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Byron Shire
June 15, 2021

Upside down river

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Letter contributor Richard White (letters 21/4/21) quite correctly identifies the Richmond River as an ‘upside down river’ and nowhere is this more evident than the Pimlico area.

Keith Duncan must have been fully immersed in that section of the river when he delivered his ‘Decisive handling’ letter in the same issue.

A quick reference to the COVID-19 deaths in Australia would have alerted the writer to the fact that Victoria had 820 deaths, a full 90 per cent of the Australian total.

The blame for this disgraceful mess can be fully attributed to the gross mishandling of the hotel quarantine methods used by the Andrews Government.

Had this been a building site, the Andrews Government would have been facing not industrial charges but industrial genocide charges.

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  1. The problem the writer has is that quarantine is a federal responsibility and the federal government off loaded this onto the states and abdicated there responsibility. Secondly most of the deaths unfortunately occurred in private nursing homes, again a federal responsibility. If one checks no COVID deaths occurred in the state run facilities. So the upside down river analogy perhaps is correct with the states shouldering the federal government responsibilities.

  2. It’s a real shame that certain noisy members of the local rightist minority, make light of the appalling state of the badly degraded Richmond River, in a poor attempt at indulging themselves in some infantile upside-down humour. Yes, the very same people who shamelessly keep the corruption riddled Berejiklian/Barilaro Govt. and their hopelessly incompetent National Party Ministers, who are refusing to even discuss serious rehabilitation efforts with local Richmond River stakeholders, in power. Maybe Mr. Tim Harrington from Lennox Head could put his time to much better use by joining a hardworking community group like Landcare or AusFish and assist with some real Richmond River rehabilitation efforts, but I somehow doubt that he would be even aware of, let alone have the ability, to deal with a serious local environmental issue.

  3. What is remarkable is that any coalition apologists would still dare to throw criticism at the states/territories given the total abrogation by the federal government of its responsibilities for this NATIONAL crisis. In no area is this now more apparent than its responsibility for biosecurity and quarantine. Why do we have to abandon Australian citizens? Where are our purpose built quarantine facilities? There has been more than a year of notice of the dangers of Covid and more than a decade of warnings about the need to plan for a pandemic.

    The one area the feds have been keen to take on – and bask in the glory – is the vaccination rollout. That was until it became increasingly clear that their strategic capacity was zero and once more the states would need to save their – and consequently our – bacon. To pick up the pieces of an abysmal procurement program and a defunct administrative capacity.

    What is totally abhorrent is the way coalition pollies and their apologists, choose to brandish the tragic figure of 800 + deaths like a trophy of war. It was eagerly seized on in winter last year and still is by the odd desperate soul despite our growing knowledge of the total picture:

    It was never a matter of IF but WHEN the virus would escape hotel quarantine. It is an unsuitable medium and should never have been necessary – especially long term – if we had had any national leadership.

    Once the virus is out it is not that difficult to get to the numbers involved in Victoria’s second wave. It’s called exponential growth. And the are peculiarities to the Victorian context that make simplistic interstate comparisons simply politically opportunistic rather than scientific.

    Once in aged care – given the conditions that characterise this national disgrace – the outcomes were inevitable but, tellingly, largely did not occur in state run facilities.

    🔎🔎🔎🔎 🕵🏼‍♂️🕵🏼‍♂️ 🧑🏻‍⚕️🧑🏻‍⚕️ 🧑🏼‍🎓👩🏻‍🎓 🔍🔍🔍🔍

    A bit of bedtime reading from the Lancet and the Coates Enquiry into Victorian hotel quarantine:

    ‘ That 75% of the country’s deaths have occurred in such facilities gives Australia one of the highest rates worldwide of deaths in residential aged care as a percentage of total deaths. It has left families grieving and experts angry that their pleas to reform the sector had long been ignored.
    “Homer Simpson could have seen the catastrophe in aged care coming with COVID-19 because it was there in your face”, said Professor Joseph Ibrahim, head of the Health Law and Ageing Research Unit at Monash University (Melbourne, VIC, Australia) and an expert witness at Australia’s Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety

    ‘ “I don’t think anything has gone wrong per se—it was already wrong”, Ibrahim said. “There were not enough workers to start with; the workforce that exists doesn’t have the training for a contemporary aged care system. They’re not equipped to manage disease complexity and they’re not equipped to deal with ethical human rights issues. So, then COVID-19 arrives and there are not enough staff, staff who don’t know what they’re doing, staff who haven’t been trained in infection control.”

    ‘ The (Royal Commission) report also describes infection prevention and control measures in facilities as “deplorable”. “We heard of workers being told they could only use one glove rather than two, and a guideline at a residential aged care facility that only permitted two masks per shift”, the two commissioners, Tony Pagone and Lynelle Briggs, wrote. ‘


    While the Coates Enquiry found plenty of fault with Victorian Government oversight – as it was designed to do – it also has some telling comments about the role of the federal government in its total unpreparedness for a pandemic:

    ‘ While this Inquiry had no remit or jurisdiction to examine any action or inaction by the Commonwealth, given the role of the Commonwealth through the Commonwealth Pandemic Plan and the lead that it provides to the states and territories, it would be unfair to judge Victoria’s lack of planning for a mandatory quarantining program given the Commonwealth, itself, had neither recommended nor developed such a plan.

    ‘ Significantly, the Commonwealth undertook a review of its health sector response in the wake of the H1N1 pandemic in 2009. The Commonwealth’s Review of Australia’s Health Sector Response to Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 recommended that the roles and responsibilities of all governments for the management of people in quarantine, both at home and in other accommodation, during a pandemic, should be clarified. The Review recommended that a set of nationally consistent principles could form the basis for jurisdictions to develop operating guidelines, including plans for accommodating potentially infected people in future pandemics and better systems to support people in quarantine.

    ‘ However, none of the existing Commonwealth or State pandemic plans contained plans for mandatory, mass quarantine. Indeed, the concept of hotel quarantine was considered problematic and, thus, no plans for mandatory quarantine existed in the Commonwealth’s overarching plans for dealing with pandemic influenza.

    ‘ Had the work proposed by the Commonwealth’s Review of Australia’s Health Sector Response to Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 been done, there would likely have been, at least, a set of guiding principles and a framework to support the establishment of the Hotel Quarantine Program, thus avoiding the Program needing to be set up in an ad hoc manner during a pandemic.

    ‘ The lack of a plan for mandatory mass quarantine meant that Victoria’s Hotel Quarantine Program was conceived and implemented ‘from scratch’, to be operational within 36 hours, from concept to operation. This placed extraordinary strain on the resources of the State, and, more specifically,
    on those departments and people required to give effect to the decision made in the National Cabinet and agreed to by the Premier on behalf of Victoria. This lack of planning was a most unsatisfactory situation from which to develop such a complex and high-risk program.’



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