16 August 2021

Gladys the weakest link as virus exposes the price of failed leadership

| Ian Bushnell
Join the conversation
Gladys Berejiklian

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian talks to the media: still spinning away her disastrous COVID response.

The worst possible place to have the weakest link in Australia’s COVID-19 chain of defence would have to be Sydney, and yet here we are.

In past times there may have been mass resignations for such an obvious stuff-up, but these days all we get is more spin and more deflection.

Seven weeks into the Sydney, and now regional NSW and ACT outbreak, and the panic button has finally been pushed.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr, who has had plenty of opportunities to put the boot in but remains diplomatic, welcomed the state-wide lockdown and ramping up of restrictions, only lamenting that it hadn’t come all those weeks ago.

But NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian was determined to do things her way, despite the experience elsewhere in the country or world for that matter.

READ MORE Here is what you are entitled to if you lose work due to Canberra’s lockdown

No ring of steel, no uniform lockdown to prevent the virus from spreading across Sydney or leaking to the regions.

Go early, go hard – that was the way forward if you didn’t want to end up in a long, exhausting and protracted battle against the virus.

But as the other states and territories looked on in horror and the Prime Minister once again sniffed the populist breeze rather than show any real leadership, the slow-moving train crash unfolded in its own inevitable way.

It’s Delta, this is different, said Gladys. The old rules no longer apply. Despite the experts saying you needed to go even harder, precisely because Delta is more transmissible and affects a wider range of age groups.

When the disaster became apparent, the Premier was still blaming Delta, saying that was why the response was not working, along with hectoring the south-west of Sydney for their large families and connected households.

It’s now clear Gladys was just not listening to the health advice, that Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant had been sidelined as other interests got into the Premier’s ear.

This juggling of these economic and political interests while the virus spread relentlessly wasted precious time until there was nothing more for it but to go to the full crackdown.

By then, the virus was well and truly out of control.

READ ALSO How do we find a place to call home for everyone?

The Sydney experience has exposed the lie of us all being in this together, and the socio-economic fault lines not just across Sydney but across the nation as story after story emerges of the exemptions and the exceptions for those with the bank accounts, the properties or so-called essential skills or businesses to step outside the restrictions.

The NSW Government’s approach has divided Sydneysiders, dismayed the other states and territories, cost lives and put more lives and livelihoods at risk.

Even now, Gladys is still spinning a better future when the city gets to not just the 70 per cent vaccination rate set by Scott Morrison but as low as 50 per cent, even suggesting the vaccinated will win special privileges.

Modelling by the Doherty Institute indicates that even a 70 per cent vaccination rate, with daily cases in their hundreds like now, will still mean 385,000 cases and 1,500 deaths in NSW could happen in a six-month period.

That’s what living with the virus means.

The NSW leadership should pay politically for this mess, but this is where we are, and governments everywhere have to deal with what’s in front of them.

Mr Barr was asked only last week what would it take for the ACT to go into lockdown. His answer was just one case, pointing out how many people could be affected by a single person.

He was as good as his word, and whatever else you might think about the Chief Minister, he has taken the health advice, acted decisively with clear voice and mind and taken the people of Canberra with him.

READ ALSO Canberra’s Bec Goddard to coach Hawthorn AFLW in its inaugural season

The very antithesis of the half-hearted approach that has only elicited a likewise response from the many people in Sydney who won’t stay home, spurn social distancing and masks, and resent their entitled lives being interrupted.

As we all know, lockdown was never meant to be a continuous feature of managing the pandemic but was there to buy time while vaccines were developed or the virus petered out.

The Federal Government’s vaccine procurement mistakes and slow rollout squandered that opportunity.

The job now is to slow the virus’s spread and accelerate the supply and delivery of vaccines to provide as much protection as possible.

If there is one lesson from the NSW fiasco, it’s that in crises such as these, governments and leaders need to ignore the politics and vested interests, forget the spin and be upfront with the public about what is at stake.

