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Listen to the experts

By Ad astra

Are you as impressed as I am with Australia’s response to COVID-19? It is regarded as perhaps the most competent reaction, amongst similar nations, of how to manage an outbreak of a vicious virus.

Why is it so?

In my view, this outcome has resulted because our decision makers at both federal and local levels have listened to the experts, and have followed their advice.

We are fortunate to have such expert advice in abundance: scientific, medical, psychological, nursing, epidemiological, and public health.

This piece names many of these experts. Their images have not been included, as the piece would have taken too long to load on your device. However, photos of most of them have been linked to their names. Should you be unfamiliar with them, click these links and their images will appear. Some experts may have been inadvertently omitted. If so, we apologize. Some images may be copyright.

You will be familiar with the clutch of professors and specialists in medicine, mental health and community health that have appeared in the media countless times: You will remember particularly Brendan Murphy and Paul Kelly who give regular updates, Michael Kidd, AM, who provides us with the general practice viewpoint, Ian Hickey, Pat McGorry, Ruth Vine, Christine Morgan, and Georgie Harman of Beyond Blue, who address the mental health aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Alison McMillan, Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, and Annie Butler, of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, who cover nursing aspects.

Behind the scenes we have our senior sages in medical science: Peter Doherty who heads the Doherty Institute, one of his directors, Sharon Lewin who often provides sound advice to the public, and many other outstanding scientists, and Stephen Duckett of the Grattan Institute.

Dr Norman Swan

Everyone admires the daily updates that Norman Swan gives us on radio and TV. He has become the face of timely, lucid, reliable, and richly informative advice, which all of us value greatly.

You will have admired the lucidity of the several deputies who have explained the evolving status of the COVID-19 pandemic, and what we should do. Often striking young doctors, they have impressed us with their clarity, the depth of their knowledge, and the ease with which they have addressed their audiences. Nick Coatesworth is a classic example. Brett Sutton, Jeanette Young and Jenny Firman of the RAN are three others.

As a medico, I have admired their expertise and communication skills. Our medical schools ought to be proud of these graduates. To me, their straightforwardness, their plausibility, and the absence of political spin make a striking contrast to the spin and deceptiveness with which politicians habitually assail us as they try to make a political point, no matter how distressing the situation is to ordinary folk.

The result of these expert ministrations is a well-planned program of remediation and prevention that federal and state political leaders have implemented, with encouraging results. Australia’s approach is already being hailed internationally as a model for handling pandemics. The spread of the virus has been limited, and in many places controlled, with relatively few new outbreaks occurring, and where they have, they have been assessed rapidly and ameliorated.

We have become familiar with ‘flattening the curve’, and have watched with satisfaction as it steadily did so.

We have noted too the disastrous consequences of leaders ignoring expert advice, and substituting their own inexpert, stupid and dangerous solutions. Donald Trump leads the field, and we can see where that has taken the US: almost 2 million cases and over 112,000 deaths so far!

Even Labor supporters acknowledge the success of our government’s program at both federal and local levels, and support it strongly. They too know that most of the success has been listening to the experts and following their advice, based as it is on science and experience.

What a pity it is that politicians ignore expert advice from scientists working in other fields, notably the study of climate change and environmental protection because it conflicts with their ideological position.

If only they would listen to the experts and use their advice!

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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  1. Richard Grant

    Norman Swan has been reassuring.

  2. Kerri

    Great article!
    We need to praise the experts while the politicians stand in the limelight.

  3. Matters Not

    Of course we should listen to experts but in turn experts should also be aware of the limitations that come when operating in the wider world – particularly in a democracy. Experts are at their best when diagnosing and articulating the dimensions of particular problems in a theoretical sense. More often than not, experts are also best qualified to tell us what must happen (outcomes) if a problem is to be solved or, at least, ameliorated. But that doesn’t mean that particular expertise should be reified. It doesn’t mean that expertise can automatically translate into policy prescriptions.

    Too often, we see that experts who step outside their field of expertise and attempt to become policy makers do themselves (and their profession) a dis-service. A recent example was Dr Alan Finkel AO, Australia’s Chief Scientist who attempted to develop a Blueprint for the Future Security of the National Electricity Market only to receive a personal hammering on the political anvil. Now he keeps his head down. Politics being more more of an Art than a Science.

