Delivering or Deliverance?

Welcome to my regular Friday song/tune day, ladies and gentlemen, where I pick a piece of music that reflects my mood or the times, to share with you.  Today I’ve chosen a song for all those Australian public servants who, after being derided for years, are

“to be an essential service which needs to keep working in order to keep Australians safe, and ensure that services are delivered for the Australian people. We [the Australian Public Service] can provide the support our community needs, but it is going to require the contribution of the entire APS. Every public servant who can work, should work.” Australian Public Service Commission Response to ABC News Story, Last Reviewed 26 March 2020

Sounds more like conscription to me than working together.  To add insult to injury, repeat ad nauseam, “Delivering for Australians“, the government’s latest reform agenda to make public servants more responsive.  Like what on earth were public servants doing before?  Be careful, public servants, you’ll be getting a white feather if you don’t cooperate for reasons of sanity, poor health, protecting vulnerable family members, or staying at home to flatten the curve.  I’m sure it won’t come to the feather.  Commonsense and kindness will prevail, don’t you think?  Delivering for Australians means delivering for government employees too.  It’s a partnership.

I wish I had a magic tonic/vaccine to protect all those providing essential services.  It is a lot to ask of you.  It always has been.

Kind Regards.
Tracy.

 

 

 

 

 

An Abundance Of Caution

Covid-19 — a personal view on the Australian response.

It seems I am incredibly naive, I heard several statements relating to the Covid-19 response last night that deeply troubled me.

The first was that there were only 2,000 intensive care unit (ICU) beds in Australia (ABC Q&A, 16 March 2020).  Hold that thought.

The Australian Government has its Chief Medical Officer stand beside the PM or the Health Minister as if to provide a veil of professionalism and competency regarding its response. And yet, the response has been at best mediocre and at worst …..  Beyond the ban on flights from China into this country, the federal government doesn’t appear to have done anything that was timely or ‘ahead of the curve’ to reduce the infection rate.  The federal government spokespeople are quick to tout that one particular measure as decisive government action when questioned.

However, current social distancing measures appear insufficient and impractical.  The ludicrous suggestion for those needing to take public transport was to use hand sanitiser.  Who has hand sanitiser?  Schools will stay open (up to a point) and the risk of infection will be managed through good hand-washing.  Some schools don’t even have soap.  Have you seen some of the kids toilets?  Closing schools before kids have chance to spread the virus around just seems sensible.

Australia is still waiting for practical, preemptive (life-saving) social distancing measures that will make a significant difference in flattening the infection curve.  In this respect, we are far behind the curve with the Government unable to plan even 24 hours ahead.  Schools and universities are still open.  Some temporary closures have been made after the virus has already made its way into those institutions.  Unlike the private sector, there does not appear to be a policy to actively promote working from home within federal government agencies, perhaps because government IT systems are not up to the challenge.  A certificate from a doctor is often required to access special work from home arrangements.  My mother/my partner might die if I give her a virus that I don’t yet have, really doesn’t cut it with the universities, and maybe not with some employers either.  To their credit, some government agencies are being flexible.

I must declare a conflict of interest at this point.  I have a tiny house and two adult children living at home.  We only have one bathroom.  I also have a number of chronic health conditions, including Type 1 diabetes.  I use an insulin pump that my family don’t know how to operate.  Also, I’m no spring chicken.  The death rate for diabetics is high.  I’m not sure why.  It could be because those with diabetes are statistically more likely to have a range of serious health issues like kidney damage, heart disease, etc.  Or maybe it is because when push comes to shove and decisions are being made in the hospital system about who should receive life-saving intensive care, having diabetes is a threshold test?  I don’t know.

Self-isolation at home, particularly if I am unable to manage my diabetes myself, would be hugely challenging for my family.  The alternative, going to hospital, could be deadly.

Personally it would help me immensely if universities suspended classes right now.  In six weeks, my son will finish his university course.  He is keen to do whatever it takes to finish his degree.  So, in the meantime, he is stuck in lecture rooms with two hundred other students and in science laboratories working in small groups.  That can’t be good.  Who is responsible for making the decision as to when universities should close?  If it is a decision by the federal government, they need to explain why this decision has been delayed.

Perhaps it just too big a hit to the economy if schools and universities close down?  If we fail to act now, then we are on a trajectory to a major infection crisis cannot be avoided.  The countries that have done best at flattening the infection curve are those that have engaged in widespread testing and introduced extensive social distancing measures.  So far it has been a paltry effort in Australia, and with only 2000 ICU beds nationwide and the government unable to confirm the paltry number of test kits available, it will only be a matter of weeks before our health system succumbs.

John Daley, Chief Executive Officer of the Grattan Institute was interviewed for The Business last night (ABC, 17 March 2020),  He said that all the economic modelling of similar novel infection outbreaks showed that the more countervailing measures put in place to deal with public health emergencies, the more these public health measures adversely impacted the economy.  In his words,

The largest part of economic impact will be a consequence of what governments decide to do, essentially from public health measures to try and slow the diseases, the more economic damage they will do on the way through.  That is the horrible trade-off they face and that we as a community face.”

Money or life?  For those with strong constitutions that can survive the virus, it may be the economic impacts that harm them most.  Am I getting to the nub of the Federal Government’s response here?  This is a deeply conservative government that has managed to convince many in the electorate that it is a better economic manager than its opponent.  Yet many of the elderly who are most likely to vote for them, will be the ones most affected by the virus.  Awkward.  Of course, the really wealthy can bunker down in their huge mansions with multiple bathrooms and have their groceries, sanitisers and toilet paper catered.  If no sanitiser, there is always the drinks cupboard.

