Who Is Running This State?
The South Australian Premier, Steven Marshall, and the State’s Chief Health Officer, Nicola Spurrier, don’t see eye-to-eye on Close Contact definition and the Close Contact Rule. The question is: Who is going to get their way? Or, to put it another way, who is really running South Australia?
At a National Cabinet meeting between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the State Premiers on Thursday, 30th December 2021, South Australia – along with the ACT, Queensland, NSW and Victoria – agreed to change the definition of “close contact.”
Covid Is Spinning Out Of Control
This is because Covid is spinning out of control, with the record daily cases being reset one day after another in many States. The definition the States had been running with meant that tracking all the close contacts of a positive case, contacting them and testing them, had turned into a logistical nightmare.
To make the system work again, it was necessary to change the rules. By narrowing the definition of “close contact,” the number of close contacts of a positive case drops and the Health Departments can all pretend they still have this under control. What has been conveniently ignored is what this change means in a broader sense.
Whichever Way You Look At It, It’s A Screwup
If the new definition is sufficiently broad, then the old definition was excessively broad, meaning an unnecessary number of people were being contacted and tested, wasting time and effort of the health workers, incurring unnecessary wages and materials costs, plus inconveniencing and worrying those people.
If the old definition was not excessively broad, then there are now an unknown number of people who should be, but are not, being tested.
That’s it. They can’t have it both ways. Either they were wasting resources previously, or they’re missing people now that they shouldn’t be. Whichever way you look at it, it’s a screwup. But let’s get back to the main story.
New Definition Of Close Contact
On Thursday, Steven Marshall signed off on a new definition of a close contact.
“Close contacts will be defined, except in exceptional circumstances, as those who usually live with or who have stayed in the same household for more than four hours as a case during their infectious period,” Morrison told reporters after the cabinet meeting.
“Those Rules Will Not Apply”
Less than 24 hours later, Nicola Spurrier said those rules would not apply in SA.
Asked whether South Australia would adopt the four-hour close contact rule, Spurrier told ABC radio: “No, we’re not using that four hour [measurement], that’s not something we discussed at AHPPC (Australian Health Protection Principal Committee).
“It’s not in the document that certainly I was involved with but, you know, I’m not at national cabinet.”
“I guess here in South Australia we’ve got our own way of doing our contact tracing,” she said.
The Tail is wagging the dog
In general conversation, it is quite normal for casual phraseology such as “you know” and “I guess” to be used. But it is simply not acceptable to use such imprecise language when outlining important policies. Because, you know, you’ve just contradicted the Premier and I guess I just want to know for sure who’s running the State.
The Tail Wagging The Dog
Call me old-fashioned, but I always thought that government ministers set policy and their departments carried out those policies. But it sounds to me very much like the tail is wagging the dog. You would think that the Premier would pull his officer into line. But no.
At a press conference on Friday afternoon, South Australian Premier Steven Marshall dismissed suggestions the State had moved away from the agreed national definition of a close contact.
“I don’t think we had an agreement on the four hours,” he said.
He doesn’t think we did?
Move aside, Steven Marshall. You’re not leading. Nicola Spurrier is running this State, and she’s not an elected official. You clearly have no idea what you’re doing, or what to do next. And given this final performance as 2021 stumbled blindly to a close, it has become apparent that you never did.