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Class farce: Minister gets a sniffle, so a million Queenslanders catch a cold


When Education Minister Grace Grace tested positive for a “mild case” of Covid, it triggered a ridiculous delay in the state government unveiling its back-t0-school plan. Surely there’s a better way, writes Madonna King

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The state’s students and their parents are being held to ransom by the State Government’s decision not to release a schools’ plan until education minister Grace Grace is back at work.

In simple terms, this means students, parents, schools and employers are waiting until Grace Grace, who says she has a mild case of COVID19, is available for a ‘picture opportunity’.

Why? Why does she need to be at the lectern, when he government trumpets their latest decision (which other states have already announced)?

And if she is so crucial to the announcement, isn’t it possible to cross to her lounge room via zoom? Certainly she’s busy posting social media missives, and pictures, from home.

But how is this decision – to delay a statewide announcement about return to school rules – fair to any of those it targets?

How is that fair to students, in particular; many of whom are struggling with the ongoing disruption of a pandemic that is moulding their lives.

The mental health toll, already being felt, will mark this generation for years. Do we have to make it even harder on them? Isn’t the job of the adults in the room – and I’m being generous to some of our politicians here – to make it easier for them?

This pandemic has shown, with starting clarity, how people are no longer at the heart of our decision-making. This isn’t about students; it’s about policies and procedures and tests and definitions and the government looking like it is in charge.

It’s a dog’s breakfast.

How does the government suggest we explain to a 12-year-old that he cannot attend school, but between 4pm and 6pm he has football training to take on opponents in a clash this Saturday. And no, he can’t attend school next week either. That’s the policy.

Perhaps Grace Grace is thinking up an answer.

Or how do we explain to a 17-year-old girl, in her final year of school, that she might be having weeks off this year or she might not. She might have a school formal and she might not. She might be a close contact, and she might not. We can’t be certain because the government hasn’t settled on definitions, yet.

And now, it appears, we can’t clarify this further because, like thousands and thousands and thousands of other Queenslanders, Grace Grace is working from home – but she can’t tell us what it is because she’s not at a lectern in front of television lights. Thank goodness, she was able to access a diagnostic test. Perhaps she could tell us where to nab one of those rapid antigen tests?

Schools, too, are sitting waiting for Grace Grace to put on her Sunday best, and head for the lectern. They need to know whether their boarders can return, whether they need to reschedule school events, and how they will deal with chronic staff shortages.

Employers, too, are wishing Grace Grace a speedy return – because many parents can’t activate their family plan until they know what the State Government will allow them to do.

And that will only be clear when Grace Grace can pop up next to premier Annastacia Palaszczuk at a press conference.

This preposterous situation highlights the media management that now envelops every possible government announcement. It comes first, second and third to good policy to help those who elected them.

Can you imagine school lessons not going ahead, because the principal has a cold, and is working from his lounge room?

Or a bank shuts up shop because the branch manager is away?

Or the floor of a hospital goes into lockdown because one nurse calls in sick?

It is incumbent on the government to govern. And if they can’t do that when a single minister is home with a mild case of COVID19, it should sound an almighty alarm.

Either the government is unable to nut out a plan for education, or it wants its education minister to feature in a good light on the nightly television news.

Either way, voters – and in this case their children – are being taken as fools.

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