The weird story of sanguma
Cry me a river – The Rabaul Queen disaster

Now we learn they can’t handle a crisis

CVPHIL FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY - One thing is becoming abundantly clear as the coronavirus epidemic rapidly escalates.

And this is that any government based on an ideology of neo-liberalism is the worst possible model to deal with a crisis of this magnitude.

This is most apparent in the USA, the home of laissez faire capitalism, where confusion reigns supreme and the virus is uncontrollably rampant.

But it is also becoming evident in Australia.

At the moment there are huge queues of people outside Centrelink offices who have lost their jobs because of the lockdown of businesses.

The people in these long, often unhealthily compressed, queues are trying to get unemployment benefits.

The employees in these offices, who have survived the staff cutting purges by the current government, had little chance of dealing with all these people.

It beggars belief that no one in the government realised this would happen.

In the 40 years or so that neo-liberalism has informed economics and politics, the world has seen government agencies and services privatised in the mistaken belief that private business can do a better job (and make a fast buck in the process).

In Australia the current Coalition government has indulged in an orgy of outsourcing, casualisation, cost cutting and ‘trickle down’ favours to big business.

This has left Australians with inadequate levels of healthcare, education, welfare, public housing, aged care, child care, law enforcement and a plethora of other services.

The purging of public service numbers has ensured that what remains has to struggle to fulfil its obligations.

A similar situation pertains in Papua New Guinea but its causes are more to do with corruption and incompetence.

It is therefore no surprise that, in both places, the governments’ response, as they realise they don’t have resources to deal with the crisis, has been chaotic.

Confusion, indecision and delay have been the overriding characterisations.

The Australian government still seems preoccupied with its economic stimulus measures while the health aspects take second place.

Pumping money into the business sector is hardly going to help support ordinary citizens get through the crisis.

As Van Badham, a Guardian Australia columnist notes, “To believe that private businesses will suddenly redirect their entire rationale from money-making into selfless acts of collective public service to cope with catastrophe is at best a determined misreading of capitalism”.

She goes on to add that “if there’s hope to cling to, it’s based in the universal realisation of Australian households that a transformation of our economic system is imperative to our reconstruction, and survival.

“It was the same realisation that built the better, fairer, more resilient Keynesian systems of regulated, socialised welfare-state economies in the wake of the Depression and the Second World War”.

If we get through this crisis in reasonable shape there is still the crisis of climate change to deal with. That crisis is ever gaining momentum even as we are preoccupied with coronavirus.

We will more than ever need a form of government that supports people rather than just wealthy corporations if we are to get through that crisis and whatever new crisis comes later.

Comments

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Lindsay F Bond

About that putting on "thinking caps", comes report of "motorsport engineer Mirko De Rosa" and "his team Erebus Motorsport...shipping its first products to medical health professionals for testing."
See: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-31/motorsport-engineers-design-coronavirus-medical-equipment/12105838
That is not to say this will be a quick fix or that other ideas are not more valid. What Mirko De Rosa is exhibiting (showing to us) is the ideal of humanity, inventiveness.
Of course, what is urgently needed too is a vaccine, and rigorous effort is being put to that purpose.
So for now, its for hoping Supercars sport can be a winner in this new race against time.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Can't work out what the hell Scott Morrison is rambling on about?

Try this from New Zealand's Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2020/mar/26/jacinda-ardern-hosts-coronavirus-qa-from-home-after-putting-child-to-bed-video

Bernard Corden

Dear Lindsay,

The incongruity with s51 of the Australian Constitution was resolved via a COAG intergovernmental agreement in 2008:

https://www.coag.gov.au/about-coag/agreements/intergovernmental-agreement-regulatory-and-operational-reform-occupational

Bernard Corden

I don't envisage the coronavirus pandemic as the nemesis of capitalism.

Far from it, Schumpeter's gale of creative destruction will sow the seeds for a much more intense and dystopian version that will generate even more inequality and oppression.

