Ideas@TheCentre – The Centre for Independent Studies


Ideas@TheCentre brings you ammunition for conversations around the table.  3 short articles from CIS researchers emailed every Friday on the issues of the week.

War and courage

Barry Maley

23 April 2020 | Ideas@TheCentre

Among the victims of Covid-19 is our habit of annual pilgrimage to Anzac Cove in Turkey. And, tied to our houses, we are denied the annual fullness of local Anzac Day remembrance.

An invisible enemy has slain what is perhaps our nation’s most solemn annual event other than Easter. Both are recognitions in the same month of lives lost and celebrated in sacrifice to achieve great ends.

Traditions such as these are vital in holding nations together, and in celebrating them we do two things.

We shed our daily duties … our work and ’to do’ lists, and reflect, with our companions, upon the tradition and its meaning.

Current events have crippled the crowds that would normally aggregate in the cities and towns of the country. Nevertheless, we are free to communicate despite the absence of physical closeness and, above all, free to recall how our country endured defeat in a noble cause and with the utmost in duty and courage.

That reminder of the moral element in that great struggle is the essence of tradition. Death and defeat, by the courageous serving a good cause, is a model to be sustained by the essence of tradition; and it will continue to serve us in mustering our courage to deal with what we are presently confronting.

The young Australians who are denied the opportunity this year of flocking to Anzac Cove Remembrance Day in Turkey may have various reasons for seeking to do so — The energy and curiosity of youth is strong.

But whatever those reasons may be, it is plain that once there, they would be overtaken by an atmosphere of reverence and solemnity and — above all — by fellow-feelings of companionship and patriotism. In that atmosphere, the heart beats and the mind reflects in a surge of emotion.

Australians are often thought of as emotionally phlegmatic. This is false; on the whole they are simply modest, touchable and kind.

For the young, Anzac Cove has slowly created a place where their emotions can be lifted and the power of shared tradition absorbed.

Wherein lies that power?

The source is the realisation of shared emotion in imagining the extremities of warfare and their effects on those who fight and depend upon their companions for the sake of a common homeland.

Fear, pain and death claim terror and courage in the soldier, and his key resource is companionship and bravery. Only those who experience the horrors of war can tell its stories and its claims on the souls of companions. We may not see and feel what happens to the soldier — but we can imagine it and our hearts can respond accordingly.

This imagining, I suspect, is the motive sought by the young and the normal response is understanding and attachment to the ‘Anzac Tradition’.

But the story does not end there. A stable and happy nation needs its traditions shared widely, lest they be lost. Every loss chips away at our unity and cohesion. But the tradition must be seen as good and trustworthy.

The Australians of 1914 were predominantly of British descent, political structure and culture. To a significant degree they were dependent upon British protection.

It was not surprising that Australians joined the war against Germany to protect their way of life and, further, to join Britain in a war of defence. At stake were ways of life. So they fought together to protect common interests and cherished traditions.

Nations are always facing dangers of lesser and worse kinds, both natural and human. In defending themselves, they must have recourse to means of defence and victory. In acting to win or recover, their first tendency is to examine their present powers and then their history and the resources of strength that helped survival.

We are confronting an immediate present and a future that is filled with problems of immense threat and misery for many.

We need Anzac courage to confront them and we will be challenged to do so. Our history and its traditions call us to respond.

Let us do so boldly and courageously — and rebel if our liberties are threatened.

Anzac Day in lockdown

Monica Wilkie

23 April 2020 | Ideas@TheCentre

Self-isolation will not prevent us commemorating Anzac Day, and the coronavirus crisis will not dim our Anzac spirit.

Director of the Australian War Memorial, Matt Anderson PSM, echoed many people’s feelings when he said “It is heartbreaking that the traditional Dawn Service, National Ceremony and veterans’ march will not take place this year.”

But although we are physically distanced, we can all still attend in our living rooms to watch the Anzac Day Dawn Service broadcast from Canberra.

During this quiet moment we can reflect on the remarkable evolution of Anzac Day that has occurred since the Gallipoli landings on April 25, 1915.

We have gone from celebrating the sacrifices made at that horrific battle, to commemorating all those who have fought for their country and our freedom.

The Anzac spirit of courage, mateship, and community was born on that day in 1915, and every year we celebrate its significance and endurance.

That’s why the RSL has encouraged people to film themselves reciting The Ode and post it on social media, while Senator Jim Molan has encouraged people to use #AnzacAtHome to share their stories of celebration. And, to ensure families stay entertained, the RSL has also created Anzac Spirit Bingo and Trivia.

We can see the Anzac spirit not only in our determination to keep Anzac Day traditions alive during a lockdown, but in the willingness of Australians to help their community during this crisis.

A Melbourne IT company is offering six months free support to small businesses who need to boost their online presence.

Lloyds Auctioneers set up a free grocery delivery service, also distributing free hand sanitiser, masks and other healthcare products.

The charity Oz Harvest is providing food for international students who have lost their jobs and can’t get home.

Communities have been organising food for frontline medical workers, and one gym owner is offering free virtual training classes for health care workers.

Our immediate crisis has understandably caused a great deal of anxiety. But just as we endured hardship in 1915, we will endure once more – Anzac Day is a timely reminder of this.

Is this economic self-destruction unavoidable?

Robert Carling

23 April 2020 | Ideas@TheCentre

If you want to know how much the coronavirus pandemic might cost, the International Monetary Fund’s recent world economic outlook is a good place to start.

Under a scenario in which the current quarter sees the worst of it for the world economy and a vigorous recovery starts in the September quarter, the IMF sees global GDP shrinking by 3% in 2020 as a whole.

This may not sound like much, but it is much worse than the GFC recession. They see a bounce-back in 2021 but by the end of that year GDP will still be below where it would have been had the coronavirus never happened.

In this scenario — which is by no means the worst the IMF can envisage — the shortfall of predicted GDP from what it would have been without the virus is a staggering $US15 trillion in 2020 and 2021 (our share of which is close to $A300 billion).

The global loss is like shutting down the entire US economy for the rest of this year, or putting the economies of Japan, Germany, France and Canada into a coma for a whole year. The cost in unemployment is measured in the tens of millions.

And the damage won’t end in 2021. The longer a recession or depression continues, the more long-lasting damage it does.

This is why it is so important that the economic self-destruction of the lockdown be as short as possible consistent with carefully judged prudence in safeguarding public health.

It is already too late to avoid a terrible June quarter, but it is not too late to take action — by loosening restrictions — that will avoid economic costs of the magnitude the IMF is predicting later in 2020 and beyond.

Every extra day of restrictions at the current level brings a fearful future cost.

Economics doesn’t have all the answers, but it can at least quantify the possible costs and ask whether much the same benefits to public health can be achieved at less cost.