Gerry Harvey - bragging about doing well out of coronavirus panic and exulting in other people's distress

PHIL FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY - There is an interesting and still underlying debate going on about what will happen once the COVID-19 crisis abates.

On the one hand there is the expected conservative view that everything should return to normal.

This is promulgated by most politicians in Australia and elsewhere and seems to be the accepted view of businesses and the public at large.

There is, however, a minority view that the COVID-19 crisis and the draconian steps being used to address it will “change the world forever”.

This view sees the crisis as an opportunity to reform political and economic systems for the better. It is a view informed by the glaring shortfalls that the crisis has exposed in the present arrangements.

Given our past history of responses to similar crises, using this one as an opportunity to improve human civilisation can be seen as an optimistic view at best.

Our natural instinct in time of crisis is to return to ‘normal’ as soon as possible.

‘Normal’ is invariably understood to be the situation that pertained immediately before the crisis. Whether that situation was good or bad is a moot point in most people’s thinking.

Certain sectors of our community have a vested interest in returning to ‘normal’. Not least the corporate sector, which wants to get back to profit making as quickly as possible.

Other sectors, however, hold out hope that matters of exploitation and inequity will be addressed as part of recovery plans.

More enlightened individuals even hope that governments will realise that preparedness for unexpected events like COVID-19 requires more investment in systems (like health) and addressing social inequality.

This kind of shift in focus would not be a prelude to some form of anti-capitalist movement but rather a modifying and moderating of its worst effects.

For want of a better expression such a shift could be carefully described as a socialisation of democracy.

Something along these lines occurred during the global financial crisis of 2008-9 when Barack Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

That law increased US federal spending by $573 billion for health care, infrastructure, education and social benefits, with the remainder used for tax relief — including a $116 billion income tax cut that benefited 95% of working families.

Democrats overwhelmingly supported this measure, but it won little support from Republicans. Under Donald Trump the Republicans have been actively dismantling these measures ever since.

Something similar happened at the same time in Australia under prime minister Kevin Rudd. Again socially beneficial programs were dismantled by the Conservative governments of Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison.

My own sense is that the opportunities for change presented by COVID-19 will be wasted as long as we have conservative governments in power and while both our major political parties are beholden to large corporations.

The attitude of these corporations is represented in its rawest form in recent comments by businessman Gerry Harvey, who owns Australia’s large retailer, Harvey Norman.

He has extolled the opportunities that the crisis presented to his company through panic buying.

“You know this is an opportunity. Our sales are up in Harvey Norman in Australia by 9% on last year. Our sales in freezers are up 300%. And what about air purifiers? Up 100%,” he boasted during an interview.

There was a community backlash to this triumphalism when so many people were in a state of shock at the difficulties they were facing.

The media reported that many people are vowing to never purchase anything from Harvey Norman again”.

“Gerry you couldn’t be more deluded and deranged if you tried,” was typical of social media comments. “So many people have died. And there will be so many more victims to come.”

This sort of crass opportunism that underpins what is ‘normal’ in our society is what will mitigate against any hopes of meaningful change following the crisis.

I suspect that just like the global financial crisis the COVID-19 crisis will be just another blip in our inevitable progress down the slippery slope of oblivion we seem so intent upon following.

Comments

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Lindsay F Bond

Hey Gerry - There was in PNG a chap named Brian Bell who started out as a pharmaceutical chemist and whose success was founded in retail, all of which can be better told by the many whom he helped along the way, amounting to quite ‘sum’ achievement.

In PNG right now are the front line health personnel, with little given to humour but much in need to alert PNG folk (and a Health Department that is under question) about what is shaping as a looming catastrophe.
See: https://www.thenational.com.pg/nurses-want-protective-gear/

There was a lass whose early "formal mathematical training" led to “expertise and use of statistics and epidemiology”. Known also as a nurse, Florence Nightingale put mathematics to ‘sum’ good.

Good to know your second thought ‘sums’ a reflective response.

Ronny Biggs

We'll all be rooned, Phil. Time for another Noah's Ark.

Harry Topham

Gerry Harvey’s comments have a shallow ring about them, as he moved most of hid business operations out of retailing and into agriculture many many years ago.

He now owns one of the largest cucumber producing farms in the southern hemisphere as a well as being one of the largest producers of Wagyu beef.

The bottom-line being that most of his income stream from his agriculture enterprises come from the Asian markets.

No wonder he is smiling, as without the retail arm of his business interests his agricultural pursuits would be taking a big hit in our current economic climate.

Paul Oates

In these 'Hardly Normal' times, it seems like we as a species can't seem to lift ourselves past where we have been.

To perceive and lead a large mob of people past a time of crisis takes an extraordinary leader and we have yet to see one emerge. Perhaps it all takes time and sufficient suffering and misery before in desperation, a change in direction is contemplated as possible or feasible?

Various notions of a better system of government have been around since Adam was a boy. To be able to evolve past where we are or more latterly, where we have been, requires some radical changes to be experimented with. As Phil points out, those who are still in power don't want any change at all, thank you very much.

I still have enough operating brain cells to remember when some other than conservative governments, also had feet of clay. The real problem is human nature. The easiest road will always find favour with the majority.

Bernard Corden

Take a look at the Coronavirus Commission. Several notable omissions include Clive Palmer, Tom Domican, Joe Meissner and our former federal minister for kneecaps.

PS, I forgot Warren Anderson.

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