This will involve the widespread use of artificial intelligence and ultimately eugenics and our governments will merely enable the process.

"If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever" - George Orwell

O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't.

— William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act V, Scene I, ll. 203–206

Philip Fitzpatrick

Yes, in retrospect, my comment about Steve Marshall was unkind Chris.

I think that we are lucky to have the current government in South Australia. They are decidedly moderate and earnest. I was most impressed, for instance, in their continuation of South Australia's leadership role in renewable energy.

I also find out health minister, Stephen Wade, a hard-working and reasonable minister.

If they could restrain the treasurer, Rob Lucas, from his cost cutting mania they would be an excellent government.

When you compare them to the Liberal tyrants that other states have had to endure, like Jeff Kennett and Campbell Newman we are doing pretty good.

But that's South Australia for you - we've always been ahead of the pack.

And we have a good opposition led by Peter Malinauskas.

Lindsay F Bond

Of the many sadly serviced bridges in PNG, none is more hazardous to me than my broach on an aspect of the Australian Constitution. Yet Bernard emboldens curiosity about a “statute that binds the Crown”, in respect of “health and safety of people”.

Thus I happen upon explanation of some variance: “There is no specific power under s 51 of the Constitution for the Commonwealth Parliament to enact nationally uniform laws on the topic of OHS.”
See: https://www.ohsbok.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/8.2-Principles-of-OHS-Law-final.pdf

Also, as to “best interests of its citizens”, and of preparatory effort and achievement at the forefront of calamitous eruptions, it is of some amazement in our current era, that Australia (and other nations) sent foot-soldiers with cloth and felt headwear to war in 1914. (Yet do we prepare better?)

Welling up from that abysmal episode came a startlingly simple head covering designed by John L Brodie and which largely prevailed into the 1940s.

It is not known whether a manganese steel helmet might have saved the lives of my grandfather’s cousin (Gallipoli) and brother (Fromelles). Each was a volunteer lost within a first twenty-four hours of conflict.

Were no lessons for 1914 learned from an earlier conflict in South Africa? That is, lessons of leadership other than urging growth of societal expectation and readiness among those young adults.

Were no lessons from Sars 2003, from GFC 2009, from Ebola 2013? Is it that adverse event reporting is an affliction mostly feared in democracies and there by leadership practices which lose ‘a first twenty-four hours’ to flag-raising process?

Granted our present era has ear-wear technology to aid rapid transmittance of leadership announcements, and even has alarming aural introductions for news of weather events, no equivalent stirring of attention has heralded impending gravity at reporting of this 2020 dire health prospect. (That is, aside from the ABC historic music such as ‘Majestic Fanfare’.)

So if an Australian Prime Minister can prevail upon the ‘common sense’ of citizens, is it too far fetched to suggest (those who can) each put on a ‘thinking cap’, thence to design simply and better. ‘Upwear’ with Brodie..

William Dunlop

KJ - One x 50kg under each arm when I was at my best self. Slainte.

Chris Overland

In relation to Phil's post about South Australia's response to the COVID 19 crisis, I think he is being unkind to the Premier, Steven Marshall.

I think that history will show that Marshall has taken every reasonable step to slow down the inevitable and inexorable spread of the virus. The Opposition Leader, Peter Malinauskas, has quibbled over a few issues, especially whether or not to close all schools but has generally speaking supported the actions the government has taken.

In my judgement, it is human behaviour, not government rules, that will ultimately determine how far and how fast the virus spreads in Australia and everywhere else for that matter. In that context, I remain astonished by the apparently wilful determination of some people to act against their own and the wider community interest.

Basically, we have far to many total muppets amongst us, whose situational awareness, problem solving skills and judgement compare unfavourably with those of my Cocker Spaniel.

In relation to Bernard's post, I think that while there are grievous structural deficiencies in the current version of "Casino Capitalism", these are not the result of a conspiracy. Rather, they are the result of a series of decisions taken over a long period based upon false premises.

