OUT OF THE OFFICE
Inside Story, October 20 20202
“I’m sitting in a building here that was built for 5000 people… and there are probably six in it today,” National Australia Bank CEO Ross McEwan told me recently during a parliamentary committee hearing. But there’s more: according to the bank’s surveys, four-fifths of staff members don’t want to return to regular working when the pandemic is over.
Despite promises of an economic “snapback,” it’s becoming increasingly clear that the world of work is likely to change significantly as a result of coronavirus. One of the likely shifts will be the rise of teleworking. If Covid-19 has taken us back a decade in terms of globalisation, it’s taken us forward a decade technologically. Large swathes of the workforce are working from home and the trend is likely to endure, with one US study projecting the share of working days spent at home to rise from 5 per cent to 20 per cent after the pandemic passes. Having fewer desks than employees may become the norm for white-collar firms.
One of the valuable changes will be a move away from open-plan offices, which were always more about corporate symbolism than productivity. We know from a bevy of studies that workers are more stressed, more dissatisfied and more resentful when they work in an open-plan setting. Compared with regular offices, employees in open offices experience higher levels of noise and more interruptions. They are less motivated, less creative and more likely to take sick leave.Read more
The government has delivered a budget that set its sights low, but still asks too much of Australians - Op Ed, The Canberra Times
THE GOVERNMENT HAS DELIVERED A BUDGET THAT SET ITS SIGHTS LOW, BUT STILL ASKS TOO MUCH OF AUSTRALIANS
The Canberra Times, October 10 2020
A trillion dollars is a lot of money – one with twelve zeros after it.
That’s where Australia’s debt will peak. To put it in perspective, when the Liberals launched their ‘debt truck’ scare campaign in 2009, they did so with the figure ‘$315 billion’ emblazoned on the side – one third of the level of projected peak debt under the Coalition today.
So what does Australia get from that spending?
The economy came into this crisis from a position of weakness. Last year, productivity went backwards, investment was in the doldrums, wage growth was among the slowest on record. We had problems in retail and a downturn in construction.Read more
FAIRNESS IS ANOTHER CASUALTY
The Herald Sun and Courier Mail, 15 September 2020
When coronavirus hit, the Australian Government followed other nations in implementing JobKeeper, the most expensive program in Australian history. It’s also the most effective. Labour economists estimate that JobKeeper saved 700,000 to 900,000 jobs.
To keep the connection between firms and workers, JobKeeper was paid to companies. Most firms did the right thing with the money. But not everyone. IDP Education and Star Casino used JobKeeper to pay executive bonuses. Harvey Norman and Crown Casino paid out massive dividends, benefiting billionaire shareholders.
It ain’t fair. JobKeeper was meant to save the jobs of battlers, not line the pockets of billionaires. If your firm is getting taxpayer assistance, the boss shouldn’t be getting a bonus, and shareholders shouldn’t be getting a stonking dividend.
Some rewarded the top and penalised the bottom.Read more
Charities dwarf mining and agriculture in our economy, but many face ruin - Op Ed, The Sydney Morning Herald
CHARITIES DWARF MINING AND AGRICULTURE IN OUR ECONOMY, BUT MANY FACE RUIN
The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 September 2020
The charity sector is 8 percent of the economy, 10 percent of the workforce, and mobilises 3 million volunteers. It dwarfs agriculture, mining or manufacturing.
Saturday is International Day of Charity, a day chosen because it marks the passing of Mother Teresa, whose life was dedicated to serving the poor and homeless. It’s a chance to honour Australia’s more than 50,000 charities – but also to recognise that many are doing it tough.
Yet while the supply of resources has plummeted, the demand for help has skyrocketed.Read more
Nobody likes running deficits, but right now creating jobs is priority number one - Op Ed, The Canberra Times
NOBODY LIKES RUNNING DEFICITS, BUT RIGHT NOW CREATING JOBS IS PRIORITY NUMBER ONE
The Canberra Times, 2 September 2020
‘The first duty of all Governments in the present period of stress is to relieve, as far as possible, the hardships and needs of persons who are willing to work but cannot find employment.’
The year was 1930, and the Canberra Times editorial reflected the anguish of the Great Depression. Around the world, unemployment spiked, and millions of lives were blighted by joblessness.
