To coordinate a nationwide response to the coronavirus pandemic, and the resulting impact of Australia’s first recession in nearly thirty years, on March 13 the federal government convened the National Cabinet. This comprises the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and the eight leaders of the States and Territories. It formally replaced the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) as the principal body for coordinating national policy implementation, including strict quarantine and border control measures. An advisory National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) was also formed. This paper will conduct a critical policy analysis of these new institutional structures, and how they have altered the political structure and policy responses of the Australian federal government. This restructuring has allowed a dramatic reversal in fiscal policy. After previously claiming to be on track for a budget surplus, the Morrison government has undertaken massive deficit spending of around A$150 billion, over 10% of GDP. Central to this stimulus has been the Jobkeeper wage subsidy to over 3 million workers, with unemployment expected to reach 10%, as GDP has fallen by 6%. In monetary policy, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) cut interest rates to record lows, and embraced Quantitative Easing. While these policies have received bipartisan support, the Morrison government has indicated an intention to eventually shift back towards the neoliberal economic policies traditionally favoured by the LNP. This paper will highlight the potential risks of declining government transparency and continuing economic inequality, as parliamentary scrutiny has been disrupted by the pandemic, thus eroding democratic accountability.
Craig Mark, Kyoritsu Women's University, Japan
Stream: Public Economics
This paper is part of the ACBPP2020 Conference Proceedings (View)
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