Why is Australia unable to prepare for anything?

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided a once in a lifetime opportunity to lay bear the problems inherent to “the Lucky Country”. It has loudly and devastatingly the band-aid off the gaping wound that lies at the inability of successive Federal and State governments to prepare the nation against existential and potential threats.

The latest Omicron outbreak has shown conclusively that the “leadership” shown by PM Scott Morrison hasn’t even risen to the level of basic management skills, let alone Churchill style responsibility.

Michelle Grattan hits this on the head clearly:

Earlier lessons weren’t properly learned. Planning has been woeful. The relationship between health and the economy was misread.

Morrison’s much vaunted “national plan” of last year put near total faith in vaccination. Vaccination has been transformational, reducing the severity of illness and saving lives. But it doesn’t stop the transmission of the highly-infectious Omicron, which can still hobble the country.

As Christmas approached, and on the back of a good economic bounce-back from the lockdowns, the federal government wanted people spending as much as possible of their stored-up savings as a further stimulus. But soon the catch-22 emerged. If Omicron is ripping through, people might not be locked down but many will choose or be forced to behave as though they are – doing less, tightening their purse strings.

The lack of preparation has been even more stunning than the miscalculation.

The future need for rapid antigen tests (RATs) was anticipated months ago. Yet we’ve been hit with an acute shortage, just as delays lengthened in getting results from PCR tests. After the vaccination stuff-ups, you’d have thought federal and state governments would have pulled out all stops to get enough RATs. But no. Morrison late last year argued that with a very high vaccination rate we shouldn’t concentrate on case numbers but on hospitalisations rates, much lower than in earlier waves.

But with skyrocketing infections, the absolute numbers in hospital are going to weigh down the system, as well as pushing aside other care, notably elective surgery. This is happening while the wildfire infection takes out large numbers of health care workers, directly through illness or indirectly through furlough.

It didn’t take enough account of how everything connects to everything else in this pandemic, and how the interconnections are multiplied a hundred fold when the numbers become so high.

Morrison is clearly incapable of leading a thirsty horse to a trough, let alone managing a multi dimensional health and economic battle. Probably the most inept PM in our nation’s history, but he is only a symptom of what our political system creates.

At the same time that everyday Australians are struggling to purchase RAT tests, the government announces yet another bloated, unneeded defence procurement, an expensive upgrade to a tank fleet that was needed for the last war:

As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, Australia seeks to procure seventy-five M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks (MBTs), twenty-nine explosive-clearing assault breacher vehicles, seventeen assault bridge vehicles, and six armored recovery vehicles as part of a $3.5 billion deal.

By the way, the Abrams tank (and most of the new armoured vehicles being procured, because they are too heavy) can’t use most of the bridges in the North of the country, can’t fit into the amphibious aircraft carriers and require an enormous amount of fuel to go anywhere – more on that fuel problem in a bit…

But no-one in ADF “leadership” has the guts to put a stop to these sort of stupid acquisitions, and actually question what strategy is required to defend the nation in the near future. The latest debacle over the French submarine acquisition which has now left a gaping mammoth hole in the country’s ability to defend sea lanes to our north or the curious expenditure on new frigates that have limited capability in doing the same, or the totally inadequate yet very sexy F-35 stealth fighter “upgrade”, when the future is clearly very long range unmanned aircraft. This is all after not even bothering to fill the gap after the demise of the strategic F-111 fleet.

That most of this spending is clearly political ends to secure post-political career opportunities, not to actually prepare a country for a tumultuous 21st century, is almost unmentioned in the press or in public circles. It make the US industrial-military complex pale in comparison on relative terms.

And beyond the pew-pew focus, there’s the actual strategic logistical problems that haven’t been solved. There is still no substantial increase or long term planning to alleviate the huge existential risk to the nation’s fuel supply.

Last year saw more than 90 per cent of petrol and diesel used in the country imported, and almost all of it from regional Asia – Singapore, South Korea, Japan and China. All going through one of the most volatile and potentially biggest chokepoints in our region.

There’s now only two oil refineries left in the whole country – one in Brisbane, the other Geelong – whereas 20 years ago, there were 8 across the nation, albeit running at a loss but providing a valuable insurance to fragile supply lines.

Because of the lack of domestic capacity, and supply restraints, fuel storage levels have dropped dramatically, from 90 days supply to less than 30 days if everything runs smoothly, all the time. Even less when a pandemic going on and most of regional Asia’s supply lines are choked up. Combine that with a disastrous natural gas export strategy, leaving none to use domestically, and energy security is a bloody farce.

