Saturday, February 29, 2020

Remember This Peasants: Your Government Valued Somebody Else's Revenues/Profits Over Your Safety


SMH |  Was Australia about to put the cash flow of its universities ahead of the peoples' health in the middle of a pandemic? Was the Morrison government about to bungle the coronavirus response as badly as it did the bushfires?

As MPs and senators returned to Canberra this week for a parliamentary sitting, it was a topic of lively concern. Government members knew that the universities had been agitating behind the scenes for the China travel ban to be relaxed as soon as possible. Some 100,000 of their Chinese students are caught by the ban and the unis want them back in Australia. Paying fees.

The Chinese government had been complaining about the ban for weeks, too. Australia had been "discriminatory", according to the Chinese embassy in Canberra. In multiple meetings across the government, every week with the politicians who have let them in, China's officials have been pressing their case hard.

The travel ban was decided immediately after the US made the same call. Beijing instantly lashed both the US and Australia on that occasion – the Chinese Communist Party's official mouthpiece, People's Daily, calling it "racist".

But, of course, that decision now looks very wise, more so with each passing day. The WHO followed suit 10 days later. When Morrison announced the China travel ban four weeks ago, there were about 7000 infections disclosed by Beijing.

By Thursday this week that number had ballooned to 78,000. The number of countries announcing travel bans has grown proportionately, and mostly they have acted too late.

The political capture of the WHO means, in effect, that it's every country for itself. It also underlines the central importance of keeping politics and other extraneous pressures out of the decision-making processes on a medical matter. Likewise, China's early political cover-ups and bungling wasted precious weeks in containing the virus.

The Australian system for dealing with communicable diseases is less prone to politics. Morrison hid from the bushfires; he had no such option on the coronavirus. The Chief Medical Officer, Murphy, does not need the government's permission to invoke the Biosecurity Act. He informed Health Minister Greg Hunt on January 20 that he was triggering the act, automatically setting in train a pre-ordained process of monitoring and advice.