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Will Australia survive Covid? Its pandemic incompetence was inevitable

A lockdown protestor in Sydney (PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty Images)


January 26, 2022   4 mins

It wasn’t so long ago that Australia was lauded globally as a rare success story in the fight against Covid. Its federal and state governments were eager to take credit for this, and Australians were eager to give it to them: for a time, the country’s political leaders enjoyed levels of approval not seen in decades.

But as the pandemic inches towards its two-year anniversary, any warm feelings are but a distant memory. Today might be Australia Day, but the mood isn’t one of celebration. Australia is having a bad summer, and Australians are angry with their governments, especially the federal government led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

A few months ago, the Morrison government looked as though it would cruise back to power in the upcoming federal election, which must be held by May this year. This month, however, the Opposition Labor Party’s primary vote climbed past the Coalition’s for the first time ever. Morrison may still be leading Opposition leader Anthony Albanese as preferred Prime Minister by 7%, but he had a 23% lead in August. The trend is clear.

The immediate cause for the government’s political woes is the acute shortage of rapid antigen tests (RATs) across Australia. Although the federal and most state governments were right to shift to a ‘living with Covid’ approach late last year, they failed to anticipate the entirely predictable surge in demand for testing as society opened up and the highly transmissible Omicron variant took hold.

To manage mounting pressure on testing and supply chains, the National Cabinet, with the notable exception of Western Australia, agreed to redefine ‘close contact’ more narrowly, reduce the required period of isolation for positive cases, and permit the use of RATs instead of only relying on PCR tests. However, having failed to stock up on RATs, test kits rapidly ran out and could not be found for love or money. Actually, that’s not quite right. The small number of RATs that could be found cost a lot of money — in one case $500 for two tests.

What followed was immense public confusion and consternation, as well as crippling staff absences, since negative test results are necessary for ending mandatory isolation and international arrivals. The federal government responded by washing its hands of the problem, only providing free kits to six million low-income earners, and blaming state and territory governments since testing is their purview. In return, the states blame the federal government for failing to ensure a reliable supply of RATs to the country.

Yet behind these problems lies a more profound political failure: the Government’s inability to explain Australia’s almost overnight decision to drop its ‘Zero Covid’ approach. For almost two years, Australians were told that they should avoid Covid at all costs; today, they are accommodating very high daily case numbers with minimal restrictions.

Given Australia’s very high rates of vaccination and Omicron’s milder symptoms, this is arguably the right approach. Nonetheless, Australian leaders and public health officials, with few notable exceptions such as Queensland’s Chief Health Officer John Gerrard, have failed to make a sustained case for the new strategy publicly. And that has left many Australians concerned and confused, wondering if the Government is just winging it.

So rattled is the Prime Minister by his rapidly declining popularity that he attempted to distract from these problems by using the oldest trick in the Australian political playbook — looking tough on borders. Yet even the detention and subsequent deportation of Novak Djokovic has failed to revive his political fortunes, instead turning into a prolonged farce that made the federal government look even more useless.

So far, Australia’s anger has mainly been directed at Prime Minister Scott Morrison. And most of it is justified: Morrison’s incompetence, preference for soundbites over substance, and propensity to shirk responsibility have meant that Australia suffered from a leadership vacuum in the middle of one of the worst crises in its history.

But the dysfunction runs much deeper. Indeed, the problems exposed during Australia’s summer of discontent are symptomatic of the country’s entire pandemic response — but they can no longer be papered over by lockdowns. At the root of the problem are changes to the Australian state that began decades ago and whose negative impacts have finally come home to roost. Having set out to create a state that is less responsive to popular demands, Australia’s political elites have ended up creating a state that is incapable of addressing serious crises.

Suggested reading
Will Australia survive Covid?

By Freddie Sayers

Australia went through a deep political and economic crisis in the Seventies, which, at the time, political elites attributed to unrealistic popular expectations from an overburdened state. In response, from the Eighties, both centre-Left and Right-wing governments sought to dismantle the Keynesian compromise that underpinned a relatively equitable distribution of income. Although justified in terms of efficiency, rationalisation and competitiveness, the main purpose of Australia’s neoliberal transition over subsequent decades has been to reduce the state’s responsiveness to society.

Policymaking and implementation processes increasingly transformed the Weberian ‘command-and-control’ structures of the post-World War II state into a diffuse array of quasi-independent agencies, both public and private, loosely coordinated by the central government. State capacity was hollowed out, while fragmentation impeded central agencies’ capacity for direct action, and blurred lines of control and accountability. This was a design feature, not a bug of the emerging Australian regulatory state. Having shed direct control, political leaders could claim plausible deniability over policy decisions and their outcomes in many areas.

Federalism has only made these problems worse, routinely hampering Australia’s response to the pandemic and generating an endless blame game between the federal and state governments. Just like the federal government, state and territory governments’ capacity has also been hollowed out. They have also struggled with federally imposed budget austerity, weakening their capacity to deliver important public functions, such as health.

All of which made it impossible to coordinate a national response to the pandemic. States and territories have often acted as independent countries, paying little attention to the federal government and to each other. They have exercised unilateral discretion over state borders and even over the international border via their hotel quarantine systems. Even now, Western Australia alone remains committed to a Covid elimination strategy and is yet to reopen its borders to other states.

In this context, Morrison’s incompetence is far from unusual — it is inherent to the kind of state Australia has. But even a leader keen to take control during the crisis would have struggled to get things done because of the very significant constraints on top-down direction in the Australian state.

And so Australia’s reckoning with its real pandemic record must extend beyond dissatisfaction with the performance of its current political leaders. Unless state structures change to become more responsive to elected leaders, and through them to the wider public, the same pathologies will continue to reappear. Australia has paid a high price for its dysfunctional state during this crisis, but it could be much higher in the next.


Shahar Hameiri is a Professor in the School of Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland, Australia

ShaharHameiri

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Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

Australians are way too compliant and rule bound. Push back! Even I am doing my bit by boycotting the Australian ‘Open’ (that I was so looking forward to). Whatever the outcome, it is now a farce.
Problem is that the more petty rules that are made and the less pushback there is, the less chance there is of any change of course
. A country moves further and further to authoritarianism.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago

And you haven’t yet wished the Australians “Happy Invasion Day” – today is our national day, which is why I’m lolling about at home and spending too much time on the internet.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

HID Russell. You are one of the good ones!

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago

Thanks Lesley – we’ve got to remember to laugh!

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

I saw on Twitter
 which I visit when I am strong (not often) that Medvedev credited Djokovic for giving him the ability and foresight to see his way through an almost certain defeat. He was booed.
Now this encapsulates what is wrong with the majority of Australians. Rules is rules mate – even when the rules are patently daft, they celebrate the daft rules and not the rule breakers.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago

It’s called the rule of law. It’s what separates civilised societies from unruly savages.
If a law is poor, the remedy is to improve it, not break it.
I suggest you make a serious attempt to actually learn something real about our country. Otherwise, take your vicarious armchair warrior posturing back to the kindergarten where it belongs.

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

The essence of tyranny is the enforcement of stupid laws. — Edmund Burke

Alas, there have been times in history where people have gone along with stupid laws.

Mel Shaw
Mel Shaw
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

I think there is a difference between “the rule of law” and “the rule of laws”. The latter is what you get in tyrannies. Governments often need to be pushed to change bad laws, particularly if they enacted them. Civil disobedience is often the only way to convince them. And public reaction to the conviction of vulnerable people for offences that have lost public support is often necessary to get the message across. Non payment of the UK TV licence fee is likely to be a case in point. Prosecutions are mostly of single parents and pensioners.

