44 thoughts on “Sandpit

  1. One can only hope that this event (the COVID-19 epidemic) will permanently change the political economy of the world or of Australia at least. A few weeks ago MMT, Functional Finance or Keynesian pump-priming (call it what you will) seemed impossible. This week it is de rigueur. It’s funny how a crisis brings to the fore the fact that fiat currency money creation is not notionally limited. Any amount can be created at need. Of course, there are a couple of reals limits worth worrying about. The first limit is real resources, goods and services at any point in time and the second is limits to growth in the future. Note that enough masks and testing kits cannot be bought at the moment, even though the money can be created for that end if necessary. The other limit is inflation of the fiat currency. However, at the moment we are at least starting from a low inflation base, albeit the inflation number is somewhat rigged and food inflation has been high for some time.

    This crisis has also brought to the fore once again, the entirely blind and reactive nature of the Morrison government here in Australia. They ignore expert warnings given in good time (climate change, fire season and now the global pandemic) and then they run in slow motion to catch up with fast moving, exponentially expanding crises. The problem is that their instinctive reaction is to protect the money systems of the markets and not the real economy nor real people.

    The first lesson is that the free market fails completely in any serious crisis. The state is immediately required to take over and directly mandate required actions. Markets react too late and/or too chaotically to be of any help in a serious crisis. Control and regulation immediately need to be increased greatly. To the litany of ordinary market failure types, we need to add the category of total systemic failure during crisis. Basically, having unregulated markets is like having a brakes / accelerator combination which suffers intermittent faults in ordinary use and then fails every time when you need to brake or accelerate out of danger. Such a system is “unsafe at any speed”.

    The democratic left must take this opportunity to permanently change our political economy. Democratic state power regained must be kept, not handed back to the plutocrats after the crisis ends, if it ends. Far from shrinking from politicizing the crisis, the left most politicize the crisis at every point in favor of democratic socialist principles. Political economy is always and everywhere political. We need to note there is every possibility that the world will be in continuous crisis from this time on for at least a century. A perfect storm of interacting crises has developed where climate change, sea-level rise, flood, drought, fire, environmental destruction, plagues and economic crises all interact and reinforce. This is nothing less than the existential crisis for human and ecological survival which the scientists of all the hard science disciplines have predicted since the 1970s at least.

    Only a statist, democratic socialist effort focused around genuine solutions to all the above problems can succeed. Very importantly, the entire ethos of the exploitation of man and nature, of the selfishness, greed, consumerism and egotism surrounding neoliberalism in particular and capitalism in general will have to be entirely jettisoned. The idea that life is one long consumer party must be jettisoned. Our culture of self-indulgence must end or we all die. It’s that simple. Cars, boat, caravans, tourism, air travel, cruise travel, processional sport and all the other accoutrements of the shallow, feckless consumptions and amusements of our society will have to be abandoned in most part. All subsidies for non-essential activities must end permanently. In their place, we must build renewable energy systems, mass transit, government and strategic monopolies and public assets like more hospitals, research, health, welfare, education institutions. We must gold-plate all our public systems. A gold-plated system has the spare capacity to respond to crises.

    The resources for gold-plating these systems (power, water, transport, safe food systems, essential services, health, welfare, education and scientific research) can come from reduced self-indulgent spending on consumer items. Hospital ships instead of cruise ships. Hospitals instead of stadiums. Essential air travel only for the most part. Mass transit and self-driving cars for personal transport. No subsidies for all non-essentials. No subsidies for fossil fuels. No subsidies for professional sport. No subsidies for tourism or any other non-essential, consumer activity.

    This is the clarion call for complete change. If we ignore it we collapse. Get sensible or become extinct. That is the message from the forces of the natural world which is infinitely more powerful than us.

  2. Ikon. Excellent comment and a precise for your book. Flesh out each sentence, references and examples and a worthy read.

    You continued efforts here are astounding. I don’t quite subscribe to your level of catastrophising, yet appreciate your writing. Without it, other concepts would not have the stark relief needed to drive JQ’s points and other commenters – (thanks all) – to the extreme.

    “Get sensible or become extinct”.

    My child has made a game, board based, 2 dice, 4 sets of cards – adaotations, questions, advantages and problems – and to finish you have to have 5 adaptations and then get over “The Ladder of Evolution or Extincriin ” or the kids name “the live or die ladder”.

    The game is called “The Adaptation Game” or Crazy-Awsome Adaptation Game, The Adaptation Game” or CAGTAG for fun! Hey – no commercial or neoliberals telling us what to do. Itbis greatnand we play it.

    I inform [gender irrelevant / generation irrelevant ] of this blog.
    I will show your comment.


  3. The 1990s saw a lot of Structural unemployment, redundant job seekers and geographic immobility. The end of 2020 may see this all reappear. Structural change may lead to long term unemployment. The Beveridge Curve analysis suggests that these types of unemployment are not easily eradicated. In 2021 the macroeconomic management issue will be reducing any entrenched unemployment.

  4. Typically structural unemployment has been under 10%. I suspect we’re heading for a lot higher than that. Friend in the construction industry has been told they are ramping down fast to minimum staff working and to expect at least 12-18 months before anything starts up again. This is a multinational, so they’re not just talking about Australia.

    Meanwhile the manufacturer I work for is recalibrating to use surface shipping for *everything* which means a whole lot of rethinking how things work. We have stock for ~6 months so we’re not stuffed yet, but many importers/wholesalers run limited stock and rely on urgent deliveries via air. Some can’t afford to pay us for big shipments now, so we’re balancing spec shipments to people who may go bankrupt against driving those people into bankruptcy by starving them of product. Fun times. Luckily I’m on the software side so can (and have been) working from home.