Nine decades on, the world is suffering the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Yet economic policymakers have a considerable advantage over their predecessors. It wasn’t until 1936 that John Maynard Keynes published The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, advising governments to spend in order to support demand. Keynesian economics did not become mainstream until decades later.Read more
WHY ARE THE CANBERRA LIBERALS SO EXTREME?
CityNews, 18 August 2020
When the marriage equality vote was held in 2017, the Prime Minister supported it. Every premier and chief minister backed it. Every opposition leader – federal, state or territory – voted for marriage equality.
Except one. In the ACT, Canberra Liberal leader Alistair Coe opposed marriage equality. Three out of four Canberrans voted yes to marriage equality, the highest share in Australia. Yet Canberra was the only place where a major party leader voted no.
Marriage equality isn’t just an isolated incident. On a broad swath of issues, the Canberra Liberals have shown themselves not just to be more conservative than the typical Canberran, but to be the most conservative Liberal branch in Australia.Read more
CARVING WITH THE GRAIN
Evatt Journal Vol. 19 - After the lockdown: Essays on a Post-COVID World – July 29, 2020
Carvers asked to make a bowl from a piece of timber don’t simply pull out their favourite blueprint, says philosopher Peter Singer. Instead, they examine the timber and adapt the design to suit the wood. Likewise, anyone looking to reshape society cannot simply begin with abstract ideas. Reformers must understand the values, aspirations and needs of the community if we are to make change that does not run against the grain.
Globally, COVID-19 has infected millions, and claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. The International Monetary Fund expects it to cause the sharpest drop in global GDP since the Great Depression. In Australia, unemployment spiked, with hospitality workers, arts employees, women and young people the hardest hit. The promised Morrison ‘snap back’ seems unlikely. Rather than a V-shaped recession, the best we can hope for at this stage is a recovery that looks like a Nike swoosh.Read more
THE UGLY TRUTH IS THAT THE NUMBERS MATTER — AND WE ARE NOT GETTING THEM RIGHT
Crikey, 22 July 2020
Numbers, said mathematician Paul Erdős, are beautiful. But when it comes to coronavirus, they’ve also been downright ugly. That’s true whether we’re talking about the rate of infection of the virus, or the size of the economic slump, which has literally required economists to redraw their graphs to accommodate the drop. Getting the right numbers to the right people at the right time is critical. Yet amidst the first recession in a generation, Australia is fighting blindfolded, because we’re not measuring and publishing the things that matter most.
Let’s start with JobKeeper. When it was first announced in March, the federal government anticipated that the wage subsidy program would cost $130 billion and support 6 million jobs. In May, they continued to say that the program was on track in terms of both cost and jobs. Then the $60 billion penny dropped. Suddenly the Treasurer admitted that the program would in fact cost just $70 billion and support only 3.5 million jobs.Read more
POLICY MAKING NEEDS TO CHANGE POST-COVID
The Canberra Times, 15 July 2020
If a policymaker doesn’t think differently after coronavirus, they’re probably not thinking at all. Would any conservative now dare to quote Ronald Reagan’s claim that ‘government is the problem’, or Margaret Thatcher’s suggestion that ‘there is no such thing as society’? Imagine the outcry if Scott Morrison was to present the budget proposals he supported in 2014, including a Medicare co-payment, reduced CSIRO funding, cutting pension indexation, and abolishing unemployment benefits for under-25s.
The same is true for progressives. After World War II, Labor didn’t yearn for a return to the 1930s. Instead, Curtin and Chifley made the case for full employment, and democratising home ownership.
What’s the equivalent today? In health care, we’ve seen the benefits of a universal system over that of the United States, which spends nearly twice as large a share of GDP on health, yet provides patchier care. Coming out of the crisis, there will be a strong demand for telehealth, particularly in regional Australia. Preventive health will become a greater priority. The vulnerability of nursing homes has given new urgency to calls for serious reform in the way we manage aged care.Read more
HOW FIRE HURT OUR FIRMS
The Canberra Times, 3 June 2020
When coronavirus hit, one thing many Canberra households didn’t have to rush out and buy were N95 masks.
That’s because we already had plenty in the cupboard from summer, when Canberra’s air quality was 22 times the hazardous rating. On some days in December and January, air quality in the bush capital was the worst in the world. People debated how many cigarettes you would have to smoke to do as much lung damage as just breathing our air. Was it half a pack, one pack or two?
The effect of the summer bushfires on Canberra was brutal. For weeks, outdoor activity was almost impossible. Restaurants, hotels, arts events, and the sporting sector were hit hard.Read more