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A lot of talk, so far very little action with a generous helping of 'I told you so'


Scott Morrison’s verbose yet vapid media conference about the Avalon cluster this week was a salient reminder state premiers have been the ones leading the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic all along, writes Dennis Atkins

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Watching, digesting and comprehending what governments have and haven’t done in response to what’s known as the Avalon cluster – named after the northern beaches Sydney suburb where median house prices nudge $2.25 million, which is three times the average across Australia’s biggest metropolitan area – has brought a fascinating end to this extraordinary year.

As all states and territories shut their borders to this exclusive enclave, most to Sydney residents generally. There has been a steady but as yet not overwhelming increase in COVID-19 infections in Sydney and it’s left Gladys Berejiklian’s government scrambling to work out what to do about Christmas Day and New Year celebrations.

So far the greatest impacts have been thousands of summer holiday plans cancelled or rearranged and the Sydney-Hobart yacht race being scrapped for the first time.

The primary take out from this cluster (never has this word been more apt) is that Scott Morrison finishes 2020 where he began it – he is a blatherskite of Olympian standard.

Here’s one of his early remarks during a wordy but content-free news conference on Monday: “So as we go into Christmas, while it’s frustrating, I know, and while it’s disappointing – deeply disappointing – that some of the reunions that might have happened this Christmas for many families won’t happen, but they will happen in the new year.

“People will get together. We will get through this like we got through so many other events.

“It’s important to stay calm, to follow the health advice, to follow the public health information that is available and to keep the COVID-safe behaviours and practices in place and I think we’ve got (a) very good reason to trust what is happening in NSW at the moment.”

That’s just over 100 words of very little. A trainee sub-editor could bring it down to less than a dozen and lose nothing.

Morrison went on at greater length about hotspots (he told us Avalon was one which was hardly news or worth saying) but it’s not worth repeating any of the 165 words because the content was even lighter – featherweight to be sure.

Morrison held his little news conference because he knows he couldn’t hide this year as he did 12 months ago as the apocalyptic bushfires raged through the eastern states and South Australia.

Therefore, appearance was all that was needed. Flash the brand and retreat. Job done. No wonder comedy scriptwriter Tosh Greenslade reckons Morrison is reminiscent of David Brent from The Office.

Second take out from this event is that the states continue to lead action on tackling the coronavirus. NSW health authorities are acting quickly and appropriately so far but Berejiklian seems too timid to do anything quick and bold.

She appears spooked by the idea she might be the next Daniel Andrews by taking the kind of unapologetic, firm and fast action seen in Victoria. So far, the NSW government hasn’t even mandated wearing of masks – preferring to leave this proven and simple measure as a suggestion that’s encouraged but not demanded.

Andrews, who was abused and scolded by state and federal Liberals throughout his handling of the now-smashed second wave, must have taken some quiet satisfaction when he handed out some advice to NSW, saying the decision to close his state’s border to Sydneysiders was made easier because Berejiklian didn’t take the kind of necessary steps he put before Victorians.

A final reading from this latest virus event is proof – if it was needed – that Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s unswerving position on border closures has been based on scientific and health advice.

The foghorn commentators, point-scoring politicians and social media loudmouths never missed an opportunity to lambaste Palaszczuk, slamming her for using border politics brazenly in a bid to harvest and hold onto votes for the October 31 election.

These pip-squeaks squealed that Palaszczuk would drop the border closures as soon as the October 31 election was in the rearview mirror. Not so. The Queensland Premier has continued to lift and impose border restrictions as events allowed and needs required. She has focused on a single goal, having the safety of all Queenslanders foremost in her mind.

Palaszczuk might think these noisy windbags should recant or even apologise but she shouldn’t put Christmas dinner on hold waiting. The inconsistency and lack of logic is as predictable as the transparency of the self-interest involved.

Just as Victoria’s Andrews would have taken delicious satisfaction adopting the high ground, Palaszczuk should have allowed herself a private smile as she suggested the national cabinet be convened to discuss the Avalon cluster.

After being subject to a torrent of abuse, snide remarks and some particular bullying during the year, Palaszczuk felt no compunction in interrupting Morrison while he was packing for his Christmas break.

Happy Christmas and holiday wishes to all InQueensland readers. It’s been a year like no other to launch a fresh and brash news and views publication and our trusty, nimble team has managed a mighty job. It’s been a privilege and joy to be along for the ride. See you all in 2021.

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