  5. I wouldn’t have thought it was air freight that was stopped, only passenger airliners. The lack of supply might go right back to the Chinese factories that stopped. Now, we are realizing it was bad idea to outsource all manufactures to China.

  6. Ikonoclast: I work for a manufacturer in Australia. So I can’t agree that we have “outsource all manufactures” and it pains me that you say that in direct response to my comment.

    Freight flights are still operating, but volume is down and costs are up. The situation is also fluid, and many airfreight operators are accepting goods on a “we’ll see what happens” basis.

    UPS say this right now “parcel deliveries to some European countries may be temporarily impacted” https://www.ups.com/au/en/service-alerts.page?id=alert1

  7. People might recall that I have been banging on for quite some time about the (lamentable) need for a salutary disaster to shock people out of destroying the biosphere. People might also recall I said some sort of disaster of this kind was inevitable sooner or later as we continued to grow the global economy and population exponentially and destabilized biosphere systems, physical and biological. Well, here it is. The first fully realized disaster of many to come. I was right that disasters were coming but I could not and did not predict which kind the first one would be. Of course, there was nothing clever in my predicting these disasters. I did none of the empirical research. I did none of the calculations, predictions or communications. Those were all done by scientists and science writers. All I had to do was read and pay attention to the science.

    That is the crucial phrase: “pay attention to the science”. People pay far too much attention to myths and to conventional economics. Indeed,conventional economics is essentially a set of myths. The main myths of modern conventional economics are:

    (1) Money measures value.
    (2) Disparate items can be validly aggregated and measured in the same non-scientific unit (money or the numeraire).
    (3) The economy stands free from the environment.
    (4) The economy can grow indefinitely (endless growth).
    (5) The economy, society and environment can be managed solely by markets, money and finance with government as simply the guarantor of peace, order, contracts and private property.

    We are about to see all of these shibboleths come crashing down. Value is a notoriously slippery concept. The definition and valuation of money stems from circular logic. In that “logic”, value is defined by money and money measures value. Money fails to value all risks and externalities. Money fails to measure real (scientific) values. Money fails to measure ethical values. Yet, markets are supposed to arrive at equations of value. They do so but only at equations of nominal value not of real value nor of ethical value.

    Only hard science can arrive at real physical values. Real physical values can only be measured in scientific SI units (International System of Units). Ethics (moral philosophy) and human values can be measured neither in scientific units nor in money. Our persistence with a valuing system which can measure neither scientifically nor morally is bizarre. Money and markets are not a measuring system at all. They are an allocation system, which is quite a different thing. They are buttressed by false moral assumptions that for example income is equal to productiveness or income is equal to worth. These false moral assumptions then justify allocations.

    The economy is not free standing from the environment. The real economy is a real system of materials, energies and processes managed by a formal system of government, laws, regulations, social customs, rules and market/finance machinery. The real economy is a complex. adaptive, dissaptative system out of thermodynamic equilibrium with the environment. That is to say it needs continuous inputs of materials and energies and discharges of wastes to produce and maintain order (and growth) and to fight decay, disorder or entropy. Just as a cancer cannot grow to convert the entire body to cancer (the body will die before that eventuality) so an economy cannot grow to occupy the entire biosphere and use the biosphere’s entire fund of materials and energies, in both stock and flow terms. This indicates that endless quantitative growth (in cubic meters of concrete or tonnes of living human biomass as population) cannot occur. Even endless qualitative growth (scientific, technological, artistic and cultural growth) is not strictly speaking possible (endless creation of greater order would imply endless energy inputs) however qualitative growth limits are likely still very far from us provided we do not destroy the biosphere by crude quantitative growth.

    Just as society developed beyond feudalism to mercantilism and then capitalism, it now needs to develop beyond capitalism. Money and its finance operations are no longer the most efficient heuristic for value decisions. Money was never really fully accepted for ethical value decisions. There was and still is an ethical battle to prevent money being used as the sole actuator for decisions like “should there be slavery or not?” These are ethical decisions which most of us hold to be of a higher order and importance than mere money decisions.

    Money and markets became the way of determining most societal decisions, namely the value of nature and things in the natural world and the relative values of permissible goods and services in money terms. This heuristic was perhaps passable while no better method existed. Better methods now do exist and they come from the modern hard sciences. For example, money still tells us to not (negatively) value climate change. Markets operating on their own have made no move to ameliorate climate change. Indeed, markets as they work now have actively worked to block and sabotage efforts to ameliorate CO2 emissions. Science however tells us it must be done (reduction of CO2 emissions) or we face a catastrophic collapse, via severe warming, of the benign Holocene climate on which human life and agriculture depend.

    The message is clear. Listen to science. Listen to moral philosophy. Ignore markets or else transform them (as allocation mechanisms) to the requirements and directives of democracy, science and moral philosophy.

  8. If you are bored at the airport you will sometimes see them putting chickens, mushrooms, etc. in the cargo hold of passenger planes, so clearly a lot of air freight travels this way. (The chickens were chicks. Hope they got to where they were going alright.)

  9. Ikon:

    Ignore markets or else transform them (as allocation mechanisms) to the requirements and directives of democracy, science and moral philosophy.

    I’m a Big Government social democrat who wants to transform the economy and bring about a revolutionary levelling in wealth, status and power but you lose me when you talk about ignoring the market. Ignoring the market is code for corruption, poverty, hunger and killing people en masse. Even Vietnam, Cuba etc have worked that out and introduced market reforms that have made life better.

