OPINION

We need someone to lead our recovery. The pattern shows it's not the PM

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (right) and Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly address the media last Thursday. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Prime Minister Scott Morrison (right) and Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly address the media last Thursday. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Tomorrow marks two years since Australia recorded its first coronavirus case.

These two years have been incredibly difficult for all Australians, but some communities have done it tougher than others - and this needs to be acknowledged.

We've all faced uncertainty throughout this pandemic, but my heart continues to go out to our Black Summer bushfire survivors, many of whom were forced to follow "stay at home orders" when they didn't have a home to stay in.

When our communities needed to band together in recovery, lockdowns forced them apart. When we were desperate for tourists to kickstart our economies, border closures kept visitors away.

Two years on, only a very small percentage of the homes destroyed in the Black Summer bushfires have been rebuilt. Most are still living in temporary accommodation, trying to navigate paperwork and red tape, waiting for approvals to be finalised or for a builder to become available.

Community and volunteer groups were pitted against big business and local councils for bushfire recovery grant funding. Competitive grant funding following a disaster does nothing to bring communities together.

Worse still is when dedicated mitigation and resilience funding sits in government coffers earning interest instead of being used to make communities safer for the next disaster.

This is a mistake that won't be repeated under an Albanese-led government.

In Parliament last year when I spoke about the bushfires, a government minister said, "With all due respect, the bushfires were 18 months ago."

This comment is an insult to Eden-Monaro communities, and is reflective of the lack of leadership and compassion from our Prime Minister and his party.

Scott Morrison has failed our bushfire-affected communities. He failed them when he was in Hawaii when he should have been here. He failed them when he said "I don't hold a hose," and he continues to fail them by refusing to lead.

Leadership is crucial in times of crisis. When communities are in an emergency, they expect their Prime Minister to have their back and to lead them forward.

For two years Scott Morrison has skirted responsibility, saying "It's not my job" or "It's a matter for the states."

Well, we are two years into our bushfire recovery, and people are still living in caravans. We are two years into this pandemic, and our healthcare workers are exhausted and overwhelmed, our supermarket shelves are empty, and it's nearly impossible to get a rapid COVID test.

The Prime Minister is patting himself on the back and running television ads saying he has secured a supply of rapid antigen tests, but the fact is that across Eden-Monaro businesses have been told by their suppliers that their orders had been requisitioned by the government.

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Multiple pharmacies have contacted me, full of frustration that rapid antigen tests they'd ordered for our communities had been pilfered by a government that was again too slow to act.

Last year people in Eden-Monaro had their vaccine appointments cancelled so their vaccines could be diverted to Sydney students. Now rapid antigen tests that were supposed to be delivered to Cooma, Bega, Braidwood, Tumut and Yass have been commandeered by the government, with no assurance that these tests will return to our regional communities.

The Prime Minister's lack of leadership and preparation means COVID numbers are out of control and our health system is near breaking point.

Regional communities are suffering from crippling staff shortages, businesses are being forced to close their doors and now we're looking down the barrel of more stress and uncertainty. All because our Prime Minister refuses to lead or to take responsibility.

But let us not forget - this is a pattern of behaviour from Scott Morrison. Even before this pandemic, he left behind those that were terrified and desperate for a helping hand.

Australians need a Prime Minister that will lead our pandemic recovery.

After a decade of the Coalition goverment and three years under Morrison, we have a government that's failing bushfire survivors. It's clear we can rely on Morrison to make big promises - but we certainly can't rely on him when it comes to any kind of recovery, and my communities certainly can't chance another three years of inaction.

  • Kristy McBain is a Labor MP and the member for Eden-Monaro.
This story We need someone to lead our recovery. The pattern shows it's not the PM first appeared on The Canberra Times.