Inertia is the enemy of good government.
Good leaders anticipate issues which are emerging and act before they become crises. That’s their job.
Over the past three years, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has never quite got the timing right. It’s always too little, too late.
From bushfires, to the COVID crisis, to climate and the treatment of women in workplaces, Mr Morrison ignores problems until they become crises and then acts too late to prevent them hurting Australians.
Take the Black Summer Bushfires early in 2020.
Late in 2019, as the bushfire season approached, 23 former fire chiefs and scientists warned Mr Morrison of the approaching danger.
They advised him to prepare and to boost the nation’s aerial firefighting capacity.
The Prime Minister failed to act.
Months later, when the fires had taken 33 lives and burnt 24 million hectares, Mr Morrison blamed state governments.
After the damage was done, he promised relief and toured fire grounds scouting for photo opportunities and people to shake his hand.
All these months later, he has still failed to deliver promised funding from the $4 billion Emergency Response Fund, established to provide investment for natural disaster relief and mitigation.
Too little, too late
It was the same with the COVID pandemic.
By mid-2020 other countries had placed advance orders for vaccines, putting themselves at the front of the queue for vaccine supply.
Drug company Pfizer approached the government in July 2020, but it was not until November that Mr Morrison signed a vaccine deal. By that time, the company had signed contacts to deliver more than one billion doses to 34 other nations.
And he had the cheek to repeatedly tell Australians we were “at the front of the queue’’.
Now, as other developed nations begin returning to normal, most Australians remain in lockdown, unable to leave their homes to work or go to school.
Mr Morrison was also too slow to act on quarantine, which is a core federal responsibility.
When the pandemic erupted, state governments turned hotels designed for tourists into quarantine centres to isolate people arriving in Australia from overseas.
This was meant to be temporary
COVID has since broken out of quarantine hotels at least 27 times.
The breakout in Melbourne in May and June came from hotel quarantine in Adelaide. And the current New South Wales crisis arose from an unvaccinated limousine driver taking a foreign air crew to hotel quarantine.
Despite the continuation of quarantine hotel failures, we still don’t have any purpose-built quarantine facilities – only the Howard Springs Worker’s Camp in Darwin which has housed thousands of people.
We saw the same inaction early this year when allegations emerged that in March 2019, then Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins had been a victim of sexual assault in the ministerial office of then Defence Minister Linda Reynolds.
The issue sparked a national debate about sexual harassment and sexual assault.
The March for Justice in March was a spontaneous movement led by women under the theme “Enough is Enough” and thousands marched around the country, including at Parliament House in Canberra.
Mr Morrison refused to meet the protesters.
And he insisted that despite the alleged assault having been reported to his own office, he knew nothing about it.
Even today, he still hasn’t explained why his own staff did not tell him about the matter.
The wrong man at the wrong time
There’s a pattern of behaviour here.
If you want action and resolute leadership, Mr Morrison is the wrong man.
For more than decade, the Coalition has stood in the way of serious action to reduce carbon emissions.
With elements of the government refusing to even acknowledge there is a need for action, Mr Morrison has achieved little.
Even worse, he has ignored the job-creating potential of renewable energy, both as an industry in itself but also as a means to cut power bills for businesses and consumers.
In the same way, he resisted the campaign by veterans and their families for a Royal Commission into suicides among former military personnel.
Australians require better leadership. They want solutions, not blame-shifting and excuses.
But from this Prime Minister, that’s all they get.
Anthony Albanese is the Leader of the Australian Labor Party