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Following an extraordinary fortnight where a worldwide pandemic has been trumped in the media by protests and riots, the fallout from recent escalations and the pandemic itself are starting to be made clear. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has confirmed that the Australian economy is in recession for the first time in 29 years. US stock markets have both tanked and rallied, leading the Australian dollar on a whirlwind journey. What looked like a chapter in the US trade war with China is looking more and more like a new Cold War with Australia caught in the middle. The pandemic has wrought far more than financial havoc on the Australian and US economies – it has subverted civil liberties, exacerbated inequality and killed hundreds of thousands across the globe.
Even before restrictions had lifted in much of the United States, the death of George Floyd triggered widespread protests. The pressure cooker of the pandemic has resulted in reactions that would have seemed unthinkable two weeks ago. Calls for systemic change resulted in a move by Minneapolis to defund their police force. Protests in the United States motivated protes in Australia Australia, with the Sydney Black Lives Matter protest being banned by the NSW Supreme Court and then authorised by the NSW Court of Appeal mere minutes before the protest started. And protesters in Australia are now accused of delaying the lifting of restrictions and further hurting the economy.
The 14-day incubation period means both the United States and Australia are waiting to start to get an indication of the damage. However, if the last fortnight has taught anything, it is that anything can happen in 14 days, so the shared US-Australian values of liberty and equality are critical in these uncertain times.