Monday, 7 September 2020

Last Friday Scott Morrison pushed state and territory leaders to urgently ease border restrictions. He had mixed success.

This was Australian Prime Minster & Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison on his feet in the House of Representatives on Thursday, 3 September 2020:

“Australia was not meant to be closed. Australia was meant to be open. Australians want to see Australia become open, as the founding members of this place ensured it was from the outset, and Australia must become whole again. This is the way—that's what success looks like…...We need to ensure that we are clear with Australians that we will seek to make Australia whole again by Christmas this year” [Hansard, 3 September 2020, p.6]

The very next day he pushed state and territory leaders to urgently ease border restrictions. 

He had mixed success. West Australia refused to march to Morrison's drum, Tasmania said it would go its own way and the other states and territories agreed to consider coming to an agreement at some time in the coming months. None would consider opening their borders quickly. Nor have they yet agreed with Morrison's national definition of a COVID-19 "hot spot".

When it came to easing restrictions on cross-border travel for agricultural workers, Queensland, West Australia & Tasmania refused to participate in the model Morrison put forward, but agreed to observe how matters play out in the three other states to date which will have committed to participating in that scheme.

In response to the refusal to open borders quickly and refusal to agree to containment of affected populations within a state/territory based on area lockdowns instead of state/territory borders, Morrison informed the premiers and chief ministers that the National Cabinet would no longer be a consensus forum.

This is reportedly being interpreted by the states that he intends to change how the national cabinet operates. A case of 'I'm changing the rules so I don't get rolled' and giving himself permission to publicly attack those states or territories which disagree with him during national cabinet meetings.

Revising recent history, Morrison then told the world that there have been times during this pandemic he feared Australia would "break apart". Perhaps intending to raise fear levels in order to drive the national electorate towards agreement with whatever he has planned in the next few months.

Easing border restrictions is important to 'Scotty From Marketing' because he needs to brag about future increases in trade and consumption ahead of the October budget announcement in order to buttress his claim he has found a way out of the first recession in 29 years.

Because as it now stands the national figures below indicate October budget projections will likely be dismal.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product, Jun 2020, Contribution to GDP growth, seasonally adjusted:

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has suffered its worst fall on record, household consumption, private capital formation exports are down, along with a terms of trade increase best described as slight.

While general government consumption is not looking that healthy either and appears an inadequate response in the current situation and, workers share of the national income is at a 61 year low.

The June Quarter 2020 GDP breakdown is:

Graph: ABC News, Stephen Letts

Interestingly, from March 2020 to June 2020 the states and territories showing the smallest falls in seasonally adjusted state final demand (combined consumption expenditure, public & private gross fixed capital formation) were those with the strongest border restrictions.

In other words, community confidence appears relatively higher in those populations behind strong borders.

For some reason Morrison appears to believe that if he bullies state premiers and territory chief ministers into opening borders before community transmission is contained, that any ensuing drawn-out increase in the national number of COVID-19 infections and deaths won't hold the Australian economy back.

He can't make it any clearer that he is willing to sacrifice lives in the mistaken belief that this will improve his own government's 2020 budget projections.

Even though government economic experts in Treasury and the Reserve Bank have on more than one occasion pointed out that stronger economic recovery is possible if faster progress in controlling the virus is achieved in the near term

It is only after faster progress is made in suppressing or eliminating the virus that a faster unwinding of activity restrictions and greater confidence will potentially lead to a faster recovery in consumption, investment and employment. 

A proposition that Morrison seems to find politically unpalatable - he prefers to  trample over the bodies of the coronavirus dead in his pursuit of another term as prime minister.


The verbal attack on Labor states begins on 5 & 6 September 2020 with the Initial Commonwealth response to Victorian Roadmap media release

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