Kevin Rudd is offering a $42 billion stimulus package and the slashing of interest rates by 1 percent.
The headline in the newspaper, The Australian, reads: “Rudd goes for broke” and the Sydney “Morning Herald” runs a black streamer across page one reading simply: “Saving the nation”.
Rudd's actions are seen as an echo of President Barack Obama's initiatives in America. Rudd promises “nation building and jobs”. His stimulus package, he hopes, will “support and sustain” 90,000 jobs over the next two years.
In this nation of just 20 million people that is substantial. Yet opposition leaders criticize the program as putting Australia into a deep financial hole and promise to fight it.
The prime minister declared: “This government will never haul up the white flag on the inevitability of recession. I cannot remove the impact of the global recession on Australian jobs. But by government action we can reduce it.”
Rudd called the world's economic troubles “a national and international crisis”...predicting that 300,000 Australians could lose their jobs in the next 16 months.
Although the government is bracing for tough times ahead, at famed Bondi Beach, on this warm summer day, people didn't seem too upset by the latest developments. Young men and women frolicked in the surf. A couple of teenage boys kicked a soccer ball back and forth. In a swimming pool on the shore, a mother played with her baby.
On a bluff overlooking the beach, I spoke with a business executive who had just come from his office to take a swim during his lunch break. He said he found the government's actions “perplexing”.
“Just five minutes ago”, Rick Harasty said, “we had a surplus. Now, five minutes later, we have rising unemployment and the economy is hurting. I don't quite understand it.”
Later, I ran into Paul Jackson, a free-lance contractor in the communications industry. “I'm out of work and so are friends of mine. The job prospects are not good.”
Jacqueline Lendich, a bartender at the Bondi Beach Iceberg restaurant, said: “I'm not hurting. I pay rent. If this job fails I can get another. But I do worry about my dad. He does maintenance work on boats and that business is starting to fall off.”
A cab driver, Egyptian-born Nasr Ibrahim, was not the least worried. “This country has a good social security system. My wife works in a hospital, I own a couple of cabs.... the future for our children looks good.”
Yet an accountant, Georgia Koutsanda, who I met in the center of Sydney, said she was concerned. She works in the financial industry. “I'm bothered but not panicky.”
Generally, Aussies appear confident that the prime minister is on the right track, that he's doing whatever he can to solve the financial crisis.
As Rudd said: “There's no guarantee of success but we will throw everything at this.”