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Delta 101: Mask up, lock up, jab up!

Peter Switzer
12 July 2021

It looks like shades of that old Little River Band song, “hang on, help is on its way…” with the PM and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg set to offer billions to offset the economic slug from this lockdown.

And it could easily draw the ire of Victorians if the NSW package is far more helpful than the ones received in the past down south. Ultimately, that will be an issue once the details of the assistance are thrashed out and announced, possibly as early as today.

This comes as the likelihood of an extended lockdown for Sydney for another week or more is on the cards, which explains why the Federal Government is moving to help the country’s biggest state, already under pressure from a disappointing vaccination rollout.

And the bad news doesn’t end there, with Deloitte Access Economics telling struggling CBD businesses that it will take years for trading as they knew it before the Coronavirus to return to normal.

While Brisbane and Perth CBDs will see their employment numbers back to pre-Covid-19 levels within two years, Sydney and Melbourne will have to wait four long years for business normalcy and Adelaide five years!

This isn’t the news that struggling CBD businesses need to hear, with (and I speculate) confidence levels for these operators already at all-time lows!

That said, this lockdown hit is more a slugging not a smashing for the national economy, which is expected to grow at 4.7% this year. That number will have to be peeled back by forecasters.

Rough calculations say the Sydney lockdown will cost the economy about $7 billion and possibly push the NSW economy into negative growth territory for the three months to September.

That’s the best guess of AMP Capital’s chief economist, Shane Oliver. Surprisingly, however, futures readings suggest our stock market will open up about 1% (or 72 points) this morning off the back of a positive lead out of Wall Street over the weekend.

The Yanks go into reporting season this week and spectacular results are predicted. So who knows the good news out of the States could soften the blow of the bad news out of the state of NSW!

Information about the rescue plan is sketchy. We should hear actual details of the rescue package ASAP but this is what we know:

  • The support package will be in the billions.
  • Every business in NSW will get help.
  • Households in trouble because of income problems will be given support.
  • Businesses that need financial assistance will have greater access to it.
  • Smaller businesses will see more money via an expansion of the NSW Government’s $1.4 billion grants programme announced  recently.
  • $10 million will be made available for mental health matters.

Has the Delta variant of this stubborn virus taught the politicians of NSW anything? Yes, definitely yes and here they are:

  1. First, everyone should be expected to wear masks outdoors unless running.
  2. Second, the tougher Victorian lockdown is needed in NSW for this Delta variant, which came with a 5 kilometre movement rule, 8pm curfew and non-food retail businesses shutdown.
  3. Third, more aggressive policing of those citizens who flaunt the rules.

As a spokesman in the media for business, I don’t want businesses to be shut down, but unless the Premier makes masks compulsory everywhere outside of our homes and cars, then non-essential shops will need to be closed.

And toy shops to rescue ‘stressed out’ parents trying to placate stir-crazy kids is not providing an essential service and neither is a building site! That’s why I have always advocated, ever since March 2020, that we need to impose tougher mask and social distancing rules.

Politicians avoided the harder rules but it’s now coming back to bite us. You can’t mask over these facts so I hope this ScoMo rescue plan comes with some tougher restrictions from Gladys.

Groucho Marx once said: “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”

And what we’re seeing today makes these words from comedian George Burns look very insightful: “Too bad that all the people who know how to run the country are busy driving taxicabs and cutting hair.” Note I didn’t say limo drivers!


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