ADELAIDE - I think the tone of John Menadue's recent piece in PNG Attitude, ‘General Alarm: Militarism is Australia’s New Norm’, is slightly overwrought.
But I do think he has a point, at least as it relates to the government's dismal performance in relation to the vaccine roll-out.
As the Delta variant of Covid-19 spreads in Sydney, we may be about to reap the reward for the Australian federal government's apparent inability to organise an effective national quarantine and vaccination program.
Having survived thus far largely unscathed, another wave of this appalling disease would be proof that prime minister Morrison's airy assertion that the vaccination program "is not a race" was not only more of his marketing rhetoric but also totally wrong.
So, enter the military.
It is the only federal organisation with the necessary know-how and resources to manage the logistics of rapidly distributing vaccine across the country.
The federal health bureaucracy lacks the program management knowledge and expertise to do this, as well as the being bereft of the necessary resources.
As John Menadue points out, this is the long term consequence of 'dumbing down' the federal public service which has been a goal of successive conservative governments.
Congratulations to them: it worked. It is just a pity that their mates in private industry have been unable to deliver when it matters.
At the state level, the boring necessity to actually deliver services to the punters has meant that the dumbing down process has been less severe but even then a rapid build-up of resources has been needed to try to manage the consequences of the pandemic.
The true value of public services is very frequently only appreciated in their absence.
Ask any Papua New Guinean about what the lack of an adequate health or education system means for them and, more importantly, their children.
Australian conservatives have far too often been resolutely stupid in pursuing the neo-liberal economic agenda in the utterly mistaken belief that 'the market' will always deliver the optimum outcomes.
This is egregious bullshit of course, but it remains their mantra.
As long as we persist with a weakened and degraded public sector, as PNG is obliged to endure, we can reasonably expect the same sorts of outcomes.
In the meantime, we must accept that our military will remain the last line of defence against the mendacity and sheer incompetence of a federal government that is not fit for purpose any longer.