Is our steady ship going off course?

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One of the sayings that emerged regularly during the height of the Coronavirus crisis was that we were ‘all in the same boat’.

And it was true – very few of us weren’t impacted by the virus in some way, whether it limited our social interactions, impacted our job or reduced the time we could spend with friends and family.

The feeling was, overall, that we were all in this together and would see it through to the end together, too.

There were exceptions of course – I’m looking at you, toilet paper hoarders.

We now find ourselves coming out of the Coronavirus crisis and ‘all in the same boat’ seems to no longer be the mantra – in fact the vessels skippered by the State and Federal Governments have sprung a leak or two.

Almost every person I speak to falls into one of two categories – confused or frustrated, particularly at how the lifting of restrictions is being handled.

And while I’ve been more than happy to back both the State and Federal Governments through the pandemic response, I have to admit it’s difficult not to subscribe to the ‘making up as they go along’ theory.

It no longer makes sense that no more than five people can gather at a house for a Sunday BBQ, yet 10 times that can head out to a restaurant.

And it certainly doesn’t makes sense that weddings are being cancelled yet some 20,000 people march through the streets of Sydney – for a good cause, but at the worst possible time. It was selfish and arrogant, not inspiring and change-making. More than that, it had potentially devastating health consequences.

There is quite obviously health advice surrounding when certain restrictions are lifted, but it’s hard not to feel that the advice is often not considering real world realities.

For example, is a house gathering of 10 people really all that different to a sweaty gym class of the same number?

I can go to the park with nine friends, but if I wanted to sit outside in my backyard, only four of those same friends would be welcome.

As more and more restrictions lift, the inconsistencies are deepening, and for Scott Morrison and Gladys Berejiklian, that has impacts on how well us passengers feel they are skippering the ship.

There is still so much uncertainty, and that is perhaps the biggest confusion and frustration at present.

At no stage have we been given a clear indication of when things like weddings or mass gatherings will be back on the table, or when things like the four square metre rule will be reviewed.

Ms Berejiklian was at pains to say during her daily briefings at the height of the crisis that social distancing would be with us until a vaccine is found.

But is that right?

If it is, and if no vaccine is found, that sparks major issues for retailers and restaurants, whose entire cost base is reset based on the changed numbers allowed into their venues.

Do nightclubs just never open again?

Will dancing be banned at weddngs?

Surely not, but in reality the clarification surrounding much of this is missing.

And when mystery surrounds things like this, it’s much harder to restart the economy – nothing kills growth more than uncertainty.

Adding to the confusion is the Federal Government’s decision to scrap the free child care program from next month, and the ongoing threat of a Job Keeper review. In the case of the latter, should businesses become ineligible earlier than anticipated, it could have devastating consequences.

Again, the uncertainty is paramount.

On one hand we’re being told getting the economy moving is critical, and significant programs have been announced to help with that process. On the other, there is still so much uncertainty over restrictions and support, that’s impossible to have any confidence at the moment.

Both our State and Federal Governments deserve praise for much of their efforts during this crisis, but the path out is becoming rocky, unstable and concerning – and that’s a big problem.

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