Australia has been fortunate through the COVID-19 pandemic. The infections and deaths due to COVID-19 have been far less than others by percentage of population, the economy is apparently returning to some form of normal and life is not greatly impacted for most Australians on a day-to-day basis. Recent history will suggest that the States have done most of the ‘heavy lifting’ in the response to the pandemic, even assuming responsibility for quarantine despite Section 51 of the Constitution specifically reserving that power to the ‘Commonwealth’. You could suggest that, just as in the Global Financial Crisis in 2008, we were lucky.
Prime Minister Morrison would probably claim that it was his Coalition Government’s inspired leadership that was responsible for our good fortune. It’s not. Morrison’s Government chose to directly manage two parts of the response to COVID-19, aged care as well as vaccine procurement and distribution. Both have been botched. The Federal Health Department records that out of the 910 deaths in Australia, 685 of them were in aged care homes funded and under the direction of the Federal Government. It is certainly the case that residents in aged care homes often have other medical issues that could have increased the mortality rate, however low wages, casualisation of employment and the need for multiple jobs across aged care providers (all apparently Coalition policy) certainly didn’t contain infections to one facility.
The states closed borders to contain the spreading of the virus, much to Morrison’s frustration, the level depending on the political colour of the Premier of the individual state and how close they were to an election. Despite this, Morrison selectively closed the international borders – if you were coming from Europe, the UK or USA when COVID 19 was running rampant in those areas, you were quarantined in facilities managed by the states for 14 days. If you were coming from India when COVID 19 was running rampant there, you were threatened with a large fine and jail if you tried to come to Australia.
The Federal Government also acknowledged its responsibility to source and distribute vaccines that would minimise or eliminate the effects of COVID-19. When the US (who ordered the vaccines during the Trump Presidency) has used over 302 million doses in 177 days, Australia’s 5 million doses in 107 days looks pretty woeful. (Figures used at the time of preparation of this article – for updates, look here). Australia also started vaccinations 70 days after the USA. So much for being at the ‘front of the queue’ as Morrison repeatedly claimed during 2020.
It’s not only the health of the population where Morrison’s Coalition Government falls down. The Morrison Government recently announced that Snowy Hydro (100% owned by the Federal Government) would build a $600million gas fired power station at Kurri Kurri in the Hunter Valley rated to produce 660 megawatts of electricity, and it will initially operate on diesel because it’s apparently nowhere near a gas pipeline. The plant, in the words of the Morrison Government, will go some of the way towards replacing the formerly NSW Government and now AGL owned Liddell coal fired generator. AGL announced Liddell would be closing in 2023 as it is uneconomical to operate or upgrade. The Morrison Government attempted to attract private investment to build and operate the new power station, which was a spectacular failure. Apart from the plan failing on the economics, as independent experts claim the plant will only be required 2% of the time, the International Energy Agency (IEA) also recently called for a complete ban on new fossil fuelled power generation infrastructure with the aim of ‘net zero by 2050’. Is this another ‘own goal’ by Morrison? After all, the Coalition Government back as far as Prime Minister Turnbull’s time have been stating that “the International Energy Agency still says there’ll be very large demand for coal into the future.”
The head of the IEA wouldn’t have woken up one morning and randomly decided to change from supporting fossil fuel to ‘net zero by 2050’ while having his corn flakes and coffee. There would have been considerable consultation with stakeholders, probably 1,000s of hours of ‘Zoom’ style meetings, multiple drafts of the proposed policy and a lot of relationship building to ensure that the policy was understood and broadly accepted by the Agency members and stakeholders before publicising the policy to the world. And Morrison announces a new government funded (because private financiers actually understand the term ‘stranded assets’) fossil fuelled power generator the same week as the IEA advised that renewables were the future. What was he thinking?
Katherine Murphy suggested an answer recently in The Guardian
So what the government is purchasing with Kurri Kurri isn’t cheaper reliable power. It is gold-plated insurance at your expense: a brand new, taxpayer-funded power plant that might never operate, or operate only very intermittently to firm renewables.
Regardless of your opinion on Morrison, he is apparently surviving on dumb luck. His management of a pandemic and climate change show a lack of foresight and a lot of marketing. Why would that be the case? We all know that Morrison’s career pre-politics was in tourism marketing, although his contracts to head both the Australian and New Zealand tourism bodies were terminated by the respective governments prior to the completion of the respective employment contracts. Regardless, Morrison would know that a lot of marketing is wasted. The advertisement for the fast-food franchise’s latest creation on the side of a bus won’t convince you to purchase if you routinely avoid ‘fast food’, so it is unlikely to be solely marketing that causes Morrison to make poor choices.
It is far more likely to be his religion. Morrison is an ‘out and proud’ Pentecostal Christian. While he is entitled to his beliefs, when he brings them ‘to work’ and doesn’t temper them with the advice of others who are paid to know more about the subject matter than Morrison does, it is a concerning problem for all of us.
The problem with Pentecostal Christians is they believe in two things that certainly don’t assist with the concept of thinking about others or making decisions that will affect the future of our nation.
‘Prosperity Theology’ is the belief that the greater the positive speech and donations to ‘the cause’, the greater the return in material wealth, which doesn’t help those who need a hand, such as aged care recipients, the unemployed, those who need the NDIS and so on. Remember Morrison admitting to ‘laying of hands’ when meeting Australians who had undergone misfortune, rather than supplying funding to assist.
There are numerous websites, including this one that popularise the other Pentecostal belief we should be worried about – the end of times. Effectively, a considerable number of people that share Morrison’s Pentecostal religious beliefs believe the world will have ended by 2050 so we never need to worry about what will happen in 29 years’ time. Why would we ‘cramp’ our lifestyle now to avert or manage the problem?
Can Australia’s management of the pandemic and the Federal Government’s apparent lack of concern over climate change be put down to Morrison’s (and some others around him) religious beliefs? It’s highly probable because marketing certainly doesn’t give a rational answer to the ‘why aren’t we preparing for the future’ question. And that is far more sinister than banking on luck to pull us through… again.
What do you think?
This article was originally published on The Political Sword
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