MUNGO MACCALLUM.-Confusing and often self-contradictory messages on Covid-19

As so often with Morrison, there is no overall strategy – simply a series of reactive measures which, he hopes, will do the job unless a next one is needed. and then another one, and another one …

Scott Morrison insists that his message is clear – the government is fully on top of the coronavirus crisis, there is no reason for doubt or uncertainty.

Well, up to a point, prime minister. Viewed individually, ScoMo’s present barrage of edicts are indeed firm and unequivocal. If they are taken at face value, there is no room for confusion.

But the problem is that, taken together, they are not only confusing but often self-contradictory. As so often with Morrison, there is no overall strategy – simply a series of reactive measures which, he hopes, will do the job unless a next one is needed. and then another one, and another one …

The basic dilemma that has still not been resolved is whether we are to treat this as a disaster on a truly monumental scale, a crisis like the great pandemics of the past, rivaling world wars and the Great Depression in their long term destruction; or a temporary set back – a severe one, no doubt, but an aberration that can be managed with a shit load of taxpayer money a dash of discipline and patriotism until we bounce back and a resiient Australia resumes its triumphal progress under the steady and stable hands of the coalition.

In the first scenario, we have closed our borders, the Reserve Bank has taken unprecedented steps to save the remnants of a devastated economy and a quasi state of emergency is in place – there is even talk of the free-enterprise government considering nationalising sections of industry and rationing essential goods

But on the other side, gatherings have been limited but not shut down, schools, universities and even casinos remain open for business, and although I have been condemned to home isolation, I am able — indeed encouraged – to watch TV sport in which groups of athletes indulge in as much close personal contact as possible.

And there is confusion at all levels. In spite of Morrison’s worthy initiative in bringing the state and territory leaders into a national cabinet, he has mean-mindedly excluded the federal opposition .. Anthony Albanese has pointedly not been offered a guernsey. Although the idea is apparently to coordinate a nationwide approach Tasmania has effectively seceded from the mainland. Mixed messages galore.

And there is little point in telling everyone else to shut up and do what we are told, when those telling us admit that things are changing too fast for even them to catch up. The chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy, said last week that the schools would, must, stay open – for now, but if circumstances changed, so would the policy.

Fair enough, but hardly reassuring to those who are already conflicted about what to do with their children. The Catholics are in open warfare, and some others in the private sector are voting with their feet. The arguments are complex and there is sense on both sides.

Morrison is adhering to the official, current, advice – he says he is happy to send his own children to school and for what it’s worth I feel the same about my grandchildren. But I do not regard Morrison’s – or my own – preference as making the position, or the message, unequivocally clear.

It would be nice to think that the resumption of parliament will sort it all out. Perhaps such wishful thinking is about all we have left.

Mungo MacCallum is a former senior Canberra Press Gallery correspondent.


Mungo MacCallum is a veteran political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy.

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6 Responses to MUNGO MACCALLUM.-Confusing and often self-contradictory messages on Covid-19

  1. Avatar Jim Anthony says:

    Mungo MacCallum is every bit as good as he was in the 70s when I had a job with then Senator Lionel Murphy and later as Senator Wheeldon’s Private Secretary, head of his Ministerial Staff.
    Mungo’s prose has always been pithy, crisp, clean, even elegant. It has invariably been a pleasure to read what he has had to say even when I might have disagreed with him. After all these many years Mungo continues to be a superb wordsmith in his line of business. He’s not Patrick White, to be sure.

    Mungo is, has been, and continues to be master of a niche form in Australian journalism. Patrick White was a giant in another domain. Both great Australians. Looking at both of them, now from the outside in, I admire them both not less than I admired Gough Whitlam of whom I was always in awe–at least somewhat. On one occasion when when was PM, and I had an appointment to see him in his office just off of King’s Hall, he said, when I knocked, “Come on in, Jim, take off your boots and have a sit down.” Mungo Maccullum, Patrick White, John Wheeldon, Lionel Murphy, Gough Whitlam — all different, but all great Australians in country that seems to be rapidly going to seed–becoming third rate.

  2. Avatar Allan Kessing says:

    I love the thought of Caesar overriding the god botherers by closing churches, mosques & synagogues – how does that fit with the proposed Bill granting priviliged rights to religiously deluded?

  3. Avatar Geoff Andrews says:

    It would be interesting to know just how closely Morrison et al followed to the letter, the early advise given by the medicos & scientists. For example, about 6 weeks ago the protection of the “surplus” would have been more important than quarantining all overseas travelers for two weeks. How many days were lost hugging the mythical surplus to his bosom. I haven’t really understooh how the bloody thing is transmitted – with all the hand wringing about hand washing, one suspects it may be oral, but then we have the 2 metre rule, which seems to assume that all our exhaled breath accumulates in a spherical ball two metres in diameter.
    And why aren’t we being given the statistics of where clusters of contacts have occurred so we can avoid those districts.

  4. Avatar Mary Kelly says:

    The government is in uncharted territory as is most of the world .
    Of course there will be some mistakes and mixed messages. This is not deliberate action to gain political points. In times like this it might be an idea to be more positive and supportive and work together, it is so easy to sit and criticise .

  5. Avatar Eugenie Lumbers says:

    Morrison does not sound convincing but Gladys is good and straightforward
    Morrison’s lack of desire not to take any responsibility for anything muddles his approach to the public. Platitudes are not enough

  6. Avatar Stephen Saunders says:

    Jesus rose at Easter. Could be the Morrison-Murphy line will have to be revised, and our schools will stay in the cave.

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