At the very back of my memory is a vague collection of some sort of playground game or custom where, if you touched something icky (eg dog poo or used chewing gum), you would immediately touch someone else and call ‘Needles!’ hence passing the contamination from yourself onto them.
With the way that the Delta variant is spreading, remembering such silly games (or making jokes about the name of a certain very popular Australian songstress) is just about all one can do to see any humour in the situation.
I have been critical about the technocrats of our various governments for a while, particular that of Daniel Andrews, who has spent the past 16 or so months dodging transparency in various of his government’s decisions (eg how the hotel quarantine was set up, or why the curfew was imposed).
About 2 months ago, we had the situation where the Victorian government was running low on Pfizer vaccine. A colleague of mine was, at that time, trying to get a booking for his second shot. When he rang the relevant call centre, the scripts gave a misleading explanation for why he would have to wait longer. Instead of telling him the truth, ie that the vaccine supply was short so they were rationing it out, he was given weasel words about advice having changed as to how long people needed to wait between doses.
A friend has just brought another example of such creativity with the truth to my attention. Until this week, where Canberra went into lockdown, the ACT had not had any Covid cases in over a year, yet it was still considered a red zone by the Victorian Health authorities.
People who have been trying to get permits to visit Victoria (and who in some cases have had several clear covid tests) have been told verbally that they are approved, and that the permit letter will be in the mail.
Despite this, no letter has been forthcoming. Parallels appear easy to draw with the time honoured clique about the cheque being in the mail.
However, when people are being misled in this way about permit approval, it is clear that there is a systemic problem. That is, that staff are following a script giving people the advice that they want to hear, whilst the systems to actually deliver what has been promised have not been put in place.
If a bank was to behave in this way, it would be fined. Where a government causes its agencies to behave in this way, it is far more serious, as it is a symptom of a far greater degree of unaccountability and potential incompetence.
But this is not surprising. Part of the problem with the vaccine rollout is that the websites and call centres that were established to deal with vaccine bookings took far longer to set up to deal adequately with the volumes of enquiries than acceptable. In my personal experience 11 weeks ago, I was on hold to the booking hotline for a long time, and then told that I could hang up if I chose and get called back without losing my place in the queue. I never got called back.
Being misleading about matters around permits or vaccination bookings is a form of fibbing. Fibbing amongst children in the playground, tapping each other and calling ‘Needles!’ is one thing – it could even be considered cute. Fibbing as a form of public administration service delivery principle, on the other hand, is unforgivable.