Morrison Government’s lack of foresight leaves country exposed to another COVID wave

Ian Bushnell 28 May 2021 78
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt at the ACT’s first COVID-19 vaccination at the Garran Surge Centre back in February. The rollout is still slow. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Here we go again.

Victoria is in a seven-day lockdown to control a COVID-19 cluster sourced back to a hotel quarantine in Adelaide where a man contracted the virus and unknowingly carried it to Melbourne.

How has it come to this?

Right from the start of the pandemic, the Commonwealth has fudged its responsibilities, deferring to the states and territories as a political risk-management exercise that enabled it to stay above the fray but taking potshots when it suited over hotel quarantine issues or border closures.

READ MORE: ACT Government takes reins on disability vaccinations and modifies Garran centre

Now that the Morrison Government has seen the electoral benefits of taking a tough line on borders and restrictions, it too is hairy-chested on keeping us safe, rationing the return of Australian citizens from COVID-ravaged India.

But that too is a consequence of the Commonwealth avoiding its constitutional quarantine responsibilities, ignoring calls from experts initially, and then state governments such as Queensland for dedicated quarantined centres out of the heavily populated capitals.

It has beefed up the Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory, but the great bulk of quarantine stays remain in city hotels despite the mounting evidence that aerosol transmission of the virus is difficult to avoid in these inadequately ventilated buildings.

Instead of moving quickly to establish a secure quarantine network, the Morrison Government has stubbornly stuck to the hotel system with, it seems, little thought to the next incursion.

Now, more than a year since the virus came to Australia, the country still doesn’t have what should be its first line of defence.

And while other first-world countries such as the US and Britain are well on the way to vaccinating their people, Australia is making excruciatingly slow progress.

This too must be sheeted home to the Commonwealth’s approach to acquiring vaccines, which focused on just a few – the Pfizer, Astra Zeneca and the Queensland University project, which had to be abandoned – leaving it with fewer options when problems emerged.

READ ALSO: ACT architects’ head steps up to help Australia gets its climate house in order

First, there were supply problems with the Astra Zeneca vaccine due to European demand, then came the blood clot issues that understandably made people wary of rushing to getting a jab.

The decision, on medical advice, to allocate Pfizer to the under-50s and the Astra Zeneca to the over-50s has only contributed to the hesitancy, especially when COVID, until now, was not present in the community.

With the Astra Zeneca vaccine, there may only be a very small risk of complications, but the risk/benefits ratio means nothing if you are one of the unfortunate few to be collateral damage, and that perception is hard to shift.

The Commonwealth is now also sourcing the Moderna vaccine, but its fumbling on quarantine, vaccine acquisition and rolling out the program has left the country exposed.

The fresh outbreak is likely to galvanise people to get their jabs, even if you are over 50 and would prefer the Pfizer jab.

But as late as this week, people were facing lengthy phone queues and weeks-long waits to be vaccinated at the Garran Surge Centre, which you would think should be able to cope with demand.

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The Morrison Government’s pandemic management, which it is constantly airbrushing and rebranding for its own electoral purposes, is eerily similar to how it approached the bushfire crisis.

That involved a reluctance to accept reality, deference to the states until it became all too obvious that it was an issue that transcended state borders and then demanding the spotlight and activating the marketing teams.

Even its economic response and welcome jettisoning of its debt-and-deficit rhetoric has hardly been strategic as a fire hose of cash sprayed indiscriminately into the business sector.

Spending was the right move, but it will be interesting to see exactly what we get for it.

If the Prime Minister goes to an election trumpeting its pandemic response as incumbent state governments have done successfully, the public should reflect on the Commonwealth’s overall performance and how, at this point, the nation remains ill-prepared for another outbreak.

On this issue, the bushfires, the transition to renewables and emission-free vehicles, and the challenges of climate change in general, the Morrison Government seems incapable of leadership.

What's Your Opinion?

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78 Responses to Morrison Government’s lack of foresight leaves country exposed to another COVID wave
Michael Ahern Michael Ahern 8:18 pm 29 May 21

You just forgot the bit where until this week, plenty of eligible people were choosing not to get vaccinated despite available vaccines….

Ol L Ol L 11:28 am 29 May 21

If it takes weeks to get a shot why don’t they run extended hours? Like say 6am til midnight?

    JC JC 4:46 pm 31 May 21

    The issue that makes it take weeks is one of supply not the ability to give the injections. But the feds don’t want that fact to be known too widely as it is bette for them to blame states for slow rollout.

whatwik whatwik 9:30 am 29 May 21

This may help some here –

“…a hotel quarantine leak in Adelaide’s CBD around May 3 was probably caused by aerosol transmission when adjacent hotel door rooms were opened soon after each other as occupants collected meals.

The leak ultimately triggered the rapidly worsening COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria.”

