Wren's Week: Conservatives blame Dan Andrews for second COVID-19 wave

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Liberal MP has been lashing out at Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews along with other conservative politicians (Image by Dan Jensen)

Right-wing politicians and reporters have targeted Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews as responsible for the state's surge in COVID-19 cases, writes John Wren.

THE “GET DAN” CAMPAIGN has continued unabated by the Coalition and its Murdoch surrogates. Even the most cursory glance at Sky News’s Facebook page shows endless posts from their opinionistas, blaming Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews for everything they can find.

They repeatedly refer to “the Left” being divisive without the slightest insight that the very term “the Left” is by definition divisive. The reality is that Andrews just rises above it all and continues working hard for the state. The other point is that Sky News is broadcasting to its own rusted-on conservative white supremacist demographic who will always vote for conservative parties. They are preaching to the choirs so won’t change many votes.

Perhaps the most grievous lies being spread by them was that the Black Lives Matter protests caused the so-called second wave of COVID-19 cases and that it was Dan Andrews's fault that the protests were allowed to proceed. Let’s pull this apart.

First off, these Coalition MPs, particularly State MP Tim Smith, Federal MP Tim Wilson and Federal Senator Sarah Henderson, along with a multitude of Murdoch, Costello and Stokes commentators have been demanding the State Government relax restrictions and re-open the economy for over a month.

Smith even ran a childish poll asking whether Andrews should be referred to as “Chairman Dan” or “Dictator Dan” alleging that Andrews was being dictatorial. This commentary has seriously undermined the message being sent out by the Government to maintain social distancing. Any visit to a Melbourne shopping centre will see people milling around in their hundreds ignoring social distancing.

It’s not that the citizenry has given up but that they have been told by these irresponsible mouthpieces that it's now safe and that Andrews should have relaxed the restrictions already. They can bear some responsibility for any deaths that are incurred.

Then Andrews did relax restrictions and predictably there has been a surge of new community transmitted cases, almost all linked to large family gatherings. So, by blaming Andrews, what these muppets are saying is that Andrews is to blame because he did not have the spine to stand up to their demands? Gobsmacking.

Peta Credlin was on her Sky News panel actively blaming the surge in cases on the Black Lives Matter protests and, more specifically, Dan Andrews for allowing the protests to proceed. Several other MPs jumped on this as well — the usual culprits. Unfortunately for Credlin, Victoria's chief health officer was able to say that contact tracing had clearly shown that was not the case. She won’t apologise, of course — she doesn’t have the integrity.

Commentators are saying this is the so-called second wave. It’s not, of course. It’s the same wave that has reappeared because people have let their guards down.

But are Victoria’s cases really worse than NSW’s, the other big state that has not closed its borders? At the time of writing, the official numbers are as follows: new cases in Victoria overnight are 33, in NSW there were four.

However, during the week, NSW revised the way it reported active cases to provide a better understanding of recent community transmission of COVID-19. Previously, it included all people who had not recovered after three weeks and people for whom information on recovery was unavailable. Active cases are now defined as locally acquired cases with onset in the previous four weeks. They are not necessarily symptomatic, infectious or still in isolation.

Overseas acquired cases in quarantine hotels are not counted as active cases, as they have not had contact with the NSW community.

If Victoria used the same basis of defining active cases as NSW, it would have only six cases.

This looks entirely as though the NSW Liberal State Government, working with their Federal Liberal counterparts, has shifted the goalposts to make the Victorian Labor State Government look as though it’s lost control — again, this is the commentary being spun by the Murdoch media. Nothing is further from the truth. The commentary from NSW Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian that Victorians are not welcome in NSW is evidence of the politics being played with COVID-19 numbers. The Eden-Monaro by-election is also driving that commentary.

Andrews reduced the numbers of visitors allowed in family homes in direct response to the increase in community transmissions. It was a clear warning shot across the bows of those who are not taking social distancing regulations seriously. So far, it seems to have worked. My own observations are that there are fewer people in the shopping centres and those who are there are largely keeping their distances again.

Federal Labor Leader Anthony Albanese also made a major statement at the National Press Club on energy. Energy is a divisive issue in Australian politics, even within the major parties and Labor is no different, although the differences are far starker between the two major parties. Albanese offered a bipartisan olive branch to the Government to work on energy reform that will reduce emissions and lower consumer power prices. He said he would even be prepared to look at carbon capture and storage technology as part of the mix with certain conditions.

The Murdoch Press, of course, reported this as Albanese prepared to look at so-called “clean coal”. The Greens then leapt on this report claiming that Albanese had capitulated to the coal industry. The reality was that Albanese did not use the words “clean coal” at all. Clean coal does not actually exist. Carbon capture and storage is not the same thing. In fact, it is an unproven technology that has yet to be rolled out anywhere on an industrial scale and may never be a viable commercial option. The Murdoch article was pure gaslighting — anything to attack the Labor Party.

More to the point, will the Morrison Government take the olive branch and work constructively with Albanese and his team for the benefit of Australia? My guess is not. The Liberal Party are wedded to the coal industry through donations, both covert and overt. They also lack the motivation, imagination and vision to work towards a low-emissions future. There are also a significant number of their members who are outright climate-change deniers.

Morrison is also not capable of compromise. He sees every issue as win-lose for first himself and then his party. This means he cannot work with Albanese as he would see it as a win for Labor.

And Australia sinks further into the mire.

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