This is a subject I tackled last week in this column, but when I came across the phrase ‘one country, eight systems’ it was too good a line to let slip by without giving it a run.
The events of the weekend and this week, has seen the pandemic come right back to front of mind for the whole country. This is a wake up call for everyone who was starting to feel complacent, deciding to not worry about checking in as they enter a café, not bothering to go and get a vaccination when it was available.
The crisis also brings into sharp focus the problems with our federal system of government with its blurred lines of responsibility and tendency to blame all of the other levels of government when things go wrong.
We have heard about the issues going on in China as Hong Kong realises that the ‘one country, two systems’ promised by mainland China, when it took back Hong Kong, is now gradually being turned into ‘one country, one system’ and a pretty repressive one at that.
Here in Australia we do not have the same freedom of speech issues, but we do have an unclear set of dividing lines between who is responsible for what. We also have a central government from one political party going up against a bunch of state governments from the other side of politics.
They all have their own agendas and are at loggerheads over priorities and solutions in many fields. Breakouts of Covid-19 tend to escalate those conflicts from backroom argie-bargie to open conflict by soundbites in the media.
All of this conflict doesn’t help a sector like the transport industry, which is deemed to be an essential service and then hamstrung from doing its job properly by each state bringing in a different set of rules and regulations every time the pandemic status changes somewhere in the country.
This week has seen some wins, with Queensland suspending night curfews to allow supermarkets to restock toilet roll shelves on a 24 hour basis. However, the outbreak has prompted different state border restrictions at each interstate crossing.
Drivers out on the road are expected to keep up to date with the latest requirements and apply for the right permit and have the right paperwork in place. Entering NSW, truckies have to have entry declarations for every state they have been in during the last fourteen days.
Let’s hope against hope that after a couple of years of knee jerk reactions every time the pandemic rears its ugly head, the states can come up with a nationally coherent system which will be easily understood and effective at protecting everyone’s health. I am not holding my breath!