It feels like public patience is wearing thin on many fronts this week.
Covid19 and Other Agendas
People are tired of COVID19 being used as an excuse for unrelated agendas.
Like Woolworths and Coles wanting to change business trading hours in regional Queensland and blaming COVID19. Or big businesses not paying small suppliers and blaming COVID19.
COVID19 and Surprise Rule Changes
People are getting tired of random announcements of rule changes without warning.
While most welcome any easing, it is becoming downright difficult to know what the rules are anymore. For pubs and clubs and food businesses, it has just been exhausting.
COVID19 and Rules for Some
Most of all, people hate inconsistent applications of the law.
When some people are exempted from the rules, after the fact, the humble majority who have been doing the right thing feel mocked.
Front and centre were last weekend’s huge protests in support of Black Lives Matter.
I was very disappointed that the Queensland Government didn’t sit down with organisers and find another way for people to express their support without mass gatherings.
Historic Opportunity Lost
If we could do it for ANZAC Day, there was a way to do it for this – and it might have let all the Queenslanders who wanted to participate, do so. Not just the ones in Brisbane or Townsville. With some creativity and leadership, it could have been historic.
Instead, we now have a two-week wait to find out if it will cause an outbreak of COVID19. If it does, we are back to lockdown despite everyone’s best efforts.
Incentive for More Protests
In the meantime, expect to see more protests.
As I write, protestors are blockading a hotel in Kangaroo Point to prevent the transfer of refugees and they are calling for a mass protest there tomorrow.
It won’t be long before Extinction Rebellion is back on the streets. Perhaps they might superglue one protestor to the road every four square metres and so block the traffic in a COVID19- safe manner.
Hopeful New Milestone
We must hope the protestor who swabbed positive for COVID19 is a “one-off” because it would be a shame to return to lockdown after Wednesday’s reports of zero new cases of locally-acquired COVID19 in Australia.
Don’t Flatten the Economy
We have flattened the curve. We must now try to protect our economy. We are already in recession, according to the federal treasurer. We must do everything we can to stop that recession deepening.
In Queensland, we are currently in Stage Two of the “Roadmap to Easing Restrictions”. To be stuck here for months, or even go backwards will devastate many small businesses.
Not to mention the disruption if schools are closed again. We are in the hands of those protestors and can only hope there is no outbreak.
We might get lucky. We came through the local government elections unscathed. That was during the height of the pandemic and involved many more Queenslanders.
Speaking of the Election – What was that Problem?
Remember the problem with vote counting in those elections back at the end of March?
A Parliamentary Committee Inquiry has been told the problem was a new computer system. It had not been tested before the elections because “coding sources” were in COVID19 lockdown in Wuhan, China.
Yes, apparently, we have purchased the ECQ computer systems which run our elections from China.
When final testing, the week before the elections, showed that there were “unacceptable issues with security and load capacity” within the system, this prompted fears of being hacked and the Electoral Commission decided to use a “Plan B” website. They then experienced issues with data quality and data entry which resulted in delays.
What Is It with ECQ?
What is it with the ECQ? Their one job is to run our elections cleanly and efficiently. Well, the Inquiry might provide insights there as well.
According to the Department of Housing and Public Works, the ECQ has been having a “few difficult years”.
It started with the ECQ deciding to purchase a new computer system and massively underestimating the scope of the changes and the increase in skills and capacity it required.
To me this translates as, “They didn’t have a clue what they were doing.”
So, I guess we are lucky we weren’t posting the results on a blackboard.
Without downplaying the seriousness of the pandemic in any way, the ECQ saga illustrates why we mustn’t let COVID19 distract us from other serious issues that will also have long-lasting effects on Queensland.
Let us hope it is fixed by the State Government elections on October 31.
Premier Refuses to Release Child Safety Report
Another matter of grave importance is the apparently systemic failures in Queensland’s child safety system.
Last week, four years after his death, the Deputy Coroner handed down an absolutely scathing report into the death of Mason Jett Lee. Mason didn’t even make it to age two.
The report into his physical condition at the time of his death is just too harrowing to re-tell here.
Deputy Coroner Jane Bentley’s report reveals that 21 Queensland Child Safety officers had involvement with Mason. She said they failed him in “nearly every way possible”. It wasn’t just a failure; it was a repeated failure that betrayed this little boy and betrayed the trust reposed in these officers by the Queensland taxpayer. We pay them to do a job. They clearly didn’t do it.
So, What Happened to the 21?
None of the 21 Department of Child Safety officers were sacked. Nine received a reprimand. Three left of their own accord. It isn’t known what happened to the rest.
Three years ago – a year after Mason’s death, the Premier and former Child Safety Minister Shannon Fentiman promised publicly to release the comprehensive report into the case by the Child Death Review Panel.
Last week, the Premier changed her mind and refused to release it. Another secret report. So much for transparency.
Instead, she said she had ordered another review. She said the Public Service Commission would investigate all the staff involved. Given her track record, I doubt we will see that report either.
What Happened to the Minister?
Under Westminster traditions, Ministers resign from cabinet when there is such a massive failure by their department. Or they get sacked. It might seem personally unfair, but it acts as a check and balance. It motivates Ministers to know what is going on in their Departments.
Did either the current Minister, Di Farmer, or the Minister at the time, Shannon Fentiman, get sacked or resign. No. They didn’t even really apologise.
And as this unfolded, the parents of four year old Willow Dunn were charged with murder after she was found dead of neglect and malnourishment.
Perhaps, the Premier and the Minister will now listen to Deputy Coroner Bentley’s recommendations for changes in the Department, including the Carmody Inquiry’s recommendation on adoption as a safe and permanent option for children in-out-of-home care.
Thank you for reading this and engaging with the issues affecting Queensland. While this was a tougher letter than usual, I hope it sparks discussions. If you wish to share this information, please feel free to simply forward this email.
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Lachlan Millar MP
Member for Gregory and
Shadow Minister for Fire, Emergency Services and Volunteers.