What happened to mateship?

I despair at the petty parochialism shown between States during this Covid crisis.

OK, so Gladys once made a throwaway comment in front of a hot mic about not being able to help Victoria with extra vaccines.

It was dumb, but that was then, this is now; circumstances have changed. Is it a good enough reason to refuse to help the people of NSW when they are in a desperate situation?

What has happened to us as Australians in recent years? Aren’t we bigger than this?

When I’ve been lucky enough to travel to other countries, I say I’m Australian – I don’t say I’m South Australian.

And what do our pundits and politicians, journalists and writers, and the bloke in the pub say is the key element of the Australian character? What has happened to the much-lauded concept of mateship? They point to the ANZACS and the following generations of ordinary people turned heroes by conflict who looked after each other, made sure that no-one was left behind and risked their own lives to save their mates. They argue that it has become a defining Australian characteristic and is one of the reasons why we are successful and respected as a people and as a nation.

So how come in NSW’s hour of need, people in other states and territories lower the portcullis, pull up the drawbridge and say to Gladys, “There is no way you’re getting any of our vaccines”. It’s like a miser hoarding gold or a child putting an arm round their lollies to ward off other kids.

“Ah, but she wouldn’t help Victoria when they asked.” So what? It’s not about Gladys, it’s about people. They are in need.

I’m eerily reminded of the “All Lives Matter” argument when people try to belittle the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Of course all lives matter, no one is saying they don’t. But right at this moment, in the context to which it refers, white folk are not the ones in danger, black people are; white folk are not the ones who need extra help right now, black people do.

Yes, we all need as many people as possible to get vaccinated both to protect their and the community’s health and to help get us out of lockdowns and other restrictions. But right now, the people of NSW are the ones in greater danger. And other folk are saying, “You’re on your own, mate!”.

What material difference would it make if out of the one million Pfizer doses promised to be delivered this week, and maybe the one million promised for the following week, each State and Territory let NSW have 10% of their allocation?

What would be the downside? For SA, our share of the weekly provision should be around 100,000. Forego 10% and it would be 90,000. The national vaccine roll-out has been such a failure so far and we are so far behind where we should be, would a few more days delay be so disastrous that it cannot even be contemplated? Would it really make that much of a difference in the big picture provided we continue to be as careful and as successful as we have been with other protective measures?

We are told that we have so much AstraZenaca sloshing around that the shortfall could be met, if only the Federal Government could get its act together in promoting its benefits instead of its mixed and sometimes bizarre messaging making people unnecessarily confused and frightened.

Aren’t we all in this together? Why can’t a State where the risk is lower be a bit generous to people who haven’t been so fortunate? Would a Premier who made a tough and unpopular decision to give a small portion of their State’s vaccine allocation to people in a much worse situation lose many votes in the short term, or would they gain more respect in the long-term through showing strong and compassionate leadership?

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