Several state and territory governments have declared public health emergencies.  Shouldn’t that make the public health response the number one priority?  So far our national government hasn’t stepped up, nor has it levelled with the Australian public about where it sees the balance of priority.   Like this government’s other catchphrases, will the oft-used phrase “an abundance of caution” go down in history as more marketing spin.

In The Firing Line

Australia burning — Dear Readers, one of my favourite poets and all round nice person, Frank Prem, is currently writing a series of poems on the bushfire crisis that is underway in Australia.  Frank is the author of Devil In The Wind, a collection of poems about the personal accounts of those who experienced and survived the horrendous Black Saturday bushfires that swept across Victoria (Australia) in 2009.  That book was published last year.  Needless to say, I won’t be reading it until the smoke has cleared.

For those of you who may not know, Frank lives in an area that is currently sandwiched between two enormous out-of-control bushfires.  This brings a poignancy and emotion to his poems that will touch any reader.  These poems are laments for what is, what was, what could have been.  Frank writes for all of us who are caught up in this situation.  Check out his poems on his website at https://frankprem.wordpress.com/blog/ .

I want to share with you a couple of photos that my husband took in Namadgi National Park a couple of days before Christmas. Read more

A Few Thoughts On Christmas and Politics, But Mostly Christmas

Sometimes it seems that I grew up in a golden era — at a time when world peace seemed possible, and Australians of all faiths lived together harmoniously.  Religious wars were something that happened ‘somewhere else’.  There was also no such thing as culture wars.  We had a strong two-party system, one representing business, while the other was perceived as the workers’ champions.  There was even an accord between business and labour.  Fancy that!  The way people voted was less about one’s religious affiliation or to which dioceses one belonged, it was predominantly about class.  That is what it seemed like to me anyway.  However, that has all changed. Read more

Christmas Time In The City

A little Aussie satirical poem because, well, life vapes and then you die.  This is not the happiest poem so you may want to skip it.

It’s Christmas Time In the City

no joy no joy no
air no air no air none

kirribilli smokin’
white men jokin’

it’s Christmas time in the city

make haste to land of the smoke-free

blow smoke up ya
are we having fun yet?

not me not me not
happy mo-mo

no joy no joy no
air no air no air no

Christmas barbie in the city

Sorry about that, ladies and gentlemen.  It happens when you’re starved of oxygen.  I will resume my normal calm programming as soon as we can breathe again.  Maybe in a few months time.  Or maybe when we meet our Paris emission target through accounting loophole.  Not happy mo-mo.

Regards.
Tracy

Australia.  Perfect one day.  Bushfires the next.

I Am, You Are, We Are Australian – Or At Least We Could Be

Australia — A post in support of a more compassionate refugee policy.

Following the Christchurch terrorist attack, Jacinda Adern, the New Zealand Prime Minister, with much empathy and compassion, said that the attack on the Muslim community in New Zealand, was an attack on all New Zealanders, because “We are one.  They are us.”  Her words resonated with me, but I had no words to express my sorrow at the death and injury inflicted by one of my countrymen (allegedly).  I kept getting stuck on the question – if the murderer is Australian, does that then mean he is us and we are him?  I suppose many Australians would completely reject this notion.  After all, Australia is a multicultural country and for the most part, we live peacefully with one another.  But still, I wanted to know what was in people’s hearts, because how can love and compassion create a more tolerant, inclusive society if, deep down, we are afraid, uninformed, or worse, just plain racist? Read more

The Choice

Australia — Stop Adani.  No coal.

So often novelist, Richard Flanagan, speaks for me on matters close to my heart.  He is spot on when he says the fight to stop the Adani Carmichael mine is not just about Adani.  (Read Richard Flanagan’s speech to the Stop Adani rally by clicking on the above link.)

The Adani mine infrastructure is needed to make other prospective mines in Galilee basin viable.  Political power broker, Clive Palmer, also has mining interests in the Galilee basin.  Mr Palmer’s political party, United Australia Party. has just signed a deal to direct preferences to the Liberal and National parties.  The tag line for the United Australia Party is “Make Australia Great”.  Seriously!  In addition, the family of Matt Canavan, the Minister for Resources in the Morrison Government, also has interests in the Australian coal industry.

Several years ago, I attended an event where the Australian Council of Trade Unions had an information and merchandise stand.  They were selling T-Shirts advocating for wind power.  I remarked to the woman on the stand that there was an inconsistency between what she was selling and the views of then leader of the Australian Workers Union (AWU), who was concerned about the how the shift to renewable energy would affect his members.  She said to me that the AWU does not represent the views of her union or the union movement as a whole.  The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (rivals to the AWU), has recently been applying pressure to the Australian Labor Party to support the Carmichael mine.  It should be noted that the PM-in-waiting, Mr Bill Shorten, was once head of the AWU.

Do I need to remind Mr Shorten and his party that the AWU and the CFMEU do not represent the views of the entire Australian labor movement?  Voters, if you come across representatives of the ALP door-knocking, remind them of this and send them a strong message that the Adani coal mine must be stopped and our environmental legislation amended immediately to ensure that the carbon footprint impact of projects is taken into account.  Carbon neutrality must be a minimum for project approval. Read more