Over the past few weeks in Australia, we have gone from normal life to something that is now termed the "new normal".
What I have seen so far is heartbreaking. Being a small business owner myself, I know how people must be feeling.
We started by putting restrictions on gatherings and social distancing. I think the Australian government knew we would never follow them and would inevitably clamp down on the population with more severe restrictions.
So, with a single press conference, the Prime Minister of Australia swiftly wiped out thousands of small businesses - meaning all of their employees suddenly have no way to pay their bills. He announces a new "Stimulus Package". Nice wording. Why not call it for what it is: disaster relief. There's hardly anyone left to stimulate.
Without any real warning, hundreds of thousands of newly unemployed people are left with no idea what to do, but are told to go to the Centrelink site (now called Human Services) to register for NewStart. The site gets so many visitors, Centrelink thinks its a Cyber Attack!
Of course, anyone in the know should have seen this coming, but the government seems blissfully unaware of the chaos they just caused, and tells the masses to "keep on trying".
As it turns out, very few of these newly unemployed people have ever dealt with Centrelink, and they discover they need a "CRN", but it's harder to get than toilet paper!
So, in understandable desperation, they take to the streets to line up at the local Centrelink, most likely spreading the virus while these lines stack up for many blocks. I have seen reports where people have lined up for several days with no luck, while others get there at 3 am in the morning so they are at the front of the line.
The phone lines are no better. Most spend many hours on hold, simply to get disconnected.
If you go to their Facebook Page and view any of the comments: https://www.facebook.com/ServicesAustralia
I dare you not to tear up.
It's carnage out there. From what I can see, no-one is going to get paid anytime soon. Maybe at the end of April, if you're lucky.
Let me tell you my experience. I thought, "just in case", I would sign up for Newstart.
What a soul-destroying process.
They have so many questions to answer, and at the end of it, they even ask for the right to pay you a visit to value your house and business. With the site crashing every 5 minutes, it took me about 5 hours to fill out their claim form. Then, in the end, you get a long list of documents you need to provide.
Then the kicker...
You need to provide Identification. The only way to do that is to go into the Centrelink office directly and personally identify.
What?! You want me to go stand in line with the hundreds of other people, just when the guy in charge pleaded for everyone to please try to stay home.
Now I'm confused. In order to protect Australians, non-essential services and businesses are prevented from opening their doors and destroying many of these business' only source of revenue. Left with no money coming in the door, these businesses must let their employees go to have a chance at survival. Other businesses collapse altogether, leaving their former employees with no source of income. And the only course of action many of these people can take is to crowd around outside Centrelink, creating the exact sorts of "large social gatherings" the government closed these businesses to prevent in the first place.
In recent days, the Minister has said you don't need to go in and get this - you can do it over the phone!
So, it seems like we've come back full circle. The good news is that many new employment opportunities have opened up recently - call centres need to keep hiring more and more staff just to handle all these phone calls.
To my way of thinking, the Government already knows who you are if you are paying tax. They most likely even have your bank details, along with a smattering of other information about you. Why do we need to tell them all over again?
In the "normal world", with a slow level of traffic into Centrelink, they could run this system. But in the "new normal world", a system that is largely designed to stop you from making claims is now expected to cope with the concept that you can get assistance.
So, their system will now "process" your claim. If you read the comments on their Facebook page, there are plenty of people who applied over a month ago, still not processed. I am guessing if you make one mistake on these forms, then you will fall back into the queue, which will be pretty long, I suspect.
Could all of this be avoided?
I say yes, it could have, if they had not panicked and properly considered the dramatic negative impact of freezing businesses - even in pursuit of stopping the spread of COVID-19. Look at what some other countries have done:
- Denmark: which is basically freezing its economy, has a message for America
- United Kingdom: Coronavirus: Government to pay up to 80% of workers' wages
Instead, we simply throw small businesses to the wolves and let them fend for themselves. They cut off their cash flow, and then expect them to survive for... how long?
The amount of money they are paying is around $550 a fortnight. That's barely enough to buy food and basics, let alone pay rent or anything else.
We need to save the Elderly
I know health is very important, and we need to protect the elderly. But did we actually do that? We locked them away in their old age homes, but the rest were left to fend for themselves. If we wanted to protect them, maybe we could have rounded them all up and put them in an isolated area and cared for them. Then make sure that if they got sick, we would be around to help. Instead, we locked everyone up and destroyed their lives.
And before you say that you can't "round them up", we all begged for lockdown. Very soon, if you leave your house you will be fined if you don't have a good reason. Look at Italy and what they have had to do. So is this suggestion really that much crazier?
Where will this end?
Who knows? But one thing is for sure: this will not end well.
Normally I am not into conspiracy theories, but this guy makes a lot of valid points.
Why did I write this blog?
My name is John North, and I am a business owner. One of our businesses publishes books. My eventual plan is to publish a book about my experience through this once in 100 years event. But in the meantime, it's therapy. I really want to get stuff off my chest and not be censored by Big Tech.
This year, we launch www.evolvepreneur.app, which is designed for you to control your own destiny and not be reliant on social media. In this new world, I think we can really make a difference and help entrepreneurs and business owners save themselves!