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We were once prepared for this

I must be a prophet. Of doom, unfortunately.

I began writing this article on January 11, with the title ‘Are we prepared for a pandemic?’ I wrote:

The memories of the recent bushfires will haunt us for many years, as will, perhaps, our anger at a government warned of impending disaster yet who failed to act on this prediction.

The cost of doing nothing is immeasurable, but that is another story.

Not all governments have been as ignorant and as ill-prepared to impending danger.

I have worked with governments – both Labor and the Coalition – who would have been prepared for when disaster strikes.

In the dying days of the Howard government they were very mindful of a couple of viruses, H5N1 (avian influenza), or bird flu as it was better known as, and H1N1, which was known as swine flu, that in a worse-case scenario could bring the world to its knees. That is, a global pandemic. Which includes us.

We had to be prepared for it.

Today, now two and a half months later, such a pandemic has arrived. And our government was not prepared.

But we were once prepared for this.

Battle plans for such an event hit the drawing-board in 2007; an initiative of the Howard government – readying the country for the worst – and some time later the program was given life again by the Rudd government, with a significant increase in funding.

My area of expertise was in social security legislation. (No doubt we were just a small cog of a big wheel. A pandemic, obviously, effects more than just those on income support, but I can’t speak for those who focused on health, employment, education, immigration etc).

We had to consider what the worst-case scenario of the pandemic might be. To put it bluntly: we had to expect massive loss of life or illness in the Australian community and how to work with that.

What we needed to prepare for – in the event of a pandemic and its expected disruption – were issues that would be faced by income support recipients.

Above all else, the health and safety of income support recipients – including those who needed to apply for income support – was the number one priority. We needed to provide them with an environment where their dealings with Centrelink was one that was devoid of the carriers of disease: humans. The social security legislation of the day didn’t provide that environment. We needed to change it.

At the time, Newstart recipients were required to report to Centrelink each fortnight. What would be the requirements during a pandemic? How would we cope with the expected increase in applications for income support?

Without going into too much detail (of which there was plenty), the answer was clear: all dealings between Centrelink and the recipient/applicant would be over the internet. There was no other choice. (With an NBN that was FTTP this could be handled). Centrelink doors would be closed.

That was over ten years ago.

Where are we now?

See below:

Where else are we?

Newstart recipients are still required to fulfil their mutual obligations – of which there are calls to suspend.

The MyGov website – the ‘link’ between Centrelink at the income support recipient/applicant – crashed. I cannot say if this was the blame of our inferior NBN. Neither can I say if this would or would not have happened with a better NBN.

We once had a plan. It appears that now we don’t. But it begs the question: What happened to it?

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  1. Vikingduk

    What happened to the plan? Flushed, mate, along with decency, compassion, democracy, competence, etc. Leaving us with this cesspit of corruption, incompetency, fascist minds devoid of all that makes a human a worthwhile entity. The decisions made to allow a cruise ship to dock and unload untested carriers, the decision to allow the many international flights to land, once again unloading carriers. Was this sheer incompetency or is there a plan to encourage the spread of this virus?

    Buggered if I know, to me though, these decisions are a little beyond outright stupidity. We blame the beach goers, pile on with our outrage, where is the outrage over these decisions. Who made them? Why? What was the rationale? Do these lying, conniving gutter slimes have plans for a brave new world, more surveillance? More restrictions? Sink us further into their fascist nightmare?

    Or is it simply a matter of z grade arseholes absolutely unable to cope, unable to imagine the consequences of their bullshit announcements.

  2. Ferkin Fatchik


    The problem is, we are absolutely helpless. When a government as inept and corrupt as Morrison’s was re-elected, I felt absolute disgust. I watched as the results from Queensland came in, and just felt despair.
    That ‘miracle’ (and I believe that Morrison actually THINKS that God arranged it) was just the lid being lifted on the biscuit tin, and the entire LNP plunged its arms in. It is as corrupt a government as there has ever been: the only ‘world class’ thing about it is it’s naked graft.
    It wouldn’t be quite so bad if they were halfway competent, but they are not, and Australia knew it.
    The corvid-19 virus has given Dutton and his henchmen the opportunity to practice what they’d love to do with our society…

  3. Harry Lime

    I’m glad someone is saying what I’d like to say,Mr.Valkyrieduk.Most of us with the remnant of a functioning brain knew what utter, lying tossers we’ve had since the Lying Rodent set the bar below ground level,and with a real crisis, the bullshitters have been exposed for the idiotic, ideological, inept, corrupt fckwits that they have always been,who would have guessed?
    Maybe the nutter posing as a prime minister is trying to bring on the”Rupture” so he can ,once again avoid responsibility.
    The entire front bench of this misgovernment is a glaring example of people being promoted to their level of incompetence.

