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Byron Shire
May 17, 2021

Where announcements masquerade as action

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Andrew P Street

The great secret about government in Australia is this: no-one wants to know about government in Australia.

Our wide brown land contains multitudes, as diverse as our many, many regionally specific words for swimming costumes. But whether we wear bathers, togs, cozzies or wet-times stretchy pants, we are united in one thing above all else: a passionate desire to not think about what the government is up to, under any circumstances.

And that makes things great for this government, because it means it can carry on doing, whatever things it fancies doing without any of that annoying ‘transparency’ or ‘accountability’ stuff that would otherwise make it awkward to, for example, appoint failed political candidates to incredibly lucrative gigs with the Fair Work Commission. Isn’t that right, Sophie Mirabella?

Unfortunately, when the unwilling Australian public is forced to pay attention to the government, it historically doesn’t end well. And with the vaccine rollout falling 3.4 million doses short of its four million dose target, Scott Morrison has ensured that his government has Australia’s full attention. 

If this were a single large screw-up by an otherwise solid government, the rollout would probably not be the political crisis it’s shaping up as being. But it’s not a one-off, and that’s why everyone’s now talking about the next election being at risk for a government that seemed on track to walk to an easy win as recently as three months ago.

It’s merely the latest in a series of rolling disasters, all characterised by the Morrison government’s reliance on announcements masquerading as action, a seeming lack of interest in successfully managing problems as they occur, and an emphasis on angrily insisting that it’s anyone else’s fault when the crisis inevitably becomes public. 

It’s a strategy that has worked with bushfires (it’s arsonists!) and the collapse of the Centrelink site (it’s hackers!) and the Ruby Princess debacle (it’s a state responsibility!). And that’s before we mention the reports of abuse against women within the government which Morrison is attempting to sidestep while refusing to do anything as radical as, say, investigate MPs accused of stalking or sexual violence. 

And that accumulation of scandals has been teetering on the precipice, just waiting for the weight of one major catastrophe to tip it into an avalanche of voter fury. And… say, can you hear that distant roaring sound?

Up until very recently, the government had been able to tout their success at keeping Australia’s COVID-19 impact at a level below much of the rest of the world. But now, with a vaccine rollout that rivals nobody but Botswana, it’s starting to look less like the product of good federal management and more like swift border control and population testing by the state governments, and a handy amount of pure luck.

We’ve seen this reflected in the thumping returns of governments in Queensland and WA, likely to be repeated shortly in Tasmania, whereas the feds have spent the last year demanding states open their borders (including an aborted High Court challenge to the WA government) and failing to protect residents in Commonwealth-run aged-care facilities.

This means that the bungled vaccine rollout isn’t a typical Morrison political embarrassment that’s of interest to Twitter but with little wider impact on the community – like, say Energy minister Angus Taylor using a fake document to smear Sydney Mayor Clover Moore and never providing a sensible explanation. 

The government’s failure means we risk more public health and economic crises, as the longer Australians go unvaccinated against a fast-mutating virus, the more lockdowns, travel restrictions, event cancellations, lingering illnesses and potential deaths we have to endure. 

The recent three-day pre-Easter lockdown has been estimated as having cost Brisbane literally billions in lost revenue: a huge loss to the local economy and a massive political snafu for a federal government desperate to improve their electoral prospects in the state. 

And now the government has abandoned even setting a vaccine target, along with any thought of holding an election this year. Obviously, the plan from here is to wait it out and hope the public gets bored and dozes off again. 

But the longer a rollout takes, the longer Australians are separated from overseas friends and family members, and the greater risk every city and state faces of further snap lockdowns and border closures – all of which will now be laid at the federal government’s door. 

And hey, maybe everything will go great from here on. Maybe all those doses Morrison claims to have secured will actually appear, the bureaucratic confusion for GPs and patients will diminish, and it’ll be smooth sailing to our nation’s glorious post-COVID future. 

