The Morrison government’s “take the credit/deflect blame’ shtick is wearing thin. After all, the Commonwealth has ultimate responsibility for Australia’s border security – spelt out in the constitution, Quarantine Act (1908) and Biosecurity Act (2015).
RUBY PRINCESS -PETER DUTTON
A global pandemic ought to have demanded hyper-stringent oversight of returning citizens – especially once COVID became a ‘known event’ – and a far lengthier period of quarantine. Divisive rhetoric aside, Morrison’s political hero, John Howard, was right to assert in 2001 that “we decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come”. It begs the question, however: why didn’t this rule apply to infected returnees or stopping that one, all-important boat?
COMMONWEALTH AGED-CARE RESPONSIBILITY
Then there is private aged care – unquestionably the regulatory domain of the Commonwealth. The crisis playing out in the sector is the direct result of operators prioritising profits ahead of health and safety – of elderly residents and staff. Here and across our economy the chickens of insecure employment have come home to roost. Possibly contagious casual workers are going to work because, in the absence of sick leave, they believe there is no other choice for their families. COVID is many things, yet with workplace transmissions accounting for 80 per cent of all cases, this pandemic is a workplace virus, hurting the poor, especially migrants.
WORK PLACE DEREGULATION
Again, this is a Commonwealth responsibility. It is jarring to hear Frydenberg talk up workplace deregulation as “first cab off the rank”, while the health and economic imperative of paid pandemic leave for isolating workers sits in the too hard basket. By contrast, the Victorian government is providing payments to insecurely employed workers forced to self-quarantine after testing positive for COVID or close contacts of a confirmed case, and workers awaiting results without access to paid leave.