  10. Are Recessionberg, Conman, and Smocorona gonna get away with delaying stimulus payments until Q2, trying, as I understand it, still to avoid a ‘technical’ recession, and keep LNP ‘credentialed’ as great economic ‘managers’ with another declared “balanced” wonder budget to come in October? Maybe an opportunistic ‘wartime’ election to follow?

    What do they have left by Q3 and Q4?

  11. “Even Vietnam, Cuba etc have worked that out and introduced market reforms that have made life better.”

    Or maybe arbitrary stinking US sanctions were rolled back?

    Brazil’s far-right government requested the return of thousands of Cuban doctors to help fight the coronavirus. Months ago, President Jair Bolsonaro smeared the doctors as “terrorists” and expelled them

    …While countries around the world are seeking medical help from Cuba to contain the coronavirus, Washington’s allies in Latin America are failing to meet the basic needs of their populations.

    Amid the mounting COVID-19 pandemic, capitalist governments around the world have clearly prioritised corporate welfare over public health.

    Their dangerous prevarications in implementing emergency health and the withholding of information and practical advice to the public have led to panic buying and hoarding of essential supplies.

    Instead of reassuring the population, capitalist governments have incited more fear, insecurity, selfishness and racism, eroding the very social solidarity that is critical to getting through the crisis.

    See also
    Look after people not profit in the COVID-19 crisis
    Cuba found to be the most sustainably developed country in the world

    By contrast, Cuba’s socialist government has set an example of international solidarity in its response to the pandemic…

  12. Moz,

    Correction. We have outsourced most manufactures. Australia should make a lot more itself and it should protect its strategic industries. Allowing free trade to destroy our manufacturing capacity is short-sighted stupidity. We need more tariffs and protectionism. Selective protectionism works. The historical record shows this. Being self-sufficient in many products and manufactures works. There’s a bit of heavy stuff and hi-tech stuff we can’t make or can’t make efficiently. Much of the rest we should be able to make.

    When there is a crisis, like um now, it becomes clear that not being able to make a lot your own stuff is a serious economic and strategic weakness. We can’t get stuff we need from abroad and we can’t make it at home until we ramp up home production again. Let us hope we learn this valuable lesson permanently. Australia could and should be semi-autarkic.

    We should;

    (a) Keep all our coal in the ground.
    (b) Use all our natural gas ourselves for power rather than buying petrol and diesel.
    (c) Grow only enough cotton and hemp for our own fibre needs.
    (d) Continue growing food for home consumption and export but only as much export as is consistent with preserving our environment, for example Murray-Darlong flows.
    (e) Nationalize all natural monopoly industries,
    (f) Go in for mass surface transit manufacture. When we made or at least assembled our own electric trains or at least carriages in Australia (in Maryborough in some cases I believe) They were good and seriveable. When we bought them from India they were a pile of malfunctioning “sh*t”.

    We should progress towards at least semi-autarky. It will be the only way to have a good economy with good wages that employs everybody. International free trade destroys small countries and badly distrorts the economics of medium size countries. Excessive globalism and international trade is a bad thing, consuming far too much fossil fuel and wrecking the planet. It must be rolled back to save nations and the planet.

  13. Contra Ikon, I think there will be a new found appreciation of the free enterprise system and an increasing disgust of bureaucrats and politicians of virtually all stripes. There are so many cases of stupid rules and regulations that suddenly don’t seem so important in a crisis that people may start wondering why they are needed at all.

    As for journalists, I look at the ABC, BBC and Guardian today and there is nothing but endless doom. Yet, the number of new cases in Italy peaked TWO days ago. Physical distancing and attention to cleanliness works, but it takes a week or two to show in the figures. Perhaps even the brightest reporter will notice the new trend in Italy ( to be followed elsewhere soon enough ) and actually report it in a few days.

  14. Ikonoclast,

    Thanks. I broadly agree with you, but we kind of need to start with a discussion of what industries we need locally (microchip manufacture is tricky but doable, nuclear reactor construction not so much), and which ones count as natural monopolies. Having the NBN as a state-owned monopoly would be a good start 🙂

    But also remember that when we did a lot of that top marginal tax rates were much higher, and so were corporate rates.

  15. “Ignoring the market is code for corruption, poverty, hunger and killing people en masse. Even Vietnam, Cuba etc have worked that out and introduced market reforms that have made life better.”


    SDI rank & country (2015): 1 Cuba; 42 Vietnam; 160 Australia (of 163)…


  16. Disclaimer right up front. These are not my views but observations.

    I’m particularly interested in how Governments are responding to localised epidemics and I’d be interested in John’s views on this as well. The Italian government, by there own making, appear to be adopting a utilitarian approach to responding to the crisis, in terms of their prioritisation of intensive care and use of medical resources. Trump has also today said that America’s shut down will be short term noting that we tolerate enough deaths from normal flu and vehicle accidents and that he’s not prepared to accept the financial and economic hardship for the expected losses (again this would appear to be a utilitarian perspective).

    This would appear to highlight a fundamental problem with the utilitarian theories in regard to the political economy. Given the at risk groups, the infection rates from proper control procedures and expected mortality rates combined with actuarial estimates for the value of life the cost of do nothing for that group may be substantially less than the economic cost of a 6-12 month shut down.

