It’s all COVID but where is the rest of government?

Ian Bushnell 11 September 2021 25
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr hasn’t taken a break in a month of lockdown. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian will be missing from our screens at 11:00 am today, and some may think that’s a good thing.

But when COVID-19 cases are peaking (we hope) and people are dying every day, and not just the elderly or those with the catch-all term ‘underlying conditions’, this is not the time to duck scrutiny.

She should be fronting up to answer journalists questions and be accountable.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr was quizzed about whether he would be following suit, and while he might finally have a day off soon, the daily 11.45 am presser is not going anywhere just yet.

What this attention on the COVID-19 press conference has highlighted is how the pandemic and the lockdown has diverted so many government resources and taken up so much of its time.

Like much of society, government, apart from COVID activities, appears to have slowed to a stop.

The Legislative Assembly sittings and the Budget have been rescheduled, senior ministers such as Planning’s Mick Gentleman, the Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury or Transport and City Services’ Chris Steel have disappeared from view, and any non-COVID announcements are few and far between.

Yet, when asked if the business of government was still happening, Mr Barr assured us that it was, that regular Cabinet meetings were taking place, and while there has been a reallocation of resources, the usual day-to-day activities were still being done.

Well, it’s time the community heard more about that work.

Probably the biggest change to the city centre is taking place with the next stage of light rail, a project that will change the face of the southern gateway and cause massive disruption to traffic and parking.

The planning review underway will have important ramifications for developers and residents alike. And housing, whether you want to break into the market or you are a renter trying to keep a roof over your head, is an issue that seems only to become more critical with every monthly price or vacancy report

The Alexander Maconochie Centre, the prison, remains a running sore that can’t be healed.

The Opposition has taken the high road during the lockdown, sensibly refraining from throwing stones when the Territory needs to get on top of the outbreak.

But more than a month into lockdown, it must be growing impatient and the first sign may have been its advocacy last week for more clarity from the government on supports for business.

How long it can remain virtually invisible, with about three weeks to go until Budget time, is the question.

There is no doubt the government has a job on its hands and its efforts to keep Canberrans safe should be commended, as should Mr Barr’s stamina and unflagging commitment to plain talk.

And unlike the NSW Premier, the ACT Government does not appear to be in the business of avoiding scrutiny.

But if government is indeed rolling on, it is probably time for it to become more visible, within the constraints of the lockdown, and start making inroads into the backlog of announcements, project milestones and reports that must surely be accumulating.

What's Your Opinion?

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25 Responses to It’s all COVID but where is the rest of government?
Jesse Peter Jesse Peter 2:35 pm 14 Sep 21

i've got a better idea: where's the cost/benefit analysis on lockdowns?

looks to me we're sitting at 5.6% excess mortality with no end in sight. far more than anything attributable to covid - so what do we attribute it to?

those lives don't matter, apparently.

that excludes economic impact, increased drug/alcohol abuse, increased obesity, other increased health impacts not resulting in excess death (yet), mental health impact, lost education, lost social contact, lost hope, lost social liberties, lost democracy, etc.etc.

all 'for our health' ... what kind of country are we leaving for the children to inherit?

Timmy Holness Timmy Holness 6:32 am 14 Sep 21

Get vaccinated, keep your distance and wear a mask (properly). I hope that all businesses will open up sooner rather than later and that you get the financial support you need.

Raina Burke Raina Burke 10:25 pm 13 Sep 21

It’s called a crisis.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 9:09 pm 13 Sep 21

Normal transmission will resume before too long, probably with a large dollop of vomitorious spin about “building back better”, “punching above our weight”, “not waiting for the feds” etc. etc., which will be used to hypnotise people into thinking that the policy rehash being dished up is new, exciting, courageous and (most slyly of all) absolutely essential, even if fiscally nuts.

Alex Stevens Alex Stevens 8:21 pm 13 Sep 21

The road and transport department are working overtime. Mobile speed cameras are everywhere. Trying to get any revenue. They are a joke

Ian Ian 4:18 pm 13 Sep 21

I think Barr’s communication during the lockdown has been good. I’d be curious to see how his commitment to openness etc would go if the government’s handling of Covid turned out to be a debacle, like NSW’s. I suspect it would be somewhat less.

