14 January 2022

Tens of thousands are sick or isolating, many unable to even get tested.

People are spending their time fruitlessly searching for rapid antigen tests, waiting hours for PCR tests, and then waiting days for results.

Parents desperately awaiting the chance for their children to get vaccinated have had appointments cancelled because the supply is not there.

Supermarket shelves are empty, and businesses who were hoping for a better summer are either empty because people are in a self-imposed lockdown, or shut because staff are unwell.

Our healthcare workers are exhausted and overwhelmed.

For all of us this is a worrying and stressful time.

For those who are particularly vulnerable, such as many people with disability or the immunocompromised, facing the accelerating outbreak without access to RATs and boosters is terrifying.

The government has only this week - the deadliest week of the pandemic so far - put out an urgent tender to purchase enough rapid tests.

After everything Australians have been though in the last two years to fight this pandemic, the Morrison government has left us completely on our own, without the tools we need to "live with the virus".

A pandemic is unchartered territory, and I would be reluctant to criticise a government that was genuinely doing its best to manage it.

But this government has ignored advice and failed to learn from its own mistakes or international experience.

On New Year's Eve, when Scott Morrison announced major changes to rules around contacts, he said people should get out of testing lines and enjoy themselves at the beach.

He was at the cricket smirking and telling us we're "taking wickets" in the pandemic, while Australians are ill, hospitalised or even losing their lives.

He says that Jenny has no trouble picking up a RAT, when we all know from experience it is near impossible.

The Morrison government had two jobs in 2021 - the vaccine rollout and quarantine - and failed at both.

As we re-opened at the end of last year, particularly as Omicron emerged, the Morrison government had three jobs: booster shots, children's vaccinations, and RATs.

They have failed on all three.

It is inexplicable and inexcusable that in the third year of this pandemic, the government still hasn't fixed crucial supply issues, especially when we know vaccination is our ticket to freedom.

The government was warned that our testing infrastructure would collapse under the case load.

Accessible and affordable RATs needed to be at the centre of dealing with this, but the transition was made with no planning or strategy.

As usual those with least ability to pay don't even rate a thought in the PM's mind.

If RATs are to be a fundamental part of our public health response they need to be free and readily available to all Australians. Just like PCR tests. Just like Medicare.

The PM's flip-flopping on the availability of RATs has delivered nothing but a problem for pharmacies and other businesses trying to supply them while inundated with desperate and disappointed customers.

The Prime Minister has again and again shown his inability to learn from mistakes.

For him, everything is just a political problem.

Rather than fixing and leading, he has instead fallen back to his well-established modus operandi - which is to make a fresh announcement (while doing no future planning) and move on quickly before the fallout is noticed.

If challenged, he obfuscates (by refusing to accept blame or even answer questions) and shifts blame before again shifting attention as quickly as possible (the Djokovic debacle anyone?).

But with COVID out-of-control, the stress on health workers, and thus the system, is nearing breaking point. Many Australians are at breaking point.

This pandemic is not done yet, there will be more strains and more bad news.

We need better planning and foresight to navigate the unexpected, not more marketing stunts and photo opportunities.

Australia desperately needs leadership and leadership begins with caring about our nation's people.