    Most government responses would appear to take a more socialist moral view that to most of us the lives our parents and elderly are quite precious and the political cost of do nothing is too high. But in terms of US position what are the prospects that the elderly are not actually within Trump’s base and therefore he’ll take a more utilitarian approach and appeal to broader base that are going to be impacted by a substantial contraction of economic activity (noting the republican stimulus package appears aimed at protecting corporate and individual wealth).

  17. An Open Letter to the Russian Foreign Intellegence Service,
    Shit this distiburing. I know this look like I am only grandstanding. But because you have cut off contact with do to past events I really do not know of anyway to get an encrypted message to you.
    I was watching Better Call Saul today. Something occurred in the program that reminded me of something that happened a long time ago. In fact I can not even say exactly when except that it was the summer of either 1991, 92, 93, or 94. I know I never reported this before. What I do not know is if I did not report if because was before I started working for the FIS or if it because I thought that it had nothing to do with me.
    In thinking about this further it has made me realize that all of the work that I did might have been comprimised by an unexpected source. OK I am quite confident that before your attempts to recruit me you had taken a multitude of precautions to make sure not only that I was not an agent of the US government but that I was not under the survelience of the US government, especially the FBI.
    But something happened in the parking lot of a strip mall in New Carrolton Maryland during the early 1990s. While I was parked in the parking lot of this strip mall a police car came and the policeman proceeded to take cover behind a pillar in front of me and observe a bank at the other end of the strip mall. Some minutes latter a second police car and parked in front of the bank. I can not remember if the policeman got out of that car or not. The thing is I drew the conclusion that the policemen where there to observe the bank because they must have thought that the bank might be getting robbed. To the extent that they paid attention to me I was under the impression that the policeman was concerned that I might have been a get away driver or perhaps a look out.
    But in reconsidering this event I have to know ask myself if rather than the FBI it was the DEA that had interest in my activities at that time. Their suspicions would have been totally misplaced. But of course they could not have known that. That leads me to the worring possibility that my patriotic work opposing the goals of imperialism was not uncovered by the FBI but by the DEA. Your organization at the time no doubt knew a great deal about the FBI and would have uncovered it survelence of me if it had in fact existed. But how much did you know about the DEA? Was Arthur from Liberia actually a DEA agent?

  18. Aardvark,

    I will put my oar in. For each individual person, the item with the most utility by far is their own life. Without the utility of human life itself there can be no other utility to humans. That is worth emphasizing. Without life, there is no utility. Historically, we have seen mankind’s callous propensity to rate the utility of a stranger’s life at zero unless that person can be owned or manipulated as a slave, wage-slave, lackey or dupe. Trump is exemplifying this attitude right now by suggesting in effect that America should let people die and just get on with the economy.

    If Trump would say, “I am willing to die for America” and then went among and ministered to COVID-19 sufferers without protection, just as Napoleon reputedly went among the plague sufferers in Egypt, then we might attach some weight to Trump’s words. But we can be certain that he will remain as safe as possible in the White House and at Mar a Largo among the utility of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of property as survival and amenity infrastructures, necessities and luxuries plus the extensive security provided free by the state while he remains president. Differential wealth and power require differential sacrifices.

    There are three possible responses to an infectious and deadly novel disease outbreak. The first and by far the best is containment and eradication. This saves the most lives and the most economic activity and wealth. It is a win-win. This was achieved with MERS and SARS and it depends on the infectiousness and lethality of the pathogen and other factors. The second best outcome is control of the course of the epidemic. That means to ensure that infections requiring intensive car do not occur at a rate which overwhelms the medical system. Once the medical system is overrwhelmed, death rates being to soar. With a highly infectious disease with considerable lethality, this sort of “metered containment” is the next best option. Metered containment requires extensive lock-downs and reduction of economic activity to essential goods and services. This is costly but the economy can continue on an emergency footing. This is a somewhat grinding and chronic battle for the duration of the disease epidemic.

    The third possible “response”, sometimes foolishly chosen and sometimes forced upon a government and people by the sheer pressure of the disease, is the uncontrolled epidemic / pandemic. An epidemic is in one country or region. A pandemic goes around the world. The uncontrolled pandemic unleashes an uncontrolled and unpredictable economic and human death and illness toll. This is the riskiest strategy by far. It is somewhat unclear whether a state or people would be better off or worse off in the aggregate by following this strategy or rather lack of strategy but the balance of probability inclines strongly to worse off. A weak state would likely become a failed state. A polarized state would likely see serious civil unrest, riots and even civil war. Class war would intensify. Either the elites would strengthen their grip on power and exploit and oppress the people even more or the people would rise up and revolt. This latter case could be dangerous to the elites. The elites ever only make concessions to the masses when the masses demonstrate their true power and make the elites fearful. Civil wars, international wars, uncontrolled refugee movements and mass migrations would all intensify as a result of an uncontrolled pandemic. Deaths would soar.

    We now have an uncontrolled and lethal pandemic, happening or imminent, all over the globe except in China, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan; which appear to be the only countries in the world to have achieved a controlled or semi-controlled epidemic of metered containment. I can see this situation breaking several ways. The most likely seems to me that China, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan will maintain metered containment and thus perform differentially better than the rest of the world economically and in terms of national cohesion. Any one or more of these could still fall out of this group and into uncontrolled epidemic (again in the case of at least China and Taiwan).

    When a handful of countries are containing and the rest of the world is in uncontrolled pandemic, then this handful of countries must limit international visitors and international travelers for a long time. For China, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan this would not be such a difficult task. They are mature manufacturing countries not dependent on tourism and would save by their own travelers not going abroad. They would naturally be pulled together even more as a trading bloc. Food security might be a problem for them. This event could even pull South Korea and China into the Shanghai Cooperation organization except for the USA’s strenuous opposition to a change of such geostrategic importance.

