Since I last wrote the world has been ravaged by the scourge of Covid 19. Australia has fared better than the rest of the world, thanks to the foresight of our Prime Minister, who quickly closed our international borders even before the W.H.O. declared the virus a pandemic. Our borders, too, are fortunately surrounded by sea, and easier to close than those of European and Asian nations.
Covid 19 has at least forced some beneficial changes in the workforce. Work hours have been of necessity made more flexible, if largely by the method of working from home. The Unions have agitated for more stability of the workforce with the abolition of casual labour. Unemployment benefits have increased, if temporarily. They should be permanently increased, and allowance made for retraining in work which is more in demand, for those who struggle to find re-employment in their original area of expertise. There should also be support for relocation where necessary in finding work.
Government, and the unemployed, should think outside the square and consider employment in fields other than that in which a person was first employed. We need to cease being a nation of coffee drinkers and low-paid baristas, of gourmands and low-paid hospitality workers, of wasteful spenders and low-paid retail workers. We need many more workers in the service industries, and government should discourage sitting on “job-keeper” and push workers into training for such jobs. The pay for these careers could be increased to create incentive.
The service industries are female dominated, and this is an opportunity for women to agitate for higher wages for nurses, teachers, domestics – all essential services which are underpaid in comparison to the less essential financial industries. We could do with more men in the services industries as well.
The shrinking of the retail sector would reduce the waste that pollutes the planet. The widened gap between rich and poor should narrow with the raising of pay in essential work. Even while the existence of coffee shops, restaurants and retail outlets decreases their demand will increase, and thus should increase the wages of those still working in those industries.
It is a shame that so many aircraft and the skills of pilots are now seemingly useless, but airline pilots could potentially train as Air Force pilots, and many aircraft adapted for government use as transport or even fire fighting.
Tourism from overseas will probably never return to its former profitability as individuals in other nations grapple with financial losses, but at least Australians are learning to appreciate their own country and take pride in it rather than suffering colonial cringe. If we could eventually introduce national fast trains it would improve the local tourism industry and while building them, greatly increase employment.
Technological industries will continue to expand and our universities should cater to these industries rather than to the low-aspiring children of the nouveau riche who take Mickey Mouse courses for the sake of “getting a degree” or even a wealthy partner or for the sheer snob value of going to university. If we weed these out, Australia’s form of “class”, or the gap between rich and poor, may diminish further. Universities should be cleared for essential knowledge, and for higher learning.
Defence is a key area where we need much higher employment. Even those who do not intend to make the Forces a life-time career can obtain skills during a stint in the Armed Services which will serve them for life.
In some ways the pandemic has benefitted Australia, despite some regrettable loss of life and inconvenience.
Having witnessed the calamity of State governments vying for power during the pandemic, I doubt the wisdom of State Government as an asset to Federation. It might be better, especially in the event of emergencies such as bushfires, floods, pandemics, and even foreign invasion, if we centralised major government departments and developed regions to deal with local issues. Federal Government could provide the revenue for local government from income tax, leaving regions free of the administrative burden of levying rates.
This would save the expense and red tape of one superfluous tier of government and its accompanying public servants. The only thing of importance we would probably miss in such a scenario is State of Origin matches. However, they could be replaced with another significant sporting ritual.
To achieve the abolition of state governments we would have to change the Constitution, and that would probably require a majority of Independents in Federal Parliament to raise the issue. It may not happen in my lifetime, but I consider it the surest way for Australia to survive as a free and prosperous nation into the distant future.
Migration has ceased during the pandemic. Once we have the disease under satisfactory control, most likely by way of vaccination, Australia needs to commence the immigration of people fleeing the pandemic in other nations.
The aircraft presently sitting idle on tarmacs could be used to ferry fugitives to the safety of our shores. The Army could construct temporary barracks to house the fugitives while they quarantine, and longer if need be.
The Federal Government could even institute a policy whereby aspiring migrants could be schooled in the basics of our Constitution and become Australian citizens before arriving. We need a population which believes in freedom and democracy.
Such a project would open up the regions, giving our indigenous population the employment, housing, hospitals, schools, roads and retail they need but of which they are presently deprived by a myopic and metropolitan federal government.
All this requires speedy and determined planning rather than the wishful thinking of both major Parties of today’s government, which seem to be aiming to “get us back on track to normal” instead of visualising a new and better normal.