Never Waste the Opportunity Presented in a Good Crisis

March 2020


Future Smart Strategies.

In a crisis that causes physical destruction through storms, floods, or fire, demolishing buildings or even parts of towns may be the only option – the opportunity is that reconstruction can make buildings, towns and cities more sustainable.

When rebuilding is the only option, we can start to think about where that house – or town – is located, the orientation in the landscape or on the block, and improving the design of the towns and houses to better suit the place that it's in.

However, a pandemic like COVID-19 brings a stimulus that’s not geared to rebuild - the city is staying in place, and there’s no physical loss of houses.

But a stimulus package can redesign and refurbish; then there is a whole range of measures that improve liveability on the town scale, and on the home side.

Improvements can improve the health and wellbeing, improve mobility in communities or energy efficiency and natural light and airflows in buildings, reducing power bills and improving affordability of rents or mortgages.

Most governments have generally recognised this and are acting in ways rarely seen in earlier economic crises – albeit still rather timidly.

In a crisis, we must react in ways that: Are effective

Deliver immediate direct benefits Simultaneously structural and sustained, delivering lasting benefits to Australians Are meaningful: environmentally, socially and economically responsible in the short- and long -term

Kings Park @jomalcolm

Some obvious general principles in a pandemic: Help people disperse, avoid close contact prompting community spread, and to work at home and from home. Targeted removal of risk groups out of workplace – particularly over 60s – and convert to new online tasks – eg teaching, medical consulting, legal advice, etc. Use this as a way of creating and innovating home workplaces. This is an opportunity, not a crisis (never waste a good crisis), change for good.

Accordingly, and drawing upon our reliable Future Smart projections, below are some targeted transformational projects that both deal with today’s challenges and deliver multi- generational benefits to the State and to Australia as a whole.

Short term (response time weeks-months) - Stabilise, Mobilise, Reassure and Inspire

Education and training - including

New course development suitable for the emerging skills economy. New infrastructure roll-out to support distributed learning. Ramp up classroom/school cleaning – full time cleaners at every school for the next 12 months; monitor health and wellbeing improvements beyond the direct impact of COVID19. Teacher aides for every class at every school for the next 12 months – draw on final year undergraduates to bolster assistance. Supporting decisions to keep schools open, extend hours at every school for the next 12 months – and elevate importance of social education, physical education, art and language for wellbeing. External e-resources (recently retired teachers/educators; isolated teachers (especially over 55s) students, content providers, network accessibility, tablets). Walking and cycling school buses introduced.

Outcomes include – thousands employed, long term educational outcomes for students focused on 2030 skill demands, improved skills engagement and utilisation, improved productivity for parents/carers.

Health - including

New service provision models using smart distributed networks. New infrastructure roll-out to support distributed medicine. Identification of “medical practitioners” – skilled medical/paramedical personnel able to conduct tests, diagnosis and draft prescriptions under the (possible remote) supervision of an experienced medical doctor (example in the US allowed transition of nurses, veterinarians, armed services paramedics to “practitioners); add last year undergraduates to assist. Support/Subsidise e-network between health centres, GP practices, clinics and remote health providers (particularly over 60s practitioners). Expand street and community cleaning – in conjunction with Keep Australia Beautiful and similar enterprises. Direct employment of community-based staff.

Public Safety and Security- including

Support the employment and training of community rangers across the state – powers limited to conciliation, reporting, recording, calming, informing – appropriate to each community.

Small business - including

For Government tenders, implement a temporary 20% “bonus” for local business (less than $100M per year). Exclude any tender requirement that effectively would exclude local providers based on their size, previous experience, financial history. Introduce a strict “14 day” payment cycle to all Government agencies and bodies to local suppliers.

Through the ACCC, expand anti-corruption efforts to aggressively discover and prosecute every “breach of good faith” actor in the conduct of all schemes. Create a “social responsibility economic governance” department of auditors, accountants, welfare and wellbeing experts within the Auditor General’s scope. Must be agile and proactive – rather than reactive.

Revisit all existing purchase arrangements (by this CSR Governance team) to immediately improve the social and economic impact of purchasing towards the benefit of local business.

A proviso to all of these is that there is a responsibility that taxpayer funds must be managed and governed by taxpayer-elected representatives.

All of these can be implemented immediately with immediate benefits. Importantly, none of these are “make-work” projects, governance is assured, taxpayer funds are not “given away” to industry.

New directly contracted Government employees will allow the contracts to be extended or not based upon the overall economic activity as the recovery occurs.

Medium term – (now to 2021) Plan and Inspire Energy - including

Accelerate transition to low-carbon, lower cost generation. Encourage decentralised generation/storage. Escalate energy reform process and transition existing pole and wire infrastructure to support bi-directional power trading.

Smart Decentralisation - including

Plan “smart” regional centres. Commence with and enhance self-selected smart towns already active to demonstrate community and economic resilience and cost effectiveness by exploiting technology; smart processes; energy efficiency; remote communication, social cohesion.

Bring back new manufacturing in Australia targeting essential items highlighted by shortages associated with the Coronavirus; expand the targets once current events are successfully managed.

Transportation – railway upgrades – tram, light, heavy rail - replace with “autonomous” rail and explore autonomous road-freight. Supporting all regional “community/government service centres” with high-speed internet. Develop incentives to support regional EV (rapid) charging network. Upgrade rural road markings to support more vehicle autonomy and safety. Support improved cell coverage/5G for regional and remote areas. Prioritise “live local, eat local, drink local, play local”. Provide support for regional/remote sports groups (transport, facilities, grounds). Establish remote “smart schools” – multi grade schools with high-speed internet providing virtual classrooms, real-time peer interaction and highly competent subject mentoring expertise – with a “home teacher” responsible for the overall school, but lessons provided on-line by appropriate “Hub” schools.

Outcomes include – reversing the unsustainable drift to urban areas by supporting economically sustainable regionalisation and localisation.

Environmental, Agriculture and Mining – including

Expand and formalise the various Federal Regional Development Authorities to each require the governance of a broad state/local stakeholder board – i.e. farming, mining, indigenous, labour, youth, biological, geological. Their objective is to rapidly approve/deny development/expansion projects depending on local/State priorities.

Support rapid vehicle electrification across the Australian vehicle fleet – infrastructure roll out brings employment, grows electricity consumption brings more jobs in domestic energy sector, replacing imported fuels. Encourage local assembly/build of appropriate fleet vehicles – especially commercial vehicles.

Introduce “smart royalties” across all minerals extracted – increasing royalties on non- value-add exports, progressively lower royalties on high-value add royalty - only reduce to zero when 100% of value-add (to end-user product) is conducted within Australia. Establish an asset value for state land and marine parks reflecting their “replacement value” and their inherent value for culture, tourism, state “brand”.

Outcomes include – remodelling Australia’s economy to support long term growth and resilience; accelerating new/valuable developments; supporting industrialisation; protecting environmental values; promoting conciliation and negotiation over lobbying and single- dimensional business case arguments.

Concurrently, the Governments jointly Federal and State and Local formalises a portfolio management process which explicitly weighs every value (cost, time required, short term economic return; long term employment, community health, safety, security...) so that every proposal developed is prioritised and progressed through a formal “Portfolio Management Program” – run directly by Government. The outcome is clear transparency with short term wants tempered by long term needs.

Final thought

Ideas evolve all the time – in current circumstances, capitalism is still a sacred dogma, but with the emergence of modern monetary theory, we can recognise that capitalism in its current form is great until it hits a crisis.

Then it demands social support.

Then upon recovery, after socialising losses, capitalism berates socialism Capitalism without ethics is no better than communism without initiative.