Peter David Peter David 3:54 pm 13 Sep 21


Just let me shop at Bunnings, I want to buy a sausage sandwich on the weekend and feel like a human again and not a science experiment

    Jack Hearps Jack Hearps 4:02 pm 13 Sep 21

    A failed experiment?

    AA-Ron Kelly AA-Ron Kelly 6:32 pm 13 Sep 21

    Peter David I just want a haircut.

    Timothy Friel Timothy Friel 7:11 pm 13 Sep 21

    That would put you in the "control" group

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 11:13 pm 13 Sep 21

    AA-Ron Kelly Time to experiment and cut your own hair. I have cut my own hair now twice, expecting the worse. However, both times, much to my surprise, I was pleased with the result. And it was free 😁. Just need a good pair of scissors.

    Or get a family member to cut it.

Steven Peisley Steven Peisley 1:22 pm 13 Sep 21

Is the media talking about anything other covid non stop 24/7? Nope

whatwik whatwik 1:19 pm 13 Sep 21

Maybe it’d help if some small businesses paid more attention to record keeping and filling in forms correctly (in other words, avoided contributing to the red tape some like to whinge about).

Oscar Mike Oscar Mike 11:56 am 13 Sep 21

I’m expecting lockdowns until after the deferral elections, states/ territories are playing their part just like the US elections. Disgruntle the electorate and get them to blame the incumbent federal government for state decisions, it’s pathetically beautiful

Penelope Rose Penelope Rose 10:16 am 13 Sep 21

Well they're definitely not working on helping businesses. They can make a website and an application form for a grant all they want but 5 weeks into a lockdown and no actual help to businesses that are still closed. Small business owners need to remember how we are being treated or should I say completely ignored. Take note everyone, if you once enjoyed your favourite Cafe, hair, beauty salon, gym, palates studio, or anything that is closed, just remember those places are getting no income, that could be your neighbour, brother, sister, parents, a member of our community that has had $0 income in 5 weeks. The bills keep coming in for business and personal expenses. They don't stop.

    Nick Savino Nick Savino 10:42 am 13 Sep 21

    Penelope Rose it’s pretty disappointing

    Scott Carratt Scott Carratt 11:33 am 13 Sep 21

    Penelope Rose all while the politicians an probably the public servants receive their full income...

William Coats William Coats 9:43 am 13 Sep 21

Where is the business minister? We haven’t seen her at all since the shambolic Choose CBR. We know the ACT business support grant is having similar issues with nearly no businesses getting paid anything going into the fifth week. The government said they were prepared? What a joke businesses need support more quickly.

The governments response has been ok but, waiting times at testing early doors was appalling, covid had managed to get into: the jail, schools, the disability sector and more than 10% of cases still aren’t linked.

The chief never gets asked any tough questions, everyday he gets a dixer about blaming scomo, then an opportunity to blame nsw. Then finally a personal check. He has never faced the type of scrutiny the NSW premier has.

Finally if the ACT didn’t have such a poor health system going into this maybe we wouldn’t be so stressed about 15 hospitalisations. Maybe if we treated those in Government Housing a little better it wouldn’t be so bad if COVID got in.

This pandemic is showing just how bad labor have been at looking after the vulnerable in Canberra before COVID

    Jatin Fangalia Jatin Fangalia 9:54 am 13 Sep 21

    William Coats it feels like small business needs a party of its own to represent at various levels to get its voice heard.

    Margaret Freemantle Margaret Freemantle 3:12 pm 13 Sep 21

    William Coats this would have to be the greatest load of rubbish I have read!! ACT govt do their absolute level best looking after the vulnerable. I feel it and I see it.

    William Coats William Coats 4:30 pm 13 Sep 21

    Margaret check out our government housing, it’s falling apart. Check out hospital waiting times, worst in the country

    Ashley Latimer Ashley Latimer 7:59 am 14 Sep 21

    William Coats come on lol, the NSW premiere has literally given up on containing covid, she's no longer doing daily press conferences and their contact tracing is written off. Strange comparrison mate.

Erin Papps Erin Papps 8:46 am 13 Sep 21

Agreed - let’s not abandon democracy

chewy14 chewy14 8:36 am 13 Sep 21

Can we get a ALP disclaimer on these articles from now on?

The dripping partisan bias is getting as long in the tooth as this “7 day snap lockdown”.

    ogopogo ogopogo 2:52 pm 14 Sep 21

    Fair enough, if all your comments come with an LNP disclaimer.

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