Prime Minister Scott Morrison has acted like a sneaky rat to deny Australians free access to much-needed Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) as the nation faces a worsening Covid Crisis two years after the pandemic first emerged, writes Irfan Yusuf.
Back in my younger and more innocent days, I found myself studying undergraduate Economics at Macquarie University. No, not Marxist economics. I mean the real stuff. You know. Capitalism. The free market. Heaps of curves and graphs and other shite. I did bloody well at it too. Sure, I failed some accounting subjects. But in economics, I was one of the gurus.
I still remember some of the mantras of free market economics I learned at uni and at a subsequent weekend course on political economy called “Liberty & Society” run by the free market think-tank Centre for Independent Studies. Here’s a selection:
- The free market is very efficient. It works.
- Business can pretty much organise anything if left alone.
- Government should keep its hands out of the free market and civil society as much as possible apart from cutting red tape and regulation.
- The most enduring institutions are those arising spontaneously from civil society, not the stuff the government tries to create.
- There are only limited areas government should run on its own. How large these areas should be will depend on your perspective and has been the subject of mass debate across the allegedly civilised world.
In relation to the last point, there’s no doubt that national security is a crucial area of government concern. We can’t rely on people with a profit motive to defend our nation from its enemies. Even the most free market fruitloop agrees that if the People’s Republic of China invades, sending out General Gerry from the Harvey Norman regiment to lead our defence when so much of his stuff is made by our enemy isn’t the best idea.
But national security isn’t just about being invaded by foreign foes. Over the past 20 years, Australia has been fighting a domestic war on terror. Mostly this has targeted people with black/brown skin and unpronounceable names, though occasionally (and with much reluctance) conservative politicians have acknowledged that people with similar backgrounds to their kids.
During this war on Musl … woops … terror, the government spent hundreds of millions on security agencies, telephone hotlines and fridge magnets. In 2005, I appeared on a panel on Channel 9’s Hypotheticals show hosted Aussie barrister, Geoffrey Robertson. Also on the panel were a host of politicians including Tony Abbott. Not a single politician could remember the number of the National Security Hotline. Money well spent.
The media had a field day. Each time there was a terror raid, the police would make sure that the cameras were there to take shots for the evening news and online coverage. Some newspapers managed to turn the whole thing into a crusade.
The same media crusaders have basically become cheerleaders for the Commonwealth and State governments that no longer treat Covid as a national emergency let alone a national security matter. Instead they treat Covid as little more than an obstacle to the free market.
The NSW State government is pressuring nurses and other hospital staff who have covid symptoms to return to work. Think about it. The next time you or a sick relative or friend heads to the emergency department of a Sydney hospital, the nurse who takes your temperature may him/herself have a temperature! There have been some reports that hospital staff with covid positive results are being pressured back to work before their isolation period expires. So if you end up in hospital with covid, the staff attending to you might have the same.
Then you have ridiculous comments made by the NSW Health Minister Brad “let it rip” Hazzard. He has been right to warn us on the increased infectiousness of the Omicron strain. But why on earth declare on Boxing Day that “we’re all going to get Omicron”? Seriously, if we’re all going to get it anyway, why take precautions? Why not just give up on social distancing and all that?
But worst of all has been the Commonwealth government headed by ScoMo. First there was the fiasco with vaccines. “It’s not a race” we were told. Then there was the near absence of federally run quarantine facilities despite the Commonwealth’s constitutional duties in this regard. “That’s up to the States and Territories” we were lectured to.
And now we have a situation in which the Commonwealth has had months to collect and distribute Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) kits across the country. At the time of writing, all we had from ScoMo was first some sort of commitment to bring the issue up at National Cabinet. Oh, and having the ACCC keep an eye out on price gouging. And then as public pressure continued to build this week, ScoMo finally said there could be free tests. But only 10 of them over three months. And only if you hold a Concession card. That leaves about 20 million Aussies still in the lurch. And those that are eligible will still have to wait at least two weeks for any free tests.
These kits have been approved by the TGA, the national regulator, for at least three months. They are being given out free of charge in places like the United Kingdom. How embarrassing it is that when it comes to home Covid testing, even Boris Johnson (BoJo) is better than Scott Morrison (ScoMo). Price gougers rejoice!
We’re told that Omicron is less deadly than other strains such as delta. But Omicron is still debilitating. Most people I know who have come down with it have reported severe headaches, extreme fatigue and other symptoms that are hardly consistent with working even as a politician let alone someone with a real job.
And so we live in a country where we are left on our own to face the remaining risks of Covid. Because when it comes to home testing, it’s obvious that ScoMo couldn’t give a RAT’s.