    The rest of the world is quite likely to see a rash of failed states in Africa, the Middle East, South East Asia, Mesoamerica and South America. A part of Europe is likely to become ironically “the sick man of Europe”. That is to say some peripheral states, especially some Mediterranean European states could likely fail. Greece seems a prime candidate to become a failed state. If not the whole of Italy, then the south of Italy will likely become a failed region.

    The USA, even more than Russia, is in many ways “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma” at least to an outsider; even to an outsider who has visited. The USA is extraordinarily powerful and also has extraordinarily deep-seated problems and divisions. Will it pull together powerfully under this pressure or will it explode apart and disintegrate? Well, Napoleon (to mention him again) thought that the exploited serfs would not fight for the Czar when Russia was invaded by the Grand Armee. But the aristocrats and serfs did fight together as officers and men. They came together for Mother Russia and to revenge the burning of their Holy Capital, Moscow. When the chips are down, USA will become fortress USA if need be despite internal divisions and costs. The USA has food security and much more. It will use this as a weapon if it needs to. The USA had permitted much manufacturing to off-shore but it can and would rapidly reverse that as required. The USA is still the nation most able to function nearly autarkically (self-sufficiently) if necessary. It has enormous strategic reserves and in any case it cannot be cut off from the Middle East, Europe, Africa, South America and Australia.

    These things count. An actor like China will seek to use this epidemic to their geostrategic advantage. Any superpower would do this. It is what superpowers do. Let us not have any illusions about superpowers when their self-interest is at stake. The COVID-19 virus is now acting as a default weapon for China differentially damaging the West more (mostly due the West’s own stupidity) whether or not China originally intended it, which they probably did not. But COVID-19 has gone wild now and while the pandemic lasts it comes into geostrategic calculations. The pandemic will be used for differential advantage while it lasts.

    Everything from epidemic modelling to geostrategic calculations and economic futures is affected by this virus. It will change the world because the world is already at a tipping point due to limits to growth, resource depletion, financial fragility, climate change, mass species extinctions and biosphere systems destruction.

  19. Sermons by nature are most often rambling affairs, high on hopes but low on facts, full of entreaties for people to do better. Sometimes the audience leaves with a glow, a feeling of fullness and reinforcement of ideals well clung to. Other times (and it depends a lot on the skill of the preacher) they only cause doubt especially if the facts are so self obvious and the message repetitive, SOS doesn’t necessarily mean “Save Our Souls”.
    Matty from Marketing was told by by his late father that he should be a preacher. He didn’t and went into marketing and then politics. Sadly, for the people of Australia, he cannot turn off that engrained preacher role, denial of facts, smoke and mirrors, the fluttering gestures, the arrogance of associating only with the blessed. One day he will return to the revival tent and be rapturously received by the believers however currently he should hide and be replaced by bulletins from people like Norman Swann, Richard Dennis etc who deal in ordered facts.

  20. Also contra Ikon, I think China will be the biggest loser out of all this. The US will realise that sending much of their manufacturing to China was a huge mistake and quite a bit of it will – and is – returning home or moving elsewhere. Trump has been warning about this for years, if not decades.

    China is also getting before it gets rich and its one child policy has had enormous demographic implications for anyone paying attention.

    5 of the last 4 nasty disease outbreaks also came from China mainly due to their penchant for eating freshly killed exotic animals. The don’t call Covid 19 ‘Chinese Bat Soup Flu’ for nothing.

    Australia will be lucky to avoid serious problems due to our over dependence on China.

  21. Smocorona has so far and is now doing exactly what the oligarchs want as far as they and he can go and get away with it. A reset in their favour is under way, in the interim there may only be some temporary disruption to your services.

    Moments of shock are profoundly volatile. We either lose a whole lot of ground, get fleeced by elites and pay the price for decades – or we win progressive victories that seemed impossible just a few weeks earlier.

    – Naomi Klein


  22. Last night I tried to register a claim for the job seeker payment for a friend, on My Gov. I tried about 10 times between 11 pm and 6 am in the morning with no success as the system keeps crashing. Again, today, the system keeps crashing. I feel like marching on Canberra with a blazing torch and pitchfork.

  23. Hugo,

    Centrelink is under-staffed and under-funded badly for its work even in good times. In emergency times it must be horrendous to work there and to attempt to use its services. A crisis shoes how the public services should always be somewhat gold-plated, then they can deal with crises much better. The nation needs a Job Guarantee combined with a UBI. MMT / Functional Finance is right and has been right all along. The only constraint is real resources. Opportunity costs tells us that if we subsidize professional sports and stadiums (for example) then we can afford less hospitals, medical staff and medical equipment. If we spend money on and in pubs, we spend less money on and in schools.

    This event makes a lay down Misere case for UBI (Universal Basic Income). If everyone 18 and over had UBI then there would be no need for any applications, except when persons turn 18 of course. A UBI with a combined welfare-tax system works pretty much on automatic pilot so long as earnings are reported regularly. Lose your job and your tax-welfare net payment goes negative (becomes tax). Gain a job again and your tax-welfare payment goes positive (becomes a payment).

    Very simple. No work test just an earnings test and probably an assets test. No applications for the rest of your life unless you get dependent kids.

