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Bounce Back for Morrison in Newspoll

Scott Morrison has done a whole lot better than Donald Trump when it comes to public approval of his response to the coronavirus crisis. In the latest Newspoll his rating as preferred Prime Minister is 42 to Anthony Albanese’s 38 although he still bears the scars of the bushfires, with 41% of voters satisfied with his performance as Prime Minister as opposed to 53% who are disappointed.

Interestingly the public is happy with the Government’s actions on the coronavirus: 65% of them think that the Government is doing a good job in informing Australians how to protect themselves and 75% of them like the stimulus package. This is at odds with the assertions by media commentators that the public is confused by the information they are getting from the government medical experts and that the public is unlikely to respond to the stimulus package.

The latest Newspoll shows that the public wants certainty in a time of crisis and the Prime Minister is providing that certainty in relation to the disease. This is in contrast to the bushfires where there were more people who were under immediate threat and the risk was undoubtedly more extreme. At the moment there are still widespread concerns with the Government’s response to the bushfires and many affected people are still wondering when the recovery will happen. David Littleproud is doing his best to accelerate the process and to get more money into the hands of those who suffered.

But the bushfire issue is still weighed down by politics. At the moment there is a chance that Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, may decline to provide letters patent for the bushfire royal commission. This will mean that the commissioners will be unable to explore the Victorian Governments actions in response to the East Gippsland and border fires and make effective recommendations about federal state relations.

This gives the impression that Mr. Andrews may be trying to wedge Scott Morrison by leaving him to take the blame for the bushfire response when it is the states that have the legal authority to mount emergency action.

The truth is that the economic impacts of the coronavirus are likely to overwhelm any concerns about bushfire recovery. At the moment the policy approach is to enforce major shutdowns of the economy in order to flatten the rate of infection. This will allow the health system to cope with the number of acute cases that require hospitalization.

However as things like the tourism and hospitality industries shut down because their customers are practicing ‘social isolation’, workers will be laid off. Added to this will be the people who cannot work because they have had contact with the disease. This will lead to declines in the retail industry. This in turn will reduce demand for other goods and services.

Treasury estimated that this would knock 1.5% off the GDP for the March quarter and the Government produced a stimulus package to boost the economy by this much. On Monday there were rumours that the numbers coming in showed that the economy would need an additional stimulus and that this was under consideration by the Government.

There are indications that airlines will collapse without government assistance and the tourism industry, which was counting on domestic tourism to offset the fall in foreign visitors is in deep trouble.

The size of the second stimulus is unknown but the speed of the Morrison Government’s responses will be reassuring.

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