scott morrison
Scott Morrison (Left) (Image: Facebook)

Gimme shelter

There’s one thing which the rolling lockdowns have taught every innter-city resident — from the smuggest Perthite gleefully flipping Clive Palmer off across the border, to the most stoic Melburnian only now starting to emerge blinking into the unfamiliar sunlight. And that thing is that during a pandemic in which everyone’s confined to their homes, living and working in an apartment absolutely suuuuuucks

Lockdown has forced many inner-city dwellers to face some hard truths: like that their kitchen is largely ornamental, that there’s nowhere to store 18-months-worth of toilet paper, and that it’s a bad look to have one’s housemate playing Call Of Duty in the background of your Zoom call with the sales team.

Property analysis firm Finder told The New Daily that almost a third of all renters they surveyed have expressed a desire to move somewhere with more space, especially now that commuting to the CBD isn’t a given. And sure, they might have a dog in that fight, but what’s not in doubt is that the market has responded by ensuring that the affordable outer suburbs are now… well, less affordable.

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While rents for apartments and units are on the slide across our wide brown land, rents for houses has jumped 7% nationally compared with the same time last year.

And that’s grim news for the renting classes, especially if your ability to pay rent has been impacted by the shutdowns and you live in a place that isn’t South Australia or Victoria.

Both states’ governments have extended their moratorium on landlord evictions and rental hikes until March 2021, but for the rest of the nation all bets are off when the national ban on turfing people out expires at the end of the month — at the same time as the JobSeeker and JobKeeper cuts kick in because the economy is in such excellent shape right now.

So expect rental data on cardboard boxes and burned-out vans to be added to official figures from October. Our guess is that prices will be competitive.

Exit, pursued by a cassowary

On Tuesday Prime Minister Scott Morrison had a fun time at the Australian Reptile Park near Gosford, New South Wales, where he cuddled quolls and baby Tasmanian devils and made a triumphant announcement regarding the funding boost his government is giving to the nation’s zoos to help them get through the current economic downturn.

If you’re feeling a bit of deja vu it might be because the very same prime minister made a similar — some might say identical — announcement back in April. And the cute animals of Australian Reptile Park were the poster children for the announcement then too. What are the odds?

That April funding announcement, as pointed out on Twitter by investigative sleuth Ronni Salt, was controversial since Morrison’s pledge of funding to the reptile park was made before the criteria was so much as available, with the park’s managers admitting some weeks later that they didn’t actually know if they’d even be eligible

But evidently they got the cash, since Morrison was supposedly there this week to see how that $170,000 in funding was going — and they probably would have been less inclined to give him a cassowary-feeding photo-op if they’d been left hanging.

Thus it’s a good thing that he hadn’t popped into the Ballarat Wildlife Park instead, since its management told the Ballarat Courier only last week that they were still waiting on the money they had been promised, despite only a third of the allocated funding having been distributed to parks thus far.

Still, given the recent unpleasantness with NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro, we can all agree that it’s just refreshing to see a NSW politician holding a marsupial which he wasn’t actively attempting to murder.

Head games

Getting timely mental health care was difficult enough back before COVID-19 and the recession turned us all into seething balls of stress and anxiety, but these days it’s orders of magnitude more challenging because demand for services is sky-high. 

So when the government of South Australia announced plans in February to build a new acute mental care centre near the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) to help take the pressure off the public hospitals that were struggling to deal with the sheer number of people needing support, it was extremely welcome.

However, despite the implication at the time that this would be some offshoot of the RAH, it appears that the new Urgent Mental Health Care Centre will not be operating under the auspices of the public health system, but has been quietly outsourced to a community organisation with no acute mental health care experience, and an American-based multinational with no experience working in the SA health system — because isn’t the middle of a pandemic just the perfect time to engage in a little bit of cheeky public health privatisation?

The former group is NEAMI, a community mental health care organisation based in the northern suburbs of Adelaide whose work focuses on health and wellbeing through goal setting, social connectedness and other perfectly valid and helpful things which have very, very little to do with acute crisis care. The latter is the Arizona-based RI International, a for-profit health corporation whose website contains this word salad of a vision statement: “Activating the next generation of frame-breaking healthcare innovation to support people beyond their behavioral health needs and succeed in the community where they live, work, and play.”

Unsurprisingly the Public Service Association of SA are none too happy that the state government is deliberately ignoring its own public sector. And it’s not merely sour grapes: they’re concerned that the privately-run service would have operating hours that still left public emergency rooms mopping up the overflow while referring people back to the already overstretched community mental health teams, somewhat defeating the point of building a new acute crisis centre in the first place.

But hey, maybe that’s just what frame-breaking healthcare innovation looks like?

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Australia has spoken. We want more from the people in power and deserve a media that keeps them on their toes. And thank you, because it’s been made abundantly clear that at Crikey we’re on the right track.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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