Last edited 2 years ago by Mel Shaw
Paul MacDonnell
Paul MacDonnell
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Uh

Last edited 2 years ago by Paul MacDonnell
Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago

Do you normally laugh at commemorations of mass murder?

Keith Callaghan
Keith Callaghan
2 years ago

Russel, I gather it’s more of an aborigine winge day………?

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago

Would you call it whingeing if your entire family had been wiped out in a massacre? Or would you call it an atrocity?
That is what happened to our indigenous Australians. In their thousands. Across the country. Entire populations just wiped out. And yes, it’s all documented. Established fact.
What you have just said is the equivalent of mocking Jews when commemorating the Holocaust.

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Do you live in Australia? If so why don’t you move? I am sure you’ll have an excuse as to why you don’t, but that just makes you complicit. If you believe that the land belongs to the indigenous peoole then give it ALL back to them.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago

Invasion Day is a day of mourning for Australia’s indigenous peoples, who lost their land, their societies and their lives as a result of Captain Cook claiming the country for Britain.
An appropriate greeting might be, “Condolences. Our sympathy with you in your suffering”.

Last edited 2 years ago by Penelope Lane
Mike Michaels
Mike Michaels
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Sounds more like virtue signalling and self loathing day to me.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago

Australians live by mutual agreed consensus under the rule of law in a liberal democracy. It is a peaceful country by virtue of its citizens seeing they have more in common with each other than things that separate.
Most of the violent protests you may see on TV are not truly Australian grassroots protests. Rather, they are movements imported from abroad designed to create trouble here—malign fundamentalism from the USA, ethnic hatreds from the fragmented pieces of the former Yugoslavia, for example. We are quite free to protest, and we do. We protest about neoliberalism, government corruption, cronyism, destruction of our environment, climate change—the usual list. But these protests are overwhelmingly law-abiding. We have a vigorous, healthy ongoing public discussion about everything affecting our democracy. It works.
Australia has a couple of serious problems: most notably, its ferocious border policies, and its belated recognition of its first peoples, which have justifiably given it a bad reputation abroad. However, leaving these two moral stains on our society aside, on the whole, Australia is a really free and open place in which to live. There is an increasing wealth gap, but we are still egalitarian, the country of a fair go, by comparison with most other nations around the world. Australia is indeed a blessed and lucky country. I live here, by choice. I should know.
To understand our failures—border policy and First Nations policy—it is useful to understand more deeply what those abroad, including the poster here, see as our “authoritarianism”.
Australia had its beginnings as a convict colony. It retains to this day, a certain convict psychology in its culture: honour among thieves, crack down hard on the troublemakers (this being the unconscious shadow identification with the former jailers and police), challenging authority where you can, keeping your head down while getting on with things, a certain fatalism that they’re going to get you in the end (the Anzac complex). But this is the psychology of the underdog, not that of the boss.
Australians do not jump to attention and say “Yes sir! No sir! Three bags full sir!” as they do in authoritarian Britain the minute royalty or the aristocracy or old Etonians and Oxbridge are mentioned. We have, rather, a keen weather eye open for trouble coming our way, and are practised in knowing when to challenge, and when to lie low and strengthen our defences.
Australia’s most stunning post-war achievement tends to be overlooked: we are a country of massive, multicultural, successful, postwar immigration from every corner of the globe. From memory, I think one in three Australians now was born overseas. Yes, we are a peaceful and successful new-age nation
 unlike the UK, US, South Africa, Serbia, Bosnia, Hungary, Poland
 In our success, we recognise New Zealand and Canada as companions along the way.
************
Your history, Lesley van Reenen, of comments on Unherd about Australia demonstrates an ongoing inability to hear what others who actually know something about Australia have to say.
You try, without argument, facts or foundation, to project your own preconceived prejudices on our country, twisting us to make us fit your fantasy.
Please stop coining simplistic, reductive, demeaning three-word slogans—”Australians are authoritarian/compliant/rule-bound”—and try to hear what others are trying to tell you. You don’t know it all. You have everything to learn on this subject.
We are here to learn from others, not dismiss them!

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

At the moment you’re doing a good job of portraying Australians as tiresome busybodies.
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”― C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology (Making of Modern Theology)

J Bryant
J Bryant
2 years ago

This article raises some questions, at least for me, about Australians’ current attitude toward lockdowns and other covid restrictions. Maybe an Australian Unherd reader will answer them for me.
Why are Australians so angry about the lack of covid tests? Is it because they are still highly cautious about covid and are willing to take many precautions now that lockdowns have been lifted, or is it because they are beginning to suspect the stringent lockdowns and almost two years of a zero covid policy were, for the most part, misguided?
And what, in the light of covid, do Australians think about the lack of strong, central government described by the author of this article? Do they want a largely federal approach to government with most powers devolved to the territories, or do they pine for a strong federal government that will, in most regards, run their lives for them?
In response to an earlier Unherd article about the pandemic I commented that my view of Australians had been undermined by their response to the pandemic. I thought they were tough, resilient individualists (yes, in the style of Crocodile Dundee) but they now appeared to be conformists. An Australian Unherd reader replied that Australia had been an urbanized nation of conformists for decades and the Crocodile Dundee era probably ended in the 1960s. Maybe that person will answer my latest questions.
Where do we look for tough-minded independence in the world today? Who’s left?

Kevin Casey
Kevin Casey
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Why are Australians so angry about the lack of covid tests? I think the answer lies in the narrative. We are still bombarded with daily infection and ICU statistics and the usual sensationalist negative reports even as we move from Delta to Omicron. On a practical level our shopping malls and events are still suffering as people fail to recognise that we are moving from a pandemic to an endemic and that it’s about time we ventured out. So at the slightest sniffle we respond by rushing out to buy what are almost non existent rat tests.
The Australian government is driven by opinion polls and with a federal election due in May they tend to be in reactive mode and are disinclined to get the states offside

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Casey

“The Australian government is driven by opinion polls”
Aren’t they all driven by opinion polls? Following closely a few countries and their approach, it is clear to me that no approach makes sense; it is only a PR exercise from their government and a way to look more pious than your neighbour (both at individual and state level).

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Aren’t they all driven by opinion polls?
True, but not the whole story. There is genuine stuff in there too. Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water; otherwise, you end up with a totalitarian dictatorship.

stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Casey

“moving from a pandemic”? You haven’t had the pandemic, only the reactionary measures. Or you’ve missed the “best” parts and been given the worst.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  stephen archer

We’re sort of getting the pandemic now. Owing to sudden volte face by government which didn’t buy in enough rapid tests to enable us to measure and control it.

stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Well, it’s not really a pandemic any more, you’ve missed the boat. It’s no worse than a moderate to severe flu epidemic, and cast your mind back to how these were handled? Since mass testing of predominantly healthy people is fairly meaningless this will just prolong the pandemic paranoia and management. It would instead be better for the population to follow Dr. McCullough’s advice and start using vitamins C and D, nasal sprays and maybe gargling antibact. mouthwash to spray the back of the nasal passages. Then there wouldn’t be a shortage of tests for those who really need them. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Dr. Robert Clancy but there are some individuals in Australia who stand out above the rest and he seems to be one.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPPnyzvO7J4
Please listen to him and you’ll find out a lot about Covid-19 and the vaccines. Sorry about your downticks, you’re entitled to your opinion and views and it’s easy to be judgemental on other countries and their populations, the English on Scotland, the Scots on England, the Czechs on Poland, the Flemish Belgians on the French Belgians, etc. I have to admit though that Australia’s and NZ’s last two years of government and their populations’ submissiveness haven’t done a lot to enhance their standing, but the same is true of many European countries and the US.