Robyn Plany Robyn Plany 7:20 am 29 May 21

There has to be something wrong with the State Government in Victoria not the Federal, no other States have had a break out like Victoria

cranky cranky 6:36 pm 28 May 21

At 70+, I attended the Garran facility for my AZ jab. All went very well.
But puzzled. I was given an appointment time, and attended, with one other gent at the same time. Taken in, given the jab, but then required to sit in the same booth for 15 minutes to, I assume, check for any reactions.
If we had been moved back to the waiting room (empty at the time), for observation, I would estimate another 6 jabs could have been completed.
Seems a real waste of resources.

    JC JC 7:57 am 29 May 21

    That’s how it is being done elsewhere. That is jab then onto the observation room. It would seem better to cope with higher throughput.

    Though to put more through there does need to be more supply which could be part of the reason.

    When I had my second jab (Pfizer) which was on a Saturday about a month back the place was very quiet and when I asked why there wasn’t more coming through that day I was told it was because of lack of supply that had been allocated to the ACT that week.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 4:22 pm 29 May 21

    It sounds like a bit of a lottery at the moment JC. A bit like getting in the 8.30am queue to get the “special buys” at Aldi.

    Maya123 Maya123 12:53 pm 29 May 21

    I had my first AZ jab back in early April as, although not 70 yet, I qualified because I am a ‘primary carer’. I was taken to a waiting room for the 15 minutes wait, and each chair had a clock timer above it, which was set for the 15 minutes. My second dose is early July.

    JC JC 6:05 pm 29 May 21

    Where was that Maya? Garran, Calvary or somewhere else?

    Maya123 Maya123 10:34 pm 29 May 21

    Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service In Narrabundah. When I heard they had been giving the vaccine to people in Narrabundah as well, I took a walk and visited. I walked in and about ten minutes later had an injection. I took my mother the following week and had about half an hour wait then. Neither of us booked, just turned up. They did ask where we lived. We were given actual appointments though for the second vaccine.
    I also got my flu vaccine there, but not on the same day, as the two vaccines must be at least two weeks apart.

    JC JC 4:48 pm 31 May 21

    That would explain why it is a different process.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:24 pm 31 May 21

    Looks like the gap has already closed then.

whatwik whatwik 3:52 pm 28 May 21

Where’s John Curtin when we need him?

protea protea 3:46 pm 28 May 21

Well said, Mr Bushnell. Yet again we see the Prime Marketer and Greg Hunt excelling at diversion and deflection in answering questions on this topic.

Frank Koch Frank Koch 3:06 pm 28 May 21

73% of the population don’t want to be vaccinated so I suppose that’s the government’s fault

    Christine Johnston Christine Johnston 8:13 pm 28 May 21

    Frank Koch Actually the media’s fault.....

Mark Dawson Mark Dawson 1:26 pm 28 May 21

Considering that COVID-19 will likely be with us for years if not decades, surely investing in the construction of purpose built quarantine facilities would be sensible. Even if COVID-19 disappears, these facilities will be useful for any future pandemics.

Stephen Saunders Stephen Saunders 1:23 pm 28 May 21

Of course Scotty has totally botched it, but you can still back him at $1.55 for the election win. Be happy.

Slade Minson Slade Minson 10:50 am 28 May 21

Come on Bushy, let's use this forum for balanced apolitical reporting.

    Robert Knight Robert Knight 12:17 pm 28 May 21

    Slade Minson this cluster is the result of a break out from state based quarantine. Quarantine that’s still being conducted in poorly ventilated, or controlled hotels in major population centres.

    Quarantine is constitutionally mandated federal responsibility, and we are still to this day lacking any level of centralised control by the federal government. As an Army logistics officer I can tell you the government has the means and power to stand up well equipped, purpose designed quarantine centres to nip this in the bud at its source.

    I struggle to understand why this hasn’t happened. The only answer is a political one. Morrison and co have shirked their responsibilities here, and the state premiers have had to go it alone.

    I don’t see why Bushy’s comments aren’t valid and pertinent.

    Slade Minson Slade Minson 12:31 pm 28 May 21

    The rules have changed as we've moved through this pandemic. I'm not a fan of divisive reporting/op-eds, nor conspiracy theories, it's not what I support. Would rather be part of a solution, and look for the good, rather than just highlighting the negative Robert Knight.

    Robert Knight Robert Knight 1:50 pm 28 May 21

    Slade Minson to identify a solution, we must first identify the problem, no?

    Slade Minson Slade Minson 5:10 pm 28 May 21

    I think we know it's not perfect. And can be a case of dammed if we do, dammed if we don't. More proactive commentary is part of the solution, not bashing the government of the day. I think this is above politics. But people will always politicise for gain. Which cheapens respect for their ideologies. IMO.

    Robert Knight Robert Knight 5:48 pm 28 May 21

    Slade Minson I’m not sure you have to be partisan to criticise poor performance.

    If we can press the military into Border Protection and the establishment of offshore detention facilities lickity split, then why can’t we do exactly the same thing for our own citizens?

    This, I think, really does transcend politics. We’re failing in a crisis.

    Slade Minson Slade Minson 9:12 pm 28 May 21

    I would'nt say we're failing. I'd say in some ways we are the envy of the world.

