A message from Anthony Albanese, Leader of the Australian Labour Party about the Australian Federal Government's management of the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences for Australians.
The 10th of July last year should have been a day of hope for the Morrison Government.
With the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping around the world and a fresh and deadly wave of infections building in Melbourne, drug company Pfizer had asked for a meeting with the Health Department to discuss its COVID-19 vaccine.
Here was an opportunity for the Morrison Government to move quickly to secure the Pfizer vaccine, which was still under development.
But it was not until months later – November 5 – that Australia signed a deal. By that time Pfizer had pre-sold more than one billion doses of vaccine to 34 different countries. The US and UK has signed on before the end of July.
Scott Morrison was too slow to act. And when he did act, it was a case of too little, too late. This is not surprising given he said it was “not a race’’.
The glacial pace of Mr Morrison’s action on vaccines is part of a pattern of behaviour that has become increasingly clear over his three years as Prime Minister.
When a problem emerges, Mr Morrison’s first instinct is to ignore it or pretend is does not exist. Then, when the problem flares into a crisis, he blames someone else.
Finally, when the crisis begins to hurt Australians, he tries to rewrite history.
Indeed, during the latter part of 2020, Mr Morrison repeatedly assured Australians we were “at the front of the queue” for vaccines.
This was never true.
The UK, the US and European nations were always at the front of the queue.
And now, as life begins to return to normal in those nations, the majority of Australians are locked down.
Many of us cannot go to work. Children cannot go to school. The lockdowns are costing the economy hundreds of millions of dollars a day. And Australians continue to fall ill.
Mr Morrison has also failed when it comes to quarantine, which is a federal responsibility.
After COVID emerged, state governments turned hotels into quarantine centres to isolate people arriving in Australia from overseas.
This was meant to be a temporary solution.
Since then COVID has broken out of quarantine hotels at least 27 times. This year’s big clusters in Melbourne and NSW came out of hotel quarantine.
Beyond this, we have had to rely upon a worker’s camp at Howard Springs, near Darwin, for quarantine.
Last year, experts urged Mr Morrison to establish fit-for-purpose quarantine facilities.
He failed to act.
In recent months he has promised to build new facilities in Melbourne and Brisbane.
But again, it’s too little, too late.
The Prime Minister does not confront problems or shape events. He simply manages then with an eye on his political fortunes.
We saw this first in the 2019/20 Black Summer Bushfires.
Ahead of the bushfire season, 23 former fire chiefs and scientists warned Mr Morrison of the approaching danger.
They urged him to boost the nation’s aerial firefighting capacity, but he did nothing.
These fires tragically took 33 lives and burnt 24 million hectares of land.
Mr Morrison blamed state governments and sought out photo opportunities on smouldering fire grounds.
But if he had acted earlier, the damage might not have been so devastating.
He has also failed to take serious action in response to allegations that in March 2019, then Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins was a victim of sexual assault in the ministerial office of then Defence Minister Linda Reynolds.
The issue sparked a national debate about sexual harassment and sexual assault and triggered nationwide protests early in March.
Mr Morrison has done little of substance to address these concerns.
Indeed, six months after this issue emerged, he has still not adequately explained his extraordinary claim that none of his staff told him about the incident for more than two years, even though it is alleged to have happened within metres of his own office.
Mr Morrison just won’t step up and take responsibility.
Throughout the pandemic, he has used the so-called National Cabinet as a way to take credit when things go well, but blame states when things go badly.
When Victoria’s Labor Premier Dan Andrews resorted to lockdowns to beat COVID, Mr Morrison was critical. And when NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian resisted lockdowns, he offered his congratulations.
But when the current outbreak took a turn for the worst in NSW, his office began briefing journalists against the NSW Premier that the lockdowns were not strict enough.
Of course, the origin of Australia’s current COVID crisis is Mr Morrison’s failure to order enough vaccines in the first place.
He had two jobs this year – rolling out vaccines and fixing the broken quarantine system. He has bungled both.
The pattern is clear. Mr Morrison never acts on problems until it is too late to make a real difference.
And even then, he won’t take responsibility. It’s always someone else’s fault.
Anthony Albanese is the Leader of the Australian Labor Party
Facebook: Anthony Albanese
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