ADELAIDE – Keith Jackson has rightly written (‘Lethargic Australia drops ball on Covid’) that the Morrison government has failed dismally to do its job in relation to both quarantine and vaccination relating to Australia’s Covid pandemic.
The direct result of this failure is that the State premiers have had to do all the heavy lifting to contain the virus.
They have had to run the quarantine program, effectively outsourced to them by the Commonwealth, and then been 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 the spectacular failure to adequately plan for the completely foreseeable potential problems of the vaccine rollout.
In relation to Papua New Guinea 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 1968-70 Hong Kong influenza epidemic.
In this case, PNG's colonial Administration rapidly distributed necessary resources throughout the territories to protect Papua New Guineans from the worst ravages of the disease.
That pandemic resulted in as many as four million deaths across the globe, two thousand 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 military personnel managed to get to most of the population with sufficient supplies of medicines.
So far this coronavirus pandemic has recorded more than 4.1 million deaths and it seems likely to kill several million more people before vaccination levels reach the point where the much touted herd immunity is achieved, even if this is possible.
The Australian government's dismal performance in relation to this pandemic will go down as one of the great public policy failures in its history.
Only the heroic efforts of the State health bureaucracies and their political leaders have so far saved Australians from utter disaster, although the virus remains a huge threat.
Unhappily, the modern Commonwealth bureaucracy is a mere shadow of that which recognised the need for a massive intervention in PNG in 1969 and then had the capacity to do something about it.
The present day situation is, in part at least, attributable to the decline of the public sector due to the neo-liberal capitalist ideology to which prime minister Scott Morrison and others have clung with religious fervour.
Morrison and his confederates, both in politics and in Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp media, will undoubtedly declare 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.
Neo-liberals have also developed collective amnesia about the egregious nonsense about debt and deficit they spouted about the Rudd government interventions to save the economy during the Global Financial Crisis, the cost of which was less than one-tenth of the money spent by them during the pandemic.
It is my hope that enough Australians will not only understand the true extent of their national 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 it again.