  24. The demands on Centrelink staff are unreasonable and the Centrelink policies are inhumane.

    I have been to a Centrelink office many times to try to have cancelled the mutual obligation requirements placed on a schizophrenic woman I know but Centrelink will not accept doctor’s medical certificates saying she is unfit for any activity because a Centrelink occupational therapist , more than a year ago, assessed her as fit for 15 hours work. That assessment was made only weeks after she was sacked from a part time waitressing job because she is completely spaced out and no longer able to think or organise herself properly!!! It really is depressing and dehumanising.

  25. I got the last sentence of my penultimate paragraph wrong. It should read:

    Lose your job and your tax payment goes negative and becomes a benefit. Gain a job again and your tax payment goes positive and becomes a tax.

  26. Hugo,
    a certificate from a GP won’t cut it for a disability support payment which is what it appears your friend should have. The required paperwork completed by an appropriate psychiatrist, and if additionally necessary her own outside OT, may trump that of a gov OT at once. And if not, reviews and appeals carried through to the AAT as necessary would. And apply to Centrelink to be granted a payment for maladministration to compensate for exacerbating her illness, stress, pain and suffering, loss of income from the proper payment classification, interest, &etc – there’s a sub-department and form for that too, the trade off being her continued silence on the matter after.

  27. Australia is in for an Italy-sized COVID-19 disaster (on a per capita basis). We can now say this with near certainty.

    A graph in the following ABC article shows that even 70% lock-down and physical distancing compliance is still not enough to stop an exponential disaster. We clearly have not got anywhere near this level of compliance in Australia, let alone Queensland.. I doubt we have even 10% lock-down, physical distancing compliance going on. The Queensland Premier clearly has no idea of what she is leading us into. The state government here still intend to run the local government elections! I actually feel sorry for the Premierand her advisors. In the long run they will go through enormous criticism for the disaster we are about to have. This event will traumatize a lot of people, politician and public alike.


    Australia is doomed to be a little Italy.

    I and the other occupants in my house will not be leaving our property at all for many months, I can see that. We have some stocks and we order grocery deliveries when we can. I will have to wash all deliveries (cans, bottles, fruit with skins) in food-safe detergent which gets rinsed of and then wash hands. Anything which cannot be treated in this way cannot be purchased so far as I am concerned.

    On the other side, we could remain some of the few who have never contracted it (if we are successful in isolation) and this will then engender its own problems. When it is safe for recovered people cleared of the virus to go out and about again, we would have to remain in isolation indefinitely. There would be residual infections going on in the community. I have no idea how to play out such an end-game. Do I wait for a vaccine which may never come? Do I at least wait for reports that the “local” ICU with ventilators has spare capacity, spare beds, and then roll the dice? It’s hard to tell but I would likely have a 1 in 20 to 1 in 100 chance of dying at that point as would my wife. All people who successfully isolate to defend themselves and others will face this dilemma eventually without a vaccine.

    First world problems as my daughter would say! I have to keep reminding myself I am actually relatively lucky.

  28. Thanks Svante.

    Unfortunately a claim for the disability pension will be knocked back if the applicant has not completed active treatment and the condition has not yet stabilised. My friend is currently trialling different medications with a psychiatrist. It could take years until she gets the optimum medication regimen and is therefore considered, by Centrelink, to have completed active medical treatment and to have stabilised. That is Centrelink policy and the AAT is quite strict about this. I know this to be the case because I’ve checked the AAT appeals on Austlii.

  29. Stability? If only.

    Hugo, it’s sad to say that the ‘trialling’ of medications for this ends in a halt of some years only for a relatively lucky few. For the rest the medications continue to be changed for complex reasons, for some relatively slowly, for some with alarming rapidity. Bloody shrinks, bloody big pharma, bloody LNP misgovernment, how long do they think a piece of string is? Admittedly, if it’s only been a year or so, it is early days yet. Perhaps your friend will be most fortunate to find something the smorgasbord offers that works acceptably. I fought centrelink through to a win for someone 9 years ago over what probably was a similar initial diagnosis. Unforgettable. It wasn’t that easy then. I’m sure it is harder now. But what else is there? In how many of those AAT case histories you’ve reviewed were the applicants unrepresented by a specialist legal practitioner? One thing for sure access to mental health advocacy has improved at least a little in several ways.

  30. The welfare laws (legislated by the federal govt) are absurd as we know. There is no need to put people with serious conditions through this nonsense. For the cost of all the compliance apparatus, society could probably house and treat them! It’s a strange world when supposedly sane and compassionate humans come up with welfare laws and administrative hoops like those. But then the political class and the elites are not compassionate and their ideology makes them entirely irrational. I’ve long believed they enjoy cruelty as much as they enjoy power, wealth and privilege.

  31. Ikonoclast – “Do I at least wait for reports that the “local” ICU with ventilators has spare capacity, spare beds, and then roll the dice?”

    That probably implies you must hunker down for some 6 months. Probably longer for a vaccine, but maybe less for a proven best available pharmaceutical treatment.

    Day by day improve your general health and fitness to improve your survival chances. Concerns around having clean health boosting food and general fitness may imply some vege gardening activities would suit you well. I’ve taken to jogging around the streets after dark, and to turning over too long dormant backyard sod bit by bit.

  32. Ha!
    An open letter to the F.I.S.
    I think that I got this figured out. There was another very unusual event that happened in that time period. Rembering times lines that far back is a bit tricky. But it seems that operation was comprimised only after it had already ended.
    But that brings me to that second event. I am really pissed off about that. The only thing is that I am not sure who do be pissed at. At first I was pissed at the FBI. And maybe I should be. But then I realized that you guys had as much to gain by screwing me over as the FBI did. Although I probably would have done the same thing had I been in your position.
    The conclusion that I have reached is that I have nothing nothing more than a hockey puck in a game of whack a mole between the US and Russian Hockey teams.
    I have no idea who is ahead. Maybe this report will help the score keepers keep tabs.