No-one planned the current fiasco. They thought that they had cracked the formula for endless growth and prosperity, the proverbial Philosopher's Stone of economics.

The monetarists like Milton Friedman really believed that market forces alone could and would produce better overall socio-economic outcomes than allowing ill informed and self interested politicians to make the big economic decisions.

The evidence of the 40 year long experiment which they unleashed is that they were wrong. It turns out that the market is not the best way to determine how certain public goods and services are best produced, distributed and managed.

The COVID 19 virus has revealed the true extent of the monetarist failure. Markets are hopeless mechanisms for dealing with a socio-economic crisis. Only well led and resourced governments can do what has to be done expeditiously and efficiently.

It is a profound irony that the USA, the greatest apostle of free market economics, now led by perhaps the least capable President in its history, seems very likely to suffer the most as a consequence of COVID 19.

Terrible fracture lines will open in the US polity once the true scale of their government's many failures become apparent.

The USA is a country that cannot or, more chillingly, will not save its poorest and most disadvantaged citizens owing to an entrenched structural philosophical bias towards "survival of the fittest".

The USA is built upon an axiom reflected in the Athenian response to a plea for mercy and peace from the Melians, from whom they demanded submission and tribute under the threat of war:

"....you know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must."

Of course, I am a creature of what might be called the "old left", with a bias towards government intervention to at least moderate the actions of what we call "the market". So I am out of step with the times, or so it seems.

Nevertheless, I remain convinced that the market is a creature that needs to be carefully managed, not allowed to run amok lest it give into its worst instincts, being the mindless accumulation of wealth for its own sake, not for productive uses. That is where we are now.

Bernard Corden

Scomo's language hardly inspires confidence, especially with restrictions covering gathering together. What limitations will be imposed on gathering apart?

This ignorant malapert is not a leader and EGW would be turning in his grave.

William Dunlop

Aye, aye, KJ.
_________

Twice round the barracks with 50 kg pack, Dunlop - KJ

Philip Fitzpatrick

That's the opening line of the American version Bernard.

It should be, 'First they came for the communists....'

The Americans dropped the first verse because they thought it supported communism.

"First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me."

Niemӧller's exact words in German are disputed but he gave currency to the above version.

First Dog on the Moon makes an interesting point in reference to Morrison - "We are being led by a marketing manager!"

On top of that we in South Australia have got a furniture salesman in charge. I've got nothing against furniture salesman. It's a nice change from having a lawyer in charge.

It would be nice to have a leader in charge however.

Daniel Kumbon

The Post-Courier today carried a story calling for people on board flight PX208 who travelled on 13 March from POM-Lae-Hoskins and on to Kokopo.

On this flight was the man who came from Spain via Singapore to PNG. Imagine all the innocent people on board - the captain and his crew, the passengers and the man who sat beside this innocent foreign traveller.

We cannot blame him for coming to PNG. He was asked to come here to work. He must be treated as one of us. But he was been flown out to Australia yesterday and is lucky to be treated right now.

I hope the people he came into contact with on the plane from Singapore and those who travelled with him to Lae are tracked down immediately and isolated.

In the last three days I flew from Port Moresby-Kavieng- Manus-Lae and back to Port Moresby. And I am worried. I feel like going for a voluntary check-up but the city is under lockdown.

I know I must not panic, but I feel the urgency. And I did some more flying yesterday.

I got on the last flight from Port Moresby to Mt Hagen at 5pm and had to return to POM about 7pm when we could not land at Kagamuga Airport. Now I have to stay in POM for two more weeks.

I agree with David and others that people simply don't know what is happening.

Bernard Corden

The sinister alliance of corporate terrorists with state interests has intensified exponentially following the emergence of rampant unfettered neoliberalism with its deification of the shareholder theory and an unrelenting emphasis on deregulation, privatisation and social atomisation.

Indeed, there are serious ethical concerns when society allows itself to be driven by a market economy.