Last edited 2 years ago by stephen archer
Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  stephen archer

Well, it’s not really a pandemic any more
Covid fits the medical/public health definition of a pandemic. It is now reaching its peak in Australia, later than countries in the northern hemisphere, owing to our early border closures. It is a pandemic here, right now.
It’s no worse than a moderate to severe flu epidemic
It resembles a severe flu epidemic, which is a pandemic, in many respects. Flu epidemics have also killed millions. Think of the revages of flu straight after WWI. To liken Covid to flu is to confirm the seriousness of the virus, not lessen it.
Since mass testing of predominantly healthy people is fairly meaningless this will just prolong the pandemic paranoia
The rats tests have literally been unavailable, even for people at extreme risk, owing to the lazy incompetence of our federal government which has the responsibility for procurement. That means frontline health workers, residents in aged care, close contacts in extended families, those working in personal services such as hairdressing which require close contact, and similar groups. Belated supplies are starting to arrive only now. So the public reaction is not about mass testing; it’s about adequate testing for urgent groups. And there is no paranoia. There is a real public anger—justified anger—at being lied to and let down by the federal government.
The attempts in comments here to pretend that the Australian public is asleep/ ignorant/ stupid/ compliant/ paranoid/ psychotic/ deluded, etc., etc. couldn’t be further from the truth. The general public here is awake, aware and angry. People just don’t think like the majority of commenters on Unherd. We approve of and support our government when it does the right thing. When it doesn’t, we protest vigorously. That’s called democracy.
I don’t know if you’ve heard of Dr. Robert Clancy but there are some individuals in Australia who stand out above the rest and he seems to be one.
The two I follow are first Dr Norman Swan, an acknowledged expert with years of experience in public health. He has been giving medical advice on our national broadcaster for many years, is completely open and ethical, and is widely trusted. And then I also follow my GP’s advice. And why do you assume I’m a know-nothing? I had a discussion very early on with my GP regarding the merits of Vitamin D and have been taking it in addition to getting vaccinated ever since.
I have to admit though that Australia’s and NZ’s last two years of government and their populations’ submissiveness haven’t done a lot to enhance their standing, but the same is true of many European countries and the US.
How many times do we have to shout it from the rooftops? The Australian population is not submissive. You, like most other Unherd commenters here, are simply misreading our culture and the meaning of current debates. You are misinterpreting public agreement with government policy and actions for the first part of the pandemic as submissiveness (same as Lesley van Reenen’s “compliance” and “lack of backbone” and similar from other commenters). Then, when our government does later on let us down and we become angry at bad faith and incompetence, you choose to call that paranoia.
You seem to be projecting facts about the American or UK public onto Australians, when those things just aren’t applicable. It may be unpalatable to you to have to accept that a very aware and forceful Australian public opinion has actively supported all levels of government at first, then actively voiced its disgust in this later stage. We disagree with conspiracy theorists and fake fact-mongers; we trust our government and public health advice, which has been excellent. We have a much higher level of community cooperation and trust here in Australia than in the US or UK. That is a good thing. It is a sign of a liberal democracy working!
But thanks for your thoughtful comment. It’s so good to get some actual discussion going, rather than just the predictable trolling red downtickers.

stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Well, you’ve given me a completely different impression of your views in your response to my other post further down. Honestly, I’m flabbergasted!

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Casey

Disagree on your last point. The Feds are desperate to annihilate state Labor governments.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Why are Australians so angry about the lack of covid tests?”
Because you need a negative test result to free yourself from home quarantine (if you’ve been within 6 degrees of separation from a COVID leper) but you can’t get the test! This has resulted in vast numbers of people out of circulation, which has resulted in shops running out of goods and things grinding to a halt. A lot of inconvenience caused by government incompetence.

“I commented that my view of Australians had been undermined by their response to the pandemic. I thought they were tough, resilient individualists”

I don’t think we’ve suddenly changed. I’m sure you’re always ready to believe the NYT, so you could listen to one of their journalists (start at the 4 minute mark):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVAj6o9TcLs
The NYT reporter Damien Cave talks about the Australian response to risk and all the hazards in everyday life – dangerous spiders & snakes everywhere, sharks, bushfires etc. “life near the ocean confronted them with new ideas and questions, at odds with their American mindset that risk was a matter of individual choices. Surf-lifesaving and Nippers showed that perhaps it could be managed together, by communities.”

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

“Because you need a negative test result to free yourself from home quarantine (if you’ve been within 6 degrees of separation from a COVID leper) but you can’t get the test!”
How do they know where you have been and who you have been in contact with?

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago

They do and they don’t. One of the recent outbreaks came from ‘massage parlours’ – understandably the clients didn’t register their attendance with the government! But you are supposed to use the app on your ‘phone to register your presence in any premises. I mostly do, but first I had to get used to carrying the ‘phone with me, which I never had done before.

In the 1980s the federal government wanted to introduce an ID card – The Australia Card – but was howled down by the population (we knew which kind of countries had ID cards). Lo, we all now have a digital identity card on our ‘phones. Technology can make all things possible.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

Russell, delete the app!

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago

Are you kidding?! For an old fossil like me downloading the thing was like running a marathon: scan your passport, now scan yourself, scan your driver’s license, scan your medicare card, link this ID to your SafeWA app etc. etc. – I fell at the first hurdle when I had to put in some Apple ID just to begin the process of downloading the wretched thing. But a couple of days later when I met up with all of my brothers at a restaurant … no worries, when asked to show the ID I could, and receive a sticky blue dot on my hand as I passed into the restaurant, one of the saved.

Dan Croitoru
Dan Croitoru
2 years ago

Looks like you wouldn’t survive the camps -)))

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan Croitoru

Camps? Wot camps?

Dan Croitoru
Dan Croitoru
2 years ago

You wouldn’t have survived the camps is a saying meaning you can’t save yourself by just obeying the rules since the rules are meant to crush you

Last edited 2 years ago by Dan Croitoru
Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan Croitoru

Oh, if it were those camps, no, I would never have survived; evil of that force would have rolled right over the top of me. But here in sunny W.A. I don’t feel even slightly crumpled, let alone crushed.

Last edited 2 years ago by Russell Hamilton
Dan Croitoru
Dan Croitoru
2 years ago

Good luck with your next N boosters. Hope your Passport remains green -)

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan Croitoru

Disagree. The Covid rules in Australia were not meant to crush us. They were meant to save us, and they did.
This entire thread re avoiding the apps and checking in via smartphone is a massive untruth. We had an alternative in Australia, which I successfully used. Signing in with a pen and paper.
Why are you pushing lies and disinformation about Australia’s system? Do you think this is some kind of joke???

Last edited 2 years ago by Penelope Lane
Philip L
Philip L
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Identical rules to those in Australia were in place all round the globe. Now they are being dropped the question on everyone’s lips is: what was the point?
The fact you think these panicked reactions achieved anything at all, and that other factors were not at play in determining outcomes, is telling.

Dan Croitoru
Dan Croitoru
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

So are you saved now?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

You have the perfect excuse. App? What, what app? I received some sort of invitation to an app here in South Africa and just ignored it. We don’t even discuss it in my circles and generally they are so inefficient here that I doubt they’d have the nous to enforce it.
My friends in the UK cottoned on quickly and all deleted their app.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago

They sound so twentieth century.