  33. OOPs I meant to say that I have BEEN nothing more than a hockey puck in a game of whack a mole.
    Whats more I also figured out that the guy Mohammad that I worked with in the late 1980s was a Cuban not an Egyptian like he claimed to be. He was able to get away with that because I was not familiar enough at that time with how it sounds when someone who grew up speaking Arabic learns English.
    I guess that was the second time I got fooled by thinking that someone was from one place when they were really from another. It is not his fault though. He had to be cautious considering what he was really up to.
    I wonder if he had to audition for that part or if he was selected by his supiriors. If he was selected how long did he have to wait in line. Did the line enforce social distancing so that the contestants could not discuss their ideas about the part that they were competing for?
    Someone really paid a high price as a result of what was going on and he did not deserve it. I of course always thought that it was just an accident until yesterday. His window deserves compensation.

  34. I have now tried to complete an online application for a friend’s job seeker allowance claim, due to a coronavirus related stand down from work, thru Centrelink using My Gov on about 30 occasions at all hours of the day and night. Still no success!!!!!!!!!!

  35. Centrelink is broken but the govt. won’t admit it. They can hide its brokenness normally when it is only hurting the standard number of unemployed and disabled. But when unemployment is radically increased as is it is now, the brokenness of Centrelink and the welfare system in general becomes commonly experienced by the wider community. These people will still be angry at the next election. Many will still be unemployed at the next election.

  36. Hugo,

    yesterday this misgovernment lie was broadcast:


    “But Mr Jongen said the agency was trying to adapt quickly.
    Only a matter of hours ago, we released a new intent to claim capability online,” he said.

    “You don’t need to queue, you don’t need to ring us, you can now lodge your intent to claim through MyGov.”

    Mr Jongen said many first-time Centrelink applicants would already have a MyGov account if they lodge their tax returns online or deal with Medicare.
    “If you have a MyGov account you simply log in and you will see a button that says ‘Have you been affected by coronavirus? Do you wish to claim a payment?'” he said.
    “You click on that and it will register your intent to claim with us, and we will then contact you to steer you through the process.”

    But no change, no such button exists upon log in to their misGov site today:

    “Claiming a Centrelink payment
    If you’re affected by coronavirus (COVID-19), you can register your intention to claim a Centrelink payment.
    To do this, you’ll need to link one of these services to myGov:
    •Australian Taxation Office
    Once you’ve linked one of these services, we’ll prompt you to register your intention to claim a payment.

    So the public have still to phone the misgovernment or attend in person in order to register their intent. … except yet again they can’t get through in either case … if connected the robophone tech leads the caller around and around in circles before dumping any calls … and in the still current misGov online case in order to register to get the centrelink online service linked from misGov people have first to attend centrelink in person, or phone to obtain the “linking code” necessary for linking the service to misGov. However it is the same robophone of pointless circling, or the cue of people lined up waiting to get into centrelink offices winds in circles around the block before ending after the doors are locked at closing time which circles around to people cueing and circling on the pavements again without a result the next day and the next and the next…

    I expect there’s a single Russian word for this SloMo misgovernment phenomenon.

  37. It’s so bad that I have begun to think that the impossibility of claiming is an intentional feature of the system. The government tells people to claim but makes it impossible to claim in practice. There appears to be an element of intentionallity in this in all this. I’ve know people trying to claim natural disaster assistance. Same thing. It’s supposed to be available according to government propaganda but when people make the attempt they find it impossible to get anything because the string of hoops is impossible to jump through.

  38. +100 Poselequestion “however currently he should hide and be replaced by bulletins from people like Norman Swann, Richard Dennis etc who deal in ordered facts.”

  39. Hugo… I have been involved with a disability pension app for a ptsd sufferer for over 4 yrs now.

    YES, “The demands on Centrelink staff are unreasonable and the Centrelink policies are inhumane.”. Zero trauma training or caveats, NO duty of care. Jaded machines.

    Not necessarily so… “pension will be knocked back if the applicant has not completed active treatment and the condition has not yet stabilised”. Very tricky to navigate this point yet possible. 

    MOST IMPORTANT – my person, realising rising anger frustration and suspension of decision faculties when in centrelink offices, got up and said “you are making me worse. I’d rather starve to death” and walked out 2yrs ago. And only then told..

    Centrelink has a secret “Personal Services” for cases such as yours. GET THEM ONTO PERSONAL SERVICES ASAP! I cannot stress how much time and stigma and trauma this saved both me as advocate, and sufferer, not in offices or phone queues. Still no less frustrating and orwellian.

    Personal Services – 1 number, 1 person always, 1 call answered within ONE MINUTE!

    Personal services won’t change centrelink. But a game changer.. 2 x dsp applications. One refused. One refused and awaiting review. 

    1st psych report 4yrs ago. Get another. Cut off for 6mths. 6mths to find another psych paid for by government. 14pg report. Still newstart. Psych said 2 to 4 dsp applications before granted! It took 2x psych reports and 3yrs before classified as “permanent”. (Thanks Jullia Gillard!)

    Centrelink “transfered to abuser in persons mind” as every 2 weeks they asked for “more proof” and threatened payments and disregarded doc certs! I rang president of ama. Do so. They take stats. Little action but needed imo.

    This has a 10yr history, financially destructive,  lost 2 x families along the way. 

