Why we can’t afford a #scottycomelately

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“The stimulus package was a difficult decision for a government with its tunnel vision on a budget surplus. It is a good decision. It just took too long,” writes political columnist MICHAEL MOORE.

THE hashtag #scottycomelately appeared on social media in mid-January. It is appropriate for Prime Minister Scott Morrison. 

Michael Moore.

At last there is a stimulus package to counter the crashing markets and economic impact of COVID-19. However, it ought to have been two or three weeks earlier. It should have been in line with the timely health response.

#scottycomelately also eventually took action on the bushfires. By that time so much of Australia was already incinerated. 

Calling in the Defence Force Reserves, for example, provided assistance to firefighters. But was late! Imagine the impact if this action had been taken earlier with defence personnel and machinery assisting fire fighters in clearing access roads and building fire breaks. 

In the light of the crashing stock market, the stimulus package is critical for Australia’s long-term economic outlook. However, the timing is #scottycomelately. 

From the first reaction to COVID-19, the government publicly identified the impact on tourism, on our universities and on the economy in general. But it is only now that the stimulus package is put in place.

#scottycomelately claims to have been working on the package for two weeks. Two weeks! In this time the market has reacted and our economy has taken a thrashing. This was a difficult decision for a government with its tunnel vision on a budget surplus. It is a good decision. It just took too long.

There are broader issues for #scottycomelately and his conservative colleagues. 

Perhaps #scottycomelately will realise the importance of funding an integrity and anti-corruption commission at some time in the future. Whenever he does so, if he does, it will be too late for the “Sports Rorts” affair, too late for Angus Taylor’s attack on Clover Moore and too late for taxpayers’ money being spent in the name of the Liberal Party. Too late for the lost trust in democracy!

Climate change is the most notable short termism. Taking the short-term view and counting the dollars now… all stops pulled out for a surplus. Support coal. Support other fossil fuel industries. The science is clear. Taking action now is critical for our future and particularly the future of our children and their children. We simply cannot afford a #scottycomelately with the damage being done now.

Transition planning on climate change is more vital than supporting fossil fuels. Supporting renewable energies to manage the transition away from fossil fuels would be taking the long-term view. 

The early stages of the COVID-19 health response provided the exception for the Prime Minister. And then #scottycomelately let two days slip before the ban on 500+ group gatherings. The early response to the COVID-19 virus set an example for the rest of the world. And then the Prime Minister put a footy game ahead of the nation’s health and the cabinet refused to self-isolate after Minister Peter Dutton tested positive for the virus.

Listening to the science was the hallmark of the early stages of the response to COVID-19. Attention has been paid to outstanding health leaders such as Prof Brendan Murphy in the Department of Health, Prof Raina MacIntyre at the University of NSW and Prof Sharon Lewin at the Doherty Institute. What happened about the cabinet self-isolation and the two-day delay in implementing the crowd bans?

Thinking ahead in order to fund prevention measures is challenging for all governments rather than a focus on short-term, quick, election-winning results. This is why funding to a range of services that would have helped mitigate the impact of the bushfires has been cut. The expenditure on preventive health measures, according to the Institute of Health and Welfare, has been reducing year after year. 

The federal government now spends less than two per cent of all health expenditure on prevention. The focus is not on prevention but on treatment. The image of sending the ambulance again and again to the bottom of the cliff instead of building a fence at the top comes to mind. 

#scottycomelately’s reluctance to take a long-term view, and substitute short-term political priorities undermines effective government, undermines trust in government, undermines trust in our ministers and undermines trust in democracy.

 

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Michael Moore
Michael Moore is a former member of the ACT Legislative Assembly and an independent minister for health in the Carnell government. He has been a political columnist with "CityNews" since 2006.

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