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Lethargic Australia drops ball on Covid


NOOSA - The more infectious, faster moving Delta variant of Covid has been identified for the first time in Papua New Guinea.

The Delta strain is currently proving hard to control after breaking out in Australia’s two biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne. It has killed three people so far.

In Port Moresby, a 65 year old ship’s captain is in hospital and six of his crew have tested positive for the disease.

The cargo vessel had arrived in PNG from Indonesia and the Filipino captain became sick while the ship was at sea.

Yesterday PNG has recorded a total of 17,340 cases of Covid with 179 deaths.

Meanwhile Tess Newton Cain, writing in Asia Insights for Griffith University, has observed that, while Australia is focused on its own abysmal Covid vaccine rollout, the impacts on PNG and the Pacific islands have been largely ignored.

“The Morrison government has promised 51 million doses to poorer countries, with a particular focus on the Pacific islands region,” Associate Professor Newton Cain wrote.

“However, as of 9 July, only 620,000 doses have been delivered to Fiji, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Samoa, and Tuvalu.

“The prevalence of the Delta variant in Fiji is proving a major problem for other Pacific island countries, whose populations remain largely unvaccinated.”

Covid vaccines is not the only serious matter on which Australia has been found deficient in its recent actions relating to PNG and the Pacific.

A $3 billion (K7.8 billion) commitment three years ago by prime minister Scott Morrison to combat Chinese influence in the Pacific has not been honoured.

In 2018, Morrison announced what he termed a ‘Pacific Step-Up’ and promised $500 million in grants, $1.5 billion in loans and $1 billion in capital for infrastructure projects.

It has been revealed that only 14 projects have been approved so far and no loan money drawn down.

And an Australian Senate committee was told that only $5.3 million has been disbursed (for planning) and only $200,000 spent (on a scoping study for a project in Palau).


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Lindsay F Bond

Out-h, out-h, chief motormouth
Out-h, out-h, missed months et al
Out-h, out-h, all cringe et cling
Out-h, who spik doggeral.

Salute to Phil for the category of doggerel, upon which its taxonomy may emerge.

If that was more widely known, the last line might have been, "Out-h, like McGonagall."

Chris Overland

As Keith has rightly said, the Morrison government has failed dismally to do its job in relation to both quarantine and vaccination.

The direct result of this is that the State Premiers have had to do all the heavy lifting: running the quarantine program effectively outsourced to them by the Commonwealth and then being blamed for the repeated lockdowns that are the direct result of the Commonwealth's failings.

These include an imperfect hotel based quarantine system in lieu of a necessarily much more stringent purpose built system and a spectacular failure to adequately plan for completely foreseeable potential problems with the vaccine roll out.

In relation to PNG and the rest of our 'Pacific family', I cannot help but contrast the government's complacency and ineptitude with the determined and rapid response to the 1969/70 Hong Kong flu epidemic, where the necessary resources were provided very rapidly indeed in an effort to protect Papua New Guineans from the worst ravages of that disease.

As I recall that pandemic resulted in as many as 4,000,000 deaths across the globe, 2,000 of which were in PNG.

There would have been many more in PNG had not a small army of patrols officers, doctors, nurses, police, medical assistants and others managed to get to most of the population with sufficient supplies of medicines to help those who became ill. The military were very helpful too.

So far this pandemic has seen at least 4,000,000 deaths and seems likely to see several million more before vaccination levels reach the point where the much touted herd immunity is finally achieved.

The Australian government's dismal performance in relation to this pandemic will go down as one of the great public policy failures of history. Only the heroic efforts of the State health bureaucracies and their political leaders have saved us from utter disaster (so far at least).

Unhappily, the Commonwealth bureaucracy of today is a mere shadow of that which both recognised the need for a massive intervention in PNG in 1969 and then actually had the capacity to do something about it. This is, in part at least, attributable to the dumbing down of the public sector that is part of the neo-liberal capitalists ideology to which Morrison et al cling with religious fervour.

Morrison and his confederates, both in politics and the Murdoch media, will loudly declaim that it was their intervention in the economy that saved the day. In doing so they will conveniently ignore that this required them to abandon their long held ideological beliefs about the evils of government intervention in the economy.

They also have developed collective amnesia about the egregious nonsense about debt and deficit that they spouted about the Rudd government interventions to save the economy during the Global Financial Crisis, the cost of which was less than a tenth of the money expended by them during the pandemic.

It is my hope that enough Australians will not only understand the true extent of the government's failure but will resolve to punish them severely for it at the ballot box.

We should never reward the sort of political hubris, incompetence, blame shifting and dissembling that are the hallmarks of the Morrison government by voting for them again.

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