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Byron Shire
December 5, 2021

Editorial: What’s in your pill?

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Red Pill, Blue Pill.

While publishing political tit for tats is tedious at the best of times, herewith is an attempt to try and understand some of the decision making that is behind the current pandemic strategies.   

The context here is that this electorate has effectively two NSW government representatives, one elected, and the other unelected.

Greens MP, Tamara Smith, won the 2019 NSW election, despite a massive pork barrelling attempt by the NSW government. Their Nationals candidate, Ben Franklin MLC, lost, yet clearly considers himself a contender for the job in the future.

What’s at stake is government transparency and competence in the age of COVID-19.

The Echo put Ms Smith’s claim to Mr Franklin that his government lacks accountability, ‘as they haven’t sat in parliament for months’.

Ms Smith said, ‘There’s no opportunity to interrogate their policies, and all the data around their COVID-19 response is kept secret’.

Mr Franklin responded by saying that ‘Data is not kept secret and for the best part of the last three months the highest elected official in the State, the Premier has fronted the media for nearly an hour every day to deliver information and answer questions. The State’s Chief Health Officer has also fronted the media every day to answer to the health advice provided. This is continuing to happen, with relevant senior health officials providing daily information and the Premier and Senior Ministers providing relevant details, as often as required’.

Ms Smith says of this: ‘The government has refused to release the health advice from the week of the initial outbreak, or that [which] was used to lock down LGAs of concern’.

Moving on to the government refusing to sit in parliament.

Despite MPs and their staff being unable to attend parliament unless vaccinated, Mr Franklin said, ‘The Government has not avoided sitting’.

He said, ‘A Legislative Assembly cross-party committee agreed to follow the health advice and postpone the scheduled sitting period in September. This had the bi-partisan support of the Leader of the Opposition. Of course it stands to reason that we would follow the same health advice in the Upper House’.

‘There were significant concerns among Members, especially those in regional areas, about taking the virus back to their own communities. Since the lockdown, incredible efforts have been made to ensure Parliamentary inquiries go ahead virtually, including Budget Estimates.

‘There are 24 open inquiries, all of which the Government is actively involved in. Also, all Members are able to put Questions on Notice to Government Ministers every day’.

Ms Smith says of this: ‘The Upper House also attempted to sit this month with a COVID-19 safety plan and with regional members attending via video link’.

‘Members from the opposition and crossbench were in attendance, but could not proceed because the Government refused to send a Minister – so that the house could sit.

‘The Upper House has fewer members and could have had a quorum of members without any regional members in physical attendance’. 

‘How is it safe for Bunnings to be open, but not for Parliament to sit in a reduced and COVID Safe capacity?” 

‘The Doherty modelling is based on opening up with low case numbers. There is no modelling for opening up with patchy vaccination (some LGAs high, some low), a broken down contact tracing system, and a hospital system on the brink’.

♦ News tips are welcome: [email protected]

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