  4. king1394

    Centrelink is still sending out its bullying letters too, that require the beneficiary to make contact to a phone number which, if you get through, gives you a robot voice that takes you in circles and then hangs up. I expect tomorrow to join the Coronavirus sharing queue tomorrow because I am nominee for a son who cannot do this for himself. At 68, I will be flouting all advice to stay away from such situations, but what is my choice in this? I can’t afford to have my son lose his payments

  5. RosemaryJ36

    When you are governed by people who do not do their job properly but threaten you with serious consequences if you disobey them, you know that our Constitution is inadequate!

  6. Kathryn

    The useless, non-achieving, self-serving Morrison will only be remembered as the MAN WITHOUT A PLAN. This label can be added to other epithets attributed to Morrison, such as: the Bogan with a Slogan; the Jerk with a Smirk or Trump’s Lapdog – all of them suitable and interchangeable.

    The smug, smirking Morrison is true to form, shutting down Parliament and running for the hills in a time of crisis. Once again, Morrison displays an appalling lack of leadership, zero good judgement and not one iota of foresight at a time when his malevolent and callous lack of compassion – right throughout one of the worst bushfires in our nation’s history – are STILL a cause of rage, disillusionment and frustration throughout our nation.

    Morrison is a SERIAL PROCRASTINATOR who is nothing more than a hollow man, a self-promoting, self-absorbed sociopath who has achieved NOTHING, built NOTHING, done NOTHING during his tenure as one of the worst, most mediocre PM’s in history (right up there with the war criminal, John Howard and the swaggering onion-eating fool, Abbott). Morrison, (like so many of his LNP predecessors) and his diabolical cabinet THRIVE on chaos, hatred, division, misogyny, xenophobia and fear. In no small way, Morrison has used the Coronavirus tragedy as a platform for undisguised self-promotion and as a distraction against the relentless corruption conducted by his appalling government, the Sports Rorts scandal is just one example.

    Australians should be reminded that Morrison is the fifth highest paid “leader” in the world earning more than $650,069 per annum PLUS perks (including the shocking $280 per night politicians get for a bogus living away from home allowance whilst they stay in a home owned by them but put in their spouse’s name)! Morrison’s huge, bloated, undeserved salary equates to $12,500 per WEEK which is about 51 x times HIGHER than desperate people earn trying to eek out a living on Newstart! Morrison earns this whopping salary each and every week – even NOW when he has shut down Parliament and is now on months of extended leave with FULL PAY whilst our nation is suffering and thousands of people are out of jobs! All of these political parasites sucking up FULL PAY whilst so many Australians are struggling and finding it almost impossible to get into a Centrelink office (or in touch with a Centrelink office), long queues, phone lines down, computer access crashing with no way to attain the money promised them by the Man Without a Plan, the man who is now conveniently MIA.

    Now we have a cabinet load of political parasites all drawing FULL PAY whilst the rest of us (according to MorriScum’s cold blooded, profit-obsessed “pentecostal” hypocrisy) can all just go to hell! Morrison and Dutton no doubt have the opinion that If a few thousand useless, non-performing pensioners and dreaded illegal aliens locked up in an off-shore detention camps kick the bucket – so what? These are the people who are “expendable” because they are (what sloppy Joe Hockey called) LEANERS. However, all of these political parasites look like they have a long, extended “holiday” ahead of them on FULL PAY so the neoliberal capitalistic adage of “Blow You, Jack, I’m Alright” once again, raises its ugly head!

    What’s worse than this? Answer: There are still unspeakably GORMLESS, head-in-the-sand, rusted-on right-wing intellectual midgets who STILL plan to cheer the unspeakably depraved, dangerously undemocratic and callously inhumane LNP on! STILL people – so misinformed, so deluded – that they believe the LNP are the best party to lead us into oblivion! My God! These are the people who helped Abbott across the line and look what has happened in only seven years. Our national deficit TREBLED, our environment vandalised, the longest river system in Australia (the Murray Darling) dried up and destroyed thanks to Barnyard Joyce handing over unlimited water supplies to the foreign-owned predators of the cotton industry in his electorate and just about EVERYTHING we cherish (including our car industry) sold off and privatised!