All of this leaves a nation completely open to conventional and unconventional attack by regional actors, including China, all in the face of a declining United States.

Where is the long term thinking and hard questions being asked? Why is the potential to electrify the transport sector – who requires most of that fuel to get food and supplies into supermarkets around the country – and eliminate the external threat never seriously discussed? Or some investment in building up the fuel storage as a stopgap during this transition?

And then we get to climate change – the existential threat that could destroy our nation’s future.

Again, complacency and lack of action are trademarks of Australia’s “she’ll be right mate” attitude to, well almost every danger it faces.

The Black Summer fires are still in our memories, but are fading fast as the true cause – extreme weather conditions as a result of quickening climate change – is still not being met head on.

As the most recent fire management studies argue, climate change is exceeding the capacity of our ecological and social systems to adapt:

Various government inquiries following the Black Summer fires of 2019-20 produced wide-ranging recommendations for how to prepare and respond to bushfires. Similar inquiries have been held since 1939 after previous bushfires.

Typically, these inquiries led to major changes to policy and funding. But almost universally, this was followed by a gradual complacency and failure to put policies into practice.

You think this relatively short term priority will be any priority at all at State or Federal levels during a “wet” year?

Finally, has there been any genuine attempt – by both sides of politics – to lay out a serious and long term plan to adapt to climate change in the 21st century?

If ever there was a moment for true leadership, to call for a shared level of sacrifice and hard yakka to get a nation through what could be the biggest crisis it has faced since Federation, it is now.

Instead of course, we get obfuscation, dodgy modelling drawn up by the fossil fuel companies, weak kneed missives by the ALP, and no real vision or action.

No gas reservation policies, no nationalisation of coal power stations, no carbon tax on exports, no push to electrify transport systems or to push for full renewable energy within a decade or so. No long term plan to move away from a reliance on iron ore and coal exports that drive almost the entire economy.

No responsibility.

As Ketan Joshi succinctly puts it:

Truly, though, there is no country in the world that does climate delay quite like Australia. The hammy nationalism, the role of fantasy and trickery in its climate and energy rhetoric, and the total absence of shame in defending its role as a key cause of significant physical damage to Earth. It’s only going to escalate as the next federal election inches closer.

This nation requires real leadership, not hollow-men, sports celebrities, culture wars and distracting woke beat-ups, if it wants to survive the 21st century because there’s no more riding on the sheep’s back from here on in. All of our nation’s natural advantages are fading and the luck is running out.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Frank DrebinMEMBER

    Mainly because most of the analysis and decision making is now done in Ministerial offices by a team of deadshit advisors who have no real world experience or imagination.

    Singapore mailed out free ART’s kits to every household 3 months ago and now provides free face masks from vending machines.

    It’s surely not that hard…..

    • strange economicsMEMBER

      Tanks are very useful, if you are on the flat fields of Northern Europe facing an iron curtain.
      Where exactly would Aussie tanks be used, apart from an away game showing the flag to the US?

      Otherwise they are just sitting ducks for short range missiles.

      Meanwhile the govt should go off to a Management 101 course anywhere.

      The problem is the govt does not spend any time having a planning meeting, doing some risk analyses.
      Or cost benefit analyses. Or some simple scenario analysis . Or even look at the Poms stuff up “Let it Rip” and taking a few tips.

      Our religious right leaders jiust have faith, and then go off to buy some more investment houses.
      Churchill saw the long game risks (Germany and then at the end of WW2 the soviets) and didn’t trust totalitarians words.

  2. > “Australia is a lucky country run mainly by second rate people who share its luck. It lives on other people’s ideas, and, although its ordinary people are adaptable, most of its leaders (in all fields) so lack curiosity about the events that surround them that they are often taken by surprise.”

      • Arthur Schopenhauer

        I think I have said this to you before Janet, but I haven’t met too many exceptionally capable people in Australian Corporate life. It seems the larger the company, the nastier and more cunning the leadership become.

        That’s quite distinct from smart, curious and capable.

        On the other hand, there are a lot of smart, curious and capable Ausssies in Silicon Valley.

        • Yep Australia one of just a few countries in the world that actively adjusts the value/mix of its Human Capital base by exporting Excellence and importing Mediocrity.. what could possibly go wrong?

    • I was going to say much the same thing. Australia is a third world economy which up to now has enjoyed a first world standard of living. I don’t expect this dichotomy to continue for much longer. Australia either lifts its game OR slides down the greasy pole. The political leadership – both state and federal is pathetic and generally incompetent.