This provides many global behemoths with a malevolent freedom to harm and a triumph of doubt, which manifests via an epidemic of occupational diseases, recurring industrial disasters, public health crises and increasing psycho-social issues with escalating occupational violence.

It undermines a fundamental tenet of a statute that binds the Crown and prescribes requirements to secure the health and safety of people at work. It is compounded by an incalculable democratic deficit between rapidly diminishing community expectations and a tribal parliamentary system, which embarks on a frenzied, turbulent and eternal race to the bottom.

Most Australians once trusted the democratic process and imagined its elected leaders protected the welfare and secured the best interests of its citizens.

However, over the past five decades government of the people, by the people and for the people has degenerated into government against its people and the chimera has been shattered beyond repair.

The merger of corporate and state interests has witnessed inequality and segregation extending way beyond race or ethnicity. There is no longer any left or right, it is now top versus bottom, us and them or with and without.

Corporations no longer lobby governments because they control the establishment and all that remains in the middle of the road is a double white line and roadkill with the ominous poetic prose from Martin Niemӧller whispering in the breeze… 'First they came for the socialists…. '

William Dunlop

And Ken Henry's 'Go Big', in his running the bank he was recently fired from, another kettle of fish, eh.
________

He resigned as chairman of NAB, William, admittedly after putting in a lamentable performance before the Banking Royal Commission last year - KJ

Philip Fitzpatrick

The Coalition government in Australia has conceded that the first quarter GDP figures will show a decline in economic activity due to a combination of the effects of the bushfires and coronavirus.

Two successive negative quarters amount to a technical recession. The government is therefore very conscious that a decline in the second quarter will result in the end of Australia’s long running economic growth.

For a government that promotes itself as good economic managers this could be politically disastrous and damage their reputation for years to come.

One of their responses to the corona virus epidemic is to issue a stimulus package that includes a direct payment to low income people such as welfare recipients and pensioners.

They are, however, ignoring the advice about ‘Go Big, Go Fast, Go Households' and are opting to delay the package until after March 31.

The motive here is to hope people will spend their stimulus money during the second quarter rather than the first quarter and therefore offset the expected decline in economic activity.

This is a blatant case of cynical politics taking precedence over affirmative action. It is also a very clear indication of where Scotty from Marketing’s priorities lie.

Chris Overland

I have just read on the ABC that the Minister responsible for Centrelink and related employment services has admitted to under estimating the impact of the decision to close down thousands of businesses overnight.

Government Services Minister Stuart Robert conceded he had failed to appreciate the scale of demand that would be placed on Centrelink's website.

"My bad, not realising the sheer scale of the decision on Sunday night by the national leaders," he said.

"That literally saw hundreds and hundreds of thousands, maybe a million people, unemployed overnight."

Mr Robert's honesty is admirable but the failure of the government more broadly to understand the impact of their decisions is worrying evidence in support of Phil's thesis. Our governments seem to be consistently playing catch up with events, suggesting they are not on top of the situation at all.

My suspicion is that economic and ideological considerations are both clouding judgement and slowing down decision making. This is despite the Opposition offering more or less unqualified support to do whatever it takes to manage the crisis.

Quite what the ultimate political fall out of all this will be I do not know. But what I am sure of is that there will be nowhere to run and nowhere to hide for ScoMo et all when some sense of normality is restored.

Ian Ritchie

Interesting perspective but I'm left wondering of the alternatives.

Mr Rudd had a different set of challenges on his hands and his stimulus package largely targeted individuals in a bid to encourage everyone to spend our way out of a financial crisis, which indirectly assisted businesses.

I think most would argue in hindsight, that did work, however Rudd also slashed $60 million from the CSIRO, which one could also argue would have been better served left with them, given the then known and worsening climate change problem and now the Covid 19 virus.

I also note the Qld state Labor government is doing similar to the Federal conservative government, with a stimulus package targeting businesses in a bid to keep them open and still employing. That seems confusing to me.

