Lisa Wilkinson: Dear Prime Minister, Lock Us Down Now
Dear Prime Minister, I get it. We all get it.
Right now you have a job not one of us – with the likely exception of Anthony Albanese – would want.
The crisis you are having to navigate is as unprecedented as it was sudden, an unimaginable horror of extraordinary complexity. And with so many voices - expert and otherwise - in your ear right now, as those heartbreaking scenes of welfare queues extend around the block and the medical world screams for more resources that you don’t necessarily have – it is perhaps understandable that your full focus hasn’t been on “messaging”.
But I write now with a gentle plea.
Prime Minister, Australia is confused. And the idiots at Bondi Beach aside, we’ve never been more prepared to do the right thing, but the problem is it's just not clear what the right thing is at the moment.
Shane Warne put it so well after watching your press conference on Tuesday evening, tweeting: “Listening to the PM like everyone here in Aust & what I understood was: ‘It’s essential. Unless it’s not. Then it’s essentially not essential. I can’t be clearer’. Plus people can buy a new shirt at a shopping centre ? WTF? PM just had a shocker. Surely should be in lockdown now.”
Warne’s confusion was mirrored across Australia. The ABC journalist Emma Alberici saying: “Ok - 10 people can mourn together .. 5 people can celebrate a wedding but if the bride intends to go on a runner .. for exercise ... she can take 9 people with her. Glad we cleared that up.”
It was also good to clear up whether or not tanning, waxing and nail salons can or can’t stay open. But are those words we really want to hear from our leader at a time of national crisis? Waxing?
It is inconceivable that Jacinda Ardern would be putting out a specific policy for beauty treatments. Not because they and the people those huge industries employ are not important, but in a time that calls for sweeping drastic, life-saving action, detail like that means we - and you - are getting bogged down in detail that shouldn’t ever make it into a national address.
Likewise, schools. You say it is okay to send kids to school while the NSW government, for one, seems to want to have it both ways, saying you can still send kids to school . . . if you must . . . but, look, probably better to keep them home. With all states and territories having differing policies. Too many voices saying too many different things.
Just 10 days ago while you were telling Australia not to shake hands, the nation’s own Chief Medical Officer was offering to shake hands with panel members backstage on ABC’s Insiders.
Leading into that same weekend you told us while football crowds were to be forbidden, you personally would have no problem going to watch the Cronulla Sharks play on the next day. Again, even though you pulled out, the result was confusion, and we have had too much of it.
Prime Minister, it has to stop.
We need absolute clear messaging, just as we saw from the magnificent leadership of Shane Fitzsimmons during the bushfire crisis. We find deep solace when we really feel that someone is fully in charge, and we know exactly what the rules are.
Again, I get it. You are trying to manage the economy, and save people's lives and livelihoods at the same time. But the options are running out. We all know it.
Prime Minister, I am not a doctor. I have no medical expertise. But I, like everyone, have watched closely the devastation in Italy, the US, Spain, Germany. They are our future. All but the US are in lockdown. And the latest prediction is that the US will be losing more than 5,000 people a day within two weeks if they don’t lockdown now.
You keep inferring that we are heading for it, but is doing it waxing salon by waxing salon really the way?
Bondi Beach saw the whole attitude of “She’ll be right, mate,” writ large.
But we can now see with every international broadcast, with every tragic headline worse than the last, she won’t be right.
We are all ready for it: savage action to give us maximum short-term pain now, to avoid ever more lingering deaths later, with an exhausted medical profession that will have to make devastating choices on whose lives to save, and whose to let slip away.
Two words of clear communication should do it:
I wish all strength, health, and wisdom to you and your family in the dreadfully difficult days, weeks and months ahead.