21 September 2023

Commonwealth Government to hold inquiry into COVID-19 response, but state and territory decisions excluded

| Lizzie Waymouth
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Prime Minister Scott Morrison wears an Australian flag face mask

Former prime minister Scott Morrison: the inquiry will investigate Commonwealth Government decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Facebook – Scott Morrison.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has announced a year-long inquiry into the Commonwealth Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic to “identify lessons learned to improve Australia’s preparedness for future pandemics”.

The review will exclude the decisions made by state and territory governments from its terms of reference, but ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the inquiry will “be our focus over the next 12 months”.

The inquiry will adopt a whole-of-government view in recognition of the wide-ranging impacts of COVID-19 across portfolios and the community, which will include the role of the Commonwealth Government and “responsibilities of state and territory governments, national governance mechanisms (such as National Cabinet, the National Coordination Mechanism and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee) and advisory bodies supporting responses to COVID-19”.

It will also include key health response measures such as vaccinations and treatments, public health messaging, distribution of medical supplies, broader health support for people with COVID-19, policies to support Australians at home and abroad, financial support for individuals and businesses, and community support.

However, the “actions taken unilaterally by state and territory governments” will not be included in the scope of the inquiry, nor will international programs and activities assisting foreign countries.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said the Prime Minister was “making a mockery of his own words before the election” by not including every level of government in the inquiry.

“The significant issue of COVID needs to be properly investigated. That period of our history needs to be properly understood,” he said.

“The Prime Minister owes it to the Australian people to have a proper understanding of what happened at a state and federal level in relation to COVID, the policies, the decisions that were being made.

“If we don’t learn the lessons of what happened during the course of COVID, good and bad, by every level of government, how do we expect to go into the next pandemic not understanding what had happened in the previous one? It doesn’t make any sense.”

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Mr Barr said he welcomed the inquiry and praised Australia’s pandemic response, and the ACT Government will actively participate in the inquiry where required.

“Australia’s pandemic response was the most significant government endeavour this century, from the coordination of emergency health care through to economic support and the vaccine rollout,” he said.

“The ACT Government will be an active participant in the Commonwealth’s inquiry where requested by the inquirers. The terms of reference for this inquiry are broad and will cover a lot of what a Territory-level inquiry would review. This inquiry will be our focus over the next 12 months.

“Within the national response, the primary objectives of the ACT Government’s COVID-19 public health response were to prevent the loss of life from the virus, achieve very high levels of community vaccination and reduce the burden of COVID-19 on our health system. On this front, our local response was particularly successful.

“Beyond the public health response, our economic support measures were also successful in preventing a recession, keeping Canberrans employed and providing a lifeline to business to get through to the other side of the pandemic.”

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The Prime Minister has appointed an independent panel of “three eminent people” to conduct the inquiry – former NSW Department of Health director-general Robyn Kruk, Deakin University chair in epidemiology Professor Catherine Bennett, and health economist Dr Angela Jackson. They will be supported by a taskforce within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The inquiry will also hold public consultations across Australia with key community stakeholders, Commonwealth, state and territory government agencies, and members of the public.

A final report will be delivered to the government by the independent panel, including recommendations for the Commonwealth Government to improve Australia’s preparedness for future pandemics, by the end of September 2024.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been the most significant global crisis that we have faced in decades. Its impacts are still being felt throughout Australia,” Mr Albanese said on Thursday (21 September).

“This inquiry will look at the government’s responses and will give advice on what worked, what didn’t, and what we can do in the future to best protect Australians from the worst of any future events.”

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All governments and their over zealous officials should be held to account for their actions during the Panpanic. For the lockdowns, school closures, 5km travel restrictions, border closures, fines, check-ins, mandatory masks and vaccines, persecutions and policing abuses….
FinReview today:
“Thursday’s announcement of an “inquiry into the response to the COVID-19 pandemic” was so utterly disingenuous and patronising that the government would have more credibility had it just broken its promise altogether and done nothing. Instead, Anthony Albanese and Health Minister Mark Butler stood up and treated the Australian people like idiots.”

