Dr Lindsay Grayson, a leading infectious disease expert, was scathing this week in his claim that ‘‘the Victorian Health Department is one of the worst-funded and dysfunctionally organised in the nation’’. While strongly praising those who work in the department, he blames a lack of resources at their disposal and its poor management structure for its inability to properly manage the enormous logistical response needed to combat the pandemic.
With anything as complex as the spread of an extremely contagious virus, laying blame for an outbreak is no simple task. What we do know is that COVID-19 will thrive in any environment where it finds a weakness in our defences, whether that be an individual breaking the rules, a workplace failing to follow proper protocols or a government department lacking the resources to properly carry out its obligations. Premier Daniel Andrews has said on many occasions individual responsibility is absolutely central to combating the virus. He is right.
But what is also essential is a government that is transparent and accountable for the decisions it makes. While hindsight is a wonderful thing, mistakes have been made. Admitting to those mistakes is not to undermine the remarkable efforts being made every day by many thousands of people playing a role in combating the virus. Instead, it helps us avoid them in future.
The Age has supported much of Mr Andrews’ response to the pandemic. He is facing a crisis on a scale few of his predecessors could even imagine. But when he repeatedly brushes off credible criticism and avoids difficult questions by deferring them all to inquiries, he leaves himself open to harsher judgment. Public trust in government is crucial during this time. That has to be earned, and cannot easily be restored once it is lost.