Opinion pieces


January 27, 2022

American poet Nikki Giovanni once wrote “mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to error that counts.”

This is true.

Everyone makes mistakes, but it is important to grow and learn from them.

That applies to Governments too.

Political leaders are human, and we can’t expect them to get everything right, particularly during a once in a lifetime pandemic.

However we are now entering our third year of dealing with COVID-19, and it is clear that Scott Morrison is not learning the lessons from his previous mistakes.

A worrying trend has developed with our Prime Minister where he never takes responsibility.

He did it with the Black Summer bushfires.

He did it with the vaccine rollout.

He did it just a few weeks ago with the embarrassing and totally avoidable Novak Djokovic saga.

He’s yet to do it with members of his own Government like George Christensen and Matt Canavan who continue to promote conspiracy theories and false, dangerous information.

But the most recent example of the Prime Minister reacting only once it’s too late is with Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs).

Not only this, his Government is blaming Australians for stockpiling the tests.

Many experts and industry groups as well as Labor urged Scott Morrison to get his act together with securing supply of these testing kits months ago.

In August, the Australian Industry Group called on the Government to develop a Rapid Antigen Testing system.

In September, the Australian Medical Association urged the Prime Minister to develop a comprehensive rapid test strategy for this next phase of the pandemic.

In November, aged care providers pleaded with him to get enough RATs for their industry.

Yet Scott Morrison ignored this advice and only started ordering them a few weeks ago.

As a result, Australians are quite literally paying the price for his incompetence.

When I was in Glasgow in November representing Labor at the COP26 climate conference, RATs were easily accessible.

They have been free for everyone in Scotland since April.

That’s why I cannot comprehend how unprepared the Morrison-Joyce Government was.

You don’t need me to tell you how hard it is to find RATs around the entire Hunter and Central Coast regions.

Many shops have signs out the front telling customers they are out of stock.

But if you are lucky enough to get your hands on a testing kit, the next obstacle is the price.

The limited stock combined with the Morrison-Joyce Government’s refusal to make RATs free has resulted in price gouging.

People are often paying upwards of $20 or $30 per test.

This is unaffordable, particularly if you need to be using them on a regular basis.

What’s even more extraordinary is we currently have Australian companies developing RATs that are focused on supplying international customers.

Even the former Liberal Treasurer Joe Hockey recently complained that a company he is involved with wanted to produce these tests here in Australia, however they received no support from our Government.

Instead, it came from the United States Government.

Scott Morrison has used one of his favourite excuses and said that it’s up to the States to source RATs.

This is ridiculous.

Federal Governments in countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Singapore have all bought on mass rapid antigen tests and made them available to their citizens.

It’s absolutely Scott Morrison’s responsibility.

Labor believes that RATs should be free and accessible for all Australians.

PCR tests are free for everyone through Medicare, so why aren’t RATs?

Nobody should be denied a test because they can’t afford one.

This is the right approach from both a health and economic perspective.

The economy doesn’t work if people can’t go to work, and people can’t go to work if they can’t get a RAT to test for COVID-19.

Scott Morrison is a Prime Minister who does too little, too late.

This is not about 20/20 hindsight.

Throughout this pandemic, Labor has consistently urged the Prime Minister to listen to the expert advice, but on too many occasions he has chosen to ignore it.

In a recent profile piece, Scott Morrison said “my attention is solely on fixing the problem. I find that if you fix the problem, the politics takes care of itself.”

Maybe if he spent a bit more time being proactive and prepared, there wouldn’t be so many problems of his own making that he would need to fix, and Australians wouldn’t have to suffer the consequences.