Interesting times! While the past few weeks have recorded unprecedented selfishness, panic and fear by some Australians, the column has received - on the other perspective - many positive attitudes mainly urging patience, tolerance and a watch and care attitude for those in need of help, reassurance and support.
Those expressions by readers have come in numbers during the past eight weeks or so never before experienced in such numbers during my time in the media.
As one reader wrote, "hopefully our leaders, and future leaders, will take the opportunity to re-appraise what the future may look like; our sovereignty and dependence on China must be realigned, and a rejuvenated manufacturing sector put in place."
An interesting email arrived 10 days ago from one of my tertiary education contacts in the Hunter region: "It is remarkable how much the governments at state and federal levels are relying on medical science to guide policy and action with respect to the COVID-19 virus. They are, quite rightly, putting science at the forefront and taking advice from the medical experts and researchers. Why then do they operate so differently with respect to climate science? We have climate science deniers and sceptics in the governments along with some who fully accept the science. Perhaps it has something to do with the mining industry and particularly the coal lobby. I don't have an answer, just an observation and a question."
Digressing, the media and our parliamentary leaders are being roundly criticised, with good reason, for confusing messages - sometimes on an almost daily basis and particularly in regard to schools - but more importantly for taking too long and not being either fast or critical enough in savaging selfish hoarders of essential goods.
However, there was a standout opinion piece in Melbourne's independent newspaper, The Saturday Paper, by Richard Denniss, The Australian Institute's chief economist, advocating how our nation can avoid economic collapse in the wake of the virus: "One of the first casualties of COVID-19 in Australia is the neoliberal rhetoric about government spending being a 'cost' to the economy ... the fact is that of all the times for governments to spend big, now is as good as it will ever get."
As Denniss poignantly wrote - and it needs to be remembered when the virus is overcome: "For decades, Australian have been sold an imagined poverty. We have been told we need to 'rein in' government spending - that if we want to spend more on health or education, we will need to spend less on the aged pension and child care.
"The Coalition even has an arbitrary cap on the size of the public sector - 23.9 per cent of gross domestic product. Such bizarre targets, which have nothing to do with economic theory, have proved a powerful rhetorical tool. But the reality is that if we had a bigger public sector today, we would be better prepared to weather the health and economic crises triggered by the virus. Hopefully, by the time we come through this, we will have learnt that lesson once and for all because nobody thinks the market is best placed to tackle the virus."
(It) should be compulsory reading for every Coalition MP.
Denniss' article is spot on, and should be compulsory reading for every Coalition MP - past, present and future. Another reader, now retired and a successful small businessman, said: "There is a real opportunity for Australia after this virus is checked, but it requires leaders to be found who will inspires us and take charge of rejuvenated and restructured federal and state parliaments and a new centrist or middle party to emerge." As Denniss also said: "Just as the bushfires changed Australians' views on climate change and the importance of investing in emergency services, COVID-19 will change Australians' attitudes towards spending on the public health system and, almost inevitably, public spending in general."
One of the more bizarre episodes so far has been the suggestion by some sports bodies (especially the NRL) that massive government finance will be required to sustain and save them. Professional sports have been paying monstrous salaries to participants and administrators for too long while getting governments to build them stadiums - they might need to consider going back to the days of amateur competitions and players, at least, getting a real job.
In the meantime, as a letter writer Thomas Watson wrote in the DA on Tuesday: "It is vital for both the local economy and health outcomes that there is as much expenditure and consequent income generation as possible", while he ended on this fundamental note: "Above all, be kind and help each other."