Welcome to another year of politics like we’ve never seen

Christmas and New Years queues for people wanting Covid testing met a very different response to queues at Centrelink at the start of the pandemic. Dennis Atkins does a bit of comparison and contrast.

Two queues of anxious Australians, two years apart, elicit different reactions from a government once put to action out of worry, now almost reckless, emboldened by a willingness to push through a dynamic capitalism.

Welcome to politics for the election year 2022, when nothing is as before and certainly very different from the Midas touch that Prime Minister Scott Morrison claimed to bring to the unexpected outcome of the 2019 election.

First, these queues deserve consideration.

At the end of March 2020, thousands of Australians took to the streets after the Centrelink and MyGov websites crashed following swift decisions to shut down much of the national economy.

The Morrison government was doing everything to help families, individuals and businesses caught up in the great SARS-CoV-2 shutdown. Tens of billions of dollars have been spent to double unemployment, welfare premiums and obscenely generous corporate wage safety nets.

Now, almost two years later, a new set of lineups have appeared on the evening news. People standing for hours in queues outside hospitals or sitting in cars in overwhelmed health centers, all wanting one thing.

A covid test was what these people wanted, either to comply with travel requirements for various states or to find out if a bad cough, runny nose, or flu-like discomfort was just another sniff of the flu. summer or the coronavirus.

This time the Prime Minister and the government shrugged their shoulders, looked for the minimalist answer, told everyone that the days of free stuff are over and we have to try our luck in our nirvana of active capitalism.

A day or two of shock and shame barely changed Morrison. It has made the most miserable of concessions to retirees, concession card holders and very low income people by allowing them 10 free rapid home antigen tests every three months.

In Britain anyone can get seven of these tests for free every week, the Biden administration in the US is about to send 500 million free tests, and in Germany there are 15,000 pop-up test sites. across the country with almost 10 percent of them in the main city of Berlin.

Of course, Britain and the United States are struggling to make their systems work (as they have throughout the pandemic), but they have made significant national commitments contrary to what we have seen. here.

We get a modern take on ‘let them eat cake’.

Two things are seriously wrong – politically and administratively – with what has happened in the past three months in Australia.

We started with a command and control response to the virus with strict border controls, local and national economic lockdowns, and many mandatory rules regarding vaccines, masks and various other behaviors.

Then, with a very quick gesture, we skipped half a dozen boxes and decided that we were going to “live with the virus”. Freedoms have been promoted, embraced and encouraged.

Morrison told us all that we had been through a period of necessary regulation, but it is now that we have regained our freedoms and the government is out of our lives.

It was clear from the transparent code words used, Morrison was never a fan of this meddling government enterprise, even though he had made some of the most important and important decisions (for good or bad). not) based on large-scale state intrusion. .

Just as this bet was confusing to some and terrifying to others, the new variant of Covid has come to join and perhaps supplant the then well-known Delta mutation – Omicron (apparently it’s Greek because it’s gone again).

This made the ‘get out of your life’ scenario more difficult to build and maintain, even though the Prime Minister’s stubborn determination was not about to give up trying.

Morrison even sought to make a connection between the cricket test and his strategy of “pushing” when he participated in some of the comments during the Fourth Ashes meeting at Sydney Cricket Ground.

“Australia is living with the virus, look over there (sic) and Australians are taking wickets in the virus,” he said in a still mystifying comment.

As always, Morrison has his slippery defense mechanisms at his fingertips when challenged, whether it’s the still slow rollout of the third Covid vaccine, the scarcity and cost of rapid antigen testing. or statistics on infections, hospitalizations and intensive care. a confession that goes beyond his previous predictions of “nothing to do here”.

Everything revolves around Omicron, he says, grabbing that “get out of jail” card in a way familiar to fans of the Peanuts comics and Linus’ famous blue blanket.

After moving too quickly from a measured level of regulation and control to freedom of passage – something most people considered unsettling and uncertain – Morrison did nothing substantial to adapt when Omicron arrived. . He just checked his TV and continued to watch.

It was very disturbing for a population who, by a clear majority, had been more than happy to stay on the health side of the personal well-being / economic compromise. Pushing ourselves headlong into the first camp of the economy was scary, especially when the national government seemed utterly indifferent to maintaining safeguards to run things. Talk about being crazy and brave.

There is a need to change the strategy on Covid from phase 2020/21 to where we are now and maybe where we are heading, but doing so by applying jumpers to people’s lives is a risk on stilts.

Maybe Morrison should have thought about why his government reacted the way it did in March 2020 when those Centrelink queues popped up overnight. He might have extended the provision of more free things to cover Covid testing – regardless of supply and supply issues.

He could also have tried to have a thoughtful and careful conversation with the audience. It is often the intention that is as important as the delivery.

In the critical year of 2022, Morrison failed on both fronts.

This article first appeared on InQueensland, read the original article here.

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