I don’t usually watch the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Q & A television show because they tend to have people on the panel who are either ignorant, but have opinions, or who are politicians, whose only concern is politicking; both are annoying, if not infuriating. As a consequence, that is why I tend not to watch it. However, they actually had people who knew stuff (apart from Meshel Laurie and Steve Price), but perhaps just as importantly, Virginia Trioli was moderating and she is so skilled that she would not tolerate any idiocy. So, I watched the episode on Thursday, July 15th. Early on in the show (1:32), the question was asked by Thejas Balaraman: “Victoria went through a big 2nd wave, killing over 800 people. Mistakes were made. Lessons were learnt. We have had outbreaks and lockdowns since then, none of them have been as severe as that extended lockdown. With New South Wales facing a big outbreak this time around, I have seen the same issues cropping up in the past few weeks. My question is, did NSW learn enough from Victoria’s experiences? I believe they haven’t, and so my further question is why not?”1
Virginia Trioli threw straight to Marylouise McLaws who is from Sydney (2:17); she firstly apologised for Victoria getting “our Covid Delta strain”. She then answered the question (2:28) thus: “Answering that very simply, is, we haven’t learnt because we do everything on a state basis, not a national basis. For example, you [Victoria] learnt from the second wave to go in early and to go in hard, to get out early. You locked down on the third day when you had about 25 cases; we didn’t lock down until we had 54 cases. You were in lockdown for 100 days until you got your last case, and that was on day 28 [I don’t know what this means either]. We are at day 29 and I think we have 930 cases. So, did we learn? No, sadly we didn’t learn from your experience; we didn’t learn from the UK experience that [sic] have been giving us fantastic reports through Public Health England reports [sic] telling us about their anxiety of Delta. We didn’t learn from the anxiety of the UK and the USA. The USA have been telling us that their [DNA] sequence specimens have been doubling in proportion every two weeks for Delta.. [inaudible]. We certainly didn’t learn from your North Melbourne experience where you went in very heavy-handedly and didn’t use your multicultural and local community. We’ve gone in fairly heavy handed and I don’t like seeing the police in Fairfield”1.
The reason that the response to Covid-19 is on a state basis and not at national basis, is solely because of the almost total absence of the federal government from the field. The only things with which the federal government has had a deep involvement, obtaining and rolling out vaccines, quarantine, and the for profit aged care system, have been shambolic. Vaccines are late arriving and the only one obtained in large enough quantities, so far, is less effective, has a problem with clotting and is not recommended for people under 60, and it was the cheapest. The absence of purpose-built quarantine centres has led to the shemozzle of hotel quarantine, which has arguably been more devastating overall than the mess that was the floating hotel, the Ruby Princess. On top of this was the regulation of the for profit aged care system, in which the majority of Covid-19 deaths have occurred2.
Not learning from others’ experience is a sure sign of idiocy. Having to make the same mistakes yourself, possibly at the cost of people’s lives is a dangerous idiocy. However, I think the problem is deeper than idiocy; it is politics. New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian cannot emulate the successful, if difficult, measures instituted by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and his deputy James Merlino. Why? Because, to do so would make it patently obvious that the hammering Andrews received at the hands of Berejiklian herself, as well as Morrison, Frydenberg, assorted Murdoch ‘ruperters’ and the whining buffoons in the Victorian Liberal opposition3,4, was simply politicking; just more sickening, disgusting, politicking. We can only hope that this failure to learn and emulate will not kill people.