    Watching MorriScum mismanage our nation is like watching a horrific train crash in slow motion!

  7. Keith Davis

    Perhaps you should come out of retirement Michael? Sounds to me like we could do with that Plan that you worked on!!

  8. Stephengb

    I have been seeing comments and reports that indicate that the Morrison government was warned about this 3 months ago, and apparently did nothing. This may or may not be true. But certainly all of us have known about the coronavirus since 31 December 2019. At this time it was just an unspecified increase of pneumonia in China, so the world took little notice.

    By 11 Jan 2020 China re ognised it was a virus and spreading.

    By 20 Jan ot had crossed bprders and was in Japan, South Korea, Thailand and the USA.

    So by 20 Jan 2020 all governments knew about this virus and that it had started to spread world wide.

    30 Jan 2020 the WHO declares a Global Health Emergancy.

    So from the 30 Jan 2020, the Morrison government knew there was a potential deadly virus able to jump from China to Japan to Thailand to S Korea and to the USA. There is no evidence to say that the Morrison government did anything drastic to prevent this getting to Australia.

    I too have been hearing the conspiracy comments that the authoritarians are taking full advantage of this virus to impose authoritarian legislation that will never be repealed.

    I sincerly hope that this conspiracy theory is just that a silly
    theory .

  9. Ray Tinkler


    “I too have been hearing the conspiracy comments that the authoritarians are taking full advantage of this virus to impose authoritarian legislation that will never be repealed.”

    Ahhh! but what an opportunity! And with Parliament shut down for 5 months, too. Boxes keep getting ticked Stephen, but I tell myself too, no, it just couldn’t be true. Not in Australia, surely. Not possible. Then I remember who it is I’m thinking is capable of it and what personality trait is the most powerful with him. Just remove the “ty” and replace with “st”.

  10. Phil Pryor

    Things are bad, will get worse, stupidity and panic reign, rumours are spreading, loudmouths for Murdoch are maggoting away, money is being lost by the innocent and needy, but “opportunities” arise for the insiders, the connected, informed, conservative alliance. Australia used to be at least a lucky country of second raters doing first rate; soon the squeezers, gougers, robbers, con, men, spivs, sharks, strident bullshitters, urgent superstitious anuses, political perverts, media maggots and financial fraudster fakirs will WIN…


    The conman marketer will turn his errors into a ‘success’. the sheep will believe what they are told in time for the next election.

  12. New England Cocky

    @Kathryn: … I am shocked that you could so accurately describe the character and actions of our present Prim Monster without resorting to good ole colloquial language. Truly Smirkie Sacked from Marketing is underwhelming AND grossly overpaid AND most unfit to hold the position.

    In these desperate times of instant unemployment and complete loss of income until 27 April 2020 begs the question,”WHY ARE THE POLITICIANS STILL BEING PAID THE FULL SALARY AND PARLIAMENTARY ALLOWANCE SCHEME ENTITLEMENTS when corporate moguls have taken an instant salary halt”?????

    Where are Kevin Rudd and Ken Henry when you want effective informed thoughtful caring leadership in a world financial crisis??

  13. Kathryn

    That is a great question, New England Cocky – sadly, the nauseating pack of political parasites feeding off us like a pack of voracious vultures don’t believe they have to answer any questions put to them by us – we are just the third-rate plebs and lowly taxpayers that employ them, feed them, clothe them and fund the very comfortable, multi-million dollar celebrity lifestyle they have rapidly become accustomed to at our expense! Such is the smug, supercilious, condescending contempt MorriScum (and his toxic cabinet) have for anyone outside of their insular bubble, it defies description! Morrison has such hubris that he no longer even bothers to HIDE his total lack of transparency and refuses to face any level of responsibility and, now, refuses to answer even the most moderate question put to him by the crawling reporters from the Murdoch press! Morrison’s self-delusion has now reached a “divine status” where he now truly believes he is appointed by God to rule over us like some judgemental, sanctimonious deity who doesn’t have to answer to ANYONE except the callously inhumane, profiteering preachers in his pentecostal cult. Morrison now regards HIMSELF as a pentecostal preacher, relentlessly lecturing, pontificating and using every opportunity (even the Coronavirus disaster) to pompously scold and chide Australians on what they should or shouldn’t do DESPITE the fact that he and his repugnant cabinet are seen to do the complete opposite! Stark hypocrisy is so endemic within the ranks of the LNP now that even the tiniest element of compassion, common sense and foresightful leadership have been swept away by a sense of impenetrable, delusional self-importance!