GrumpyGrandpa6:56 pm 21 Sep 23

When Covid started, I thought the Commonwealth’s national approach made a lot of sense.
“National Council”, however, became a bit of a farce with States going rogue. The issue of course was that Health was a State responsibility.
A couple States also closed their borders for their own electoral advantage, during State elections etc.

My view is the Commonwealth made mistakes, and so did every State & Territory but given
that almost 23,000 Australians and globally 6.7 million have died of Covid, politicans of all juristictions, made decisions with some haste, sometimes political and sometimes backed medical advice.

Of course, we are all now looking back with the benefit of hindsight.

Mr Albanese’s announcement today, is disgraceful. It’s a political decision.
Many of the decisions that crippled the country were made at the States & Territories level, because they were the juristictions responsible for HEALTH, not the Commonwealth.

It would appear that this Inquiry will be largely focused on attacking, the now Commonwealth Opposition; hardly a wise use of taxpayer’s money!

We’re only going to look at what the other mob did!

The pandemic response was a catastrophe at all levels. Completely overrode individual rights on fear based politics.

1. Lockdowns. There remains zero evidence that lockdowns accomplished anything other than destroying the economy and the public’s emotional and physical wellbeing. There is zero correlation between places that locked down and those that didn’t nor severity of lockdowns and infection rates. Even within Australia, Sydney had lower infection rates than Melbourne despite the severity of lockdowns in the latter. There is nothing new or surprising here; the best virologists of history said that the best way for people to cope with a pandemic is to try and keep things running as normally as possible.

2. Medicare Vaccine Passport Scheme. This is perhaps the most morally abhorrent policy in Australia’s history. Enabling a system that allows government or businesses to exclude people based on whether they underwent a medical procedure is morally repugnant on a level that is rare to see in history.

3. Mandatory Vaccination. Given that the government’s own reports, from before any of the vaccines were available anywhere in Australia, showed there was little evidence that vaccination reduced transmission, that is vaccination really only has a benefit for the individual not the broader community, there was zero argument to require anyone to subject themselves to it (especially if they had already recovered from the disease themselves). The Western Australia data shows that government was very quickly aware of the extremely high level of adverse effects of vaccination. Both those being the case, mandatory vaccination quickly rises to level of a violation of the Nuremberg Code, which we considered, as a species, to be a capital crime only 70 years ago.

4. Check-Ins, testing and mandatory reporting. Privacy violation that accomplished nothing except normalising privacy violation. The high false positive rate always made testing relatively pointless, particularly as there is no difference in treatment for the vast majority of people whether it is this virus or any of the other respiratory viruses we have millennial of experience with. Given we knew how low the IFR was by the time of the Diamond Princess, we knew then that for most people the traditional guidance of plenty of rest and plenty fluids was going to be the best advice.

5. Masking. We have known for years that masking has negligible effect on transmission. Indeed, 20 years ago, during SARS-COV-1, state governments were fining people from attempting to profit off convincing people they needed to mask.

6. Fear based policy. The excessive fear government generated caused incredible harm in-and-of-itself. From people too terrified to seek medical help for other conditions that could have been treated if they were caught early. Indeed, the latest ABS data still shows a significant excess death above the baseline (which has nothing to do with this virus), and we are still seeing significantly higher suicide rates this year. Excluding Novak Djokovic is another example of pointless fear based policy not based on any evidence. Even the daily updates government maintained were also designed to create fear. And, of course, the previous Federal Government used that fear as a distraction to loot the treasury.

The underlying problem is government myopia. There is far more to living a quality life than quantity of life. No consideration was given to the other needs that humans require. All sold on a false promise that it was actually possible to avoid being exposed to this virus. It was obvious in early 2020 that there was zero chance of driving it to extinction. Animal reservoirs meant the outcome was always determined, and it really shouldn’t matter much to an individual if they catch it four or five times over the course of their lifetime. Even if they could reduce their exposure by one or two instances over their lifetime, the same wouldn’t be true for their children.

None of which is to say that this virus was nothing to worry about or there was nothing that could be done. The lie was in pretending that government overreach could actually provide a solution. There never was, and likely never will be, a magic policy solution that can prevent pandemics. The government reaction was just the old politician’s logic joke: “Something must be done, this is something, therefore we must do it.”

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