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EDITORIAL

When trust and truth matter more than ever

The current Covid-19 pandemic constitutes a global crisis because of the twin impacts of the virus on the international population and economic health.
The rapidly worsening situation for national wellbeing in many scores of countries represents an on-going crisis for which no end point is yet in sight.
The return to global normality will only occur when the virus has lost its potency in affected populations.
Expert guesses as to when this may begin suggest that a gradual return to normal community life may be months away. Economic recovery may take longer.
The effects of the Covid-19 scourge are continuing to come home to roost in Australia.
In our towns and districts we have become acutely aware of what the crisis means for our usual way of life.
The social and economic problems arising are not of our making but they are what they are and we must deal with them.
One thing we expect, however, is that we are all kept in the loop about the scale of the dangers to ourselves and our families, the consequences for our jobs and livelihoods, the on-going well-being of everyone – young and old, and a clear understanding of how, what and why our governments are responding.
Small businesses of all types are affected by the range of decisions made by government and health authorities to limit and eventually expunge the menace of Covid-19.
Newspaper businesses such as The Courier, are among those adversely affected but in the spirit of traditional newspaper publications we remain determined to maintain the long-established role of the Fourth Estate to perform the societal tasks its readership allows; to report, chronicle, comment, act as a forum, and warn and advise the readership we serve.
The only mandate we have comes from the community.
But any mandate, unwritten or otherwise comes with responsibilities and obligations.
We believe we have honoured such a commitment over the past 100 years.
Some of our readers have already been in contact with us over concerns about the tidal waves of misinformation, misdirection and false claims that have flowed since the onset of the current situation – including social media sites.
Certainly, the pace of events stemming from the crisis has resulted in the transmission of incorrect information.
Not all the wrong information is issued with deception in mind.
The ‘fake news’ and misinformation problem in the United States, may be much greater than in this country and the trend has attracted an on-going academic study in that country.
One early conclusion is that ‘Headlines Matter’ – because on social media that is the only thing many people see. A secondary finding is that when such errors are corrected people tend to still favour the original false statement. The problem of false material is compounded when people share the misleading or wrong statements on-line.
The Courier’s editorial staff are trained journalists, hard-pressed because of the Covid-19 isolation and other requirements, but we seek to ensure that the information which we publish is checked and accurate up to the time of publication.
We know that the news and information we supply to our readers constitutes an essential service in this time of great distress and uncertainty.
Our local community has the ‘right to know’ in a crisis as all-embracing as this.
For example, we are now to have more information on the number of Covid -19 cases in local government areas – this information was not available until today.
The Courier has been advocating for that information and Member for New England Adam Marshall to his great credit has taken the lead and won a change to what seems to have been a bureaurcratic misstep. We thank readers for their support and feedback and look forward to continuing our century-old role of providing a vital service to our community.

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Your Say

Crisis presents opportunity for change says reader

In times of crisis, the cracks in our economic model are all too evident.
Our essential services are crumbling under the weight of a system built on efficiency, growth, and profit at the expense of working people’s lives.
Services like health, transport, and telecommunications which were once the jewel in the crown of state owned enterprise, generating revenue and delivering quality services to every Australian, have since been sold off to the highest bidder and hacked to pieces under the guise of productivity.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the egregious inability of the private sector to deliver life’s necessities in times of need.
Our economy has an open wound that is now festering.
Just this week we have seen the sacking of more than 600 nurses across NSW private hospitals as elective surgeries dry up and they fail to balance the tills.
To lay off health professionals during a health crisis must be the epitome of stupidity.
The sheer lack of resources available to those same nurses has also become evident.
The numbers of hospital beds has dropped from 7.8 beds per 1000 people in 1980 to 3.8 beds in 2016 according to OECD figures, not even remotely keeping up with our growing population.
Ventilators for patients and PPE for front line staff are also in short supply.
Why? Because there is no profit to be made in surplus stock, and empty beds don’t pay dividends.
Our self-sufficiency as a nation has been eroded by free, not fair, trade agreements, which have seen to the demise of our manufacturing industry, leaving us ill-equipped to deal with crisis.
Our two national airlines Qantas and Virgin are on their knees. Previously government owned, Qantas now seeks billions of dollars from the federal government to keep them afloat after sacking almost 20,000 workers and asking employees to sacrifice accrued and future leave.
Meanwhile shareholders are due for a $201 million dividend payment this year but I doubt they will be asked to forgo this hard-earned cash.
In a marketplace where airlines seek competitive advantage over shareholders not customers, it is evident where priorities lie.
For decades this country has balked at progressive social policy reform.
Blindly driven by budget surplus, reduced government intervention and de-regulation of the market. Cutting funding to the public sector whilst simultaneously writing blank cheques for the corporate sector which prioritises shareholder dividends and CEO bonuses over employee wages and customer service.
We despise the mythical ‘dole bludger’ for their burden on the economy and in the same breath spruik corporate welfare in the form of tax cuts and bailouts for companies whose productivity and profit margins go through the roof.
All the while workers’ wages stagnate and household debt and cost of living increases.
Perhaps this crisis presents an opportunity.
For a workforce empowered and protected by strong union representation and industrial action.
For an economic model with a strong focus on the funding and delivery of essential services by those with a stake in the game.
Health is a human right, not a speculative commodity.
Transport is critical to the stability of our economy.
These services belong in the hands of the Australian shareholder, otherwise known as the taxpayer.
Re-nationalise these industries and we might have half a chance at surviving the next hurdle.
Darcy Ginty, Narrabri

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