It’s a dreary day again for Sydneysiders, who face a fortnight of lockdown, maybe more.
That’s despite the best efforts of a state government that has done an admirable job building public health resources, trying to manage the messaging, and trying to give clear guidance to businesses as to when lockdowns will happen.
Gladys Berejiklian and her team should be commended for the tremendous job they’ve done. They’ve avoided a lockdown previously, they’ve built world-class contact tracing capability and a testing regime like no other. And they’ve been consistent in their efforts to keep the state open, which is more than can be said for the bureaucratically-run ‘Shutdown States’ of Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia.
Berejiklian herself has been on record saying that we will need to learn to live with COVID. It’s the right attitude for the world we now find ourselves in.
Government competence, though, right about stops at state level.
At a federal level, our Prime Minister has squandered the opportunity to leverage our suppression strategy into widespread, rapid vaccination. There have been recognisable, and understandable, complications with the vaccine rollout. No one could have predicted the issues with AZ, nor could they have predicted the Europeans halting supply to vaccinate their own populations.
In the midst of all this, though, the federal government has abandoned all hope of setting targets and giving clear guidance as to the path out of the pandemic. It’s almost as if they believe they can willfully ignore committing to things to avoid accountability.
Remember that in the early parts of the pandemic we had many scientists and public health bureaucrats keen to show us models as to how many cases would drive many deaths. Suddenly the same cohort doesn’t seem so invested in giving us clear guidance as to what thresholds we need to set to get a path out of lockdown land.
I’m a lay person, so I don’t know what these thresholds are, but it feels like there are some very obvious places for us to start demanding more from our public health officials and politicians.
The first is what level of vaccination provides population level immunity? I’m no expert, but looking internationally, there seem to be indicators that around 70% is about the right mark. New York, which bore some of the worst brunt of COVID, seems to be opening on that guidance.
Again, our politicians and our public health officials should be providing clear guidance.
The second is when do we expect to be vaccinated to hit that threshold and what is our timeline? This date will have political risk. Our politicians, though, also must be accountable. By not committing to dates, they reduce the urgency they have to execute. As anyone who’s run a business (and not many of our politicians have) knows, if you don’t set targets you don’t get results.
And finally, once those two elements have been plotted out, what is our pathway out of the Procrastination Pandemic.
I’ll leave you with this.
I recently wrote to my local federal member, asking for these targets and for clear guidance to be provided.
That federal member responded simply that the challenges were unprecedented and they were focused on safety.
That simply isn’t political leadership. It is soft messaging, avoiding accountability and political risk to try to take advantage of the complacency currently gripping Australians.
Last month, a lack of accountability has just driven a month of lockdowns for Melbournians.
And this week, for Sydneysiders, a procrastinating federal government again invites the same.
It’s time for more accountability. And the only way to do that is to demand more from our governments.
Henry Innis is a business owner based in Melbourne, a former treasurer of the Australian Liberal Students Federation and vice-president of the Sydney University Liberal Club.
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