No jab, no say: Either join the fight to keep us all safe, or stop complaining

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Before we go too far, let me lay down some markers.

If you have been eligible, but have simply not bothered to get the jab, you have disqualified yourself from whinging about lockdown. You have not done the one thing you can do to contribute to communal safety.

Safety first: People queue up for COVID-19 vaccination at the Melbourne convention centre.Credit:Eddie Jim

If you refuse vaccination, you forfeit your place in the recovery. No jab, no say.
Annoyed at standing in a queue for a few hours? People think nothing of doing that for football final tickets or to see their favourite band, so why the whining when it helps save lives?

If you walk around with a mask over just your mouth but not your nose, I decline any conversation about how annoying lockdown is. You are not taking the simplest precaution yourself. Likewise, anyone who still refuses to mask on public transport.

If you are not consistently using the universal QR code, now that it is finally available after absurd delay, then similarly hit your mute button. The sooner there is ruthless enforcement of QR codes, the better.

There is a profound economic mismatch around COVID. The fallout is so unevenly distributed. As well as the pandemically panicked, there are also the pandemically prosperous. Some people live payday to payday, others are raking it in like never before.

The economic impact of the pandemic on household incomes has been diverse.Credit:Getty Images

If you have contributed to the record sales for luxury and sports cars, or the price boom in classic and collectable cars, or the six-month wait for a new 4WD, I do not want to hear you complain about how awful COVID has been.

The ASX has hit record highs, the real estate boom continues unchecked, home renovations are constrained by a shortage of tradies, the economy is choking on capacity constraints and will continue to do so until immigration resumes.

Economic growth has exceeded all predictions – but the whingers have never been louder. And the loudest are often those doing the best! Go figure.

Because the economic rebound is uneven, assistance is still needed for the performing arts, some tourism operations, universities, businesses dependent on overseas students – they are all feeling the pain. Those businesses that rorted JobKeeper ought be hounded until they help out those who got nothing.

Although some cafe and restaurant operators are rightly anxious, it must be said that neither entertaining nor eating are the core of our economy. I do not want to seem harsh, nor to waste any very expensive empathy training, but this is discretionary spending. The real economy is not built on concerts, exhibitions, cafe lattes and over-sized plates offering seared tuna with a cheeky mango salsa.

This week, I have been in touch with friends in Canada, France and the USA. They are all astonished that we are locked down over a handful of cases. People there are dying every day, new infection numbers are multiples higher than ours – and no lockdown. Their attitude to COVID is a resigned fatalism – some people will die but life goes on.

Yet our hard-line approach is widely supported. Sure, it would be better if more paramedics were vaccinated, if the offer by aged-care operators to vaccinate their own staff had been met with agreement instead of refusal, if the new quarantine facility had been fast-tracked and was now ready instead of delayed.

Complacency by the populace but more so by bureaucrats and political leaders has been our weakest link. The sense of urgency that characterised the initial response a year ago was lost during the smooth sailing of summer and autumn. The absurd notion that there was no rush to get the population vaccinated, that key personnel did not need to be closely monitored, that staff who work in aged and disability care could resume working in multiple venues – these were critical errors.

Richard Colbeck, Greg Hunt and Scott Morrison with PPE masks over their eyes, ears and mouth.Credit:Illustration: Matt Davidson

Aged Care Minister Senator Richard Colbeck, whose pre-parliamentary career in Tasmania ironically was in project management, seems to have a very different understanding of ministerial accountability to everyone else. Except his boss, the PM.

Senator Colbeck’s demeanour at Senate Estimates this past week, and the PM turning his back on reasonable and legitimate questions in the Parliament, suggest arrogance and a sense of entitlement. They both seem irritated at the very notion of being held to account.

Health Minister Greg Hunt reverts to the debating techniques from his university days, leaving us knowing he has “great respect” for his inquisitors on TV and radio – but no genuine answers to their persistent and fair questions. He needs to step out of the political bubble and grasp each interview as an opportunity to inform rather than to deny what everyone can plainly see.

From here – express track the inexcusably delayed stand-alone quarantine base. Commission some clear public health messages that are not delivered by stern doctors in white coats wagging their fingers. Use humour, popular culture, faces we trust from diverse backgrounds. Enforce QR code compliance.

Oh, and while I am at it, stop throttling universities and treating the media as if they are the enemy. Save that for the virus.

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