To fill out this repertoire, it might be worth going back to [Chalmers’] time in opposition and his contribution to What Happens Next? a collection of essays published by Per Capita in the midst of the pandemic, a time when progressives dreamed on Zoom of building back better.
Chalmers presciently embraces a form of creative destruction: “We need to surge forward to new thinking, new ideas and a new, more prosperous and inclusive economy, one built on a new honesty about the flaws and failings of the pre-Covid economy – not ‘snap back’ to neoliberalism, protectionism or nativism.”
Covid did not treat people equally, he argues: “those who started with the least have lost the most,” challenging Australians to think about the workers whose contribution was really valued when it mattered and to reassess their attitudes to those in need.
In his essay, Chalmers references American geographer Jared Diamond, who holds that in times of flux, individuals and nations must change in ways consistent with their true identities. “Diamond’s idea that crises are more likely to be averted or dealt with successfully by countries with the ‘ego strength’ that comes from knowing who and what they are, and that gives us the confidence to deal with the next crises or opportunity, applies to us now,” he writes.
Three years on, that self-identity is expressed in stark terms in our final question; when given the choice between investing in people and paying down the national debt racked up during the pandemic, the priority has to be on people.