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IPA In The National Debate – IPA Keeping In Touch – 13 May 2020

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13 May 2020

Dear IPA Members

As Director of Communications for the IPA I can say without a doubt that the last eight weeks have been the busiest and most intense I’ve experienced in my four years working at the IPA.

As you know, during this crisis the IPA has been at the forefront of the public and media debate about questions such as the economic and social consequences of the lockdown, the impact of the lockdown on employment – particularly for young people – the legacy of $1 trillion of federal government debt, and the use of extraordinary and draconian powers by the authorities to enforce the lockdown.

And what I’m starting to find over the last few weeks is that there’s a real appetite from media outlets to hear from the IPA about how our policy research on areas such as cutting red tape, restoring the dignity of work and reforming industrial relations can provide the path towards returning to the lives and livelihoods we once had.

The media’s interest in the IPA’s analysis and research about the crisis has been unprecedented. In the thirty days of April the IPA has been mentioned or quoted in the national media 1,050 times – including 289 interviews and mentions on radio, and 141 on television.

A few days ago the University of Canberra released the results of a survey of Australians’ attitudes to the consumption of news during this crisis. 71% of people said they were spending more time watching and reading and listening to the news during the crisis. This is certainly consistent with what’s happened at the IPA, as not only has our media engagement dramatically increased as I just mentioned, but the audiences for our podcasts have grown upwards of 30%. (Interestingly the survey also found that 52% of people are now starting to turn away from the news because they’re tired of hearing about it.)

What I thought I’d do in this edition of ‘Keeping In Touch’ is to highlight for you some of the IPA’s most significant research and analysis during the crisis.

We know, and have been making the case, that petty restrictions on cafes, restaurants, recreational activities, and places of worship not only have a detrimental impact on the economy, but have a profound psychological health impact on all Australians too.

As a result of Morgan Begg’s research, which was featured in The Australian in the article ‘Coronavirus: Bans on ‘low-risk’ activities are unnecessary, IPA report says’, we’ve since seen increasing pressure on state governments to lift petty restrictions that were in place.

We therefore commissioned polling through Sydney research and marketing firm Dynata, which asked Australians to agree or disagree with the statement “There should be an immediate easing of petty restrictions with appropriate social distancing in place”: 42% agreed with that proposition, while 39 per cent disagreed. So, despite some media commentary (particularly from the ABC) that the IPA’s position on the lockdown was unsupported, a plurality of Australians agree with us.

The same poll also found that 40% of Australians identify with the statement “In the last six weeks I have either lost my job, had my hours cut, or had my pay cut”. As IPA Chairman Janet Albrechtsen detailed in her column, that number jumps to 60% for young Australians. And those who are more affected by the lockdown want restrictions eased.

It is young people that are going to have to bear the brunt of the debt burden that has been caused by this crisis. That is why we have been discussing at length the amount of debt that is being passed on to future generations of Australians. John Roskam was quoted in The Australian on how we could see a $1 trillion debt within three years. John was asked for his advice to young people in an interview with Tom Elliott on 3AW, listen here to hear what he said.

Daniel Wild spoke to Andrew Bolt on Sky News about IPA modelling that found that more than two thirds of Australians are likely to be either “directly employed by government or in receipt of payments from government either through JobSeeker and JobKeeper programs.” That number is currently sitting at 65%.

This is why jobs are such a big part of our focus. It is the productive private sector that is going to give Australians the best hope of getting back into work. Gideon Rozner spoke to The Daily Mail after an easing of some restrictions in Victoria announced on Monday, saying that the Andrews government had delivered yet another slap in the face to the struggling hospitality sector and that the easing of restrictions announced by Andrews will do absolutely nothing to bring Victorian jobs back.

You would have heard us talk about shared sacrifice at the IPA. While the entire private sector economy is doing it tough, the public service remains virtually untouched. On a practical point, how can we expect our public service to be making advice and decisions on our behalf if they bare absolutely no risk from the propositions they are proposing?

To this end, that is why the IPA have been calling for a 20% pay cut for public servants earning over $150,000. And Australians agree with us. As featured in The Australian, our polling found that 74% of Australians agree with the proposition ‘Politicians and senior public servants on salaries over $150,000 should have their pay reduced by 20%’.

In order to get the economy going again, the government is going to need to significantly reduce red and green tape. It was terrific to see in The Australian that the Environment Minister Sussan Ley plans to cut green tape in the October budget, after an IPA report by Research Fellow Cian Hussey found that restrictive environmental regulations have grown by 445% since the introduction of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act in 1999.

To read the rest of Evan’s letter, become an IPA member today.

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Evan Mulholland

Evan Mulholland is the Director of Communications at the Institute of Public Affairs

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