Maybe I’m imagining it or perhaps it was always like this. Perhaps my mind, memory and perceptions of then and now are playing tricks because if ever there was an example of the Groucho Marx observation that, ‘the art of politics is looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedy’, the handling of the vaccine rollout and the lockdowns is now the Groucho gold standard by which all other political incompetence will be measured in the future.
It’s in a crisis like this that the political class is truly tested and found wanting.
Whichever it is, imagination, mind or memory, the reaction to this episode in our national life, brings into fine focus that something has gone terribly wrong in terms of the quality and calibre of those putting themselves up for public life as our political naifs cringe, cower and firewall themselves behind and push forward to centre stage, unelected health bureaucrats to take the heat.
In more sober times I simply can’t imagine a Howard, Hawke, Keating even a Fraser or state premiers like Neville Wran, Charles Court or Jo Peterson reacting in the way our Federal and State leaders have over this.
They all seemed to be more on top of events and more certain and in control and not easily cowed, but over the last 10 or 15 years there’s been the emergence of a new breed of politician that seem timid, tentative, uncertain, risk averse and easily spooked.
Almost daily, issues arise that demonstrate their mediocrity, their ineptitude and gross incompetence. None more so has exposed this and is a reflection of “the art of politics” than the response to, and handling of, the Covid and everything that has flowed from it.
The political (and media) reaction has been a product of the times. Hysterical and immature, over egged and driven to a large degree by a 24/7 news cycle looking for new angles cases and deaths. The more dramatic the better.
Pages and pages of bumpf that the editors think people actually read when in reality they just turn the page or change the channel and refuse to engage. They’re sick of all the expert punditry and talking heads.
The initial response of putting the economy into a coma, almost euthanising it, was a dangerous precedent.
The idea and the underlying logic that we shut the economy and everyone stay inside until the storm passes was always flawed. The virus was still out there.
It was the same as telling people to stay inside so that street crime dissipates and disappears but the problem with that logic is that eventually people have to resume their daily life and normal routine and the circumstances allowing for street crime (or the virus cases) re-emerge.
Having crashed the economy once and loading the nation with insurmountable debt, do they intend to continue to crash (what’s left of the economy) every time and whenever there’s another uptick or pocket of virus outbreak?
What about when international flights and the cruise industry resumes, as they must and the virus surfaces again, as it will? Do we go into lock down and second, third and fourth time?
Crash the economy an umpteenth time like a car rolling out of control, end on end and eventually coming to rest in a demolition derby?
Whichever way they cut it, because of their initial ‘big bang’ shutdown of the economy they have got themselves on the horns of a diabolical dilemma.
They can only stop, start and crash the economy so many times until it stays crashed.
On the other hand, if they don’t react similarly to the initial outbreak each time but instead open the economy permanently, irrespective of the virus, it will simply be a confirmation, demonstration and an admission that the initial reaction and the trashing of the economy was a disastrous and economic ruinous over reaction.