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When leaders became enemies

Covid: Ineptitude, deception & lies

A western NSW vaccination clinic in Dubbo (Ben Wilkins)
A western NSW vaccination clinic in Dubbo. Indigenous communities are pleading for vaccine, the supply of which the Morrison government constantly lies about (Photo - Ben Wilkins)

NOOSA - It was the slightest of deceits, as unnecessary as it was sly, but nothing out of the ordinary from a person whose honour is tarnished and competency unaccounted for.

I write of the premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, who bears much responsibility, together with her soulmate the prime minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, for steering an entire nation into a position of great danger.

I mean what would you do if desiring to play down the impact of the 1,218 cases of Covid as reported by Berejiklian yesterday? Would you, for example, bury the number in verbosity, translate it as “twelve hundred and eighteen” then skate swiftly by, hoping its seismic effect would be lost, or at least muffled?

On another matter, last Wednesday was the final day the NSW government revealed how many people reported as having Covid the previous day had been in isolation, thereby posing no threat to the community. I think I know why this particular piece of data was disappeared.

Let me explain it this way. On 26 July, exactly one month earlier, when NSW reported 175 new Covid cases, 61 (35%) of them had been in isolation. On the day before the statistics disappeared last Wednesday there were 1,034 new cases reported of which 91 (9%) had been in isolation. Cases not isolated, of course, are in a prime position to pass on the virus to other people. So they spell trouble.

If isolated cases plunge from 35% to 9% that is as much proof as you need of a failed lockdown. Not a reality you want people to dwell on when you’ve been telling them each day your lockdown is the best in the world. Any more than you want them to spend time thinking about the effective lockdowns in Queensland, New Zealand, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia that you’ve been pretending never happened.

These lockdowns managed to expunge Delta Covid from the community and buy more time to get the relevant populations vaccinated after being totally hung out to dry by ‘Slovenly Scott’ Morrison and the mystical millions of vaccines that were always “secured” and “ramping up” but only ever seemed to arrive in dribs and drabs or when Warsaw had a few to spare.

Jacqueline Heterick and her grand-daughter  lawyer Chloe Heterick
Jacqueline Heterick and her grand-daughter lawyer Chloe Heterick

In passing I’ll mention the 25,000 Pfizers we pilfered from the Covex global supply earmarked for poverty-stricken countries and late-starters like Papua New Guinea. We’d demanded 500,000 but the administrators of that precious commodity sent us away with a token amount, presumably because they couldn’t stand the whining.

I want to point out the terrible failure of the Morrison government to ensure that Australia’s remote Indigenous people – recognised from the get-go as particularly vulnerable to Covid - were ignored until they got whacked by it.

As of Friday, more than 500 First Nations people in NSW were infected and vaccination rates lagged in every state except Victoria, where the Andrews State government had stepped in to hasten them along.

“We know that over a year ago the government was warned that an outbreak of Covid-19 in these communities would be detrimental,” says Chloe Heterick, a Wiradjuri woman and lawyer.

“Yet here we are in western NSW with only 7% of the First Nations population vaccinated compared with 26% of the non-Indigenous population. We know that First Nations people are at higher risk for detrimental health outcomes.”

A journalist asked Gladys Berejiklian if it was fair to say the government had neglected these communities. “Our certain vulnerable communities were earmarked to be vaccinated by the Commonwealth many months ago and we are addressing these issues now,” she replied in one of her typically serpentine utterances from which you can draw anything you want.

It seems Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, directly responsible for these remote Indigenous communities, had sent “an emergency batch” of 7,680 Pfizer vaccines to western NSW on 12 August at about the same time the NSW government was ‘borrowing’ 20,000 vaccines from rural areas of the state to vaccinate Sydney Year 12 students. See how it works?

Anyway, Ms Heterick’s legal specialty is medical negligence and her employer is Shine Lawyers, perhaps best known for class actions, so there may be a hint of what’s to come there.

Morrison-Berejiklian cartoon“We have residents in these remote communities driving hours for vaccinations,” she says. “We have Aboriginal Medical Centres crying out for vaccinations so that they can administer them. We're an at-risk group. What's been done hasn't been enough.”

I don’t believe I would be capable of such moderate language in these circumstances.

But maybe Ms Heterick is saving the heavy verbal artillery for her day in court.


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Lindsay F Bond

Federal Labor frontbencher Bill Shorten has accused the prime minister of "appalling judgement" for traveling to Sydney over the weekend, despite lockdowns across New South Wales and the ACT".


Even after appointing a chap from Australia's armed services and advertising "arming up" as a spruik for the Covid-19 vaccination endeavour, apparently our current prime minister has a scant hold on what imagery is required of leadership.

No matter his ability to convey a prepared script of stance, its his soft shoe shuffle that downgrades any move of boots on the ground. And to be fair to the sense of force needed, this novel virus has the impact of an atrocity against all humans not dissimilar to all other impacting invasions, of war, of water, of air without oxygen.

Recall images of Curtin in leadership described as "reluctant hero, the saintly, self-sacrificing figure". Well, not every image was as later viewed, but Curtin's government "assumed control of income tax from the states, made key changes to social security, introduced modern central banking":

Today we have a government that controls airports but resists taking further part in upgrade of quarantine that might lessen impact of invasive pathogens. That mindset seems to grant ticket to travel with less awareness to the reality of what comes as luggage.

Chris Overland

The author has correctly referred to the 'weasel words' used by both Golden Gladys and Morrison to avoid saying the obvious and, true to form, to deflect attention from the truth about the situation that their complacency, ineptitude and incompetence has created.

The plain truth is that the spread of Covid-19 is now out of control in NSW and its incidence is rising exponentially. A great deal of illness and death will surely follow.

The Berejiklian version of lockdown or, perhaps more accurately, the neo-liberal version of it, has manifestly failed and, ironically, is much more destructive of the economy she is striving to protect than the harsher versions used in Victoria and all other states and territories.

The Delta variant of the virus has been spread to other states by a combination of sheer stupidity on the part of a few individuals and, it must be said, a degree of bad luck.

If we are to avoid total disaster, we can only hope that the states and territories impacted by what Dan Andrews calls 'NSW incursions' can suppress the spread of the virus for long enough so that the vaccination program so badly botched by the Morrison government finally begins to have a significant impact.

As usual, the Morrison government is using 'weasel words' to try to mitigate its abject failure to prioritise indigenous Australians for vaccination. This is yet another failure to be laid at their door yet they shamelessly insist otherwise.

Here in South Australia we are cowering under the very flimsy protection provided by the proverbial 'tyranny of distance' from the epicentre of the NSW debacle in the probably forlorn hope of keeping the virus at bay.

Our leaders are hoping for the best but fearing the worst and so are furiously promoting vaccination as the one sure way to beat off potential catastrophe. Very sensibly, South Australians are lining up in droves for their jabs.

I have not seen a worse failure of public health policy in my lifetime than this.

It has been perpetrated by a complacent and incompetent Federal government, which has shown bad judgement at almost every critical point in the unfolding pandemic.

Hopefully, they will reap the electoral rewards that they so richly deserve.

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