Today, I write to you from the People’s Republic of Westralia shortly after the end of our ‘circuit-breaking’ lockdown. Mark McGowan has said that today I am ‘free to leave my house’. How kind of him to keep me ‘safe’ during this latest COVID panic porn charade.
So, why we are toddling around this mountain again?
Apparently, the answer is ‘health advice’. Health advice which considered that three positive COVID19 cases warranted locking 2.25 million people in their homes for 3 days. If our experience in this pandemic has shown us anything it’s that ‘health advice’ is the most barstardised expression in the English language. That and our state government has made significant electoral hay in scaring the life out of people so they don’t question the inanity of government restrictions.
On Friday, I learned that playgrounds would close but weddings were allowed up to 100 people because it would cause too much inconvenience to cancel them. What could be a better illustration of the absurdity of our response to this pandemic than selective inconvenience being a subset of health advice? Ironically, the hospitality industry losing $100m and veterans being prohibited from marching on ANZAC Day apparently didn’t fall into the ‘inconvenience’ basket. Those were instead dispensed with, at the stroke of a pen, by some clueless level 4 public servant.
You know, because this government is keeping us safe.
But why are we really here?
Well, another failure of hotel quarantine. This time a gentleman who quarantined for 14 days in the Mercure Hotel, tested negative, and then came down with symptoms after entering the community and doing his very own Tour de Perth.
Yesterday, The Australian reported that at the time of our first lockdown in early February, McGowan told the federal government that WA needed to reduce the international arrivals cap to address ‘early findings in relation to airflow and ventilation across the hotel quarantine system’. A report regarding ventilation was given to the Chief Health Officer on 8 April 2021, and he then advised the government that the Mercure Hotel was not fit for hotel quarantine. In the meantime, this gentleman contracted COVID19 at the Mercure before being released into the community.
And true to form, instead of taking responsibility for his government dropping the ball despite an early warning, Premier McGowan blamed the federal government saying he’s at the end of his tether, that quarantine is a federal government responsibility and that the federal government should step up and help.
Yep, the same old lines trotted out to distract West Australians from the McGowan government’s latest failure to perform and echoed all over social media by the #Istandwithmark evangelists. The fact is, the WA government has learned nothing since the last lockdown. Nothing. Ambulances are still ramping out the front of emergency departments, there are insufficient numbers of nurses on emergency wards, contact tracing isn’t up to scratch and rather than putting people in quarantine to clear them of COVID19, the system is instead making them sick.
In practice, state and federal governments often share or cover the field with respect to powers they are otherwise constitutionally responsible for. And while quarantine is a federal power under the constitution, the states agreed to conduct hotel quarantine. That means they are responsible for its management (or lack thereof). Ironically, McGowan has been highly critical of the federal government’s ‘service delivery’ regarding the vaccine rollout. But in a rush to purify himself of responsibility regarding this latest hotel quarantine bungle, he apparently wants the federal government to take over hotel quarantine service delivery.
The reality is, Premier McGowan is big on taking credit and short on credibility.
He is the Premier who cried Covid.
Caroline Di Russo is a lawyer, businesswomen and unrepentant nerd.
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