    Generally speaking – keep the experts on tap but not on top. Best for all concerned.

  4. Anthony Judge

    A valuable appreciation of those who agreed. It is not clear whether there are experts who disagreed in any fundamental way. Would they be “defrocked” for the duration? I am in favour of the Red Team and Blue Team approach to a strategic issue. We seem to have had reports from the Red Team only. It is not clear whether there was a Blue Team, or whether their advice was sought. Clearly Sweden listened to other forms of expertise — a Blue Team without a Red Team

  5. Matters Not

    Re Sweden – seems to me that example is a classic example of what happens when the expert (Anders Tegnell) is given free rein. When the expert is placed on top. Anders Tegnell was not elected. He is not directly accountable. He was permitted to experiment. Now he has regrets.

    “If we were to encounter the same illness with the same knowledge that we have today, I think our response would land somewhere in between what Sweden did and what the rest of the world has done,”

    Scientists have their place but because they see the world (construct a reality) through a particular lens they do not come from a democratic perspective. (And so on.)

    Look around the world (including times past) and see the damage done by those who claim to know and are not accountable via an electoral process. It’s a wicked problem of sorts.

  6. wam

    Up in the stars again, Ad,
    Praise where it is due suggests smirko’s dismissing the trilogy, labor, the nationals and the loonies whilst collecting the political leaders to form a little group was a coup(probably he will add the ‘de grace” at an election before his tactics unwind).
    There were 9 leaders each listening to their experts creating a wealth of knowledge beyond smirko

  7. Andrew J Smith

    Matters Not: Interesting re. Finkel ‘Too often, we see that experts who step outside their field of expertise …’

    That’s also a tactic in political and other PR using someone’s reputation and authority earnt through their expertise, and applied elsewhere outside of their expertise…. to persuade others.

    More egregious was cricketer Shane Warne promoting the UK Tories in their last election ‘to get Brexit done’…..

  8. New England Cocky

    I believe that Dr Norman Swan from ABC RN deserves recognition for work above and beyond the call of duty with his regular evidence based daily broadcasts, de-mystifying the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the early days of the infection when real information was scarce, and updating our knowledge daily as fresh evidence was published.

    Certainly a much more worthy candidate and recipient for Australian Honours than Toxic RAbbott who cut about $50 MILLION from the CSIRO infectious diseases budget while destroying the Australian economy for an ideological whim, or Bronnie “Choppergate” Bishop who was busted for paying for a helicopter ride with public monies.

    @MN: Uhm ….. I remember that Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA by working outside their personal fields of expertise. Certainly they “borrowed” the data from an unrecognised lady scientist in their laboratory, who was really the unsung hero of this break through.

  9. Vikingduk

    Look around the world (including times past) and see the damage done by those who claim to know and ARE accountable via an electoral process. Far more than a wicked problem when the future of life on planet earth has become a wishful thinking exercise, a wilful ignorance exercise, an ideological exercise or just an exercise in sheer stupidity.

    Where’s your effing democracy then? Where’s your political process then? Yes, praise where it is due, but, of course, these same experts will soon be forgotten and unheard until the next time. We can resume our slumbers until the next disaster. We have an economy to resuscitate, no matter what as the liar from the shire resumes his default setting and slowly but surely the largesse becomes a faint memory.

    Adding to the certainties of life, to join death and taxes, is the certainty that this planet, this ecosystem, this thing called nature, is at war with us humans, we’ve ignored the warnings, continued our destructive ways hellbent on our quest for dominance and now the time has come to pay the price.

    World: “There is no way we can shut everything down in order to lower emissions, slow climate change and protect the environment.”

    Mother Nature: “Here’s a virus. Practise.”

