Australia may well be the Lucky Country when compared to the COVID-19 consequences flowing into economic and social realities around the globe.
But, even in this country, despite the encouraging assessments coming from politicians, academics and commentators about our prospects, the pack of cards reflecting the way things were just a few short months ago has been tossed in the air.
How the cards fall and are regathered remains to be seen in the light of the wholesale disruption to life in the nation since the emergency measures to protect the population from the virus were first introduced.
We have lost much in the space of a few months – in terms of economic well-being and certainty in regard to things such as health, work, cultural and recreational choices.
For the most part, all Australians have ‘done their bit’ to ensure that the war against an invisible but potentially deadly enemy can be won.
The co-operative and single-minded effort to achieve victory has seen politicians claim to put ideology to one side and work together for the common good.
Although that particular ideal may be fading – our individual states are tending to act more like independent nation states in Europe in terms of how and when restrictions should be lifted – there may be enough goodwill available to allow union leaders, business groups, financial houses and other interest groups to cobble together new commonsense arrangements in industrial relations, education and skills development, adequate funding measures and better social equity outcomes.
Such outcomes are more or less essential if Australia is to generate the productivity and purpose which will be required over the next few years to restore the prosperity on which our future well-being depends.
A government’s ability to fund national objectives will always lie mostly in generating funds from a successful economy rather than borrowing.
It is apparent that too many things have undergone a sea-change to expect that a 2019 set of conditions will be restored.
Indeed, it could be argued that many aspects of Australia life Before Covid were untenable.
The housing mess is just one instance. The rise of unreal real estate valuations in our major cities, extra-ordinary rental costs in the cities, the inability of the nation to meet a new homes construction requirement, and the question of affordability for singles and young families is one legacy we have to face. One in 25 privately occupied dwellings in Australia is classed as social housing.
New jobs, backed by educational and training adequacy, will be essential to provide young Australians with the wherewithal to enter the housing market.
But, even where housing is found for young families there remains a blight which is to Australia’s shame and this is the extraordinary rate of domestic violence in this country.
In 2016 this was found to be the biggest cause of homelessness in Australia. The whole spectrum of social welfare issues: family breakdown, mental illness, sexual assault, addiction, financial difficulty, gambling or social isolation require purposeful attention.
Employment satisfaction, a culture in which aspiration and learning is encouraged and wider community engagement may seem like pipedreams but there is no doubt that happy, secure and loving home lives may be just as important as a warm agreement between unions and employers on income certainty in any national goal of greater productivity.
Let us all hope that when the cards finally fall, they fall to give us a winning hand.To order photos from this page click here