Friday, May 22, 2020

Plague Update #25

My period in isolation is drawing to a close.  Well, no that's not strictly true.  A more accurate statement would be "the period when the government was enforcing my isolation is coming to a close".  Not before time either it must be said.  I have to admit being stuck at home was having a disturbing impact on me.  The effect can principally be measured by housekeeping.  I've been doing some.  Sections of my home that haven't seen a scourer or detergent in years (most of it to be honest) have staggered under the impact of my attempts to find something to do with my spare time.  In the process I have made so many spiders homeless that I'm appearing before the International Criminal Court next month on a charge of ethnic cleansing.  I'm hoping to get off with a warning.

Meanwhile my home state is steaming ahead with the reduction of restrictions to the point whereby we are now able to get out and about at the cost of significant inconvenience.  Cafes which had been cheerfully selling takeaway coffee to passers by are now struggling with how to fit people who want to sit down and eat within the social distancing guidelines.  Given the size of most cafes I can't help thinking that permitting about three people to eat the occasional meal isn't going to be as much of an economic fillip as our political leaders think.

Speaking of economic fillips our Federal government discovered sixty billion dollars behind the couch cushions yesterday.  It turns out that there was a slight error in calculating the amount of money that was to be disbursed in the scheme designed to pay employers to keep their employees on.  It was thought to cost a hundred and thirty billion dollars and it turns out the amount is closer to seventy.  There had apparently been some mistakes in the way certain businesses had filled in the application forms which had led the tireless experts in charge of managing the nations finances to make a slight accounting error.

You might think that this is unalloyed good news which ever way you look at it. If you're the opposition and various activist groups there's sixty billion more to spend on various extra initiatives and helping those who fell through the cracks of the original relief programmes.  If you're the government desperately trying to put a good face on this cockup it means sixty billion less that they have to borrow to do what they said they were going to do anyway.

 The problem arises because certain assumptions and projections were made on the basis of the original figures which have been guiding the government ever since.  Most government projections are wrong since they essentially attempt to predict the future by looking at the present (or more accurately, the recent past) and making assumptions.  Nevertheless to minimise the amount of error it is necessary that the information the government is working with be reasonably accurate.  A sixty billion dollar error reduces the predictions from educated guesswork to simply throwing a dart blindfolded and hoping for the best.  It will be interesting to see if this actually results in worse outcomes than when the government does know what its doing.

Here's the thing about governments; they're big, creaking, slow moving and not particularly accurate.  That isn't meant to be a criticism, when you get anything that is required to act for the benefit of millions of people scattered across hundreds of thousands of square kilometres it can hardly be anything else.  The greatest good for the greatest number is literally the best that they can usually do.  When you need them to be fast and specific mistakes tend to get made.  Governments are at their best dealing with broad trends, you don't use them to target specific problems for the same reason you don't use a shotgun to perform surgery.

Of course its all terribly embarrassing for the Federal government and they have responded by claiming that its not embarrassing at all.  The opposition have been laughing hysterically while avoiding questions like "Could you have done any better?"  The answer to which, incidentally, is almost certainly "No!"

Such of the government's attention as isn't currently occupied attempting to explain away this slight reporting glitch seems to be focussed on pestering the Queensland state government to open its borders.  The WA, SA and Tasmanian governments have also refused to open their borders but so far they haven't been the target of federal ire.  I honestly didn't realise so many people wanted to go to Queensland but apparently our premier is getting quite upset at the refusal to let southerners in.  The Queensland government's position is quite plain.  People from NSW and Victoria are disease ridden pest bags and will be permitted to cross the border over the premier's dead body.  They may have put it more diplomatically than that but not much.  So a holiday to Queensland isn't on the cards any time soon.  Or Tasmania, Western Australia or South Australia for that matter.  Possibly we'll be allowed to visit Victoria since we're all plague carriers together.

I have to go now, my flat is being besieged by various pro spider activist groups (including the Greens and Get Up) shouting "Send out the war criminal!"  I think they mean me.

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