If the last 18 months has taught us anything, it’s how quickly things can change.
In late June I was returning home from the Canberra Parliamentary Budget sittings.
I was looking forward to spending July working in the electorate, about a quarter of which is on the Central Coast.
Just a couple of days after I got home, Greater Sydney including the Central Coast was forced into lockdown due to the escalating COVID-19 outbreak.
Since then, people in our community have felt a mixture of emotions: frustration, anger, confusion, and worry.
Because the Central Coast Local Government Area is the border being used for the Greater Sydney lockdown, there’s been confusion as to whether those residents can travel to and from Lake Macquarie to the Coast for work (or vice versa).
It’s been particularly challenging and frustrating for some people given the close proximity of these suburbs.
If you are in lockdown at Summerland Point or Gwandalan, you literally live on the shore of Lake Macquarie.
It’s been a trying six weeks for our region, and there’s one reason we are in this position.
Mr Morrison had two jobs this year: the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, and fixing our broken quarantine system.
The chances of us getting on top of this pandemic and returning to ‘normal’ depended on the Prime Minister getting these things right.
To say he has failed is an understatement, and now we are paying the price.
Last year when it was up to Australians as a whole to do the right thing to prevent huge outbreaks and deaths, they did just that.
This year it was up to the Morrison Government to do the heavy lifting, and they’ve completely dropped the ball.
For more than a year, experts have called on the Government to develop purpose-built quarantine centres.
Scott Morrison’s own review into hotel quarantine advised he consider national facilities.
He has essentially ignored this advice.
World’s best practice is to have five or six COVID-19 vaccine deals.
Labor and experts have been calling for this since winter last year.
Scott Morrison waited until Christmas Eve last year to sign a contract with Pfizer.
While some countries are preparing to give their residents a booster shot, most Australians can’t even get their initial vaccine.
Politicians including Scott Morrison and the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian have been urging everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
That’s great, except people are struggling to find appointments.
The problem with this slow rollout has never been the community’s demand.
People are desperate and scrambling to get vaccinated.
The problem is a lack of supply.
Which brings me to the residents who have had their appointments at the Belmont mass vaccination hub cancelled.
As well as Hunter residents, the Belmont hub vaccinates Central Coast residents as there is no mass vaccination hub on the Coast.
These cancellations are a kick in the guts and adds insult to injury.
Let me be clear: I completely understand that Sydney needs more vaccines to get on top of the outbreak there, however it’s wrong that vaccinations for individuals in priority groups, such as aged care workers, are being cancelled in the Hunter and Central Coast.
People in our region are either in lockdown or have COVID-19 on their doorstep.
We are exposed to this virus and are being told to get vaccinated, yet our limited supplies are being raided.
It’s also wrong that people’s appointments have been cancelled instead of extending the gap between the first and second Pfizer doses from three to six weeks.
This was discussed at National Cabinet as it would give more people the protection of a first dose.
As someone fortunate enough to have received the first dose, I would have been more than happy to delay my second appointment rather than someone losing the protection of a first dose.
Again, none of this would be a problem if Scott Morrison had secured enough vaccine doses in the first place.
We are now 18 months into this pandemic, and it’s clear the Morrison Government has got no idea what it is doing and is playing catch up to address its failures.
The Prime Minister’s complacency and ‘it’s not a race’ attitude has resulted in the current lockdown and unforgivably slow vaccine rollout.
It’s Australians who are paying the price for the Prime Minister’s incompetence.
This opinion piece was first published in the Newcastle Herald on Thursday, 5 August 2021