For a city that has, on multiple occasions, prided itself on being a world-class city by international standards, it hasn't been the best week for Canberra.
In fact, even the average punter with only a middling interest in the city's much-anticipated autumn events calendar would have to agree the excuse put forward last week for the shock cancellation of next year's National Multicultural Festival has made us look decidedly provincial.
As ACT Multicultural Affairs Minister Tara Cheyne would have it, the small team of public servants tasked with organising the festival was redeployed to help deal with the government's pandemic response.
She said the festival normally took about 10 months to organise and the three-month diversion had "decimated" the lead-in time.
But this leads to so many obvious questions by right-thinking citizens, many of whom look forward to the festival as a flagship event as the city heads into autumn.
Namely, are there so few capable workers in the territory that no one was left in the advent of the lockdown crisis to take over? What about the dozens of community organisations that look forward to and rely on the event each year as a vital form of community engagement? What does this say about the multiple other events that are still going ahead, such as Enlighten, the Balloon Festival and the National Folk Festival?
And since when, in these late stages of a pandemic that has already worn everyone down to the point of exhaustion, did this become an either/or situation as to where the government's priorities lay?
It was clear relatively early in the lockdown that Canberra was well on its way to becoming highly vaccinated, and that a relatively normal Christmas was on the cards. But as lockdown dragged on, it became ever more vital to focus on the future, and on events and experiences we would all be able to enjoy in the months ahead.
How was organising a clearly foreseen and much-loved event allowed to take the backseat in this instance?
Travel is now back on the cards, the New Year's Eve fireworks are going ahead, life is steadily returning to normal and somehow, five or so public servants couldn't be spared in what seemed, to the average onlooker, like a highly-coordinated and well-planned government response to the Delta outbreak.
It should also be noted that the ACT government has been dragging its feet on whether to bid for games in the 2027 Rugby World Cup, citing concerns about the difficulty the territory has in competing against cashed-up interstate governments with bigger games and newer venues.
Most liveable international city? Perhaps not. One could be forgiven for wondering whether COVID has put paid to any forward-thinking optimism on our government's part.
As soon as it became clear Australia would be able to vaccinate its way out of the COVID crisis, governments all over the country have been focused on the future, on accepting the premise it looks bright. After two years of disappointment, it's vital now event organisers everywhere give punters something to look forward to.
But to suggest the lockdown diverting staff away is a reasonable excuse for cancelling an event that's still several months away is nonsense.
It suggests nothing was done ahead of lockdown - or later - when our path out of lockdown was set.
It makes the ACT government look provincial and chaotic. Hardly the image we want to project of the world's most vaccinated - if not most liveable - city.
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