I have a digital identity, therefore I exist.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

Always play dumb.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago

Maybe not always, but, as we have to be mindful of our ‘mental health’, taking a playful attitude to the inanities that are rained down on us is sometimes the way to go.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago


taking a playful attitude to the inanities that are rained down on us is sometimes the way to go.
Not in this case. You can do much better. Try being constructive. If you don’t back the app, then use pen and paper. Believe me, it works!
You exist. And then there is the digital version of your identity for official purposes. Don’t confuse the two. They are not at all the same thing.
Don’t be such a coward
 and above all, don’t place your faith in South African fascists.

Dugan E
Dugan E
2 years ago

I would walk into my local. Young barman “Got the app?” Response, “Piss off!”

Alison Wren
Alison Wren
2 years ago

I never even loaded it! And if I HAVE to do a lateral flow to help a friend I always phone to give the result and argue as to why they’re asking my gender when what’s important in Covid is SEX (far more males die than females!) and why they want my mobile number!! I’ve only ever done 3 in my life!!

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Alison Wren

You are right about the important distinction between sex and gender. I’m gathering you live in the UK? Or South Africa?
F = female = physical sex
G = gender = psychosocial identity
In Australia we don’t have to use mobiles. We have freedom of choice. We can opt for signing in with pen and paper. Don’t you have that option?

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago

Are you actively encouraging lawbreaking in Australia? And in the UK?
Perhaps you should have discussed it in “your circles”. South Africa has zilch to offer us in the rest of the world in terms of rule of law.

Last edited 2 years ago by Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago

Lo, we all now have a digital identity card on our ‘phones. Technology can make all things possible.
Untrue. Factually incorrect. I live in Victoria, Australia. I do not own a mobile phone. This is not backwardness, it is a point of principle for me. Why? I do not approve of the surveillance capabilities of smart phones. I do not agree to their reaping my personal data to feed algorithms which then target me and turn me into a consumer of their money-making exclusivist capitalist endeavours.
Overseas readers of this thread should know that, in perfect democratic freedom of choice, we here in Australia have had the option of signing in with paper and pen when visiting any enterprise. I have chosen this option. I have not anywhere, ever, had any problem with it.
I willingly do my bit to cooperate with the national Covid response without sacrificing my personal privacy. Australia’s great democracy gave me that choice.
So, Russell Hamilton, you didn’t have to get used to carrying your phone with you. You could have chosen my way. But you didn’t. If you apparently care so much, why didn’t you?
Is it easier to be lazy and then complain? Pushing misinformation about Australia out there into the international community?
Oh, and why are you focussed on massage parlours? Plenty of other sources of the outbreaks, e.g. cartage contractors and removalists. Why not mention them?

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Unsurprising: six red downticks from people who don’t like facts they disagree with, and predictably, not a comment from any of them to justify their condemnation.
Yet more evidence of the lousy standard of Unherd so-called “discussion”, which in fact just promotes fact-free ignorance and conflict.

jules Ritchie
jules Ritchie
2 years ago

Exactly! Turn off your GPS and Covid apps!

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  jules Ritchie

Oh, but you’re opting out of the question, how do you help your country combat this disease?
Not good enough.
I agree about the burgeoning problem of surveillance of private citizen’s lives. But here in Australia, I simply chose the option to sign in with pen and paper. It has worked without a hitch, and I go about my daily business without needing a mobile smartphone.

Mike Michaels
Mike Michaels
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

It’s a cold. Where is your sense of perspective?

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Michaels

The Corona virus is not a cold. Fact.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago

a COVID leper
Are you constitutionally unable to utter a word without abuse?

stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Where’s the abuse?? And the “leper” came from the previous commenter, not Lesley. The term is maybe descriptive of the perceived health status of the infected from the perspective of the mass hysteria, who knows?

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  stephen archer

Leper is an emotionally loaded term that is not conducive to impartial, rational discussion.
Apart from its use in academic historical and medical work e.g. examining leper colonies, in common language to call someone a leper is a term of abuse; it is used to depict a person regarded as a social outcast, an undesirable. The term denigrates and excludes.
Same goes for your emotive use of “the mass hysteria” to indicate people like myself who understand the valuable social role played by vaccination. I am an individual, not a mass; my life work involves combatting mass unconsciousness, mob rule, group-soul thinking; I am fully trained in Enlightenment thought, logic and rationality, so can by no stretch of the imagination be called hysterical.
You achieve nothing by resorting to abuse and dismissive putdown of views you do not agree with. You actually diminish yourself.

stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

It would be difficult to respond to your comments without questioning and contradicting some of your assertions and perceived meanings and misunderstanding in the few words I wrote. If I were to do that you’d just be even more offended.

Orlando Skeete
Orlando Skeete
2 years ago

With the new definition of a close contact, very few people are needlessly stuck in isolation and even for those people who meet the definition of a close contact isolation ends at 7 days regardless of whether or not you have a rapid test. It’s also completely by the honour system. There are certain critical industries that can leave isolation sooner with the rapid test, but in those instances they are provided by the workplace. I don’t see any good reason why the average person is angry about not being able to access a rapid test, especially when they aren’t really even capable of detecting when someone is pre-symptomatic and useless for picking up the fabled “asymptomatic” case.

As always, the question that needs to be asked is, “do you have symptoms?”. If no, continue about your day. If yes, stay home. For the average person there is absolutely no need to find a rapid test and even less need to get so angry about it.

The government incompetence was a failure in communication, not a failure to secure millions of tests for people that don’t need it

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago
Reply to  Orlando Skeete

I’m pretty sure the isolation period in W.A. is still 14 days. And apart from the work situation, I know of some older people who want their children / grandchildren to test before visiting, so there is some frustration at not being able to get the RAT tests.

Trish Castle
Trish Castle
2 years ago

Ironic. Here in NZ I know of older people who want to see their children/grandchildren but are not “allowed” unless jabbed and/or tested and masked. Just crazy.

Trish Castle
Trish Castle
2 years ago
Reply to  Orlando Skeete

I’ve been saying for some time now – flippantly because of course there is more to it than this – that we would have been in a very different place now if the only government advice had been “if you have symptoms stay home until you don’t, and if you don’t have symptoms go about normal daily life”. That is, the same infection control measures we have always gone by (although exhorted not to by the Codral ads urging us to “soldier on”). The role of asymptomatic transmission, once announced by Fauci himself as “not being the driver of an epidemic”, has become the justification of all the restrictions placed upon us. Its role has not been revisited for some time now – it’s just accepted without question. Here in New Zealand people are being denied access to normal daily life and employment simply for the fact that they are unjabbed. A person could be coughing and sneezing and have a roaring norovirus infection but still be allowed access to a cafe, restaurant, library, swimming pool, hairdresser, massage therapist, their employment, sports events etc etc because they can flash a Covid vaccine certificate, while a symptomless unjabbed person is not. It’s even been admitted by one of our “expert advisors” – the perennial Michael Baker – that the current system is not about infection control but about nudging people towards vaccination. You don’t say. It’s as crazy here as it has been in Australia and still is in WA.

Art C
Art C
2 years ago
Reply to  Trish Castle

It begs the question: why make such a fetish of vaccination? Why indeed does everyone HAVE to get jabbed when an unvaccinated person poses ZERO risk to someone who is vaccinated. The answer is simple: once vaccinated you will only be able to retain that status by “checking in” 3-6 times a year for your “booster”. Fail to do that and you will lose your social privileges.

