Flat White

The cabinet coronavirus crisis

13 March 2020

6:53 PM

13 March 2020

6:53 PM

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has tested positive to coronavirus.

The left, naturally, are squealing with delight in their Twitter cesspit.

What all thinking Australians, however, should be asking is “What does this mean for our country?”

Only three days ago Dutton sat around the Cabinet table with PM Scott Morrison and crucial members of the ministry as they discussed the national response to the epidemic.

There is now every chance that they, their families, their staff and key public servants and other officials crucial at this time may have been exposed.

The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement a little after 7.15 pm that says:

In advice provided to the Prime Minister this evening, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer has reiterated that only people who had close contact with the Minister in the preceding 24 hours before he became symptomatic need to self-isolate.

That does not include the Prime Minister or any other members of the Cabinet.

But… To begin with, it’s hard not to suspect that the official announcement of Dutton’s illness was deliberately made after the markets had closed. And that’s just the first “but”.

We are potentially facing the greatest challenge our politics, our parliament and public administration has ever seen, far further reaching than the events of November 11, 1975.

We are a Westminister democracy. We do not have anything like American presidential decrees. Instead, we have a government that gathers in Parliament House in Canberra. Yet it is entirely reasonable to suspect that parliament probably cannot be recalled to pass any laws needed to deal with this pandemic crisis into law – thanks to pandemic itself.

What will this mean at a time when we need a firm grasp on the rudder more than ever?

What will it mean for our already battered dollar and financial markets?

Anecdotal evidence suggests that panic buying has already spread from toilet paper, pasta, dried beans and rice to tinned foods.

Even when the shelves are restocked, we cannot spend our stimulus cheques if we are locked indoors, whether from fear or infection.

We are in uncharted, unparalleled territory. Who knows what may unfold over the next 24, 36, 48 hours.

The Prime Minister was much-mocked over summer for his suggestion that we put in a call to the bloke upstairs.

The left’s puerile, hate-filled and irrational response to news of Dutton’s illness has been to send the hashtag ThereIsAGod trending on Twitter.

Yet Robert Kennedy ended his ad-libbed speech on the night of the murder of Martin Luther King Jnr, one of the most moving and dramatic political speeches of all time, with the request that his audience return home and “say a prayer for our country and for our people”.

Moments before he said “We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times; we’ve had difficult times in the past; we will have difficult times in the future … But the vast majority of … people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings who abide in our land.”

In this time of unknown unknowns, we could do worse as things unfold to remember RFK’s words — and his advice.

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