Stimulating the economy

9 10 2009

You know, I’ve been thinking (always a dangerous practice!). I’ve been thinking about how there have been some very overt means of stimulating the Australian economy in the past 12 months. And recently I’ve been thinking about some less overt methods that haven’t been advertised and promoted as economic stimulators, but which really are.

Specifically these two:

  • The free swine flu (H1N1 virus) injection available now to ALL 22 million Australians.
  • The Australia Post competitions for a Toyota Corolla and a Plasma TV.

The swine flu injection ‘stimulus package’

Just think about it. The Australian government has paid around $100 million to get this vaccine made, which has helped the drug companies and related industries no end. That’s the overt bit.

The less overt bit is what comes with the ‘free’ vaccine. The vaccine is free, but unless you go to one of the (few) free immunisation clinics (and I think you have to be in a high risk category for that) you have to pay your normal consultation fee to get it from your local GP. 

Our local medical practice charges around $50 for a standard consultation, so I’ll take that as an average. Let’s say only 10 million of Australia’s 22 million citizens take advantage of the free swine flu vaccine from their GP. At an average of $50 per visit, that’s just put back some $500 million back into the economy — perhaps money that was lingering in bank accounts not doing anything. If 20 million get the free vaccine, that’s $1,000,000,000!

And not only does that ‘stimulus package’ keep the medical practices ticking over, but all the associated industries including Medicare as well. And it frees up some $500 million or so from bank accounts and puts it back into the economy. I don’t have any problem with that, but maybe it would be more honest if someone really called this for what it is — a stimulus package aimed at getting money from ordinary people’s accounts.

Australia Post

When I was in my local post office today, the nice lady behind the counter offered me two coupons for competitions that Australia Post is running — one for a car, the other for a plasma TV. All I have to do is complete the entry forms, put stamps on them and send them in.

Whoa back there! Put a stamp on it? For a competition run by Australia Post and for which the entry forms only seem to be available from Australia Post post offices? So what’s really going on here? I’d expect that a competition run by Australia Post would accept entries into a box inside the PO. But no. We have to whack a stamp on the entry form!

So, who is this benefitting? Well, Australia Post and the companies offering the prizes will get a big database of potential customers they can market to. And Australia Post gets the revenue from all the extra stamps it sells. At 50c a pop, that’s $1 for each different form submitted.

And does Australia Post actually deliver the entry forms via the normal mail service, or do the forms go into a big bag in the PO waiting until the closing date when they are bundled up and sent as a special delivery to the Australia Post address in Victoria? In other words, is my stamp purchase paying for a normal delivery at 50c a time, or for some special ‘behind the scenes’ delivery method that perhaps costs Australia Post 5c??

Call me paranoid… But that looks like a stimulus package of Australia Post’s own, right there!