  14. Kaye Lee

    Just to add to my woes, of which there are plenty at the moment, there is a deadline of March 27 for businesses to change over from AusKey to myGovID or we won’t be able to lodge business activity statements which means we won’t get the PAYGW refunds etc.. I printed off the instructions which begin with download an app. I am sure that is easy but my husband doesn’t own a mobile phone for starters. And I don’t know how to do step 1. I am hoping my children can set it up this evening for me.

    Please Mr Government, could we extend that deadline considering it is impossible to get through at the moment?

  15. Terence Mills

    Is anyone else concerned that our national parliament has now been shut-down until at least August and our country is being run by a National Cabinet which includes state Premiers but excludes the federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese and the Shadow Minister for Health Chris Bowen.

    If this is a national emergency and we have a national Cabinet to see us though, surely we need drop the party politics and get everybody around the table.

  16. Terence Mills

    Oh dear, so many opportunities for satire, I really must bite my tongue.

    But before I do so I cannot resist commenting on the emptying of 2700 passengers from the Ruby Princess in Sydney the other day. Tragically a passenger, aged in her 70s, has since died from coronavirus while the number of people from the cruise to test positive is at 133 and counting. They have dispersed through NSW, Tasmania, the ACT, Western Australia, Queensland the NT and as far away as the United States, in what might be Australia’s first instance of exporting the virus overseas.

    Initially, Mr Dutton called out New South Wales for its lack of urgency during a national emergency and for poor management of its borders. When it was pointed out to Mr Dutton that his mega department of Home Affairs and Australian Border Force embraces immigration and customs and has sole responsibility for ports of entry into Australia – both seaports and airports – he seemed surprised.

    Mr Dutton took the matter on notice and will consult with Ray Hadley about what his responsibilities are but he was pretty sure that this was a problem linked to the Labor Party legacy that he had done such a good job cleaning up.

    Say no more !

  17. Matters Not

    Re the issue of responsibility of who is or might be responsible for the Ruby Princess fiasco. Just listened to the Head of Border Force (Michael Outram) attempt to clarify the powers and responsibilities of the of the various Agencies involved. It was pathetic. Rule of thumb in communication to the media. The main point must be made in the first sentence. And only three points ever get across. The fewer the better.

    Outram provided a lecture of sorts but put his intended audience to sleep.

  18. Terence Mills

    Matters Not

    Did he say who was responsible for our border security ?

  19. Claudio Pompili

    The underlying problems are more profound than the advent of neo-fascist corporatist governments. In Australia, we have an anachronistic Constitution that is not fit for purpose and long past its use-by date. It has not protected the rights of ordinary Australians from the ravages of predatory capitalism and its promulgators including our political class.

    Our civil institutions have been corrupted by partisan appointments, politicised and weaponised against the people. Our judiciary is largely impotent against the rise of far-right ministers and their mega-departments that are beyond scrutiny, such as Dutton/Pezzulo’s Home Affairs. Our ADF and security services are at the control of executive government to protect the ‘national interests’ ie primarily the interests of corporate and ruling classes.

    The neo-liberal economic project that was implemented by the Hawke-Keating ALP governments is in its endgame and recent decades of financial crises have laid bare the obscene transfer of wealth from the bottom 90% to the top 10%.

    The mantras of ‘the markets’, ‘constant growth’, and ‘small government’ are swept away in the face of pandemics and anthropogenic climate change. And we’ve been warned for decades by scientists of the overwhelming, compelling evidence that harkens a very bleak future for ours and other species.

