This may be the longest letter to the editor I have ever seen at the Oz. And it’s right on the money.
History may be repeating itself. According to the National Museum of Australia, the 1918-19 flu pandemic started in Australia in Melbourne, in January 1919, and then spread to the rest of the country after the Victorian health authorities were slow to react.
Why have things gone wrong this time? It is hard to go past the conclusion that, encouraged by their Government, people in Victoria Health have not been paying attention to what should be their core duties.
If we start with Brett Sutton, the Chief Health Officer, we find that he was the main author of a paper in the Medical Journal of Australia published in May. Did this, for example, deal with ways of shortening long waiting lists or preventing people with psychiatric illness becoming homeless? Not at all. Instead, the hospital system was seen, not as a place to look after the sick, but a big polluter: “In 2018–19 every occupied bed-day in a Victorian public hospital generated on average 120kg of carbon dioxide equivalents and 3.65kg of waste, and used 630L of water.”
And it’s not just Australia’s sick contaminating the planet: “If the global health sector were a country, it would be the fifth‐largest greenhouse gas emitter on the planet.” And the plan to improve the hospital system? “It requires all public hospitals and health services to have an environmental management plan and report publicly on their environmental performance.”
Then we have Dr Annaliese van Diemen, Deputy Chief Health Officer (Communicable Disease), sending a tweet in the midst of the pandemic to the effect that James Cook was “an invader from another land, decimating populations, creating terror”.
It may be said that people in Victoria Health are intelligent people who can do two things at once, but the evidence does not support this. How do we prevent this happening again? Make people do their job and not grandstand. If the virus does now take hold, it might also be time for a class action by the people of Australia against Daniel Andrews and the Victorian Health Department, run by Maurice Blackburn, of course.
Paddy Grattan-Smith, Matraville, NSW
Andrews is the most incompetent political leader I have ever witnessed in all the years since I arrived in Australia. He has ruined Victoria’s economy, and with his role in “the National Cabinet” he has done much to wreck much else as well. What do we know about his agreements with the Chinese? What is the actual off-the-books level of debt in still uncompleted road and rail constructions? He can talk the talk, but is so far out of his depths in everything he deals with that had he set out to deliberately ruin the place he could not have done a better job.