But the longer that Morrison fails to provide a competent government, the more likely it is that the public will replace it with one they can more safely ignore.


Andrew P Street. Photo Daniel Boud.

Andrew P Street is a journalist, columnist, author, editor and broadcaster.

For more information, visit www.patreon.com/andrewpstreet.


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4 COMMENTS

  1. I was fully onboard with this article UNTIL the author said “the pandemic etc ends once everyone’s vaccinated”.

    CORRECTION:

    This PLANDEMIC ends, the lockdowns end, the mask mandates end when the PEOPLE UNITE and hold the government and politicians accountable for their crimes against humanity.

    There is SO MUCH deceit and government misinformation around the Covid pandemic. This is NOT about HEALTH. This is about CONTROL and DEPOPULATION via GENOCIDE.

    Society and the economy opens up when WE THE PEOPLE take back control and turn this mess around OURSELVES. The government is NOT on our side. They have indemnified themselves and the vaccine manufacturers from ALL LIABILITY (all adverse reactions and deaths). If the vaccine is SAFE AND EFFECTIVE, WHY? Why would they do that? What are they hiding?????

    OUR BODY, OUR CHOICE. No one… and I mean NO ONE!! Should ever be OSTRACISED from society by vaccine passports, DISCRIMINATED against for making a sound informed choice or QUESTIONING the narrative and gov directives that clearly DONT make any sense.

    If someone doesn’t want to jab themselves with an experimental DNA altering vaccine that’s trial data SHOWS it does NOT STOP TRANSMISSION OR INFECTION of SARS-Cov-2. THEN WHAT IS THE POINT OF THE VACCINE????? what alterior motives are behind the vaccine??? Who stands to make trillions off this? NOT THE PEOPLE.

    THE VACCINE WILL NOT FIX THIS. WE ARE THE ONLY ONES WHO CAN.

  2. You forgot to mention the Andrews Government’s handling of the Pandemic !!
    Not sure why .. if the election was held
    Tomorrow it would be a whitewash to the incumbent government… Morrison has made mistakes no doubt, enough to have the government replaced by a Labor Government no chance . State and federal
    Are completely different, especially when the nation is voting in National leaders …
    unfortunately Labor do not have any of those with the exception of Mr Chalmers..
    Shorten was a failure in the first Order
    However Albo is next level . They are clueless
    With policies that may have traction to interest the General voting population…
    One world government ? Completely
    Eradicate the resources industries?
    Obsessed with being offended , race
    & genders .. Brainwashed by Climate change
    Whatever that means… tax & Spend policies
    and lastly abandoned blue-collar workers
    who were the backbone for the Labor Party .
    You see Andrew a vote for the Labor Party is a vote for the one worldwide Government
    Greens .. Socialism is the equal sharing Of
    Misery… No Thanks !!

  3. Australia’s most open secret and greatest threat is and has always been the bias and corrupted corporate MSM lead by the Murdoch propaganda units. Give Australia just one hour one day of honest media accountability of this criminally corrupted, rorting obsessed, scandal plagued, unending policy failure catastrophes that in many cases are fatal to it’s many victims. The failed economic ideology and crazed rightwing rhetoric and this Morrison Govt would be gone by lunchtime. Take a look at Barrow’s statement, thats all the evidence you need to see the damage done by looking at the contrived crap excreted from the Murdoch and other media 24/7. The fact someone could even writ such contrived garbage let alone get it published is portent. Australia has no more chance of an opposition political party getting honest impartial free and fair media reporting than 1930’s Germany had against fascism! The Nat’s were so proficient at it they even had a name for it. Totschweightaktik “Death by Silence”. The opposition parties are refused any voice in the media, sound similar to Australian media ?

  4. Andrew’s got his finger on the spot. And the right-wing joke of government’s only for
    those with an extra hole in their head. Fascism’s goose-stepping over everyone. Ah!
    Honesty won’t fix it because the lunch in on Murdoch.

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