Tuesday, July 07, 2020

It makes me proud to be Australian: short reflections on just how well the Australian system of Government and our people have worked in managing covid-19

Like many Australians, I am struggling to manage the covid-19 pandemic. But there is one thing, I think,  that we can say with a degree of certainty and that is that Australian governments and the Australian system of government have worked. There have been mistakes that we will all return to later, but I do think that my assessment is a fair one.

I also think that the pandemic has brought out the best in the Australian character. 

I could say best and worst for indeed there have been responses that made me cringe to be an Australian, but for every bad there have been a hundred, sometimes many more, goods. I have seen so many acts of kindness. so many people stepping out to support others, so many working to maintain structures and activities, to create new ones in the face of challenges, that it makes me proud to be Australian.  

I know that these things are not unique to Australia, but give me the liberty of taking pride in the Australian response. 

I have been thinking about how I might describe details of the Australian response in ways that international readers might understand. 

I suppose the starting point is that Australia is a federation, one on which the Commonwealth and States share powers with many of the most important powers resting with the states. Shared powers can be a problem in federations, especially where one partner has disproportionate power, the Commonwealth in the Australian case. In this case all arms of government have worked together, facilitated by the mechanism of a national cabinet combining the Prime Minister and all the premiers and territory leaders.

Those leaders come from different parties. The absence of the sometimes visceral party and ideological differences that have so stymied coordinated action in some countries have been noticeably absent. The main parties have put political differences aside in the face of a universal challenge. Of course there have been political differences on the detail of responses, there should be because politics involves weighting of priorities as well as critiques of action, but these have not impeded a coordinated response. 

I have been particularly struck by the response to the latest outbreak in Victoria. It would have been possible, even tempting, to attack Premier Dan Andrews and his Labor administration for failures, but both the Liberal NSW Premier and the Liberal Prime Minister have refrained, focusing instead on what needs to be done to support Victoria.

Australia's administrative systems including the health system have worked remarkably well at all levels, aided by a lower number of cases. Again, there have been errors, but I think that my statement remains true. As one measure of this, I felt safe. Certainly I was worried at one point that I might catch covid-19, but I felt secure that I would be looked after if I did. And that's a bloody good thing compared with the position in many other places. 

Back on Monday, May 25, 2020 I posed this question: Monday Forum - what are the possible longer term changes from the covid-19 pandemic?  I think now that we need to focus on this and the best way of exiting the current crisis, recognising that it may recur. I think that good can come from this so long as we do not allow ideology and partisan divides stand in the way. 

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