By Matthew Reddin
For weeks, Gladys Berejiklian has warned that things will get worse. She just announced that she won’t be doing daily press conferences.
There’s this ongoing trend that echoed throughout the online world during the Trump presidency: Imagine if Obama said (or did) this? Imagine the outrage, the scorn, the villagers with torches and pitchforks if he did/said this. But the thing is, you couldn’t imagine it, because he’d never say or do anything as remotely objectionable, crazy or flat-out offensive as Trump would. But a different standard was applied to Trump than was Obama, for whatever reason. There are volumes of books to be written on it and what’s behind it (spoiler alert: it has something to do with pigment).
This is what occurred to me, as a Victorian, as an Australian, as a sentient human this morning upon hearing that Gladys Berejiklian, presiding over a monumental failure to act, a failure of procedure and oversight, the consequences of which have stretched up, down and across the eastern seaboard, has decided that as of Monday, her daily press briefings will be done online, by some low-level bureaucrat, until such time as she has something to say.
Which could be never, let’s be frank about it.
I mean, FUCKING IMAGINE IF DAN ANDREWS HAD DONE THE SAME THING. Truth be told, you can’t, because he actually showed up and did his job, and would have known that there are consequences for not doing his job; Gladys is of the political stripe where there simply aren’t consequences for her doing anything, ever – nor for her federal counterpart.
Gladys announced 1,542 cases (double the highest number of cases Victoria ever recorded during the 2020 outbreak) and basically said her work here was done. “Can’t someone else do it?” she asked someone, probably, in between being insanely corrupt and blithely contemptuous.
Samantha Maiden from News.com.au called it as she saw it. I’m guessing she’ll be fairly alone in that stable for criticizing the NSW leader.
Hiding while your citizens die.
It’s not leadership. But sure looks like cowardice https://t.co/afAEu09Tjy
— Samantha Maiden (@samanthamaiden) September 10, 2021
The ABC’s Patricia Karvelas was also less than impressed.
To abandon the daily accountability opportunity for journalists to ask questions when deaths and cases are rising is one of the most disturbing decisions I’ve seen. The bushfire is raging and we will get videos? #Covidnsw
— Patricia Karvelas (@PatsKarvelas) September 10, 2021
Katherine Murphy from The Guardian did the Twitter equivalent of a spit take.
I hoped I'd missed something in translation. Apparently not. This is an absolute disgrace. This outbreak is not over. The mission is not accomplished. In a democracy, political leaders are accountable to the public. Front up. That's the job #auspol
— Katharine Murphy (@murpharoo) September 10, 2021
And while some in the press are going to laud the decision (laughable), it’s a pretty good shibboleth for who among them we all should ignore from here on in. The Andrews press conferences in 2020 were keeping the state informed; at a time when information was vital for our emotional and psychological wellbeing. Those pressers were sustaining, if difficult to endure once the floor opened to pernicious and stupid questions from the likes of The Australian’s Rachel Baxendale and Sky News’ Gabriella Power.
Berejiklian, on the other hand, seems to have accepted the fact that she’s royally fucked up, can’t think of any way around it, and wants to hide under the bedding until such a time as she can come out. At the point, she’ll emerge dole out some PR-spun horseshit about 70% double dosing and freedoms and picnics and how we all did this together.
Yet, Berejiklian has been foreshadowing the pandemic in NSW was going to get to its worst, its toughest; that the hospital system would be stretched to its elastic limit in October, based on modelling the NSW Health Department had prepared. Modelling, by the way, she’s not been very forthcoming with. So, knowing that the state is headed for a cliff, she’s essentially jumped out of the driver’s seat to get a better view of the spectacle.
“I’ll turn up when I need to,” are words that emerged from her sneering maw today.
We should have seen this coming. It was all there: first, they stopped their Covid hotspots announcements. Then, they essentially abandoned contract tracing. Reports started emerging of people dying at home. And all that deeply, deeply offensive talk of “underlying health conditions” (which, for the record aren’t what killed them; the disease did – John F. Kennedy had crippling back pain and irritable bowel syndrome, but you didn’t read the Warren Commission mention any “underlying health conditions” when talking about how he died). Then there are people not going to the hospital and dying in their homes. There’s talk of the health system collapsing, meaning if the emergency wards are too full of Covid patients, you’d best not have a heart attack, or have a car accident, or slip on the pavement, or get hit by a bolt of lightning. Because Gladys has all but runs away from the slightest hint of public accountability.
Knowing that the state is headed for a cliff, Gladys has essentially jumped out of the driver’s seat to get a better view of the spectacle.
It would be totally fine for the NSW opposition leader to hold alternative press conferences at 11.00 am instead. They could stand there, read out the laundry list of the Berejiklian government’s abject, morbidly offensive shortcomings and failures, and the media would – by and large – show up and cover it. They have to cover something. (Phil Coorey may give it a swerve, having already penned the vomit-inducing Financial Review magazine cover story, ‘The Woman Who Saved Australia’).
The Labor opposition could front up on a daily basis with representatives of the state’s front-line workers, like nurses, teachers, and everyone else who is essential, advocating for those who seem to have been abandoned by this government, such as Aboriginal & disability communities, or GPs for that matter, as well as mental health experts. They could be the ones that convey the hard data, the facts we need to hear, the insights as to what’s happening in circles of power, and what the road forward looks like.
And people would watch. It’d get coverage, and in the absence of anything else, it would paint Berejiklian and her government in a bad light, and negative publicity is kryptonite to her. It’s further proof that all of these decisions, from both Berejiklian and Morrison alike, from lockdowns to vaccines and everything else, has been about polls and vanity from day one. It’s pathetic. They’re pathetic. Elections have consequences.
Sick of watching the COVID-19 pressers? Simple, don't watch them. But they need to happen. It doesn't have to be the NSW premier every day, but the government needs to be accountable as COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths peak.
— Benita Kolovos (@benitakolovos) September 10, 2021
This article was originally published on The Big Smoke.
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