Trish Castle
Trish Castle
2 years ago
Reply to  Art C

Ah but they’ve managed to find someone to say things like “your unvaccinated friend is 20 times more likely to give you covid than your vaccinated friend”. This has led to people believing our PM’s propaganda when she says “you have to protect the vaccinated from the unvaccinated”. Job done.

Trish Castle
Trish Castle
2 years ago
Reply to  Art C

Yes – the “vaccination certificates” here in NZ have an expiry date. There has been virtually no enquiry by the holders of these “passes” about what exactly this means.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Trish Castle

Watch Dr John Campbells latest video where he addresses New Zealand and Ardern’s ‘save granny’ war cry. A study has revealed that vaccinated and unvaccinated children carry the same viral load. Oops.

Art C
Art C
2 years ago
Reply to  Trish Castle

Of course they do Trish. You didn’t think you could just get the jab and get on with your life did you? This is for your own protection. But luckily you probably won’t have to worry about the expiry date on your vaccination certificate down there in NZ. Because the definition of “fully vaccinated” will soon be moving lockstep with the “boosters” (already does in some countries) .. around 3-6 times a year as I stated above. The good news is that as long as you hooked up for that first shot the authorities will be able to automatically notify you several times a year to come in for the current booster. A gentle warning: don’t miss these critical “booster” upgrades; you will lose a lot of privileges if you do!

Joy Bailey
Joy Bailey
2 years ago
Reply to  Trish Castle

The symptoms I had last month wouldn’t have made me stay at home but I did have Omicron. I only did a LFT because we were meeting people for dinner and I didn’t want to accidentally give them Covid. So lots of people are walking about with mild symptoms and presumably passing it on. Our daughter lives in Sydney ( we’re in the UK) and I suggested she gets it over with; she was horrified.

Last edited 2 years ago by Joy Bailey
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I think not so much ‘Crocodile Dundee’, but ‘The Adventures of Barry McKenzie’ characters are running the country – a bunch of Pantomime Fa* cists – by the way it all has been done:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wTWVVNZJtE

I cannot believe this writer is able to discuss the whole, Insane, two years seriously, and talk of tests and relative levels of government resulting in the complexities and such madness – Australia was 110% under the grips of a ‘Mass Formation Psychosis’ from the start till now – and cannot even see that it still is.EU, UK, and the Democrat States too…

This Western madness will have to be paid for, and the debt will be on the young – they are who you wrecked with your $$ Trillions spent locking up the world, wile paying the workers to sit at home and not produce and basically squander your children’s future on masks and vaccines and shutting business and National debt…. They are the ones who will own the debt, and they are not at all at risk!

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Kipling put it very well when he wrote:
I could not dig:I dared not rob.
Therefore I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale shall server me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?

Trish Castle
Trish Castle
2 years ago

I’m going to borrow this!

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Trish Castle

Be my guest.
Kipling originally wrote it to castigate those wretched politicians* who dragged ‘us’ into the Great War, 1914-18.

(* My personal favourite being our Prime Minister at the time, that old pervert Herbert Asquith.)

Michael Joseph
Michael Joseph
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I thought they were tough, resilient individualists (yes, in the style of Crocodile Dundee) but they now appeared to be conformists.
As Clive James once noted, the problem with Australians isn’t that they’re descended from prisoners, it’s that they’re descended from prison officers. Or something like that…ï»ż

jules Ritchie
jules Ritchie
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Czechia

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Full marks for a fantastic comment! Delighted to have the opportunity to respond to your queries. I am an Australian Unherd reader.
Why are Australians so angry about the lack of covid tests?
Yes, as you suggest, we are still highly cautious about Covid and are willing to take all sensible precautions now that stringent lockdowns and internal border restrictions are mostly being lifted. (Western Australia still has a closed border and Northern Territory has specially difficult issues with protecting remote indigenous communities. The rest of the country is opening up.) So the “we” here refers to the rest of us, mostly urban dwellers.
We are angry mostly because we have willingly, in full consciousness, cooperated with our federal and state governments’ Covid control policies for two years, and now we feel the federal government has sold us out. Let us down.
We think they did a great job once they got the National Cabinet going, because that united vertically the State and Federal levels of government, and also horizontally the ideological left and right wing—we have a rightwing Federal government, but the States are mixed, some Coalition (Liberal/National), some Labor. So the nation was genuinely able to come together, united, to face the Covid challenge. All the political leaders’ poll ratings rose noticeably during this time, as did poll ratings for general trust in government. Something quite special could be felt in the air during this period. We did well.
What has just gone wrong is that the Federal government under Prime Minister Scott Morrison has slyly reverted to its pre-pandemic form, ducking its legal responsibility for procurement of pharmaceuticals (equipment, test kits) and trying to shift blame for the current lack of test kits onto private business and the States (who are responsible for distribution, not procurement). Our Federal government Is neoliberal in its inherent convictions (we don’t have a proper Conservative party) so it will always try to shift anything it can onto the private sector. Add to that its virulent hatred of our leftwing Labor government here in Victoria, which has been highly successful and is firmly supported by our state electorate, and which Morrison wants to destroy at any cost, and you have the motivation for the sudden apparent switch of policy from protecting to letting it rip.
PM Morrison is a previous marketing man—we call him “Scotty from Marketing”, and he saw the opportunity to take a step back, allow a shortfall in kits by ignoring the issue and doing nothing, then reaping the rewards of division as the nation suddenly realised something had gone wrong. Everyone is now looking for who to blame. Covid is ripping through and there are no tests available. Morrison’s poll ratings are in free fall.
It will probably take a while for the international press to catch up with the full implications of what is happening here right now.
It is a tragedy. For a short space of time, this country showed the heights of the fully voluntary, fully conscious national cooperation of which it is capable. Farsighted, united government policy was reflected in wholehearted support from the people. But then, once the heat had lessened and the opportunity presented, the old base instincts reasserted themselves in our PM.
You should know that he is a devoted follower of one of the more dubious fundamentalist pentecostal cults in this country, and he does believe that only the members of his sect are destined for heaven. You can deduce for yourself how that informs his politics. For those cults, the public sector, the civil service, labour and other leftwing governments, are Satan, Exterminate! said the Dalek.
On the chance you are interested in the deeper politics of this out-of-the-way backwater of ours downunder, you could profitably follow up our PM’s previous performance. It is characterised by avoidance, laziness, lying, blame-shifting, and appearing to be all things to all people. For example, during our bushfire emergency, he was on holiday in Hawaii.
If you are a UK resident, this may just remind you of someone
 ?
So to summarise my answer to your first question, it is not the policy we now suspect to have been misguided, but the PM we now see has just led us up the garden path. Again.

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
2 years ago

The pandemic has revealed our Federal government basically has no power over our State governments but the State governments blame the Federal government for not doing things the Federal government is incapable of doing and the Federal government blames the State governments for not doing things the State governments say the Federal government should do. The pandemic has also revealed that the State governments play politics better than the Federal government.

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Taylor

Are you referring to Scotland, perchance?

R Wright
R Wright
2 years ago

I must admit that my view of the hardy, rugged Australian has been shattered in the past two years. What a bunch of wets.

Philip L
Philip L
2 years ago
Reply to  R Wright

The Australian tourist board needs a new marketing direction pronto. Their current library of images highlighting how Aussies are laid back, knockabout types who love going outdoors is going to cause hysterics.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  R Wright

Seconded.

Karl Juhnke
Karl Juhnke
2 years ago
Reply to  R Wright

Stay away from cities and you will be ok.

Mark Bristow
Mark Bristow
2 years ago

A majority of the twenty five million Australians have been prospering as a result of 1500 million Chinese buying our raw materials. Even when the rest of the world has struggled we have chugged along with the economy growing at 3% per year for three decades.

