What did we learn from Scott Morrison’s mea culpa and precis of his Government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic at the National Press Club on Tuesday?
While referring to the up-ending of lives and livelihoods and how exhausting ‘…financially, emotionally and psychologically’ the last two years have been for Australians. Primarily, the decisions made, he said, were about ‘…getting the balance right [between the] twin goals to save lives and to save livelihoods, [and to] balance health objectives with our broader societal and economic wellbeing.’ What seemed the only concession was that ‘decisions are made in real time but with hindsight the view does change.’
For when it came to the most onerous and controlling aspects of that governmental response to the pandemic – the role of the states in locking down and denying the right to work for whole sectors of the community, sometimes for months; mandating vaccinations for everyone and moving to segregate the vaccinated from the unvaccinated, physically and psychologically harming their own residents – areas where lessons should have been learnt and acknowledged, or never have been countenanced let alone undertaken in a liberal democracy – that mea culpa was absent.
Justification instead was the order of the day with Morrison further stating: ‘The pandemic did not suspend the constitution or the federation. It did not change what the States and the Commonwealth have always been responsible for: they didn’t get any more powers they didn’t get any less; and I have always sought to put the national interest first by seeking to work together with the Premiers and the Chief Ministers through the National Cabinet and not engage in petty fights…my job was keep everybody together in the room working together…and I have sought to work together…’
What Morrison is arguing here is that the national interest is all about “facilitating” and “supervising.” In effect, this is a “managerial” response. And though his offered mea culpa in his speech, we see this mindset continue to the present, as the Prime Minister in the last day offered clear support for the W.A. Premier’s decision to renege on the promised and previously locked-in February 5 border re-opening.
So Australians are left wondering, where is moral authority in this country? Where is ‘…the trustworthiness to make decisions that are right and good’ (Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary: moral authority)? Where in effect is the moral authority of the Office of the Prime Minister of Australia?