  3. I have to be honest and say that when COVID raised its head I expected that someone from the government would front up on TV and declare that the government would now be following the “Pandemic Plan”. A plan that successive governments have updated over the decades since the Spanish Flu. A plan so detailed that every conceivable option was described in a large flowchart and all government departments were contributors of it. A plan that would allow us to continue our lives with minimal impact due to the forethought of those charged with thinking of such things.
    I was disappointed.

      • desmodromicMEMBER

        There was in 2006 on concerns about avian influenza. I participated in public forums with health and other public officials outlining ‘the plan’. In detail how hospital overflow would be handled, services maintained etc. Something has been lost in the meantime.

        • Absolute BeachMEMBER

          Apparently such a plan existed in the US prior to COVID. A detailed road-map with the logical sequences following past pandemic patterns, cadence, etc. And Trump made his admin throw it out. Apparently. Not hard to believe. Perhaps the same happened to the Oz version…..

    • Totes BeWokeMEMBER

      Not sure how you have a plan for such an unpredictable and dynamic thing such as a pandemic.

      All we needed was a good government acting in the interests of Australia using science and logic. Every step of the way it was easy to see better decisions than they made. The worst recently opening international borders.

      • Are you serious? So no learnings from the Spanish Flu or any virus that’s cropped up since?
        Unable to forecast possible lockdowns and effects on people and economy?
        Unable to forecast requirements for masks, testing etc?
        Unable to get pre-aggreement from states on how to handle a pandemic?

        “All we needed was a good government acting in the interests of Australia using science and logic”
        Isn’t that involved in planning?

        • Totes BeWokeMEMBER

          I guess you could have had a bit of planning, but this virus is very different, and do you really think it would have made any difference anyway?

          Medical advice precellular to this virus and its’ behaviour is here and now, and politicians haven’t adhered to that unless it suited them.

          Our problems aren’t a lack of planning. Our problems are the quality of politician in federal and state politics, and more so, who pulls their strings.

          The solution is always the same. Destroy the duopoly. Don’t reward Labor for being the least sht party. Get rid of them both.

  4. I mean seriously – where do you get this drivel from. Long term planning ( what’s your time horizon). The world is changing daily – data used in modelling a month ago can be out of whack and most data cannot be treated like door numbers (which are fixed). Macrobusiness has unfortunately turned into a left wing biased political delivery platform. Most likely will ditch my membership at renewal time. Might as well get my money’s worth and the occasional laugh

  5. I have been looking at the metrics for some of these huge Solar Farms, and they look truly terrible tbh.
    1) Woodside 100MW Solar Farm, will reduce emissions from Pluto LNG by 1.5%.
    2) Asian renewable hub 26GW of Wind and Solar, used for making perhaps about 30,000Tpd of LNH3. 3GW for Pilbara Uasge.
    3) Sun Cable ~17GW of Solar PV, will prvide 15% of Singapore’s Power needs.
    I think if we were serious about Climate change, we would need to shut the biggest emitters down of CO2, like Stop exporting LNG and Coal, and getting US and Arab states to stop exporting oil. Heck, I can see us ending up like the Amish in 1599, milking a goat for milk, no more coffee beans, need to replant the rain forest.
    But seriously australia political parties seem to be broken, the levels of cronyism and pure bastardtry and lack of vision, are truely soul destroying for anyone in this country, unless you are one of the group mentioned above.

    • “like Stop exporting LNG and Coal, and getting US and Arab states to stop exporting oil” … ok, and have a billion or two people in Asia perish as a result ? no government will permit that.

      fact is there is no viable alternative to fossil fuels to keep powering a society of 8 billion humans.

      that there is the issue, FF’s permitted our plague to overshoot by such an order of magnitude, that sustaining modern day life for that many humans depends upon FF’s of all varieties flowing freely around the world

      • FUDINTHENUDMEMBER

        True that. Plus some genius came up with he haber process so we could basically turn oil into food! Which is great for population growth until the cheap oil spigot is turned off

      • strange economicsMEMBER

        Not Really – 40% of electrical energy usage is by the top 10% enjoying a luxury lifestyle (not the poor in Asia)
        If they cut back to say 3 bedroom apartments rather than harbour mansions, then 10% less energy usage for no pain.

        Australia could switch entirely to renewables, and you could still have AMG Mercedes 6.3s, but they wouldn’t make any loud noises any more.