COVID-19 won’t be the last threat to our well-being. Governments of all colours will have to confront multiple environmental issues and their fallout, not to mention the existential crisis that hangs over the planet in the shape of global warming.

They cannot be ignored with wishful thinking, political accommodation, or putting them in the too hard basket.

Time, like in Sydney, is not on our side.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Yes, if only the usually no nonsense Gladys had been more like Liberal Party Premiers Marshall and Gutwein and not in thrall to the Prime Minister for NSW who just can’t resist seeking an oh so clever marketing point of difference.

No plan survives the battlefield. This is no normal battle.
I’ve been reading this website and especially the comments to the stories I’ve read, particularly in the opinion section, mainly for a great blend of information and amusement. I’ve been doing this for 5 years that I’ve lived in Canberra and being a bit of a libertarian have noticed the slight left bias of most things published and also most responses, each to their own. Question I have is why such low regard for Gladys and such high praise for Dan down south that I have noticed here? If Gladys was labor I don’t think this article would be as pointy! Just an observation. Stay safe

Hi Peter, I think you’ll find that the difference between responses to the approach that Gladys and Dan have taken is based on the fact that Dan took the hard road and imposed a clear and hard lockdown. Gladys didn’t impose clear rules and a hard lockdown. There has been a lot of criticism about Gladys’s approach – too little, too late and the failure to impost adequate restrictions on the wealthy Eastern suburbs where the outbreak started, shows who is calling the shots.

How come NSW CHO K Chant still can keep her job? We still remember Ruby Princess bungle & now Sydney outbreak that spreads to NSW regions, other States & Territory also NZ . Can’t help comparing it to 2003 ACT bushfire. Cost $350millions, 4 death & 488 building destroyed. Because of this the ACT Emergency Services Bureau and Rural Services chiefs lost their jobs. Sure, no property loss during this virus outbreak, but so far 80 death & cost $220M per day (according to KPMG). NSW Premier still following her advice??

NSW CHO advised NSW govt some time ago that they needed to lock down hard. Gladys decided not to as her big business backers wouldn’t let her. Who pulls the strings in NSW govt hmmmm remember the debacle around posting gambling info from horse racing on the Sydney Opera House? Very sad for Sydney.

Derryl Triffett11:21 am 19 Aug 21

Barilaro at it again. Dragging Canberra as a contributing source to NSW stuff up.

Ironic when his daughter broke rules prior to our outbreak by travelling to Canberra.

That said regardless of how COVID got here we do have a major outbreak and we are risk to southern NSW. The tool just rubs me up the way he puts it.

South West Sydney, where most of the cases were, is mostly recent migrants. One article I saw said over 50% of doctor visits in one area of Sydney required an interpreter. The Sydney outbreak is 25 years of failure on immigration and integration policy as the GDP Ponzi scheme was considered the most important until know. That said, lockdowns only make sense if there is an end game, and there is none.

Capital Retro4:36 pm 17 Aug 21

Victoria had the same problem last year but because most of the non-English speaking people were in public housing towers their movements could be controlled.

Speaking English should be mandatory for new arrivals to Australia (or whatever it is called these days).

I don’t think language is the core problem. Think there are some cultural issues too that have a major impact.

A good case in point there was an article I saw yesterday or today which mentioned in the two major areas of Sydney that are causing most of the cases there were one suburb in each area which was significantly less of an issue. What those two suburbs had in common is they had a large percentage of Indian migrants who had high vaccine takes up and high levels of compliance.

Capital Retro8:15 pm 19 Aug 21

Most people from the sub-continent speak English.

Almost all the 12,000 Syrian refugees who were brought to Australia from their civil war resettled in Fairfield despite the intention to spread them all over NSW. Very few speak English and they choose to watch free satellite TV from Islamic countries in the middle east. Last time I checked my set top satellite receiver there were 54 of these channels.