Each year the government has had a slightly bigger China bounty to squander so that’s exactly what they’ve done. The governments, both state and federal have been handing out the gibs and have simultaneously delegated all decision making and policy implementation to a cabal of “experts”, career public servants with no ability beyond the political manoeuvring they did to get into the positions they occupy.

God knows how many of these fools the various levels of government employ throughout Australia but it must be many thousands, all of them competing to be the most cautious in their advice about dealing with the virus. In true Yes, Minister fashion they have decided to let the whole country burn, so long as they don’t get blamed for it.

None of this would be possible of course without the supine surrender of the population. One expects it of our intellectual class but I am surprised at how enfeebled our population in its entirety has become. It used to be said that the bushranger Ned Kelly was the quintessential Australian because of his anti- authoritarianism. No more, the heroic stereotype now is undoubtedly a police officer punching an old lady in the mouth, keeping us safe.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Bristow

Well said. You/they need to the recall the spirit of “ Breaker Morant”.

Q: “What Rule did you shoot them under?”
A: “We applied Rule 303, we caught them & shot them under Rule 303!

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Bristow

 the heroic stereotype now is”
I would have thought the heroic stereotype might be the thousands of volunteer firefighters, who take leave from their desk jobs and go to do exhausting and very dangerous work to help keep others safe. One of them, a mother of two, died a few days ago, fighting a fire in South Australia.

jules Ritchie
jules Ritchie
2 years ago

Yes, we are aware of those who sacrifice for others, they are there in all cultures on all continents and we are very grateful to them. They often receive an Oz of the Year citation. What we are talking about here is the total abrogation of all personal responsibility, of total lack of individual reasoning, of millions of Aussies who are disgusted by the unvaxed, who line up for one shot after another-without question or research. They have no interest in seeking facts and only want the latest news so they can follow with the herd.

Art C
Art C
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Bristow

Politicians who are inept, corrupt & display totalitarian instincts are to be expected. We have democracies so we can throw them out every 4 years. What Mr Bristow points out – “the supine surrender of the population” – is more contemptible. Why on earth do so many of those decent, hardworking citizens in Australia, once regarded as the healthiest ruggedly independent folks on the planet, put up with the insanities & indignities which have been heaped upon them over the past 2 years? The question is even more inexplicable in less industrialized New Zealand. Looks like they’ve all been too successfully suburbanised, retaining only sheep genes from the outback.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago
Reply to  Art C

If you listened more to Australians you would know the answer to your question. Why not start with going to the link I provided above to the interview with the NYT correspondent in Australia, clearly someone who has observed, listened and thought about this. Australia is one of the oldest and most stable democracies on the planet. Life here is marvellous and people haven’t changed dramatically over the past two years. I was just listening to the Australia Day Address on the ABC, given by a young doctor whose parents were immigrants from Egypt – inspiring talk from someone who loves Australia and is improving it. So, pessimists, listen up, everything isn’t as bad as you would like it to be.

Jem Barnett
Jem Barnett
2 years ago

I’m Australian Russ (WA), but I do think Mark Bristow is correct in much of that assessment. Like many western countries, comfort and prosperity has led to a degradation of standards in governance and in public life.
These things go unnoticed until the tide draws out, and then suddenly we see who’s been swimming naked, as Warren Buffett used to say. WA has been a hermit kingdom for 2 years, with life inside the bubble being basically normal throughout — like C19 never happened — but that will not last. This virus is globally endemic, we will all get it. WA is lucky in that the variant that will now pierce the bubble is Omicron, not one of it’s much more serious predecessors.
Trying for a ‘keep it out at any cost’ approach at this stage in the game is going to magnify collateral damage immensely. Just my two cents.

Trish Castle
Trish Castle
2 years ago
Reply to  Jem Barnett

Here in New Zealand, like Australia, it’s been all about Covid, focusing on “identified lives” while ignoring “statistical lives” i.e. the collateral damage which is not so readily identifiable. NZ economist and Auckland University academic Ananish Chaudhuri speaks to this in this excellent podcast https://freespeech.buzzsprout.com/370355/9182511-interview-with-economist-ananish-chaudhuri. Another NZ economist and academic John Gibson, Waikato University, presents an analysis of the collateral damage in this talk https://www.waikato.ac.nz/news-opinion/media/2021/opinion-safety-at-all-costs-costs-lives?fbclid=IwAR3TJ7YFgC33IX9PIWsb6oJeFLPdsTVUh0JEwllYAMbShQoplAngMS4wE40

Art C
Art C
2 years ago

Thanks for link Russell. However since Jan 1, I am making the effort to not use any Big Tech services so afraid I won’t be looking at this one (I use Rumble, Odysee etc. now as I am not a big fan of censorship). But I get the gist from your text: the Australian character etc. etc. However, there is a time to make a stand against gross infringements on liberty, intolerance, brazen censorship and outright tyranny, (not to mention rank folly!). On a lesser level this is what I have done with my personal aforementioned “Big Tech ban”. I would have hoped that the majority of the Australian people would have stood up a long time ago in the face of what has been thrown at them. But where, oh where is the outrage from the population of “one of the oldest and most stable democracies on the planet” ?

Trish Castle
Trish Castle
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Bristow

You could be talking about New Zealand….

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Bristow

Weak men —> bad times
Bad times —> strong men
Strong men —> good times
Good times —> weak men
Weak men 
 ad nauseum

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Horsman
Lee Jones
Lee Jones
2 years ago

So. Give more power to the politician you highlighted as incompetent. Brilliant!

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago

“Even now, Western Australia alone remains committed to a Covid elimination strategy and is yet to reopen its borders to other states.”
Unherd needs to stop this W.A. bashing from eastern-staters! No, the W.A. government is NOT committed to elimination. For months the W.A. government has had a ‘safe transition’ and ‘living with COVID’ approach. There’s a bit of omicron and delta about, which they don’t think can be wiped out, so the strategy is to slow the spread so the hospitals can cope. I suspect nowhere in the world has had so few COVID deaths per capita as Western Australia; unemployment is low, the economy is booming, and the beaches (apart from the sharks) are perfect, so there!

“Yet behind these problems lies a more profound political failure: the Government’s inability to explain Australia’s almost overnight decision to drop its ‘Zero Covid’ approach.”

I wouldn’t say so. As I understood it, the plan was to keep COVID out until there was a vaccine or a cure. Along the came the vaccine, and when the vaccination rate had reached a good figure it became possible to allow the virus to spread – though trying to slow the spread to spare the hospitals. As for RAT tests: SNAFU.

I agree with most of the author’s complaints about politics in Australia over the last 40 years, but would add that 50 years ago the top public servants were in their positions because of ability. They were respected, and a little feared, by their ministers, who depended on their knowledge and experience. Those positions have been politicised and also by-passed by large teams of ‘ministerial advisors’ who now set policy. This has proved disastrous.

One commenter says that the federal government has no power over the states, so one would have to ask, which one has all the money?

