Cometh the moment, piss off the man. We saw it in the bushfires, now it is replaying for the virus. SloMo’s chosen strategy to fight the virus is that of Singapore but there is a problem, via Greg Sheridan:
So how has Singapore kept the infection rate so low, with just a couple of hundred cases and about 15 people in intensive care? Over the weekend, Singapore suffered its first two COVID-19 deaths.
“I would not say we have successfully prevented it,” Lee says carefully. “I think I would say so far we have reasonably successfully hindered the transmission.”
The key, Lee explains, is checking out all the people any infected person may have unwittingly infected before diagnosis.
…The Singapore government and its agencies are proactive in monitoring people’s compliance with orders and rules. “In most cases, it is self-isolation. But we will check on you at random times and you have to prove that you are where you have to be,” Lee says.
This has not been an oppressive or authoritarian exercise in Singapore. Rather, it reflects a society that is co-operative and takes its government and institutions seriously. This is a distinct advantage Singapore enjoys that reflects the way its society has developed over 60 years of independence.
“I think it is a great help to us that people listen to the government, they trust the mainstream media, they accept our explanations and they appreciate the fact that we have gone to enormous lengths to be transparent and to explain to people in a timely way what is happening, where they have to take precautions, what the prospects are,” Lee reflects.
Does that sound like a description of Australia to you?
The problem Australia faces with SloMo’s strategy is SloMo himself. After endless years of his politicking for interests, ruining the nation for personal gain, ruling with fear and division, eschewing all national interest policy, resorting to spin on everything, culminating in the Hawaiian trip mid-fires, why would the community trust his judgement now? The only thing that brings them together is their distrust in him. To wit:
Hundreds of people have flocked to closed beaches in defiance of the Prime Minister and local authorities, as police warned of a crackdown.
Anyone caught violating formal quarantine orders would face fines of up to $11,000 or six months in prison, NSW police said as the force set up a hotline enabling people to report individuals that continue to disobey public health orders, including gathering in large crowds.
Scott Morrison slammed beachgoers who violated the 500-person cap on outdoor gatherings, warning that more “draconian” social distancing measures would be put in place.
So I’m hearimg Scomo withdrew his kids from school over a week ago while keep all public schools open. He jumped ship quicker than the Captain of the Costa Concordia.
— Assad Tannous (@AsennaWealth) March 22, 2020
Why would individuals trust SloMo when the lack of trust is structural? It is a fact that state Labor and Liberal Governments hated the SloMo Government before the crisis. Now they have taken matters into their own hands, via the ABC:
On a day when the number of COVID-19 cases had surpassed 500 in New South Wales, Sydneysiders woke up to an opinion piece in the biggest selling newspaper, the Sunday Telegraph, from Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan.
Despite intense pressure from teachers, Catholic schools, some independent schools and most importantly parents, the minister was holding the line.
“The medical experts are telling us that pre-emptive closures of schools is not proportionate or effective as a public health intervention to prevent the spread of the coronavirus at this time,” he wrote.
But in coordinated media releases just after lunch, Victoria’s Labor Premier Daniel Andrews and NSW Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian blew the status quo out of the water.
The health advice hadn’t changed — the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee that guides health emergencies was still advising that schools should remain open.
But the two states that had been pushing for Easter holidays to start at least a week earlier were no longer prepared to wait.
NSW and Victoria moved unilaterally ahead of the national cabinet meeting, trying to ensure making a public statement would mean they got their way.
It was move they had considered making last week, before they were overruled by the Prime Minister.
Mr Andrews has been the most assertive in pushing for school closures, which he has described as inevitable.
His decision to announce ahead of Sunday night’s meeting that schools in Victoria would shut down from Tuesday locked his state into a course of action.
NSW had also suggested it would move in the same direction, with an announcement from Ms Berejiklian expected today.
The Easter break starts later in New South Wales, which means schools could remain open for the next couple of weeks, with classes continuing through the already shortened week ending in Good Friday — but that’s not yet clear.
Why did the states act?
The state views in NSW and Victoria have been very different to that of the Federal Government.
In the states, absenteeism was rising to as high as 50 per cent.
There were reports of parents abusing teachers and state unions were increasingly demanding protections for members.
They made the point some health advice was contradictory — that vulnerable groups should avoid schoolchildren, but all teachers should show up for work.
The consensus of Catholic, independent and public schools around schools staying open also started to fracture.
Schools are a state responsibility and politically that pressure was much more acute in Sydney’s Macquarie Street and Melbourne’s Spring Street than at Parliament House in Canberra.
Federal Government clawed back ground at Cabinet
Prime Minister Scott Morrison reinforced at his Sunday night media conference that he strongly disagrees with decisions to close schools.
He said he doesn’t want to sacrifice students’ education.
Parents will be free to keep their children home but were warned sternly they will be expected to supervise them closely.
He also said he’d like all schools, subject to health advice, to remain open when they return from the school break.
So what happens next?
For parents, the messages have been confusing on a day they’re craving certainty.
The national cabinet will be hoping to reassert unity and reduce that confusion, when it meets again on Tuesday.
Reopening after the Easter Holidays — as the Prime Minister would like — will depend on the spread of the virus and the ability to unite the states.
Child care remains open
Adding to the somewhat contradictory message, childcare centres will remain open.
Education Minister Dan Tehan has announced the Government will introduce legislation today to keep them open and viable.
“The Morrison Government will help families with the cost of child care and provide support for childcare centres to remain viable and pay staff during enforced COVID-19 closures,” he said.
“The current expert medical advice is that the childcare sector remains open, except where individual services have been directed to close by health authorities.”
SloMo should recognise the fact of his collapsed authority and follow the lead of the states.
When the crisis eases, he should do the nation a great service and resign.