A third mistake by Victoria will mean it’s time for intervention

A third mistake by Victoria will mean it’s time for intervention, by Robert Gottliebsen.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the state and its bureaucracy simply don’t have the skills to manage a crisis of this magnitude. The task is made harder by the fact that the bureaucrats and politicians know their previous mistakes are the main reason for the Victorian crisis being worse than other states, so morale is low, compounding the dangers.

If the current set of strategies fail then the Commonwealth will need to look at all constitutional options to take control of the ailing state.

First mistake: bungled quarantine.

The first Victorian mistake — hotel quarantine — has been well publicised and is now the subject of a government-appointed inquiry. And that inquiry is clearly showing that nobody took responsibility in the quarantine/hotel operation so decision-making was simply passed from department to department. The bureaucracy broke down. I think the word chaotic is an apt description of the quarantine administrative process. …

Second mistake: bungled infection notifications.

Some months ago, Victoria decided, correctly, to undertake a program of massive testing of the population, including those with symptoms and those without symptoms. With the virus at an early stage of infection this was an excellent decision. But like the quarantine mess the system again broke down. The task of informing people who were infected was incredibly bureaucratic and infected people were not notified quickly enough.

Because they had not been notified of infection, many of those carrying the COVID-19 virus without symptoms thought they were free from infection and left their homes and infected more people. The mess was compounded because there simply were not enough contact tracing people to process the mounting infection rates that were discovered by the increased testing.

Victorian policy errors:

The Victorian strategy of trashing the economy but not testing those without symptoms is foolhardy. The commonwealth knows Victoria has insufficient contact tracing and other capacities and offers help. It is not known whether there is sufficient Victorian capacity to make sure those in home quarantine honour their obligation. Sadly the whole process has become bureaucratic, undermining the great work of individuals.

Victoria is currently undergoing a debate as to whether the current virus shutdown should be continued or should be substantially relaxed. I am not going to enter that debate except to say that Victoria can’t stand much more of the “medicine”. …

A case in point:

I had been contacted by a company with 300 to 400 employees where one had become infected. The company immediately reacted in accordance with the protocols and, as far as it could determine, those who might have had contact with the infected employee were tested and sent home for quarantine. Specialised cleaners were ordered for a deep clean. But just as important was the need to test the remaining employees because the direct contact estimations were a guess at best.

And so, the employees were sent to the local testing station but were told that because they didn’t have symptoms there would be no test.

Executives were forced to help employees tell lies to other testers to get the tests done. That disastrous testing policy is still in place and is the fundamental reason why the total shut down is “required”.

Some problems only a government can mismanage.