  6. Because all the things that are required of good leadership – appreciating and accepting responsibilities, respect, empathy, humility, and a willingness to strategise and implement interventionist policy to shape the future are the domain of far-left socialists and wokesters.

    Good, honest, god-fearing Conservative men know the best way to run a country is to let the cards fall where they may with the winners and losers decided on their merits. Anything less would be tantamount to surrendering to the Commies. Just ask Reusa.

    • True leaders used to be the domain of competent men, some where even old-school conservative types, but most were honourable and charitable, dare I say even Christian, who cherished responsibilities and made sure they were accountable to others. At least one can hope we can look through history and find a rich vein of those venerable types – but its damn hard to see any forthcoming now….

      • kierans777MEMBER

        Hear, hear!!!

        I remember my teenage self reading a couple of decades ago how Pentacostalism was dangerous and how it’s infection would in the years to come cause all sorts of problems. I couldn’t wrap my head around it then, but looking back now I understand.

  7. Seldon PlanMEMBER

    This article summarises our predicament really well and it makes me sick to my stomach! Maybe, just maybe the coming election will provide an awakening of sorts for the Federal political landscape. I am not sure what this might look like or how change will come, its just hope really.

  8. NelsonMuntzMEMBER

    Maaaate, stop whinging, house prices keep going up, the weather is warmer, the surf is good, we have enough gas for the barbie, the beer is still cold and the cricket is on the TV. Sit down and stop being a raw prawn. How good is Straya!

  9. happy valleyMEMBER

    “Probably the most inept PM in our nation’s history, but he is only a symptom of what our political system creates.”

    Most inept and morally bankrupt.

  10. Chris, an intentional freudian slip? Are you going the full BEAR in expose how BARE our stupid country is? I’m definitely bearish on future prospects and have gone long Aussie stupidity by leaving the country entirely for somewhere less corrupt and incompetent.

    I will watch from afar as Scomo and his government receive the ass-kicking into opposition they so richly deserve. Let’s not forget the conservative folk of WA kicked the Libs nearly into extinction. So it’s possible, but only if Labor had someone worth getting behind. What a disaster of a country.

    The COVID-19 pandemic has provided a once in a lifetime opportunity to lay bear the problems inherent to “the Lucky Country”

      • IF the family can avoid catching Covid for one more month and get on our flight with a negative PCR within 48-hours (and that’s a big IF) then we can escape to NZ.

        Yeah, I know, Jacinta and all that, but hell, I’d take an average Jacinta over a diabolically corrupt and incompetent Scomo and his LNP loons every day of the years ahead.

        Why not work (on australian projects) from my own nice home in regional NZ with a view of the sea and mountains? Beats working from here in a rented unit because house prices have gone so spastic they’re unaffordable.

        When one looks at how many houses our grubs for politicians own, it’s clear why house prices here ain’t going down unless the global financial markets completely implode.

  11. Display NameMEMBER

    The fact that the government is unable to plan for anything is a question I have pondered much over the last few years. It has been getting worse with each successive government. The current federal LNP has failed at *everything* it has attempted or is responsible for;

    – Vaccine procurement
    – Vaccine rollout
    – defence procurement
    – quarantine
    – Diplomacy
    – RATs procurement

    To name but a few. I would suggest it has several causes;
    1. The money in politics has broken the two party system. Lobbyists and donors are now clearly taking a front seat to constituents. The federal LNP have outsourced them selves to multi national resources and fossil fuel companies. To attempt paper over this we have endless media gaming of messaging from the government. Take the “gas transition” manufactured by the “Covid Commission” . This is a transparent fiction yet MSM have not called it for the farce that it is.

    2. From 1. the people pre selected have tended to be people who thrive in the back room deal, BS messaging game. These people are not interested in policy or have a vision for Australia, they have connections to lobbyists or donors and can bring money to the party or are good “media performers”

    3. From 2. you get far too many politicians that are only interested in the acquisition and maintenance of political incumbency. They are nothing politicians. They get elected so….they can get elected again.

    • Perfectly put.

      Worth having a listen to the latest Hidden Forces podcast episode 227

      Is it possible to have a popular platform on which to not only run a successful campaign but from which to govern successfully?

      Or are these two things fundamentally incompatible in today’s celebrity-driven, fake it till you make it culture that seems to reward the aesthetics over power in place of power itself?

      They explain why the so-called “political experts” whose job it is to explain what’s happening have consistently failed to do so, what the new political consensus is that’s forming in American life, and what it is that the majority of Americans want

      • Absolute BeachMEMBER

        I listened to that Hidden Forces podcast at 5am watching the sun rise over the ocean. It was mildly disturbing- but only because I felt it to be an accurate appraisal of the body politic in 2021. Venal, short termism tinged with a flourish of Hollywood. Zero substance below the stage make-up.