Take tourism and transport (airline) businesses out of the equation as we know they have been decimated by this virus, but many retail business and even trade and some professional services seem destined to close at some point in the near future.

In fact many have been forced shut already with the likes of clubs, pubs, cinemas, restaurants etc laying off many thousands of employees, so I'm not quite sure how the tax relief measures are supposed to keep people employed?

At best, it may keep businesses idling in wait for this virus to run its course, but I'm thinking we are all in for a great deal of financial pain for some time to come.

My son works for an electrical contracting company and yesterday they laid off 75% of their workforce. I also spoke with a concreter yesterday and he said his orders basically dried up overnight. People will typically not spend on jobs and projects when they fear losing their own jobs.

So back to the assertion that neo-liberalism is the worst ideology for dealing with a crisis like this, I'd simply say that because the States elected a President who has disastrous self-centered policies and a bullying persona, and Australia did a similar stupid thing.

(It's a worrying comparison that the States and Australia were lumbered with very similar poor and blinkered leaders, simply because the general populace hated the opposition more than they hated the winner, i.e., voting on who may be best of a pathetic bunch.)

Is there really evidence that the alternatives in politics could have done better?

I'd suggest the evidence is that they would and are doing very similar. In my opinion, Australia is currently devoid of quality leaders.

It doesn't matter which so called political ideology you mention, I struggle to see a single person scuffling around in the sandpit, who displays even a remote inkling of great leadership potential.

Philip Fitzpatrick

One of the biggest failings of the federal and state governments in Australia is with the dissemination of information. It has been inconsistent and confusing. You would have expected Scotty from Marketing to do better but I guess you can't sum the crisis up in a simple three word slogan.

Powes Parkop in Port Moresby reports that "We've got this Port Moresby!" and provides an information line number (1800200).

Meanwhile Deni ToKunai@Tavurvur says, "Some buai markets in PNG's towns are operating business as usual despite SOE (State of Emergency) measures. These people may not have heard about/understood COVID19. Not everyone is on FB (Facebook) or watches 6pm news. These people don't sit in offices. Get to their level and explain the issue in Tok Pisin."

Hubert Namani@hhnamani says, "Please NCDC & MKA need to ban the sales of betelnut in Port Moresby again. The filth and bad chewing habits of our people is putting innocent lives at risk with Coronavirus and Tubercolosis."

Getting the message out in PNG is going to be crucial in managing the virus. A hotline is good but it is a typical western approach in a country not geared to such things. There needs to be people out and about telling people what is going on.

Paul Oates

One of the many lessons that should be learnt and clearly won't be, it that Australia is hamstrung by the inter government rivalry between the Federal government and each state government.

There was never a better example or why three tiers of government isn't and won't work.

Local and State governments should be rationalised and a simple two level of government established. Federal and regional is quite enough for the taxpayer to fund.

The second aspect is one of control. Most former Kiaps can't understand why the Federal government hasn't been able to cope. The answer is clear. There are no real leaders who can cope and the excuse being trotted out is: 'It's an unprecedented problem.'

If Kiaps were confronted with an 'unprecedented problem' they simply went ahead and fixed it.

David Kitchnoge

Thanks Phil and Bernard and Keith. I agree.

We have a leadership crises in PNG. Indecision, confusion no direction and supervision have been very apparent in this emergency situation.

Knowing what we know about our public healthcare system, we should have gone big and gone early to prevent the virus from entering our borders. Our overburdened public health system won't be to handle an outbreak of disease. It iwll sure collapse!

Our very liberal and lax attitude towards prevention has resulted in on recorded case of imported case of the virus and the country has gone into a lock down which will give rise to its own set of issues.

Bernard Corden

A fundamental tenet of crisis management is Go Big Early. It is much easier to scale down resources than build them up, especially during an emergency.
________

And as Ken Henry advised Kevin Rudd on Australia's response to the global financial crisis, 'Go Big, Go Fast, Go Households'. Ignored by Morrison in the greatest social crisis Australia has face in 100 years - KJ

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