Here we go again.
Victoria is in a seven-day lockdown to control a COVID-19 cluster sourced back to a hotel quarantine in Adelaide where a man contracted the virus and unknowingly carried it to Melbourne.
How has it come to this?
Right from the start of the pandemic, the Commonwealth has fudged its responsibilities, deferring to the states and territories as a political risk-management exercise that enabled it to stay above the fray but taking potshots when it suited over hotel quarantine issues or border closures.
Now that the Morrison Government has seen the electoral benefits of taking a tough line on borders and restrictions, it too is hairy-chested on keeping us safe, rationing the return of Australian citizens from COVID-ravaged India.
But that too is a consequence of the Commonwealth avoiding its constitutional quarantine responsibilities, ignoring calls from experts initially, and then state governments such as Queensland for dedicated quarantined centres out of the heavily populated capitals.
It has beefed up the Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory, but the great bulk of quarantine stays remain in city hotels despite the mounting evidence that aerosol transmission of the virus is difficult to avoid in these inadequately ventilated buildings.
Instead of moving quickly to establish a secure quarantine network, the Morrison Government has stubbornly stuck to the hotel system with, it seems, little thought to the next incursion.
Now, more than a year since the virus came to Australia, the country still doesn’t have what should be its first line of defence.
And while other first-world countries such as the US and Britain are well on the way to vaccinating their people, Australia is making excruciatingly slow progress.
This too must be sheeted home to the Commonwealth’s approach to acquiring vaccines, which focused on just a few – the Pfizer, Astra Zeneca and the Queensland University project, which had to be abandoned – leaving it with fewer options when problems emerged.
First, there were supply problems with the Astra Zeneca vaccine due to European demand, then came the blood clot issues that understandably made people wary of rushing to getting a jab.
The decision, on medical advice, to allocate Pfizer to the under-50s and the Astra Zeneca to the over-50s has only contributed to the hesitancy, especially when COVID, until now, was not present in the community.
With the Astra Zeneca vaccine, there may only be a very small risk of complications, but the risk/benefits ratio means nothing if you are one of the unfortunate few to be collateral damage, and that perception is hard to shift.
The Commonwealth is now also sourcing the Moderna vaccine, but its fumbling on quarantine, vaccine acquisition and rolling out the program has left the country exposed.
The fresh outbreak is likely to galvanise people to get their jabs, even if you are over 50 and would prefer the Pfizer jab.
But as late as this week, people were facing lengthy phone queues and weeks-long waits to be vaccinated at the Garran Surge Centre, which you would think should be able to cope with demand.
The Morrison Government’s pandemic management, which it is constantly airbrushing and rebranding for its own electoral purposes, is eerily similar to how it approached the bushfire crisis.
That involved a reluctance to accept reality, deference to the states until it became all too obvious that it was an issue that transcended state borders and then demanding the spotlight and activating the marketing teams.
Even its economic response and welcome jettisoning of its debt-and-deficit rhetoric has hardly been strategic as a fire hose of cash sprayed indiscriminately into the business sector.
Spending was the right move, but it will be interesting to see exactly what we get for it.
If the Prime Minister goes to an election trumpeting its pandemic response as incumbent state governments have done successfully, the public should reflect on the Commonwealth’s overall performance and how, at this point, the nation remains ill-prepared for another outbreak.
On this issue, the bushfires, the transition to renewables and emission-free vehicles, and the challenges of climate change in general, the Morrison Government seems incapable of leadership.
Original Article published by Ian Bushnell on The RiotACT.