Northern Beaches Hospital - Parliamentary inquiry report - Paul to SMH, 27 Feb 2020

The report of the Parliamentary Committee inquiry into the Northern Beaches Hospital was published today.

Its recommendations are as much about re-establishing services at Mona Vale Hospital as about the NBH. This confirms the folly of Brad Hazzard’s decision as Planning Minister in October 2012 to site the NBH Hospital in what NSW Health’s “robust qualitative analysis” in 2005 deemed to be a poor third-choice location, an error which will be further exacerbated when we finally learn the quantum of the cost blow-out with the associated roading “up-grade”, currently running almost two years behind schedule.

The Committee’s single “Finding", and the related recommendation “that the NSW Government not enter into any public private partnerships for future public hospitals”, constitute a clear admission that this model was a serious mistake. Unfortunately no-one seems to be even considering the possibility that the government negotiate/buy Healthscope out of the contract.

In an honourable world, the politicians responsible for this débacle would be falling on their swords.

Stupidity? Weakness? Greed? - Paul to SMH, 9 March

One of the main recommendations regarding coronavirus is to avoid crowds. Overseas, major sporting events are being postponed or take place behind closed doors, to be watched only on tv. But what does Australia do? It allows 86,174 to cram into the MCG! 

 Did Cricket Australia, or whoever was running the tournament, even consult the medical authorities? Firstly playing in dangerous bushfire smoke, now this. Are the medical authorities too weak to act? Or are they under the thumb of politicians who consider sport more important than people's lives? I suspect greed comes into the equation too.

Commission to sign off on NRL return - Paul to SMH, 9 Apr 2020

Can someone please get it into the thick, stubborn, irresponsible heads of the NRL, and seemingly some in government too, that this pandemic will not be over by 21 May, nor 21 June, nor any date until there are no new cases for at least a month, ideally not until there is a vaccine?

As they did by starting the season in the first place, by even considering a resumption the NRL are treating the virus, their players, and the public with arrogant contempt. The government is apparently complicit, especially if it plans to make exceptions to the existing regulations on the NRL's behalf. That would send a hugely dangerous message.

The fundamental need to protect each other by avoiding human interaction as much as possible will remain for many months.

Not so fast, Mr V'Landys - Paul to SMH, 15 Apr 2020

The NRL claim to have written approval from the NSW government to resume playing. They haven't read Commissioner Fuller's letter of 8 April very carefully. What it says is "the NSW Health Minister's directions would not preclude the commencement of the modified NRL competition ". But crucially Mr Fuller's penultimate paragraph stresses that the NRL "must comply with all State and Federal Work, Safety and Health requirements and ensure that a safe workplace is maintained for all participants ". It is the Federal element which Mr V'landys is choosing to ignore. 

The Federal Department of Health web site contains a FAQ On Covid-19 [] . It includes the following: "All Australians are required to stay home unless it is absolutely necessary to go outside". No 'pub test', or even leagues club test, would hold professional sport to be 'absolutely necessary'. It goes on to say "domestic travel is to be avoided", and "when out of your home it is even more important to practice ... social distancing", "You should avoid contact with others (stay more than 1.5 metres from people)", and so on. 

The NRL aren't just dreaming, they are being thoroughly irresponsible in trying to bully government into relaxing regulations which are necessary to protect us all. Yet only yesterday the PM was prevaricating about "it depends on the health advice at the time". Whose advice? The CMO or the NRL's private, anonymous 'expert'? 

Get off the fence, Mr Morrison. Protecting our lives comes before protecting the bank balances of professional sport.

Coronavirus - Paul to SMH, 25 March 2020

On 18 March, Greg Hunt, federal Minister of Health, signed an order banning cruise ships from entering Australian ports from that date, with the exception of ships already en route to Australia effective midnight 15 March. The Ruby Princess was one of apparently 13 [source ABC] vessels which benefitted from this exemption.

The order recognised that cruise ships were notorious incubators of coronavirus, but Mr Hunt failed to make explicit the obvious implication that the 13 exempt vessels should be subject to the most rigorous scrutiny and testing of passengers before they were allowed to disembark. That’s failure number one.

The Australian Border Force Commissioner, Mr Outram, has publicly denied responsibility for allowing the passengers to enter Australia, although he [as Comptroller-General of Customs] is the sole person named in Mr Hunt’s order as being responsible for its implementation. Mr Outram is part of Peter Dutton’s department, which I understand is constitutionally charged with border security, specifically including quarantine. Dutton didn’t “stop the boats” when it mattered. Failure number two.

The ABC quotes Vicky Sheppeard, NSW Health director of communicable diseases, as saying “NSW Health had undertaken risk assessments on all vessels that had arrived in port … the Ruby Princess was considered to be low risk.” This despite reports of significant numbers of respiratory illness cases on board. So they didn’t bother testing passengers and waiting for results. In the current environment, that is unforgivable. The NSW minister responsible is Brad Hazzard. Failure number three.

They’re all pointing the finger of blame. All three - Hunt, Dutton and Hazzard - are culpable for the criminal negligence which has been a major contributor to the accelerating spread of this killer virus throughout Australia and beyond. How will they be held to account?

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