Playacting government: Victoria’s COVID response

Dan Andrews said that his ‘Road Map’ for easing the lockdown is not a doctoral thesis – a proposition that’s hard to argue with. Further propositions will be offered at subsequent press conferences.

Life in the West is increasingly reminding me of the old Soviet joke. “We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us”.

 

Herewith an email I received this morning.

Nick I am going troppo about the Vic policy response

– still denying aerosol transmission and its implications
– still rationing N95 masks which is contributing to these hospital outbreaks
– still haven’t got fit testing mobilised and its roll out scope is limited to covid interacting HCWs

We are counting the costs of pennies in the PPE/health care precautionary response while blithely managing the results via lock downs at the cost of billions.

This fit testing thing. I just booked to get fit tested in November with a private PPE company – they were available for me to book any day of the month.

How is that possible!? How have they and all their competitors not been effectively nationalised – every fit test machine, every fit test technician, mobilised to deploy to hospitals, GP clinics, aged care homes?

It is a similar story on testing. In Melbourne we are just now trialling the remarkable innovation of “third ring” testing. In Qingdao, the Chinese government’s response to a small outbreak is reportedly to test all nine million residents.

Why – in OCTOBER – has the government not said to every leader of every health function in the state: you have no budget constraints. Buy any mask you need at any price. Test anyone you need at any price. There is no cost you can incur that is not worth it if it means even one day sooner out of lock down.

This response is not just incompetent, it’s insane somehow – deeply dissociative.

And my own retweet from yesterday

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5 Responses to Playacting government: Victoria’s COVID response

  1. Nicholas

    Any ideas , why Victoria’s government systems are so resistant to improvement?

  2. Moz in Oz says:

    One can’t help but suspect that if Victorians were less stubborn about voting for the wrong party(s) they would get much better service from the federal government. But as it is they make a convenient scapegoat for all the people dying in areas controlled by the feds.

    I’m not saying that ALP Victoria are particularly competent, but it’s hard for me to look at my state government in NSW and conclude that they’re the reason we haven’t been hit as hard as Vic.

  3. JJ says:

    I used to work in DHHS – it was a basket case and has got worse since according to ex-colleagues. My a bit rambly perspective and some anecdotes – the problem is both historical and current. Globally public service capacity has been in decline for a long time (Laura Tingle wrote a quarterly essay on Australia). Victoria is representative of that with special features. In 1992 when I started (and I’m not saying that was the start of the decline), health and human services were merged. Since then it has mainly gone downhill similarly to the rest of the world (except for a period in the early 2000s when no wholesale restructure took place for 8! years under a stable secretary).

    These articles by Lindsay Grayson are excellent: https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/politics-lies-at-the-heart-of-the-victorian-health-department-s-problems-20200707-p559pp.html and https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/victoria-s-health-department-needs-a-total-restructure-20200922-p55y1e.html. I agree that health needs to be a department in its own right (they were split in 2009 and re-amalgamated by Daniel Andrews in 2014). The culture declined significantly at the merger in 2014. An ex-colleague told me recently that health has almost disappeared in the department.

    Also add to that the doubling of executives under Daniel Andrews. I understand the Saturday Paper wrote about this and how they are generalists. Another ex-colleague told me that even though they had a great manager and team, everyone had been pushed down a level (due to the extra execs) and it was all so pointless and they retired recently.

    As a concrete example of how bad the infrastructure was: when I was there about 4 years ago, there was NO electronic filing system. So basically no filing took place. HR used only shared network drives to store personnel records – they destroyed paper copies. (btw the Auditor-General did a report on filing and didn’t even pick this up). I don’t know if this has been fixed.

    And you can’t fix a problem of decades in the making in months, especially when the same key personnel (including the Premier) are in charge – remember that Departmental Secretaries are appointed by him not Ministers and have been since Jeff. I’m told that they brought in Essington-Lewis of BHP to lead the public service and fix things at the start of WW2 – you need to recognise the problem to deal with it.

    https://www.noemamag.com/the-long-shadow-of-the-future/ – thinks actual capacity will matter – we can only hope.

    • JJ
      “First, a government or society’s capacity for technical competence in executing plans matters more than ideology or structure.”

      Could have been said by John Monash.
      Going off the experience of friends working in Canberra this sort of problem, these days is widespread. And its probably revealing that it take a situation as extreme as the current one to bring it to at least some degree of public awareness, and even then it seems so resistant to change-improvement.

  4. JJ says:

    As tweeted by Nick, summarises a fair bit of it beautifully – https://www.quarterlyessay.com.au/correspondence/correspondence-john-quiggin-0

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