28 May 2021

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

| Ian Bushnell
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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.

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

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.

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.”


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.

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.

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.

Capital Retro4:22 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.

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

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.

That would explain why it is a different process.

Capital Retro9:24 pm 31 May 21

Looks like the gap has already closed then.

Where’s John Curtin when we need him?

Capital Retro4:26 pm 29 May 21

Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth.

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.

Stephen Saunders1:23 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.

swaggieswaggie10:21 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.

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.

Capital Retro8:09 am 28 May 21

Is that all your own work Ian Bushnell or are you just part of the orchestrated pile-on from the ALP opposition and their affiliates like the ACTU?

I see you mentioned the “challenges of climate” change too. This was a challenge for Labor at the last election and they lost on it.

Here we go again indeed.

Another Bushnell article where he wants to dump on the Liberals (at any political level) despite the facts. So surprising.

“But that too is a consequence of the Commonwealth avoiding its constitutional quarantine responsibilities”

Urgh. The constitution does not say that the Federal government is solely responsible for quarantine. Just like other powers, it is only an issue for federal responsibility if there is a conflict between levels of government. Because the Federal government does not run the state health systems and does not own appropriate facilities within the states, it was agreed very early in the piece that the state government’s would run these quarantine facilities.

It is now obvious that better quarantine facilities should have been built, which is also why Howard Springs is being expanded. But the government’s policy direction is that such facilities will not be necessary once the majority of the population is vaccinated.

Despite the Nervous Nellies of public life, we aren’t going to maintain quarantine requirements long term.

One only needs to look overseas to see truly how low our levels of Covid are and how well we have restricted the virus from spreading leaving us in an enviable position. The argument shouldn’t be about whether we could have done more, it should be about whether we have done too much in mothballing our country and how we can reengage with the world whilst also minimising risk.

It was a good article, up until it gets to bushfires and then reverts to the usual blinkered rant showing the author’s own biases, which lost me. No, we cannot hide forever from a virus and yes we should be more efficiently making vaccines available. The main problem is with the conflicting messages from medical experts that confuse people, as well as the complexity of vaccine availability when you decide to get it. How about more constructive suggestions, like using pharmacists, or a letter from a Health authority telling people their appointment time and place.

I think the commentary from the experts is fine. What isn’t is the political spin and commentary and on this matter I blame both parties.

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