Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has faced criticism after announcing an inquiry into the pandemic that has been deemed inadequate and will allow state premiers to avoid scrutiny. Former deputy chief health officer, Dr Nick Coatsworth, has slammed the government’s proposed Covid pandemic inquiry, stating that it does not go far enough.
Albanese revealed the inquiry on Thursday, but made it clear that it would not investigate the actions of state or territory leaders. This omission has raised concerns, as Dr Coatsworth pointed out that many of the significant actions taken during the pandemic were carried out by state and territory governments. The government’s limited terms of reference also indicate that the inquiry will not delve into topics such as lockdowns or state border closures.
Dr Coatsworth had previously called for an inquiry that would examine whether independent public health powers should remain with states and territories during a health emergency. He argued that it is essential to determine who determines the proportionality of pandemic response and how the societal costs of restrictions are assessed and balanced against the need for disease control. An inquiry should also assess the actions of state governments and determine whether they were proportionate.
Although the Prime Minister has emphasized the importance of the inquiry, it is worth noting that Albanese had originally called for a more powerful Royal Commission instead. The current limited terms of reference mean that Labor state premiers like Dan Andrews will avoid scrutiny.
Albanese stated that the inquiry is necessary due to the significant impact of the pandemic on various aspects of society, including the loss of life and the economy. However, there are concerns that without a more comprehensive investigation, valuable lessons may be missed, and the opportunity to improve future responses to health emergencies may be lost.
It is crucial to examine both the successes and failures of the national and state responses to the pandemic. As Dr Coatsworth highlighted, this is not likely to be the last pandemic, and it is essential to learn from this experience to better prepare for future health crises.
Expanding the scope of the inquiry to include the actions of state and territory leaders, lockdown measures, and border closures would provide a more comprehensive understanding of Australia’s response to the pandemic. It would also enable the identification of areas where improvements can be made and ensure that all levels of government are held accountable for their actions.
In conclusion, the announcement of the inquiry into the pandemic has received criticism for its limited scope and the omission of key areas for investigation. To truly learn from this experience and improve future responses, it is vital that the inquiry examines the actions of state and territory governments, as well as the impacts of lockdowns and border closures. By doing so, Australia can better prepare for future health emergencies and ensure that all levels of government are held accountable.