Last edited 2 years ago by Russell Hamilton
Kevin Casey
Kevin Casey
2 years ago

A “safe transition” approach would have seen WA opening on the 5th Feb, but McGowan, without releasing any health data and inspite of having reached his pre agreed vaccine targets for reopening has decided to perform a backflip and stay closed to the “eastern” states.
If it wasn’t for the royalties from iron ore exports resulting in WA having the only state surplus in Australia plus his landslide win in the last election Mcgowan might just be singing a different tune.
As for WA bashing, McGowan is hardly innocent as he’s lobbed a few well aimed verbal bombs towards the eastern states

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Casey

Didn’t someone say that when the facts change you change your mind? The modelling they had was based on how fast the delta variant would spread; based on that they thought they would be OK to open on Feb 5. But with the more infectious omicron there’s going to be a very sudden rise in numbers infected, and the under-prepared hospitals won’t be able to cope. (They’re erecting tents outside hospitals). So now they don’t want to open the borders until there is a higher proportion of people who have had the 3rd jab (like me) because, supposedly, the 3rd jab should mean people will be better able to handle the infection, and stay away from the hospitals.

I didn’t support any of this – I was always against lockdowns and mandatory vaccinations, but, you have to admit, there is a certain logic to their position. The damage – political, economic and social, will only really be apparent later on.

Last edited 2 years ago by Russell Hamilton
Kevin Casey
Kevin Casey
2 years ago

The third Jab is basically ineffective against omicron so the effectiveness of the vaccine is a non argument. With nearly 2 years since covert started and a surplus of funds I can’t understand why the WA health system is likely to be overwhelmed. As for the modelling it’s apparent from the South African experience and more recent studies that omicron is less deadly. Someday McGowan will have to open up and then WA will share the eastern states experience. I’m guessing that in the back of McGowan’s mind is the May elections and whether he can justify keeping WA locked down until after May

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Casey

“The third Jab is basically ineffective against omicron”

Have you not heard of the placebo effect? I had the 3rd jab last Saturday and I can feel it (the placebo effect) doing me good already.

Last edited 2 years ago by Russell Hamilton
Mark Duffett
Mark Duffett
2 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Casey

Cases in WA appear to be on the geometric progression up escalator. They are in for the eastern states experience within weeks, irrespective of what they do with the borders.

Jem Barnett
Jem Barnett
2 years ago

Is this logic not undermined by 2 key facts though?:
A. The boosters aren’t a different product, they are simply another injection of the same product as before… and it does b*gger all against Omicron. That is because these vaccines only present the body the spike protein (not the full nucleus) of the pathogen, and Omicron has over 30 novel mutations 10 of which are on the spike. Maybe we will develop better vaccines in future, but the ones we have now are a busted flush against Omicron. Additionally, even if they had helped with Omicron they are non-sterilising.
B. Omicron is indeed more transmissible, a lot more. However it’s also far, far less deadly than Delta. This can be seen in the decoupling of infections (“cases”) from hospitalisations and deaths data from multiple countries now. Do we think the data from South Africa or the UK not relevant to us in Australia, and that Omicron will instead decide to be deadly here despite evidence to the contrary? …weird.
Omicron is a gift we should be grabbing with both hands. Open up and let this wave of a what’s now a very mild cold wash through the community and immunise everyone quickly and for free.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jem Barnett
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

WA does not have a Zero Covid approach? You fooled me!

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago

Don’t be fooled Lesley. If you don’t believe me, check for yourself. Hopefully you have access to a global newspaper database via your local library. You can go to the state’s daily newspaper, The West Australian, say, on Jan 24 on page 4, and read:
“The prediction comes as Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson conceded the more contagious Omicron variant won’t be eliminated in WA and the State had moved to a “suppress and manage” phase of the pandemic”

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

So why the draconian move re the 5th Feb? Your government had ample time to swat up on how transmissible (and mild) Omicron is. Has Amber been asleep at the wheel?

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago

Amber has only been the Health Minister for a few weeks. But it wouldn’t matter who was, the government is incompetent, and stingy where public services are concerned – they’ve underspent and they’ve mismanaged the health system for all of the last 5 years they’ve been in government. One of their defenses is that it’s so hard to get the nurses needed to open more beds, but then, they don’t mention how many nurses left the public health system due to poor management.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

Yes, I’ve read about this.

Karl Juhnke
Karl Juhnke
2 years ago

I guess you read about the 100 doctors Mandatory McGowan wouldn’t let in the state? All the while pretending to be all about keeping the citizens safe. The local media have suddenly turned on him and his pandemic policies afterblindly supporting him for 2 years.

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago

What about NZ? They still seem to be for zero Covid from what I read.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Littlest China.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago

Jacinda ‘The Hun’ won’t like that.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

Well she must just suck it up. Scary woman.

Justin Clark
Justin Clark
2 years ago

My family are in WA (Rossmoyne, Riverton, Attadale) and it’s been fascinating to compare their experiences & emotions to ours here in UK esp. as we experienced covid, deaths and lockdown phases months ahead.
From being very relaxed to then concerned and then utterly fearful, it’s been sad to see borders go up “against” the eastern States but I know they are “hugely grateful” to the “leadership” shown by Premier Mark McGowan for “keeping them safe”, for “closing the borders to protect” and reacting to any hint of a (single!) negative covid test. All my family including the young nephews are fully vaccinated – no hesitation to follow the rules and comply. Life has remained largely unchanged over there from my personal observations… very different to our UK experiences over two years!

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago

Given Australia’s history, is it any wonder that it is dominated by hysterical Lockdown freaks?

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

“Australia is having a bad summer,..”

and winter is coming

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago

Can’t wait. We’ve just six consecutive days over 40c.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
2 years ago

By late February 2020 a zero COVID policy was obviously insane, contrary to everything we knew about highly contagious respiratory viruses. So I question the assertion that Australia’s problem is lack of government capacity. If the goal is unattainable and the policy deeply flawed, your main problem is not in the implementation.

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
2 years ago

I would suggest the the hollowing out of competence and effectiveness Prof Hameiri identifies, is less the result of a deliberate ideological enterprise, than the outcome from the over-expansion of an unduly credentialled managerial elite. Thus politics as a career has been normalized. This scenario is not a feature unique to Oz of course.

Craig Cooper
Craig Cooper
2 years ago

My first post!! How exciting – yet how sad.
To set the scene: I live in the Socialist State of Victoria suffering under the authoritarian yoke of Chairman Dan (also colloquially known as Dan-ghanistan). Prof Hameiri lives and teaches in the Socialist State of Queensland, under the leadership of Anastasia Palaszczuk – her favoured pronunciation – Pala-chez. (Famed for closing the NSW-Qld border and then uttering the inhuman words Qld hospitals ‘are only for our (Qld) people’ denying access to a northern NSW new mum who nearly lost twins.) Daily Mail link: dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8641343/Comrade-Anna-blasted-saying-Queensland-hospitals-people.html
My overall assessment of Prof Hameiri’s contribution – if you really want to know what is happening in Australia, viz a viz C19, then disregard his contribution.
His piece is yet another thinly veiled smear of the Federal government. His para about the 70’s and the 80’s is a giveaway. I assume he did not personally live through those days – but I did. The Left wing Labor Federal government under Gough Whitlam, went on a rogue spending spree that put Australia into a fiscal deficit – and raised the level of government intervention in the economy – to levels not seen since WW2. This position was so unsustainable, that successive Federal governments – both centre-right (not right wing as per the author) and centre-left wound back the excesses.
Centre-right NSW is not mentioned in his piece, yet has done all the heavy lifting. The Leftist states of Victoria and QLD, are also not mentioned – notorious for failed lock downs. He is correct in identifying the constitutional issues – but doesn’t mention that the Feds do not have power in this area – constitutionally, it rests with the States. The PM is shafted yet the perpetrators – Andrews and Palaszczuk in the lead – carry no opprobrium in his article. Glad he was never one of my teachers.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
2 years ago

Australia, like Canada and New Zealand, is a young, naive democracy. Unlike the US – which had to fight a civil war – it has never really faced an existential challenge. It has always, though, feared “invasion from the north”, which many early colonial Australians were trained to fear and to fight. The irony is that that fear has now been realised, not by physical attack but through subterfuge, invasive mendacious epistemology, and the corrupt economics of a tiny clique that the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party is a key part. But the majority of Australians don’t know it and therefore they can’t fight it; and even if they knew it, they would not know how to fight it individually.

