The Victorian Government has used best practice to contain COVID-19, which other states and countries could learn from, writes John Wren.
AS I WRITE, armed angry mobs of Trump fanatics have invaded the U.S. Congress in a desperate bid to overturn the U.S. Presidential Election result. This was entirely predictable, with Donald Trump inciting them via rallies and social media. Four of the mob have lost their lives. Twitter and other social media acted quickly and responsibly to shut Trump’s accounts down and remove his messages.
What struck me the most though was the futility of it. Did these fools actually think that Congress would reverse the democratic will of the American people through their rioting? Seriously?
World leaders were quick to condemn both the rioters and Trump’s incitement of them. Scott Morrison was not one of them. He demonstrated that he was just a Liberal, not a leader, to paraphrase Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. Morrison condemned the rioters but refused to make any mention of his friend Trump, who had incited them to riot. This was an extraordinarily cowardly move by Morrison and will be interpreted by many as tacit support for Trump’s heinous actions.
Over the Christmas and New Year break, the news has been dominated by COVID-19. Before Christmas, we saw an outbreak in the Northern Beaches area of Sydney that spread into the Sydney CBD, Wollongong, Central Coast and Western Sydney. Victorians looked on aghast as Sydney-siders went about the days as though little had changed.
People were still not wearing masks or taking the outbreak seriously at all. Victorians know how dangerous the virus is. We also know how to beat it.
The NSW Premier eventually locked down the Northern Beaches area of Sydney for a week or so, but refused to mandate masks — a cheap and proven method of restricting the transmission of the virus. The general consensus was she was refusing to act as they were measures that a Labor State had once implemented and been condemned for.
On 18 December, the Victorian Government told Victorians not to travel to Sydney and to restrict travel to NSW wherever possible as the situation could change at any time. It reiterated that messaging over the following days. Unsurprisingly, travellers from NSW then re-introduced the virus into Victoria and the border was slammed shut leaving thousands of Victorians stranded on the wrong side of the border.
Every other state soon followed suit.
Of course, the usual coterie of Murdoch columnists soon condemned the Andrews Government for closing the border. This is despite NSW having done exactly the same thing to Victoria six months earlier. Two Victorians who became infected by a traveller from NSW unwittingly crossed the border to Pambula where they tested positive.
Victoria has now largely got the re-infections under control. Thursday, in fact, was the first day in over a week when no new community transmissions were recorded, despite over 30,000 tests being carried out. Victorians are a magnificent lot who know how to pull together in a crisis.
Leading up to the border closure, there were very long queues building up to cross it. This was largely due to manpower issues. The Victorian Government had requested 300-400 ADF personnel to assist. Morrison had made many public statements over the previous months promising that the ADF would be made available if Victoria requested it.
When Victoria requested it, the ADF suddenly had other priorities and were not available, leaving Victoria short-staffed on the border. Victorian Police members were recalled from holidays and SES volunteers filled the gaps.
And of course, right on cue the Victorian opposition, such as it is, and the Murdoch media were claiming the lengthy waits were due to "Andrews’ incompetence".
Victorians aren’t fooled. Most Victorians heartily support the border closure.
While all this was going on, Andrews took a week’s break. We saw the Deputy Premier Jacinta Allan front the media each morning. She did an excellent job and it’s clear that the Labor Party’s succession plan and future leadership will be in good hands. The Opposition can only look around at the mediocre people that infest its front bench.
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Laughably, the Opposition and media started to demand Andrews return to deal with the crisis. Andrews was in Blairgowrie. It wasn’t quite the same scenario as going to Hawaii while the nation burned, but they ran with it anyway. This was some serious cognitive dissonance. For months, they have been demanding Andrews resign and leave the scene, the moment he does so, they demanded he return.
Andrews eventually did return from vacation early, demanding a recall of National Cabinet so that procedures could be unified be for dealing with international cabin crews, and returned travellers from the UK and South Africa where virulent variants have arisen.
It must not be forgotten that both these issues are, constitutionally, Federal responsibilities. As usual in the absence of Federal leadership, the Premiers (sans Gladys Berejiklian) and Andrews in particular, have stepped up to fill the void.
And Australia should be grateful.
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