They are effectively settlers – not migrants.

HiddenDragon7:20 pm 16 Aug 21

Yep, things are crook in Tallarook, but with the possible exception of McGowan (whose approach seems to be a form of “have your cake and eat it too” secession as a hermit mining province), the one thing all of our political leaders have in common is that they’re desperate to get the national borders open again a.s.a.p. so that they can re-start the population Ponzi scheme which has been used to juice our lazy economy for the last few decades.

Whether it’s short(ish), sharp(ish) lockdowns or delayed, disorganised lockdowns, they’re all working to the same objective, at which point Covid-zero and radical elimination masquerading as “suppression” will be dropped like a hot brick.

liberalsocialist6:52 pm 16 Aug 21

Really? Ian – there are two things the Federal Government is responsible. Quarantine and Vaccines.

From a State with zero cases, I would suggest that’s where the failure occured. Let’s not let the marketing party off the hook – they stuffed up both.

Giuseppe Veneziano6:10 pm 16 Aug 21

Please no more idiotic parochialism!! Covid 19 knows no borders. It asks for no visas. It does not discriminate between refugees or permanent residents. There are NO boats, carrying the virus to our shores, to be turned back. Australia (ALL of it) must recognise the inevitability of having to live with covid for many years to come, just like the rest of the world. Only Australia and NZ were able to shut borders totally in march 2020 because of their geographical position. We need now to move on. Get vaccinated and learn to live with it.

Capital Retro6:23 pm 16 Aug 21

Totally correct but too simple for the highly educated, self appointed neo-Marxist experts on this thread to deal with.

Seriously, CapitalRetro – you are now adopting the high moral ground after you post a totally partisan comment about debts in NSW (Liberal) v Victoria/Queensland (Labor)? Actually, I apologise and take that back – hypocrisy has always been one of your finest attributes.

Capital Retro5:51 pm 16 Aug 21

After the pandemic is under control, Australia and the States & Territories will have to deal with the financial mess that has resulted.

NSW currently owes $53.2 billion, Queensland owes $95.8 billion and Victoria owes $77.5 billion.

NSW has by far the least debt per capita so which state would all you neo-Marxists like to live in?

Funny, CapitalRetro, the mantra of you ultra right wing conservatives used to be “reduce the debt!!!” with constant references to blowouts under the previous Federal Labor government. When Rudd took over in 2007 from Howard, the national debt, at 30 June 07, was A$58.273 billion. I freely admit the debt sky rocketed under Labor (mind you we did have the govt bail out for the GFC crisis in that period) and in June 2013, the year Abbott took over, it was $A257.370 billion – an increase of A$199.097 billion. Enter our saviours, the great economic managers, the Coalition. In the 7 years to 30 June 2020, under these masters of fiscal magnitude, have managed to reduce that debt to … oh wait, what’s this – it’s gone up? Surely, not as much as the rise under those profligate socialists? Well unfortunately, as you probably know, CapitalRetro, that debt has blown out to A$426.928 billion as at 30 June 2020 [Figures all taken from “Australian Office of Financial Management – Data Hub – End of Financial Year Positions”. Commonwealth of Australia]. Oh and just to add icing to the coalition’s financial mastery – the Budget projections are that the Commonwealth government’s gross debt will be around A$963 billion at 30 June 2022.
And of course the financial maestros on the Treasury benches tell us not to worry our pretty little heads about these figures – as there’s good debt (Coalition debt) and bad debt (Labor debt).
So, maybe Dan and Anastasia have done their homework and learnt from the experts and entered into a lot of good debt – but young Gladys obviously had to be kept back a year, so hopefully she’ll get some extra tuition from Josh!

Oooops, my bad CapitalRetro, the sentence should have read “… that debt has blown out, by A$426.928 billion, to $684.298 billion as at 30 June 2020. S Geez, A$426.928 sounded bad enough, but $684.298 billion – wow, that’s a lot of zeros for a mob who tells us what financial managers they are. But I am truly looking forward to seeing you spin this back to being the neo-Marxists fault.

