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.