    Eric Anthony Lucas Eric Anthony Lucas 4:35 pm 31 May 21

    Robert Knight no, it is not constitutionally mandated. The feds have power to enact laws, but so have the states. And it was agreed at the beginning of covid that the states would administer the quarantine arrangements, for good and sufficient reasons.

    Robert Knight Robert Knight 4:45 pm 31 May 21

    Eric Anthony Lucas fair call - it's not mandated.

    I would, however, love to know what the good and sufficient reasons are.

swaggieswaggie swaggieswaggie 10:21 am 28 May 21

It’s so called “journalism” like this that makes the RiotAct appear to be less and less a valued resource for the community and more and more a place for windbags to publish nonsensical articles like this.

Robert Robert 10:14 am 28 May 21

I think you are spot on about the Morrison government avoiding their responsibilities. However the salt on the wound is the constant over-promising and falsehoods.

Morrison: “The agreement puts Australia at the top of the queue, if our medical experts give the vaccines the green light.”

Morrison: “The government aims to have four million Australians vaccinated by the end of March, with a target to roll out 80,000 vaccinations a week by mid- to late-February.”

Morrison: “I want to stress that at no time yesterday did I make any comment about the actions of the European Union, nor did I indicate any of the background reasons for the lack of supply that we have received from those contracted doses. And so, any suggestion that I, in any way, made any criticism of the European Union yesterday, would be completely incorrect.”
The previous days Morrison said: “the supply is the major restraint and always has been, whether it’s been the non-delivery of vaccines from overseas, some 3 million that we were relying upon, and we all are aware of the situation in Europe and other places that has frustrated that supply”.

This is spin over substance, with a strong tendency to lie.

Deborah Gale Deborah Gale 9:59 am 28 May 21

The media continually talking about the few adverse reactions to the AZ vaccine isn't helping, other than to scare the crap out of people so they don't want to be vaccinated.

    Lee Sheather Lee Sheather 10:28 am 28 May 21

    Deborah Gale Exactly I agree with you

    Mark Dawson Mark Dawson 1:23 pm 28 May 21

    I had my first dose last week. Had nothing but a slightly sore arm.

Cary Elliot Johnson Cary Elliot Johnson 9:54 am 28 May 21

Betcha nobody on this post thread watched Four Corners the other night. That's the problem with herd knowledge..... or lack of

David Brown David Brown 9:35 am 28 May 21

Scotty is not holding the tiller of HMAS Australia.

Garry N Elizabeth Cosgrove Garry N Elizabeth Cosgrove 9:17 am 28 May 21

That’s the way blame the PM,how about the incompetence of the Victorian Government .

    Margaret Edwards Margaret Edwards 9:51 am 28 May 21

    Garry N Elizabeth Cosgrove how about the incompetence of people not getting tested when they first develop symptoms, and not wait for a week before fronting up to a testing station. In the meantime they have hone clubbing and to the footy.

    Robert Knight Robert Knight 12:07 pm 28 May 21

    Garry N Elizabeth Cosgrove it’s literally a federal responsibility to deal with quarantine. It’s written in the constitution.

    You’d also expect the federal government to coordinate a better vaccine rollout, but yeah.

Nick James Nick James 9:06 am 28 May 21

Funny how when a pattern develops in a particular state the logical thing is to blame the feds

    Ash Latimer Ash Latimer 9:23 am 28 May 21

    Nick James That would be because it's literally a federal responsibility to approve state funding for better quarantine systems.

Guy Hosking Guy Hosking 8:40 am 28 May 21

NSW can undertake effective contact tracing to contain outbreaks, why can't Victoria?

    Jack Horne Jack Horne 9:02 am 28 May 21

    Guy Hosking blue ties VS red ties..

    Margaret Edwards Margaret Edwards 9:49 am 28 May 21

    Guy Hosking it help that people get tested when they first develop symptoms, not a week later.

    Kieran Angus Kieran Angus 12:53 pm 28 May 21

    Guy Hosking they have identified 14000 (not a typo) people through three levels of potential exposure. I think they are doing just fine. The problem was the people who walked around for a week with symptoms and no test.

Mitch McClintock Mitch McClintock 8:26 am 28 May 21

I guess when you write an ‘opinion piece’ you can sprout all kinds of nonsense.

    Michael McDonald Michael McDonald 8:42 am 28 May 21

    Mitch McClintock I know right? Man, how the NewsCorp papers get away with it I don't even know. At least we have the RiotACT

    Anura Samara Anura Samara 9:10 am 28 May 21

    Michael McDonald it’s almost like people who write “opinion” pieces shouldn’t be allowed to express their “opinions”.

    Michael McDonald Michael McDonald 9:12 am 28 May 21

    Anura Samara Im a simple man. i expect News from NewsCorp and Opinions from OpinionCorp

    Mitch McClintock Mitch McClintock 11:01 am 28 May 21

    Anura Samara unless their opinions are the same as mine. Then it would be ok.

    Mitch McClintock Mitch McClintock 11:01 am 28 May 21

    Alan Edwards yeah typo - hilarious.

    Anura Samara Anura Samara 11:27 am 28 May 21

    Mitch McClintock when someone agrees with me it’s not an opinion any more but a FACT!!

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