Capital Retro8:47 pm 16 Aug 21

So, which state would you like to live in?

The one state I know I’ll never run into you, CapitalRetro – the state of reality

Not just a clever name

Capital Retro9:29 am 17 Aug 21

Reality is an illusion caused by lack of drugs.

Thank you, CapitalRetro, for that insightful, first-hand experience – so shouldn’t you go back on to your medication then?

old canberran5:42 pm 16 Aug 21

It’s a real shame to see this news medium join the ranks of Sky News and Alan Jones in attacking Gladys. This article is not a news item it is a personal opinion of the author. Lift your game Riotact.

Did you not read the “Opinion” next to the headline? Of course it opinion; it’s supposed to be!

You know when sky and Alan Jones are attacking a liberal things must be pretty crook.

Capital Retro5:17 pm 17 Aug 21

It’s called “balance”, JC.

Sky is rarely if ever balanced. If you were talking the ABC you might have a point.

Capital Retro4:32 pm 20 Aug 21

It took you three days to come up with that?

But don’t forget labor’s Albanese says parliament should still sit in Canberra next week. Crazy stuff

Ummm, given that they are already here in Canberra, Oiledpengu, why wouldn’t they sit? If they don’t sit, the usual suspects will bag them for sitting on their a***s doing nothing on the public payroll. Despite what we think of them, Parliament House is just another workplace – and they can’t work from home. Oh and FYI, every person in Parliament House in the last two sitting weeks (most of which was pre-ACT lockdown) wore a mask as they moved around the House.

Yes, a good article, restrained if anything, stating the bleedin’ obvious, which must be a huge embarrassment to those LNP supporters who haven’t disappeared down a RWNJ rabbit hole. And just imagine if the country had been half as badly let down by a Labor PM and Premier.

Excellent article, Mr Bushnell. So pleased that my Canberra daughter has had her 2 shots, but so many others at risk because of Ms Berejiklian’s poor decisions and even worse, our Prime Marketer’s silly and typically short-sighted procurement decisions.

If you’ve read this article and still feel like Gladys has done no wrong by the people of NSW, ACT and Australia at large, please just watch this:


If you still think she is in the clear, then I sure hope your on the jury if I ever find myself in hot water!

Thanks, paulmuster, very entertaining.

Please do cut her some slack! Because we are all socialists now in economic management, her mob just had to find an ideological point of difference in other matters. And it just happens that a bit of collateral damage fits nicely with their world view.

Malcolm Roxburgh10:33 am 16 Aug 21

Ian Bushnell. A bit of typical left wing propaganda from the ACT. If NSW is so bad why were so many ACT residents bolting for the coast last week?

Gold Standard Gladys and the Ring of Aluminium. She had to ask her big business backers for permission to lock down.

astro, they weren’t bolting to Sydney!

No they weren’t but it wouldn’t have got out of Sydney if she locked down earlier – it was clearly spreading outwards from the eastern suburbs.

Capital Retro8:38 am 16 Aug 21

How many NSW Labor leaders have come and gone while Gladys has been Premier, Ian?

Is that all you’ve got, CapitalRetro, some obscure reference to Glady’s longevity in the position? So by that measure, you must be mightily impressed with the job Daniel Andrews and Anastasia Palaczuk have done – given they have both held the reins in their respective states for much longer than Gladys.

Capital Retro10:06 am 16 Aug 21

What took you so long to think that up?

I had to take the time to recover from laughing at yet another of your irrelevancies.

Your’e showing a severe left wing bias in this article.

Stephen Saunders8:04 am 16 Aug 21

The core beliefs of Brad and Glad are “individual freedom and free enterprise”. Kind of useless, against a non-linear virus.

The official (Treasury IGR) plan is to grow Sydney close to 8m by mid century, 75% of growth from migration. Madness.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.