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COVID Brain Fade at the Australian Elections

It’s the last week of an election between the uninspiring and the unspeakable. Australia’s conservative incumbents – the unspeakable ones – are even desperate enough to concede to a lack of popularity. Dislike us, but for heaven’s sake, vote us in. The times are wretched, the cost of living is rising, and we are going to look after you in the spiral. The opposition, in contrast, is being stingy on detail and sparing on scope. Memories of 2019 continue to traumatise the Australian Labor Party.

Scouring the election platforms, statements, and town hall debates, is a glaring absence of one particular field of policy. Virtually no candidate or major political party is mentioning that troubling issue of COVID-19 and the global pandemic. That was the dark past, and, like released jailbirds, voters find themselves preoccupied with other matters.

Sporadically, mention is made about the Morrison government’s tardy ordering and supply of COVID-19 vaccines – at least in the initial phase. At that time, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, rather infamously, dismissed the slow rollout. This wasn’t, he opined, a race.

In his first campaign video, Morrison burnished his own credentials as a warrior against COVID-19, having been responsible for saving thousands of lives. (The States and Territories, all far more engaged in the matter than Morrison ever was, are ignored.) But the primary message was that of, “A choice between an economic recovery that is leading the world, and a Labor opposition that would weaken it, and risk it.”

Despite Australia’s enviable record, the emergence of the furiously transmissible Omicron variant and a death toll this year surpassing the combined figures of 2020 and 2021, have seen a departure from previous policy. As Raina MacIntyre of the Kirby Institute remarked in January, Australia “swung from one extreme in pandemic control to the other – having great control of COVID, to now having the world’s highest rise in daily cases.”

Scenes of chaos ensued. The vulnerable had to queue for hours as testing centres were overwhelmed. A number of such centres were also closed, often without good reason. The Commonwealth and State governments tinkered with definitions on eligibility regarding testing, all the time refusing to expand capacity. MacIntyre was distinctly unimpressed. “There was no planning for expedited third-dose boosters, expanded testing capacity, rapid antigen tests, hospital in the home, opening of schools or even guidance for people to protect their household when one person becomes infected.”

None of this has made a difference in the political platform, nor, it seems, in voter interest. The COVID brain fade has well and truly set in. According to data generated by the ABC’s Vote Compass, a mere 1 per cent of Australians consider COVID the most important issue in this election. Vulnerable members of society are being seen as “collateral” to the overall scheme. Living with the virus has also meant suffering and even perishing from it.

The only party making much of COVID-19, and not from the perspective of praising vaccines and sound pandemic management, is the United Australia Party. Bankrolled by the quixotic mining magnate Clive Palmer, millions have been spent on media campaigns that have seen no discernible shift in the polls.

By default, health officials and experts have become crying Cassandras and the concerned oracles. Virologist Stuart Turville has observed, with exasperation, that the federal election campaign has been afflicted by “a case of COVID Fight Club. Don’t talk about it.” Future policies on the subject are virtually absent. “What will happen if we don’t get our third or fourth dose?” wonders Turville. “Will we see the death rate creep up from 40, to 60, to 80 before we start to talk about this again?”

Another figure of some woe and worry is Burnet Institute director, Brendan Crabb, who claims that politicians and governments have resolutely kept their “heads in the sand”. There was a dangerous sense of “COVID now”. Continuing high rates of transmission was “bad for business”. The longer health impacts were also being neglected. “How many of the 350,000 plus active cases in Australia right now will have chronic impacts? Overseas data suggests 20 per cent of them.”

Epidemiologist Nancy Baxter, based at the University of Melbourne, is another who can always be relied upon to deter any emerging complacency. “We’re at a point,” she gravely states, “where COVID is now one of the major killers of Australians, and probably by the end of the year is going to be one of the top three.” She adds further lashings of doom. “And with increasing case numbers, new sub-variants [will be] coming in. This may drive it even further, which would have a bigger impact.”

If the current mood prevails till May 21, we can expect little purchase from such attitudes at the ballot box. Fiscal responsibility, the consumer price index, climate change and the China bogeyman, are likely to feature ahead of the most disruptive pandemic in a century.