  10. Gangey1959

    It would seem to me that ALL of the experts, from ALL relevant fields, were utilised to bring Covid19 under some sort of control. Red team and blue team working together, and the best solutions being decided on by ALL of the experts and then being executed by the relevant politicians.
    If our scottyfromadvertisng had gone it alone, who knows where Australia would be, (I’d bet my meagre super savings that he would be back in hawaii for the duration.) but thanks to lessons learned from his chronic balls-up with the bushfires he went National, and everyone brought their own bunch of “experts” as well.
    Considering that it is Australia’s shekels he is shelling out for their service, sfa should be being forced to cast his net wider in his search for “experts in their fields” when it comes to a team to lead us out of the wilderness. Personally, I thought that’s what Parliament was for, but obviously that wouldn’t work because there is too much pork to be barreled in too short a time-frame, and we can’t have public scrutiny getting in the way. I mean, uncle nev has already taken a 50% cut, and some of the projects proposed are coming under fire form the ones who missed out, so if something isn’t started before the next election this whole pandemic will have been an economic recovery disaster.
    Not to mention the land of the lying dragon has pulled the pin, taken their rickshaws and ricebowls and headed elsewhere for targets of rape and pillage. No-one with an iq of the smooth end of a pineapple or lower would have seen that one coming, but he is a sharks supporter after all.
    Maybe our delightful pm thought he could divert peoples attention by passing out a few well deserved gongs for lizzie’s birthday. One to the mad monk for his servicing of the indigenous community by pointing out that being born was a “lifestyle choice”, or the LGBTQI members of society for telling us that although they exist they are here against the great pumpkin’s will and are lucky to be allowed oygen, let alone food and water. Why should they want to marry. Having spent some time in seminary school with georgie pell he knew all about it. Then there is aunty bronnie bishop, by his own admission tony abbott’s mum (in his dreams). As speaker of the lower house she ran a tight ship, with maybe a slight bias to the right, but that is where she came from. “Who are you lot on my left, and what are you doing here? Sit down and be quiet, and this will all go very smoothly. You there. Shorten, is it? Leave, and take your friends with you. You all ask mean, horrible questions, and if you keep it up I will have you all flogged.”
    Now Australia has jobsaver, jobkeeper, homebuilder, apprenticemaker, ad infinitum.
    Come 2022, I’ll bet my winnings from my first wager above that there will be a new scheme, called electionrigger. And no, it wont involve coloured charts and a sports minister, but will be the best thing since football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars, which will by then all be extinct. Thanks uncle voldemurdoch.

    Stay safe all.
    Rage on

  11. andy56

    I too listen to the experts and then form an opinion. What i dont do is fall for the assumption that their word is god.
    Lets start with the easy example. Nuclear power and one Ziggy .S. A nuclear physicist by trade who ventured off to be a government arse licker, but i wont hold that against him for now. Tasked with looking at power generation came up with a report that said we needed 15 nuclear plants in australia. Now come on, an expert in nuclear power wants us to go nuclear? The most obvious problem is that in a vacuum of other issues, it makes sense. The other issues just happen to be 1/ cost, 2/ nimby, 3 waste disposal, 4/ security risk 4/ all eggs in one basket /5 developments in solar power 6/ lack of water 7/ lack of technical know how in australia 8/ other minor issues like runaway cost projections. When you factor in “the other issues”, it makes little sense. Its a solution looking for a problem. Nuclear reactors are the main source of plutionium for nuclear bombs, power generation is a by product and what better way to sell its main game than by spinning it as cheap power? Sorry, nuclear isnt the anitdote to brain dead. Its just another fraud and fake news that we all swallowed hook line and sinker.
    Covid19 was/is another good example where expertise was used intelligently. We have a problem and we have prepared a solution based on known facts.
    So is the main game problem solving or solution pushing? Thats one area where economics falls flat on its face, homebuilder a solution that doesnt address the basics problems.
    You should listen to the experts when they say the data shows there is a problem. The experts then need to handball to engineers to fix the problem. We elect the politicians to oversite the engineers so they dont come up with crazy solutions. You dont want more rabbits let lose in the top paddock. When politicians are substituted for engineers you get FRAUDBAND. You can clearly see the problems in the structure we currently have.
    Gas is the solution to what problem? I think Fenkel has been burned and is trying hard to stay relevant. I can see why he pushes gas, but really, its a stop gap measure. If it was my choice, why would i go for a stop gap measure? I would invest in the future after the stop gap. To develop gas as envisaged will take a colossal amount of money that will be stranded in 10, 20, 30yrs. Much better to invest in something that could be around for thousands of years.
    My other pet ” experts” project was FRAUDBAND. Contrary to what LNP folklore will say, Labor asked inductry experts ” what would be world standard broadband”. The experts would have said fiber. Labor didnt blink, went straight to fiber. Malcolm, on the other hand, being the economics expert and inventor of the internet, mangled it. Because he knew better, you know, studied electronics and knew about the wonders of copper.

