Flat White

The panic is ending, the fear has just begun

20 March 2020

5:00 AM

20 March 2020

5:00 AM

The world sits in anticipation of how the next few crucial days play out. Together we will find out if this a panic we know, something akin to the Y2K bug, or a panic we don’t know. It is in the waiting that we will find ourselves tested.

The age of instant communication has seen panic spread before. The internet age was barely upon us when we used the very digital connectivity it brought us to whip up a frenzy over the fallout of Y2K.

It seemed such a silly thing to many of us but as the clock clicked down, the fever rose. Those of us who thought it was an impossible threat still found ourselves unplugging our computers. Best to be safe.

When the GFC hit, a rumour spread about the Britain that building society Northern Rock was tottering on the brink. Queues formed down high streets and despite every assurance a run on the bank followed as customers demanded their cash.

Northern Rock is no more.

When the mining boom burst, much of Perth came to a standstill. A city almost entirely propped up by an industry that had fallen down had nothing to offer those who had lost their jobs. People left the city in droves and it has been only recently that house prices have returned to their pre-burst levels.

Panic was the common denominator in those cases, but it feels as though we may have gone beyond that now.

The coronavirus outbreak is both instant and international. It combines panic and rational massive action. Much of the response is new to us and the ideas of indefinitely closed borders sends a chill through today’s global economy.

The Prime Minister was right to scold us for hoarding but in some way the question lingers. ‘What else can we do?’ If ever the need for strong — even, perhaps stronger than we would usually like — leadership was upon us, it is now.

Scott Morrison’s decision to close Australia’s borders to non-citizens, non-residents and their families still seems unreal. Around the world, reports seem contradictory and confused. 

Italy saw a significant spike in mortalities today however China reported no new domestic cases. The International Olympic Committee still hold out hope for a swift resolution and have refused to cancel the Tokyo 2020 games but India is preparing itself for mass quarantining of workers returning from the Middle East.

These are unchartered waters. This is our first rodeo. The only certainty is tough times ahead as the economy lies slumped at our feet.

In ancient times the Romans would appoint a dictator to see them through their worst challenges. Our democracy does not require such a step. It does, however, require the individual characteristics of belief, decisiveness and doggedness that the Romans used to choose who would lead them.

Scott Morrison, the nation is in your hands.

Garth Hamilton has worked with governments around the world to deliver significant infrastructure and policy outcomes. He writes on issues facing right of centre politics, stating the case for a compassionate conservatism and strength in leadership.

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