Features Australia

Bretty rides again

Behind the fourth Victorian lockdown

12 June 2021

9:00 AM

12 June 2021

9:00 AM

We call him Bretty in our house, not unlike the character Bretty Craig in Kath and Kim. Recall that hapless Bretty Craig is married to Kim and he’s a salesman at a local electrical goods store.

Our Bretty is Professor Brett Sutton, Chief Health Officer of Victoria. Like someone giving tedious, staged TED-talks, Bretty appears regularly on our screens as the lockdown on Victoria goes on and on.

Quite a bit of the time, Bretty seems to be making it up. For instance, he likened the recent outbreak of an Indian variant of Covid to a ‘fast-moving beast’. He talked about the danger of fleeting exposures only to walk back from that because the tests were false positives.  Indeed, the ‘facts’ change on a daily basis but it’s always the same message: we all need to be afraid and the lockdown must continue.

But who is Bretty? Why should we believe him, particularly as his understanding of economics is clearly zilch and he is making decisions that have significant economic effects?

Let me put it out there – being chief health officer of a state might sound like a big deal but, in the pecking order of the medical profession, it ranks towards the bottom. Bretty spent a considerable amount of time in the past undertaking good works in Afghanistan and Timor-Leste which are completely irrelevant to his current job.

While he is a public health specialist – essentially a non-clinical job focused on lots of woke issues unrelated to pandemic management – he had quite recently been working as a registrar at the tiny Sandringham Hospital in suburban Melbourne.

Just prior to Covid taking hold, Bretty was mainly worried about climate change and public hospitals while overseeing a tiny handful of public health officials in the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.

At the onset of the pandemic, there were many more staff members working in Dan Andrew’s media unit than there were public health staff members. And none of these public health workers was working on a regional basis, which is regarded as best practice for public health management.

Initially, Bretty was ably assisted – OK, I made up the ably bit – by Dr Annaliese van Diemen, who was Deputy Chief Health Officer. After tweeting that the onset of Covid was akin to the arrival of Captain Cook (I think she meant Governor Phillip, but what the heck), she was quietly moved aside to perform non-Covid duties, never to be heard from again.

The Victorian Treasurer had declared that she was doing ‘an exceptional job’. We all know that actually means get that woman out of here.

Then there was the appointment of Jeroen Weimar as Covid Testing Commander (I’m not making this up). Trained as a town planner, he had been managing director of UK Transport for Serco Group. His LinkedIn entry says it all (or about his high opinion of himself): ‘one of those rare exceptional leaders gifted with incredible energy who are able to achieve the impossible’. (Pause here for possible barfing.) He’s also been on about the danger of fleeting exposures. Jokes about the Weimar Republic are all too obvious.

If there is one pleasing aspect of the most recent lockdown in Victoria it is that the media have finally begun to push back on the unsubstantiated prognostications of these unelected officials. Up until this time, it was only Rachel Baxendale of the Australian and Peta Credlin who were prepared to query the smug nonsense being uttered by these officials.

In order to justify the most recent lockdown on the basis of very low numbers of infections – no information is now given about how sick people are or how many are in hospital (three is the answer, two aged care residents just for observation) – it’s necessary for Bretty and his team to talk scary. You know the sort of thing – uncontrollable fast-moving infection, we might all die.

Bretty and his offsiders clearly enjoy these daily briefings as they try to boss around weary Victorians on the basis of extremely slanted conjectures. Bretty even teared up when talking about prohibiting the funeral of a young lad who had drowned. But he didn’t change his mind.

Don’t get me wrong here – it’s not just Victoria where the public should have sinking feelings, although Victoria is a standout in pandemic mismanagement. It’s hard to feel confident in any of the chief health officers of any of the states.

The woman in charge in South Australia who is actually a paediatrician – you know that makes sense – has recently handed out wise advice. If attending the football, duck if the ball comes your way and avoid touching it.

Is she for real? If she really thinks that there is a risk of being infected by a football, why the hell is the Melbourne-based team being allowed to travel to Adelaide to play a game? Of course, the risk is zero and she simply made herself sound like an idiot.

And then there is Dr Jeannette Young, Chief Health Officer of Queensland, who has been in the job so long that most Queenslanders were still in nappies or weren’t born when she started. Now she wouldn’t claim to be a public health expert – she did take some time out at one stage to run a public hospital – but she has firm opinions on freedom-restricting orders such as regularly closing the border.

At one stage, she claimed shutting schools was necessary to make Queenslanders take Covid seriously. She also recommended wearing masks while driving the car.

Talking about masks, let’s not forget the equivocation of the World Health Organisation on the topic of wearing masks – no, they were no help; yes, they should be mandatory; actually, we’re not sure. None of this shillyshallying has been allowed to creep into the public health mandates of our gaggle of chief health officers. At this stage, it’s still compulsory for Victorians to wear masks while walking alone in the park!

When Covid first got going, the climate change activists were overjoyed by the possible spillover effects of everyone listening to experts. Gosh, if we can listen to public health officials and take their advice, we should also listen to climate ‘experts’ and likewise take their advice.

Sadly, for the activists, the longer the pandemic has gone on, the more obvious it has become that the expert advice is badly flawed and politically motivated.  It’s made experts less trustworthy, not more.

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