When someone says, "I take responsibility for the problems that we have had, but I am also taking responsibility for the solutions we are putting in place" you know they failed. The embedded qualification; the pointing elsewhere reveals the truth: it's not an apology; it's self-justification.
Morrison spat out the words "I'm certainly sorry", while in the same breath completely exonerating himself and willing away the reality of failure: a nation in lockdown. But such intransigence isn't the point of this column.
Think, rather, of what this episode reveals about government. The willingness of (almost) everyone to abandon the game and kick the ball of responsibility elsewhere.
It's time to consider your own personal risk calculus. Nobody else will. The public sphere has been fracturing for years and today it's finally broken apart. The AstraZeneca debacle demonstrates the inability of politicians, bureaucrats, and experts - even state and federal governments - to work together effectively.
The PM's right that people should get inoculated if it's a choice between the risk of coronavirus (killing, say, one in a hundred) and vaccination (a one-in-a-million chance of death). But that's not the equation. The question is: why didn't Morrison order Pfizer earlier?
Politicians are addicted to adulation. They don't want to risk alienating any constituent - even for a moment. That's why the NSW Premier held off imposing a lockdown. Bureaucrats aren't dumb.
They found a way to tailor advice for their political masters so as to offend as few interest groups (such as hardware stores, home interior shops, or interstate removals firms) as possible. And experts? Well, the very concept of scientific knowledge or truth is so traduced now as to allow the decision makers to shop around for exactly the answer they require.
That's why the crises will continue coming. Yesterday it was fire; today, corona; tomorrow, something else. The government keeps poking Beijing and canvassing the imminent possibility of war. This should be enough to terrify us all.
The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs has revealed his concerns that administration officials were working energetically to initiate a war with Iran during the final months of the Trump presidency. He began taking deliberate actions, even refusing meetings, to avoid conflict. Next time we might not be so lucky. It's time to get prepared. And what better moment than now, the beginning of a new financial year?
So first, go through your inventory of crucial needs. Toilet paper? Tick, but there's much more to personal preparedness than having an extra 12, 24 or 36 rolls in the cupboard. I could use a snap diet and so food's probably not an issue either.
The biggest issue is the country's most obvious and absolutely critical vulnerability - fuel. All that hollow talk from Peter Dutton and Mike Pezzullo about preparing for possible war with China is exposed for the rubbish it is as soon as you recognise the wheels would quite literally stop turning within a month because of lack of fuel.
The government announced it would add to the strategic reserve by buying more petrol and then made the tactically ridiculous decision to store it in the US. How it would suddenly appear in petrol bowsers over here isn't particularly clear. So next time you're in a hardware store, buy a couple of empty jerrycans ready to fill the next time someone talks of war.
This doesn't, however, address the country's exposure. Australia wouldn't even need to provoke a crisis for disaster to strike. A couple of precision strikes by missiles on the convoys of slow-moving fuel tankers in the Gulf would swiftly cripple the entire world. The economic logic of interconnectedness and just-in-time supply chains means there's no redundancy in the system, even though this is vital for resilience.
So ignore government posturing about its purchase of a few upgraded tanks. When the time comes they'll be left sitting, immobile, on the road next to your own stranded vehicle.
Make sure you've got candles, matches and a battery-powered radio in the cupboard, though, because other forms of power are likely to stop flowing too. There were strong rumours earlier this year that a superpower considered using computer viruses to (temporarily?) paralyse a portion of its rival's electrical grid.
Every society has now become so completely dependent on the internet for communications, banking, commerce and control systems that the idea an attack could be quarantined to a particular sector appears implausible. The problem is that the side that strikes first would almost certainly possess a huge advantage and thus dramatically increasing the risk of escalation.
So while it might be nice to have your mortgage suddenly vanish, "pouf", along with the rest of your banks database, being unable to pay for your morning coffee electronically would quickly become the least of your problems.
The value of a dollar note would increase in value because there would be, quite literally, not enough money to go round. And what if, for no apparent reason at all, there was a sudden crisis in the Australian currency? Have you got at least one foreign exchange account ready to transfer your money into, just in case our dollar begins to fall through the floor?
Everybody should be maintaining, at the very least, back-up copies of assets and liabilities (actually, you might want to forget those) in case electronic armageddon strikes. The ensuing chaos would be incredible - every days additional personal resilience could prove vital.
Such cataclysm is no longer the work of febrile imagination and horror movies. In early 1914 the world was more interconnected than ever before; most of the crowned heads of Europe were closely related to each other. A decade later that world was shattered. Then, two decades later, the world ripped itself apart again. Don't think it can't happen again.
But don't worry. The politicians will be looking after themselves. You're on your own.
- Nicholas Stuart is a Canberra writer and a regular columnist.
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