 

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10 comments

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  1. Sully of Tuross Head

    Off Topic, but did anybody else find Morrison’s actions on a children’s sports field more than disturbing.
    It proves to me just what a protection racket the Press is running for this stupid oaf.
    A grown man of quite some size and weight, running onto a kiddies sporting ground during a game, without signed permission notes from parents, and has a physical clash that could have ended up far worse than it did.
    The press treats it as a light hearted moment.
    There is no point in saying, imagine if Albo, etc, because he wouldn’t, not in a million years.
    Everyone is a prop to Morrison, he has no feelings, he just does what he thinks normal people do.
    If any other person had done this, police would rightly be called, and an ambulance to check the child called, and within minutes, he would be taken down to face a scowling desk sergeant at the local nick, and that would just be the start of the rest of the day for the pervert.
    A star-struck grandmother and probably parents caught up in the so-called excitement of Morrison’s presence, laughing it off, should not be the end of the matter.

  2. GL

    Sully,

    It was a soccer game, so why in the hell did Scummo tackle the kid? His brainless stupidity could have caused injury…buutt, in the empty echo chamber skull of Scummo it was just too good a chance for a photo opportunity.

    In the minds, such as they are, of the LNP they have “saved the country” and now it’s time to forget about Covid by throwing it on the rubbish heap of “That’s so yesterday.” and move on with the most important thing of trying to suck the sheep in and get themselves voted back in again.

  3. king1394

    Meanwhile , back on the subject of COVID, people who have valid concerns about consenting to the experimental vaccine, which is clearly not working very well, are being suspended and dismissed from their jobs. These are highly trained people such as teachers and scientists, in many cases, not gullible consumers of Murdoch’s dominant narrative.

  4. Kathy

    GL

    I thought that at first too, until I watched the video properly. He doesn’t know how to play, and as his eye was on the ball, he didn’t see the child beside him and ran straight into him. It did look like he was tackling, but he had actually bowled him over.

    On the Covid-19 note, the shit hasn’t hit the fan yet. Many are still sick weeks later with the virus and the full scope of Long Covid isn’t fully realised.

  5. Michael Taylor

    Where’s that bloke who head butted Tony Abbott when you need him?

  6. Canguro

    Day three of iso. One of the estimated ~381 thousand currently operating under the influence of a pack of covid virions, their total numbers in my system, with around ten particles per cell, around a thousand times greater than the current global population of close to eight billion, yet with a total mass in the order of 1 μg to 100 μg,

    Impressive numbers for the little devils.

    My throat feels as if it’s been cross-hatched with a chainsaw, coughing & sneezing are mini-ordeals; appetite gone, flat on my back and disinclined to do very much at all.

    If this is what it feels like after the twin vax plus booster, I’d hate to chance it unvaccinated.

    So glad I voted early.

  7. Kaye Lee

    king1394,

    There is absolutely no question that the vaccines have reduced the incidence of serious disease, hospitalisation and death. I don’t think you can call the vaccine experimental when literally billions of doses have been administered all over the world over the last 18 months.

    It is absolutely reasonable to expect people to be vaccinated to do certain jobs. You can’t visit someone in aged care unless you have a flu shot. You can’t visit a newborn if you haven’t had a whooping cough booster. Healthcare workers have Hep B shots. These are sensible protections for all of us.

  8. leefe

    king1394,

    On how many people does a vaccine need to be tested before it is no longer ‘experimental’?
    (Asking for an immune-compromised friend who quite probably owes his life to that vaccine.)

  9. totaram

    king1394: “the experimental vaccine” you speak of is a myth you picked up from some conspiracy theory site. Surely you know that even within Australia there are at least 3 if not four different vaccines available. All of them are different. The Chinese have their own vaccines, so do the Russians. India produces its own vaccine as well as the Astra Zenica. It is giving them away free to poorer countries in the neighbourhood as vaccine diplomacy. Even the Cubans have two home-grown vaccines. All of them have been tested in the usual manner and by now have been administered to millions. What exactly are you on about?

  10. Albos Elbow

    I’m not an anti-vaxer and my wife and I are fully vaccinated against COVID and the flu, but thought I might share this with you.
    My son and daughter chose of their making, or so they say, not to get vaccinated.
    (Conspiracy theorists on social media may have had some influence.)

    Unfortunately COVID swept through our house a couple of weeks ago and all of us were infected.

    My wife and I went through a lot of pain and suffering and its taken us 10 days of isolation to get over it (just in time to vote).

    My unvaxed children though, hardly felt a thing and were always desperate to get back to their “normal” social lives.

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