When you were a toddler and those responsible for looking after you asked you to do something you didn’t want to do, you probably threw a tantrum. A couple of years later when you had learnt to communicate, you probably expressed your disapproval (then threw a tantrum when your disapproval was noted but made no difference). By the time you got to school, you were used to people telling you what to do, but you had a number of ‘reasonable’ excuses at hand such as ‘the dog ate my homework’, ’s/he made me do it’, ‘I wasn’t told’, ‘I didn’t hear you’, ‘I didn’t understand’ or simply ‘I don’t want to’. At the time, you probably considered the responses to be absolutely logical, argued rationally, clear and indisputable. In short, they were (in your opinion at the time) world class responses to external events.
It’s a bit like Prime Minister Morrison’s claims around the ‘world leading’ management of the pandemic response by his government. To date, Australia has been relatively successful at ensuring the virus didn’t get more than a toehold in the community. In spite of Morrison’s claims, the state and territory leaders have done the heavy lifting through building their contact tracing capability, isolating areas within their states where necessary to prevent the virus spreading and managing a quarantine process (on behalf of the federal government) for people coming into the country from overseas. While Morrison claims success, in reality the only two items in the pandemic response that have been left to the federal government were vaccine procurement and distribution as well as finding a better alternative to quarantine than that offered by the stop gap use of large hotels in our major cities. The ‘dog' didn’t get to the Morrison Government’s homework — it seems the work was never done. As we entered the 2021/2022 financial year, there were lockdowns in 3 states and one territory, with other states telling their residents to exercise extreme caution, wear masks and observe various restrictions.
On July 2 2021, following a National Cabinet meeting apparently called to bring the state leaders on board, Morrison fronted a press conference and announced Australia’s four stage plan to return to something like ‘pre-COVID’ normality — where the virus is treated like any other seasonal virus such as the flu
. All well and good in theory, but the COVID19 ‘emergency’ is now 18 months old and according to Morrison we as a nation had a ‘world leading’ response. Had Morrison’s government started to develop a plan to exit the pandemic in January 2020, he could rightly claim to have a ‘world leading’ response. It’s not like they weren’t warned by the World Health Organisation that there was a highly contagious virus on the way and it was the ideal time to accumulate test kits, medical equipment and supplies and make arrangements for the isolation of people that were affected.
In March 2020, The Saturday Paper
interviewed Dr Bill Bowtell, who was scathing in his criticism of the COVID 19 response. As he had a considerable role in this nation’s management of the HIV crisis in the 1980s
, he probably had some idea of what he was talking about. Frankly, a lot of his predictions have come to pass. Particularly telling is the discussion around a March 2020 press conference with Morrison, Health Minister Hunt and Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly where
Between them the three men said the word “plan” 32 times, but in reality it was more like a blueprint for bureaucratic consultation. There were no concrete actions mentioned. None of the three men uttered the words hygiene, handwashing or social distancing.
By September 2020, we were going to have a ‘gas fired’ economic recovery from the COIVD pandemic. According to a report in The Guardian
, Morrison’s announcement at a speech in the Hunter Valley claimed that there was no credible transition strategy for our energy requirements that didn’t rely on the burning of gas
He announced steps that could expand the gas industry, but few measures designed to boost the economy in the short-term — most were little more than commitments to coming up with a plan.
Morrison acknowledged the rise of cheap solar and wind energy, but beyond a passing reference, there was no discussion of a transition plan or dealing with climate change. The destination set out in the speech was an expansion of gas that could last for decades.
A little light on the detail, which coincidentally is a little like Morrison’s four stage plan to return to something like a pre-COVID normal that he announced on July 2. The first stage is ‘Vaccinate, Prepare and Pilot’ which requires a reduction in overseas arrivals into the country while we all go and get vaccinated when the vaccine is available (weren’t we supposed to be at the ‘front of the queue’?). As The New Daily
Moving on to the next phases relies heavily on the rate of vaccination.
As of Thursday [1 July 2021], 7.9 per cent of Australians are fully vaccinated while 29.6 per cent have received at least one shot.
To see how we rate in comparison to the rest of the world, click here
In the ‘Post Vaccination’ phase, lock downs will become less frequent and those who have been fully vaccinated will have less restriction than others. Arrival numbers from overseas will increase and those who can demonstrate full vaccination may be able to arrive in this country without quotas. Again, as The New Daily
Phase Two of the plan will commence when enough Australians have been vaccinated, though we don’t yet know what number that is.
Mr Morrison said it will be determined by a “scientific number” in agreement with each state and territory.
Again, little detail. Apparently no-one knows how many of us have to be vaccinated before we move to ‘Stage 2’. But once we get there, ‘the plan’ suggests we then move through a consolidation phase to an ongoing process where COVID infections are treated like we treat the seasonal flu with some additional requirements around arrivals from overseas.
The Morrison government’s COVID19 management process is similar to his management of many of the challenges in government, long on rhetoric and short on achievement. Certainly, he should be guided by the medical evidence to determine a response to a problem that has a medical root cause, but aren’t we paying him to be thinking of the potential issues before he is forced to address them by the state leaders and have the information to hand? Telling us all, 18 months into the pandemic, that the Australian Government has yet to determine an appropriate level of herd immunity to a virus because they haven’t asked the question until now is insulting to us all. You might recall that vaccination was always seen as the way out of the pandemic.
Most of us are well aware it’s far more likely that a 7-year-old hasn’t done their homework than the dog actually ate it. Morrison hasn’t even attempted to give us a reason why his government’s homework hasn’t been done. Fortunately for us, the state leaders have demonstrated they have the real power, time and time again.
What do you think?