America had just emerged from its third recession in seven years when John F. Kennedy asked Congress to approve unpopular economic reform.
"The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining," he said in 1962.
Ironically, as Australia girds for its steepest slump since the Great Depression, there's a sense that the sun has broken though on us right now - if not economically, then at least politically.
Or more precisely, democratically.
After decades of what has increasingly felt like a Kabuki play of mock representation, Australian politics is delivering again.
Voters are sitting up. Noticing.
A primary cause is that politicians have rediscovered their raison d'etre, which is problem-solving.
And a primary effect is a new sense of the possible around the tripartite idea of a government-community partnership, enriched by evidence and expertise.
Australian citizens clearly like the collaborative, consensual, courteous, and evidence-driven politics of crisis management.
Though forged in novel circumstances, the national cabinet has both reignited hope in our system of representation, and illuminated the path out of the maze of low political advantage-taking, and its corollaries of voter suspicion and populist decay.
This was hardly predicted - especially after the faith-destroying debacle of the bushfires. But COVID-19 has reminded voters that national governments are necessary and can be made to work.
So thinking of JFK's roof repair, could this be the moment for some new galv n' gutters?
Can Australia's creaking electoral-governmental machinery be retooled to meet 21st-century needs?
Of course, cynicism abounds, but there is always hope - if only because political leaders themselves can feel the benefits, and in real time.
The latest polling from Morning Consult shows that where national governments have not completely bungled their pandemic response their popularity has risen. Scott Morrison's approval has soared, even if he's been helped by early and clear bipartisanship from Labor.
Just a short time ago, the 2019 Australian Election Study (AES) and the latest wave of the World Values Survey 2017-20 (WVS) recorded the lowest levels of trust in "people in government" (AES, 2019) and "trust in federal government" (WVS, 2017-20) on record at 25 per cent and 29 per cent respectively.
Trust between people was also reported at an all-time low in 2019 at 49 per cent (WVS, 2017-20).
Scott Morrison knows this low-trust environment - he won an election through capitalising on it.
But even that dynamic has been transformed by the pandemic forcing his government to recast its ways, and forcing it to consider the smaller economy on the other side
Earlier references to a simple "snap back" have given way to talk of a different economy requiring new approaches to taxation, transfer payments, regulation, health, education, manufacturing (even industry policy?), and thus, the boundaries of governments and markets.
While it would be naive to think the Coalition has lost its religion, the moment for driving parallel conversations on economic reform and democratic renewal when the public is re-engaged - however briefly - seems ripe.
A note of caution though: old politics is not dead, and there are clear ways this could go awry.
Encouraging though it looks, enlightened co-operation with the ACTU, for example, would not last an afternoon "door-stop" if the shibboleths of union-bashing and award simplification return to the fore.
How can we imagine this joint process of recovery and renewal? The national cabinet provides one possibility, and digital technology provides the other.
Similarly, retaining the endemic unfairness of the neoliberal agenda through generous tax boondoggles for the older and well-off "Boomers" while locking younger voters out would squander the moment.
Ditto rapid budget repair.
In The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008, Nobel Prize-winner Paul Krugman noted that those countries which pursued austerity measures in the wake of fiscal stimulus, such as Italy, Greece, the UK, Portugal, Spain and the US, suffered declining political trust, lower social cohesion, and the rise of populism.
"Austerity mania" fatally damaged elite credibility, because ordinary working families concluded they no longer mattered.
In Eastern Europe, white nationalist parties came to power after centre-left governments were bullied into austerity policies. In Britain, right-wing populists rose in communities hardest hit by fiscal austerity. And would we now have Trump if years of austerity hadn't delayed economic recovery under Barack Obama?
Although it is heartening to see expert advice driving policy responses to the pandemic; it would be wrong, as Krugman suggests, to view post-COVID-19 recovery as merely reconnecting the political and technocratic elites in Canberra. The lessons from the Murray Darling Basin Plan debacle provide graphic evidence that community input is no optional extra.
The Australian citizenry will expect to have a say in the recovery process, and waiting until 2022 for a federal election to legitimate a Coalition or Labor vision for the future will be too late. By then structural unemployment and/or harsh austerity measures could well have fractured the country all over again.
So how can we imagine this joint process of recovery and renewal? The national cabinet provides one possibility, and digital technology, so central to life during the pandemic, provides the other.
We could begin by making the creation of a post-COVID-19 consensus the goal of the national cabinet, in which the PM is first among equals and where the interests of Australian citizens in every state and territory are woven into a national recovery plan.
Then let's underpin the decision-making process with a representative (and probably internet-based) deliberative assembly in each state, with the twin tasks of formulating the priorities for economic recovery and addressing the cracks in our democracy. Special representation should be accorded to Indigenous nations in each assembly.
The evidence from the successful Irish Constitutional Convention, which delivered radical change to that country's constitution, suggests that the make-up of these should be a one-third, two-thirds mix of politicians and randomly selected lay citizens respectively, chaired by premiers to ensure party as well as public buy-in.
At the end of each deliberation, myGov could be used to conduct online citizen polls on recovery priorities identified by the deliberative forums, to test the recommendations with a broader audience.
The outcomes from the state and territory assemblies and citizen polls would then be forwarded to an in-person nationally representative citizen-politician assembly, with the mandate of presenting recommendations to the Federal Parliament.
In Australia, we have some of the world's best deliberative designers.
We can use them to create participatory structures that would buttress the parliamentary system and forge a post-crisis settlement to which all Australians can actively subscribe.
As a new economic and political settlement, this might sound radical - but don't be fooled.
The real danger lies in a return to theatrical politics which kills interest, ducks problems, and imperils the very future of the federation.
- Mark Kenny is a professor at the ANU's Australian Studies Institute.
- Mark Evans is a professor of governance at the University of Canberra's Insitute for Governance and Policy Analysis and director of Democracy 2025.