    Not many can cope with a people who may be ranting abusive when triggered nor flip side – triggered by normal communication and actions and incapable of dealing with seemingly normal interactions. Fight flight and new to me – freeze – overwhelmed and incapable of decision making in the moment. Loosen normal parsing of communication. Give time.

    If this person did get a job they would lose it in a week and shed trauma and frustration.

    Key phrases to remember Hugo for future when centrelink says JobSearch! Or, “your condition is permanent and as newstart you must now attend job seeker bureau “…
    1) 3mths grace due to the word “exacerbated” on med cert.
    2) after grace period your will need to get doc go to put ” exacerbated by onerous centrelink processes” – hit em where it hurts.
    3) when deemed “permanent ” ONLY accept job agency with “disability qualified” NOT verto, apm maybe.

    * to keep job agency off back get soecific osychistrist letter to say “exacerbated by this process” (apm -$8,000 paid to them to deal with such cases – theresa rein sold biz to u.s. based medical fund who onsold 60% to Australian thee^$$’s – private equity – who boast “27%” return!)
    4) my case signed all docs with “I conscientiously object to” insert onerous clause”.
    5) capability to do tsunami of paperwork overwhelmed a previously hi qualified person who ran 20 person teams. Get a ndis provider ASAP as interface. Which will be difficult. Again, make sure they have qualifications to deal with specific diagnosis.
    5) when grace periods runs out + deemed permanent,  doc cert to say “temporary exacerbation of permanent condition” or else jobs jobs jobs ir health card card stopped. My case had 4 health cut off all in one year. Be careful of this.
    6) as doc certs ONLY ACCEPTED for 3 MTHS – even tho by law gps can issue 2yrs certs – every time a new cert – book another appointment – 3mth – 1wk – to allow med cert processing.

    Re psych medications. Be afraid. You are correct Hugo. 2 yrs maybe before medications and dosage chosen. Scary effects for many. Try if possible to get councelling via RC Child abuse, Victims Compensation or other institution. Councillor again to be specific to diagnosis. This person has 3 different diagnosis! Psychs are just humans. A councillor told this person “I give you a mental chair and whip. A psychiatrist will ask about your mother”. Diagnosis by Psychiatrist. Councelling by a very well qualified specific to diagnosis. Tricky. Big wait list. None in regional nsw.

    Ring Welfare Rights Network. 02 9221 5389. They have access to “insiders”. In this case the call from WRN uncovered…
    – hidden paperwork 
    – revived stalled process 

    WRN will only take on as a case if payments ceased yet will call and kick horse up arse and into gear. It will be worse now, so act as soon as payments or process threatening.

    This person was a consultant to asx200. 3 years of trauma. Zero income since first incident. 10 years to depletion of funds – owns own home luckily. 2 families broken. Torturous government processes. UBI would have saved money as government will spend any amount to fight a payment.

    Hugo, be careful of secondary and vicarious trauma.

    Hope this helps.

  40. The correct epidemiological response to cornoavirus in Australia was a complete lock-down at a very early date, perhaps as early as 1st of February with a complete quarantine of all infected cases and all Australians returning from overseas.

    Given the above did not happen, we face a very serious medical crisis and a severe economic downturn, perhaps a depression lasting a year or more. Businesses are going to collapse no matter what. The correct response is to let all non-viable and/or non-essential businesses collapse except where they are strategic and/or too big to fail. Prime examples of non-essential businesses are tourism, professional sport and retail of non-essentials.

    People owning non-essential businesses possess no intrinsic right, nor any social or economic necessity, for special assistance. They ought to possess the same rights as workers do when workers are made unemployed by a crisis. Such owners should go into the same situation as the unemployed if their business fails in this crisis. They should receive no business assistance. However, the situation of all unemployed should be improved. Essential businesses will tend to survive in this crisis and even in a depression. Supermarkets and pharmacies are examples and perhaps stores which sell utilitarian clothing and not fashion and luxury brands.

    This crisis gives us the opportunity to clear out from the economy non-essential businesses selling goods and services which are luxuries, indulgences and fripperies and which ultimately are a waste of scarce resources and contributors to climate change. Strategic businesses, natural monopolies and those too big to fail (even a leaned down QANTAS) should be assisted if necessary but nationalized in the process. Unemployment benefit needs to be replaced by a UBI and then backed by a Job Guarantee with the Federal Government as employer of last resort.

    The general principle for the economy should be that assistance to persons is the prime objective of economic and social policy. Corporations most assuredly must be stripped of person rights in law. To reiterate, non-essential businesses should never receive any assistance or subsidy of any kind. But former owners as persons should receive the same assistance as any one else. If non-essential businesses can survive in an economy which costs negative externalities adequately, then well and good for them, though destructive businesses like alcohol, tobacco and gambling require heavy regulation and sin taxes. Viable non-essential business are the only ones which should survive. If we prop up the neoliberal structures which gave us this crisis we build in further systemic crises.

    The neoliberal structures did give us this crisis; from industrial agriculture and habitat destruction unleashing zoonotic diseases to unrestricted growth in international travel, to the under-funding of medical research, hospitals, medical staff and medical supplies. If we save this structure we ensure more crises. We need a special kind of “creative destruction”, the destruction of neoliberal production and consumerist wastefulness themselves and of the industries associated with these. Then we need the creation of a democratic socialist system: still a mixed economy but with much a stronger emphasis on the social wage, nationalization for natural monopolies and strategic industries, regulations and statist directives to deal with climate change,and all the other existential threats we face including pandemics.

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