    When I began working for the Post-Master General (PMG) in 1966, I trained with technicians who had been in service for 45 years and for whom our telephone subscribers were of paramount importance. The PMG and others were public utilities. I was imbued with the duty that in times of crisis, telecommunications were critically important and maintained at all costs (viz a viz NBN, census, and mygov debacles etc). It was the late 60s and Don Dunstan’s SA and later Whitlam’s Australia flowered and shone brightly in the prospect of a truly progressive, wealthy and multicultural society. I had unquestioningly assumed that Australian society would continue to improve in a linear trajectory. I was wrong. In the 70s, there was talk of so much wellbeing that we should consider 28hrs/week full time employment and retirement at 55 years of age. By the 80s, the dream shattered and drastic ‘reforms’ were deemed necessary and the answer was neo-liberal economics. We were betrayed.

    In our present crisis, the lies of trickle-down, globalised, free-market economics and far-right conservative politicians have been exposed. For decades, we’ve been lied to that we can’t afford universal health, dental, education and training, living wage, manufacturing, full employment, public service fit for purpose, public utilities, security of primary and secondary industries, security of our sovereign resources, indigenous people’s compensation for genocide and stolen land etc. While our political and ruling classes have enjoyed obscene levels of wealth accumulation, ordinary Australians have accumulated world record level of household /personal debt. Wages, in real terms, have flatlined for decades. Our young people with our without degrees struggle to get permanent full-time employment. The speculative housing market bubble is a Ponzi scheme that shuts out young buyers while empty houses mock our hundreds of thousands of homeless Australians sleeping rough.

    Yet almost overnight, the Coalition can ‘magic up’ almost $200 billion from nowhere and there’s much more coming. What happened to ‘balanced budgets’, ‘how do we pay for this’, and ‘taxes have to be increased to pay for this’?

    Our Constitution and Westminster two-party ‘system’ is broken.

    And the majority of Australians continue to vote against their best interests.

    The coronavirus pandemic, following on from our devastating bush fires, and the worst is yet to come, has given us a glimpse of our future. On present showing, ‘business as usual’ is the chosen strategy of our Coalition government with tax cuts, rampant tax avoidance, and public payouts to companies. While some reluctant crumbs to ordinary Australians. Nothing short of changing the system will change the inexorable outcome. Like Iceland did following the 2008 GFC.

    Solutions lie in the direction of social democratic systems of governance utilising modern IT technology for voting and decision-making with drastically fewer politicians if any (ie electronic referenda etc), neo-welfare state, modern monetary theory (MMT) macro-economics, full employment, universal living wage, public housing, universal health/dental care, education and training, etc.

    Scientists, intellectuals, and deep thinkers have suggested strategies not only for survival but improvement in the way our species interacts and depends on our planet earth.

    There is no Plan B.

  20. Matters Not

    Terence Mills, seems as though Michael Outram acted as a gun for hire but could only shoot blanks. As for the ‘uniform’ – he was dressed up like a pox doctor’s clerk. Or maybe, he was the real deal? Perhaps – Flash as a rat with a gold tooth – might be more apt.

  21. Allan K

    Claudio, good thoughts, they have made a complete hash of it. I’m curious re the validity of govt. One car importers experience with “Criminal Australian Government” sums it up: (liabilitymate series)

    It seems ‘our’ AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT is actually a corporation registered with the SEC in the USA as a privately owned American company. If it’s a corporation, who owns it?

    Registration with the SEC of the Australian Government (Commonwealth of Australia).
    File Number: 333-163307
    CIK: 0000805157
    Business Address

    What is actually going on, does anyone know?

    Documents: Is the Australian government a privately-owned company?

  22. DrakeN

    Claudio Pompili: “There is no Plan B.”

    And, as the kiddies have oft repeated in their climate change protests: “There is no PlanET ‘B’. ”

    Ah! The sheeple….

  23. Michael Taylor

    Kathryn, your comment would make a good post. May I?

  24. Josephus

    Claudio I watched pm Johnson try to shut down the UK Parliament on BBC TV and was moved beyond words to then watch the eloquent, wise chief justice at the Supreme court I think it was declaring that illegal , explained in about an hour and a half how proroguing Parliament had happened previously only once, during the Cromwell era, and that the PM’s move was not justifiable. No such democracy here.

    Re The Plague Years: love Swift and hope to find this work on line. Am meanwhile re reading Albert Camus’ The Plague, 1942, in which Algiers is cut off due to the bubonic plague; how people react to the isolation, the loneliness, the opportunities for a quick buck, the selfless doctor figure.

  25. John lord

    In the bottom drawer of the “Your right know” file.

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