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When it comes to fighting the pandemic, is our government more hindrance than help?

Opinion

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and her government were returned largely on the strength of their initial response to Covid-19, but they seem to have lost interest in recent months, writes Madonna King.

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What do we pay our State Government to do?

The answer is becoming increasingly clear. From recent inquiries, we can deduce that government spends its time serving itself, with our money; obfuscating, self-promoting, and playing with the truth.

And at some times, that probably doesn’t matter. Our expectations of its performance have dimmed, over time.

But when it discounts medical advice about a pandemic which has ruined lives and livelihoods for more than two years, it’s time to consider whether it really has a role.

For two years, Covid-19 has been a health, economic and social monster.

And this week, with startling clarity, we can see that our government’s planning, over that time, comes down to ‘please wear a mask’ and ‘oh, work from home too, if you can’.

That is simply not good enough. China built 30 temporary hospitals to deal with Covid.

Comparatively, what have we done to plan for this wave, which we have been warned about, over and over again? Used massive amounts of public money on self-promotion and built a quarantine facility that isn’t being used.

Yet we continue to hand over money to a level of government that is increasingly becoming irrelevant – perhaps even an obstacle – in our lives.

And, more crucially, it doesn’t seem to see the importance of serving those who elected it.

A lot of people are talking about Annastacia Palaszczuk spending too much time on the red carpet in good clobber, and not enough time working for those who employ her and her government.

That doesn’t wash with me. She’s entitled to a social life. She’s entitled to a boyfriend. And she’s entitled to enjoy life, like anyone else.

But as voters, we are entitled to expect that government – a government she leads – will work for us. We pay them to do that.

And this latest wave has shown that it doesn’t know what to do, or is too gutless to do it.

The result?

We have people dying when they shouldn’t. We have elective surgery – and some not-so elective surgery, like skin cancers – being cancelled.

We have men and women and children not going for medical check-ups that could save their lives.

We have hospital emergency departments packed to the rafters and exhausted frontline workers crying themselves to sleep.

If it isn’t the government’s job to plan for a scenario like this – or even to respond to it – what is its job?

Experts believe fewer than 30 percent of people will wear masks voluntarily. A scout around two Brisbane suburbs yesterday shows that is extremely optimistic.

So at what point does the government sit around the Cabinet table and ask whether it is part of the problem here, when it should be providing a solution?

Promoting itself, with our public funds, is not curbing Covid. It’s simply diverting crucial funds away from where it should be spent.

Have we stopped listening to Annastacia Palaszczuk? If we haven’t, why has Queensland the lowest take-up of boosters in the nation!

Did anyone sitting around that Cabinet table last year raise the probability of another outbreak; given it was being predicted widely by medical experts?

What advice was sought? And given the wide predictions, why was it ignored?

Is there never debate about anything in Cabinet, where ministers now wear the masks, that they should be doing more to get the rest of us to wear?

This government’s job should be to act for us, not to simply hang onto power.

In 2020, Queenslanders returned the government benches to Annastacia Palaszczuk on the back of her strong decision-making around Covid.

But its performance since then is frustrating. Heart-breaking even. If people aren’t wearing masks, and we know that is killing some, shouldn’t the government have a duty of care to act?

If not, dying from Covid is now an absolute personal responsibly – compared to a community responsibility before the last election – what is the responsibility of this state government?

And if it can’t explain a job description that assists our lives, is it time we had that wider discussion about whether we even need a state government?

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