Basically the show’s over unless people in OECD countries like Australia who think they still live in a liberal democracy don’t wake up, realise that there is a whole lot more of us than there are of them, and – like a herd of 400 zebras frightened by a pack of 4 tigers – turn to face our aggressors head on, and stampede them. The very worst they can do is that they could pick off and kill individual members of us. But once cornered, they would be focused more on saving their own skins than taking ours and they would run a mile before we could get near them and they would not come back. They are far more scared of us than we could ever be of them.

Richard Lyon
Richard Lyon
2 years ago

All their lockdown policy could do was delay the inevitable. Their deaths-per-million are exactly tracking Sweden’s, which didn’t destroy its society. I suppose superficially they appear confused about why they are opening up. It must be occurring to some of them to wonder why they locked down.

alex CK
alex CK
2 years ago

Good analysis. But let’s not forget the populace – driven to wild heights of anxiety and willing to put up with draconian and illogical controls. I work with Australians currently and I recently heard a couple of senior executives bemoaning the loss of Berejiklian – she who scowled at the public as she enforced lockdowns. The population gets the government they deserve.

jules Ritchie
jules Ritchie
2 years ago

Hardly minimum restrictions. Since December 21, before Xmas, we had 2m limits between people at social gatherings,QR check-in, most retailers demanding masks to be worn by customers, full vax to fly anywhere or cross most state borders. Only in Oz would a test be called a RAT, in the UK they are LFT’s. PM Morrison has left all communication bar sound-bites, to the states, hoping not to attract any criticism over Covid management schemes. The states moan on and on about the Fed Govt not giving them enough funding when in fact it was spent unwisely and in haste without due consideration as to where money would have the best effect. We are in a supply mess, no labour and no stock, due to so many either testing positive but with NO symptoms or not being able to obtain a mandatory test before going to work. Just today the Premier of NSW has increased the restriction period by an extra month to March’22. We’ve had 29 deaths from a current 181,000 active infections so 1/6500 have died. These were certainly those frail and elderly, many with serious other illness at the time. Average age of death is 81. These numbers in a state with a pop. of 8mil+. In 2019 we had 486 ‘flu deaths. In 2020 we had 36 and in 2021-ZERO! So Covid has been ‘involved with’ the death of 3,300 since Jan 2020. Of course no-one can give us any figures for deaths due only to a Covid infection. How many could have been saved by early treatment we’ll never know.

jules Ritchie
jules Ritchie
2 years ago

Maybe it’s not widely known that WA has a G2G pass requirement for anyone entering the state. it is a hugely complex document. More than 100 doctors want to return to WA to staff hospitals but have been denied entry. Everyone says the form is too complicated. I don’t get it. Surely a test is all that’s required and maybe an isolation period of 5 days with another test. They have underspent on healthcare for more than 5 years, when Covid arrives they’ll be paying the price.

jules Ritchie
jules Ritchie
2 years ago

Mr Hamieri must be a mate of Qld Health minister Gerrard’s. Otherwise he might mention that when Gerrard gave a presser in January’22 he said “there now was enough data to see trends on the types of patients who requirement medical treatment.”
He went on to say that the unvaxed were filling the hospital beds with no mention of the obese, the frail elderly or those with other chronic illnesses. A friend who is a nurse in a Brisbane hospital said that yes, there are many unvaxed but they and the others, many tripled vaxed now, who are seriously ill fit the criteria above.

D Ward
D Ward
2 years ago

Warning. “Penelope Lane” getting a bit wokely hysterical below (or above, depending on which way you are reading)

Julie Kemp
Julie Kemp
2 years ago

Whatever the variables and their degrees of relevance here (Ausland) i cannot advance Australia fair any more. I’d like to, but to what do i refer?
I cannot readily recall being invigorated and reassured by any local ‘authorised person’ who proffered the honouring of our hugely evolved and enhanced ‘Immune System’ which could be further supported if not shielded by substantial remedies also of much long-standing eg diet, life-style, basic or enhanced hygiene along with known and highly validated medicines and supplements. We (by no means the royal one) got caught in the tautology that is Evil and its ‘hear no, speak no, heal no’ projection – quintessentially autocratic and dictatorial. Very very ancient method of controlling ‘humans’.
Local Australian media to me is pretty rubbish really albeit there are some exceptions: John Anderson for example who has a noble global reach. I just came to prefer the energetic highly articulate and cogent Brit and Yank heroes of renown: the Weinsteins, Rogan, Oliver, Whittle and many more along with your wonderful ‘Unherd’ and GB news on YouTube.
I have admired Mr Scott Morrison and still do but so much has been tainted and demoralised up and down the scale. Everyone, except certain reprobates, will likely privately rue so much too and feel the childlike joy that comes with turnarounds.
For me at 73, after a single life through Nursing, The Arts, Travel and real University, i rejoice and weep alternatively. I did reluctantly get vaccinated late last year due to some family ‘concerns’ which later left me feeling i’d abandoned myself when family ‘things’ did not come to pass. I felt conned! I had betrayed myself. This i have sought to heal and forgive myself returning to the Wisdoms of the Ancients – those Cosmic and Consciousness Ways that do Restore and Redeem. And so another cycle begins.

Dan Croitoru
Dan Croitoru
2 years ago

For those who read (yes, I meant books) I recommend The Drowned And The Saved by Primo Levi

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan Croitoru

I had a book by Primo Levi and I didn’t ever get to read it. I moved around a lot and it got lost along the way. Maybe I’ll download this one.

Ceelly Hay
Ceelly Hay
2 years ago

Most Australians do not want to live with covid. So the states lockdowns were well supported and eradicated covid in Australia. However, the federal government policy was never to eliminate covid but instead live with the virus.

The NSW state government accidentally let covid back into Australia and now is forcing the other states to live with covid. Interesting NSW is one of Australia most multicultural states. NSW is hooked on immigration to fuel the profits from property developments, business loves cheap labour, and the left loves multiculturism.

Covid got into the middle eastern community in Western Sydney who felt lockdowns as racist; they had a right to put food on the table and insisted on seeing relatives. The left-leaning media didn’t want to discuss this as they were frightened of creating racial tensions. NSW business didn’t want a lockdown either. So the NSW government comprised let companies send their ‘authorised workers’ from Western Sydney throughout the state for work.

Unfortunately, like many other western democracies, Australia makes decisions to suit short-term business interests rather than long term planning and what the community wants.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ceelly Hay
Eric Wadley
Eric Wadley
2 years ago

Federalism and disjointed national efforts are always a victory for liberal democracy, always.

O F
O F
2 years ago

The amount of repetition in this piece makes it read like it was knocked out in 20 minutes. This should come in handy for next time. http://www.thesaurus.com

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
2 years ago

Sir Les Patterson for PM… don’t worry Ozzies… just think, you could be Canadian!!

trevor fitzgerald
trevor fitzgerald
2 years ago

Thanks this is very thought provoking piece. Australian’s pride themselves on the structure and resilience of their federal system but the Covid health crisis has shown it to be ill prepared for a national health crisis? Pride is not enough, maybe they have lost sight of their values?

The next test for the federation could be Western Australia pushing for secession again after having failed in 1933?