  12. Jack Cade

    Religion is trust in experts. Experts put Galileo in gaol.
    NOBODY is expert on Covid-19, or the economy,

  13. andy56

    In my opinion, too many solutions are imposed on us when really we dont understand what the problem was in the first place. Too many solutions are thrust upon us because of ideological nonsense.
    Superannuation is the absolute classic bullshit solution. Based on false premise after false premise. Sorry Keating, i know you really did try to find a brilliant solution, but the vacuum you worked in has burst. The best solution is a UBI.
    If your trying to look after people when they finish work, say like a pension, you wouldnt design this dogs breakfast. Taxed on the way in, taxed as it earns and totally free at the end. Not to mention tax deductions if your lucky enough to put extra in. And in the end it doesnt fulfill its role for the majority, just the lucky few. The majority will still be picking up a part pension. The cost is fast approaching the costs of providing a pension. Not to mention that $120b a year is taken out of the demand economy. A UBI means that $120b a year is pushed through the economy, no need for massive centerlink gestapo and everyone gets a chance, not a foot on the throat. No need to worry about a decent retirement. You know Pavlov was on to something that the protestant ideologues still havent quite grasped. Something about sugar vrs a club.

  14. andy56

    Jack Cade, you dont need to be an expert in COVID19 to understand the basics. Its a a virus that kills. We dont know anything about it apart from its spreading quickly. The solutions stand out like the proverbial. (We have all watched the scifi movies). People have been studying and preparing for this scenario a long time. The engineers were ready and politicians allowed them the controls, but only temporarily.

    Galileo was put in gaol because his knowledge threatened the powers that be. You cant get away with it in a ” free” world today. There are a lot of people in this world like myself who are highly educated, intelligent and widely read. We dont take shit as gospel and mostly see through crap. ( yes we are not perfect either )I know that the more i know, the less i know. These absolutists we call pollies, are just mainly shitheads maintaining the system.

  15. Jack Cade


    Galileo posited that the earth orbited the sun, whereas the Pope – the Trump of his day -KNEW that the solar system orbited HIM.

  16. Phil

    Trump thinks the sun shines out of his arse as does Morrison there must be two suns.. What did Galileo know?

  17. andy56

    Phil, the spy who knew too much………..

  18. Mrs Wobbly

    For scumo and the fascists It’s not about listening to experts on any subject, It’s about hearing what is wanted to be heard , and to have the experts words, to then twist, giving the narrative that is most beneficial to the LNP of Fascism’s causes. The only interest is one of self preservation and wealth generation. knowing that the corona virus doesn’t discriminate between rich or poor, is one reason the government shut down society. While covering up the truth and the fact that the Australian economy was failing and Australia was going into recession. Then a generation cash into the economy through the lower income stimulation spending which put money back into the economy, it couldn’t have been given to the rich as they hoard not spend. How ever much this grated the government to do so, as it was needed, for low income earners to spend, to save face, it didn’t completely work, now said to be all in the name of corona virus. So go to plan B blame corona virus as the cause of Australia’s recession, not government mismanagement with no msm back lash for lying allowed. Supporting the dying fossils fuel Industry to which these fascists refuse to let go of until all profits are sourced for the masters and donors, at what ever the cost. No care for future generations or what sort of planet they’ll be leaving if any. It’s another “look over their” moment on the Australian people, in my opinion by our so called leadership of better fiscal managers, as we are always remind of this propaganda slogan. Labor bad! Liberal good ! , If we hear it enough then the fascists think we’ll believe it, saying it over and over again as fact with the msm in bat for the cause from the scripted hymn sheet of LNPs propaganda masters.

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