January 9, 2022 Josh Burns MP

Hands-off government doesn’t suit the times

2022 has already seen some of our most serious days of the pandemic, and it’s likely the situation will get worse before it gets better.

We must wrestle back control from this awful virus and strengthen Australia’s universal healthcare, ensuring Australians have the tools to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.

To do that, Australia needs a government more focused on planning and policy and less on populism and fights with the Premiers.

Scott Morrison started summer armed with his latest focus-group tested line – this was going to be a summer where Governments “get out of Australians’ lives”.

In the customary Morrison style, he confidently repeated what his pollsters told him Australians wanted to hear.

Instead, what we actually needed was a Prime Minister hard at work, planning for the inevitable next stage of this awful pandemic.

Leadership isn’t always about doing what’s popular – it’s about doing what’s needed.

And now, as Omicron runs rampant, faced with a nationwide testing and vaccination crisis, we are paying the price, yet again, for the Morrison Government failing to do its job.

Across the world, warnings of waning immunity causing resurgences in infections should have prepared us for a rapid third dose rollout, but just like the first phase of our vaccine rollout, the Government was slow to act and let the virus get back ahead of us.

The consequence of not doing the work to maintain vaccination distribution channels was that the federal government has delayed the rollout of the third dose.

If three months is the optimal interval between dose two and three, the only explanation for waiting until the end of January to begin implementation is that they have not done the preparation to do it sooner.

As a result, the majority of Australians will have to wait past 31 January to get their third dose – leaving millions exposed without the critical protection they need from Omicron.

Compounding the third dose delays is the debacle surrounding rapid tests. While the UK has made Rapid Antigen Tests free and accessible for all, Australia failed to order enough, meaning availability is scarce and price gouging is occurring on the little supply that exists.

The result right now is a summer of pain and frustration. COVID is everywhere we go and testing is impossible.

Omicron is spreading so rapidly that not only our healthcare system is suffering but our entire economy.

So many workers are sick or isolating, businesses are being forced to shut their doors.

In my electorate, restaurants from St Kilda to Elwood to Southbank are anecdotally saying that the current situation is worse than lockdown.

No support, no staff, no certainty and a customer base weary of going out and catching Covid.

At the same time, our healthcare workforce faces unprecedented challenges with Covid positive nurses being recalled into work as hospitals plead for people to reconsider coming into their Emergency Department.

This is not sustainable.

We need to turn things around and gain back control. We must avoid any more lockdowns with every tool at our disposal. But to do that requires planning, vaccines and testing.

Our PCR testing system has become overwhelmed, and the best solution right now is obvious – make Rapid Antigen Tests free and widely available for all Australians.

It’s a no-brainer to make rapid tests free under Medicare – especially when the far more expensive and slower PCR test is already entirely paid for by the Government.

Morrison has changed his tune on this under intense pressure from the Opposition, the states, unions and the public.

Within days he’s gone from saying “you can’t make everything free” to offering up an absurd bureaucratic rebate system, to finally suggesting there’ll be a limited number of free tests given to concession card holders only, leaving the rest to continue to search far and wide for their own.

This is still a far cry from the UK, which offers up to 7 free tests to anyone who needs them.

For crying out loud, we’re in a bloody pandemic, do we really want to scrimp over the tests that will help us diagnose this awful virus?

The more frequently and widely people can monitor whether they’re COVID positive, the safer we will all be.

As painful as it is to face, this pandemic isn’t over. It may have many twists and turns – or mutations – left in its story.

I believe Australians are resilient and will do what they can to help keep one another safe.

Australians don’t want Governments to overburden them, but they do want Governments to do their job to help keep them safe.

Right now, they need the Federal Government to be hard at work, preparing and supporting people to get through the health and economic crisis that is Omicron.

And then whatever comes next.

For that, we just need to elect a new Government.

Josh Burns MP
Federal Member for Macnamara

 

This article was originally published in Herald Sun on 10th January, 2022

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    Josh Burns MP respectfully acknowledges the past and present traditional owners of the land of the Indigenous people, the traditional custodians of this land, and respect their culture and identity which has been bound up with the land and sea for generations.
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