Scott Morrison has a new attack word. “Shakedown”.
A “shakedown” is defined as “an illegal or fraudulent attempt to obtain money from someone, for example by duping or blackmailing them”.
In yet another episode in the old federal-state blame game, the Morrison government is accusing Queensland in particular of this reckless practice with Mafia connotations.
As NSW, Victoria and the ACT look to an exit from lockdown, the already strained hospital system will be under strain.
Queensland’s hospital capacity, with minimal COVID, will be tested quickly after its borders are opened – as the Morrison government wants it to be in accordance with the vaccination levels of the COVID National Plan. The same goes for Western Australia, which has a notoriously strained hospital system.
Last week health ministers from every state and territory signed a letter to the federal government saying: “We are entering the most critical phase of the COVID-19 pandemic response for our hospital systems.
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“While we still need a collaborative effort to find long-term solutions to the issues affecting our hospital systems, these have now outweighed the pressing need to address the situation.
“All states and territories urgently need additional Commonwealth funding to support the pressures currently on our health systems.”
On Friday Queensland Premier Annastasia Palaszczuk added the need for more hospital funding to open the Queensland border.
Morrison pushed back, declaring the pandemic “should not be used as an excuse for shakedown politics”.
On Tuesday, the prime minister was doing another workout “shakedown”, targeting Queensland hard.
Pressed on Brisbane radio about Palaszczuk wanting more money, Morrison said, “We’re not going to respond to a shakedown in a pandemic.”
He pointed out that “we have increased our funding to Queensland hospitals by 99.2% since we came into government”, adding that compared to a 55.3% increase by Queensland in the same period.
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In another interview, Morrison went further. “[To] Say, ‘Okay… I’m going to hold the federal government for ransom and extort money from them based on COVID’ – I don’t think that’s the right way to go.
“We have shared 50/50 of the cost of COVID on the health system, over $30 billion nationwide […] So we are doing our job.
“Of course there are challenges, but as a state government, they have to be responsible for their state health system. New South Wales is leading with it. Victoria is leading with it. The ACT is getting on with it. So Queensland needs to move on with this.”
There have been mixed messages from Queensland about whether its hospital system is adequate for the challenges ahead.
“All the states and territories have prepared on the advice we have. They have prepared for the surge,” Health Minister Greg Hunt stressed on Tuesday.
If there was a problem in Queensland when they didn’t have COVID pressure, “that is not related to COVID”, he said, suggesting the state government should spend more money.
Read more: How COVID health advice and modeling has been opaque, slow to change and politicized in Australia
Hunt said Queensland had “put themselves in a pickle by saying on the one hand that their hospitals are ready, on the other hand trying to justify using the money as a basis for closing the borders.”
The adequacy of the country’s hospital systems in general, and Queensland in particular, is documented in work for the National Cabinet which is overseen by Secretary of the Department of Health Brendan Murphy and regularly updated for the National Cabinet. Is.
During Tuesday’s appearance with Hunt, Murphy was asked when that document would be released. He added: “I would support a transparent approach, but the national cabinet will take that decision”.
The national cabinet should issue this assessment immediately. The public has a right to know whether we can be confident of hospital adequacy as we enter this new phase of the pandemic.