Now isn’t the moment for utopias

The COVID-19 pandemic is a wet market for central planners. But road maps for exiting the crisis are meaningless when there are no perfect or final answers.

This article originally appeared in the Australian Financial Review on 15 April 2020

Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman famously said, “I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.” As the coronavirus response becomes routine, citizens used to regarding themselves as free are restlessly questioning the length, extent, and logic of their confinement. These are good questions and should be asked. Governments are also asking themselves the same questions and their decisions are neither perfect nor final. Continue reading

Lockdowns will kill people too

There is a tipping point at which suicide, alcoholism, and domestic violence becomes too high a price in an all-out fight against COVID-19.

This article first appeared in the Australian Financial Review on 1 April 2020.

When Greta Thunburg told us “I want you to panic”, she wouldn’t have imagined that on the anniversary of her Davos appearance a deadly new virus would be leaking out from China that would grant her wish.

The world has panicked. Country after country has locked itself down. Economies are sliding into recessionThe governments of democratic countries have assumed draconian powers to tackle the emergency. Wherever COVID-19 has travelled, Chinese Communist Party-style social control has followed close after. We are doubly infected. Continue reading

A truth serum for globalisation

COVID-19 is a heartlessly protectionist infection that is revealing weaknesses in Australia’s economy that need addressing

This article originally appeared in the Australian Financial Review on 18 March 2020

The world is awash with money as governments everywhere fire up the printing presses. How well it is targeted will determine whether the aftermath is a debt hangover or an economy with stronger foundations.

According to the latest Roy Morgan figures, more than 60 per cent of all Australian businesses are feeling the effects of the COVID-19 downturn. Some industries, especially tourism and travel, are catastrophically hit. Others are feeling the flow-on effects of reduced demand for their services by the most affected sectors. Eventually almost all businesses will be forced to confront the challenges of the downturn. Redundancies are inevitable. Continue reading

Panic tests the trust of nations

In infected countries the spread of the virus is driving a wedge between citizens, governments, and the rest of the world.

This article originally appears in the Australian Financial Review on 4 March 2020

For the Australian citizens in Wuhan, it came down to trust. Those citizens who took up the offer to be evacuated to quarantine in the Christmas Island refugee processing centre trusted the Australian government over the Chinese government.

As the novel coronavirus spreads across the globe, trust between citizens and government, between neighbours, and between neighbouring nations is being tested.

The virus is revealing and exacerbating existing national and international tensions. The Schengen dream of a borderless Europe has been under strain over the past few years; Brexit was only the most visible revolt against its supranational vision. Now the borders of Europe are creeping back into place, this time in the name of public health. Continue reading