Instead of going back to normal, we can build a better normal. Right now, we have a chance to map our way out of the jobs and economic crisis and into a fairer, more sustainable future.
By Adam Bandt
The spread of the global COVID-19 pandemic has turned our lives upside down and driven us into an economic crisis.
Thankfully, our governments have largely listened to the scientists and medical experts and so far we have avoided a health disaster like that in the US, the UK and many other countries.
But our economy has been shattered. For many people, things haven’t been easy for a long time, but the inequality crisis, fuelled by the neoliberal policies of the Liberal and Labor parties, has been supercharged by the current health crisis and its disastrous economic consequences. And while we’re rightly focused on responding to COVID-19, the climate crisis that drove the devastating bushfires early this year has not gone away.
What we do next matters
Right now, we have a chance to map our way out of the jobs and economic crisis and into a fairer, more sustainable future.
We are facing the worst youth un- and under-employment in our history. Unless we put a recovery plan in place that addresses the challenges confronting young people now, the effects will linger for a decade and disadvantage this generation of young people for a lifetime.
Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, the government had convinced many people that any increase in funding for public services was impossible or unaffordable and that only the market could deliver. But now everything has changed.
Governments around the world have taken dramatic and very necessary action to respond to the COVID-19 threat, not only by focusing on saving lives and bolstering public health systems, but also by unlocking funding and directing money to where it matters – as services for the public, directly to households and people.
The big corporations and government are desperate to go back to business as usual, but cuts and attacks on public services will just leave us more exposed to the next looming crisis and place an even bigger burden on future generations. And the ‘snap back’ advocates miss a fundamental point: the things we’ll need to do in the future to stay on top of the virus may make big parts of our pre-virus economy untenable. We can’t cut our way out of this crisis: we have to invest for the future.
A better normal
Instead of going ‘back’ to normal, we can build a better normal. If we can remake our society to protect us from a virus, we can remake it to look after people and our environment. We need to tackle this economic crisis as well as the jobs, inequality and climate crises so we can set everyone up to live a good life. A plan to do this isn’t just possible, it is necessary.
Before the COVID-19 crisis, we were staring down the interrelated threats of climate and environment breakdown, supercharged economic inequality and chronic job insecurity. These crises were being left unaddressed by a government that prioritised tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy instead of investing in its people and community.
What this pandemic and the response to the economic crisis has shown is that the government is able to respond to any big problems we face, so long as they choose to put people before the private profit of their donors, so long as they listen to scientists and experts and we mobilise the resources of society for the common good.
The history of recessions teaches us three main lessons. First, recovery from massive unemployment takes a long time, particularly for young people who were about to start their careers. Secondly, the longer the downturn continues and the deeper it gets, the harder it is for people to rebuild their lives. Thirdly, investment can speed the recovery.
That is why the Australian Greens are putting forward our Invest to Recover plan. Without a plan, those already suffering financial vulnerability will be hardest hit by the economic shocks of this pandemic. If we don’t learn from history, some people will have their careers and dreams derailed for years, while others will never be able to find a job again.
Looking after everyone while we keep fighting COVID-19
From the beginning of the crisis, the Greens have pushed for a strong public health response based on expert medical advice and for government assistance to ensure no one is left behind. Our plan for the ongoing health response to fight the virus includes:
- Boosting our public health system by redirecting the subsidies currently given to private health insurance corporations.
- Ensure all Australians have free access to any possible COVID-19 vaccine or therapeutic treatments and that vaccines can be made locally by investing $70 million in CSIRO’s vaccine production capacity and establishing a publicly-backed Australian production capacity.
- Legislate so all casual, contract and temporary visa holders have access to JobKeeper.
- Ensure people on the Disability Support Pension, Carers payment and other payments receive the coronavirus supplement.
Recover by investing
We must take this opportunity to invest in actions that will tackle the climate emergency and the inequality crisis while rebooting the economy and creating jobs.
This crisis will change the way our society operates. We must be willing to discuss big ideas, like universal housing, jobs and income guarantees, universal free health care, education and training and powering our own and our trading partners’ economies completely on clean energy.
The Greens will invest to recover by:
- Guaranteeing everyone under 30 either a free place at uni or TAFE, an apprenticeship or traineeship, or a secure job working on nation building, planet saving projects that will build our nation, restore our environment, and help care for Australians through our Next Gen Guarantee
- Implementing a jobs-rich manufacturing revival by investing $12 billion to establish the Manufacturing Australia Fund to modernise and expand Australian manufacturing, including green steel hubs in Queensland and NSW as well as the advanced manufacturing processes of the future
- Saving Australia’s hard-hit arts, entertainment and creative industry with a Create Australia recovery package, including: a $300 million Creating Australia’s Future program putting an Artist-in-Residence in every school and library across the country; a One Billion Stories Fund – a $1 billion Australian content fund aimed at kickstarting Australia’s screen industry; and a $1 billion Australia Live Fund to inject money into Australia’s festival, music and live performance sector
- Building 500,000 public and community homes
- Getting Australia running on 100% renewable energy with $59 billion investment in sustainable infrastructure
- Establishing a $6.7 billion Nature Fund to clean up our natural environment and create 13,000 jobs.
Our plan will create 870,000 jobs in the public and private sectors, putting Australia on the path to economic recovery.
All this is just the beginning.
We either risk losing a generation to economic devastation and the climate crisis, or we recover by investing in our future and leaving no one behind. Together, we can build a better future for all of us through a Green New Deal.
Hero image: Australian Greens©