    • happy valleyMEMBER

      Ah yes the “Covid Commission” – the commission that ensured LNP mates (gas transition etc etc) were looked after and then was never heard from again.

  12. The government is very competent, just not in what you think. Is it a project that can siphon money to donors? Is it suppressing wages by a well oiled migration program? Does it involve privatising the stuff that used to be in the too hard basket? Is it on projects that costs 1/2 of the nbn by the end or more but dont pass the pub test once you dive in?

    I’ve always said to my partner that the government does plan and extremely competent. It’s just in all the things the community never asked for or really needed. Everytime a project is “on track” you know it is for big business or property developers for example. When they mention “jobs” as a benefit to anything it’s because it has no other community benefits to espouse. When all pl our resource money leaves offshore the party has achieved its donors objective.

    They are smarter than people think – they got there not by accident. You think they are incompetent because your judging them by a different criteria than they are operating on. Judge instead on what they execute without a hitch and dont just pay lip service to.

    • working class hamMEMBER

      Spot on. Why does every does every leader we have, smirk constantly after delivering us another BS sandwich.
      The real problem is that they are so brazen now, covering up their crimes isn’t even necessary, MSM will just redirect.

  13. You can’t expect an administrative entity made mostly of migrants and people with dual citizenships to make the hard decisions necessary to secure its future. In their pasts, their plan was to get away from wherever they were and come here where things were better. Their plan for the future is to do the same. We will not be able to plan for the future until large numbers of those people have left. That will only happen when things get quite bad for a quite a while.

    • When are you planning to leave, unless you are indigenous?

      Everyone is an ‘immigrant’ in Australia but too many, including many British, only deem white Anglo Irish as Australian. Since Howard’s nativist Christian conservatism, whereby our political classes, especially LNP, and hollowed out media track and platform an ageing cohort of ‘skips’ whose cultural influence is in decline, but can vote for crazy e.g. Brexit and Trump…. the ‘Anglosphere’ suggests UK and US are encouraging little Oz to withdraw and disengage from Asia become dependent again on bigger siblings, or mum and dad?

      Although many in the Anglo Saxon GOP movement have other ideas to remain in power with extreme nativist and libertarian policies, attracting fewer votes; white Christian nationalist autocracy.

  14. Agree, but it’s hardly surprising? Indicated by how some commenters here see MB going left or woke for highlighting issues with a ‘clown car’ government which should be platformed and respected, without earning the latter 🙂

    What we have witnessed in incompetence etc. from the Morrison LNP government has been going on for years but not challenged, hence, Howard stating that ‘ideology’ needs to be ditched at such times in Covid (when is the ideology fit for purpose?).

    What is the ideology? It’s Anglosphere or US radical right libertarian Kochonomics joined at the hip with Tanton’s nativism; deny/delay climate/Covid science, regulatory constraints etc. by deflecting to borders, immigration, state Premiers, tennis players etc. and promoted by media.

    Most Australians are well conditioned through our ‘medium’ and complicit where even paper based nominal increases in wealth usurp societal good and ‘freedom & liberty’, as do all things ‘immigration’; begs the question as to why Australians have such high levels of mental health issues, anxiety, paranoia and fear in such a nirvana?

  15. Ailart SuaMEMBER

    “Probably the most inept PM in our nation’s history, but he is only a symptom of what our political system creates.”

    And probably the most pertinent sentence in the article – ‘but he is only a symptom of what our political system creates.’ When the design of a political system prevents the implementation of detailed, long-term planning – one of the most essential ingredients required to produce effective leadership, tinkering with symptoms is futile. Why then, do journalists, rarely ever focus on our primitive, divisive-driven, donor-hijacked political system – instead, simply focusing on symptoms? Einstein had a very apt few lines for this.

  16. Jumping jack flash

    Ive been saying all this for ages. Our leaders cant perform basic duties, and furthermore have no working knowledge of the areas they have been tasked to take care of.

    Its just asking for trouble because it leaves the door wide open to being played by “experts” with agendas. It is completely obvious that our leadersheep are just pawns in the game of powerful multinationals eager to supply “expert opinions” which our inept leaders just blindly lap up.

    Of course this also assumes that our leaders themselves, if they were actually skilled in the areas they’re put in charge of, are beyond reproach, and we all know this to be false.

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