How the Grinch (almost) stole Christmas
The State Government’s mixed messaging on its contentious ‘COVID Christmas’ policy has seen the Premier’s Christmas ‘gift’ stolen by the Christmas grinch, aka SA Health CEO Chris McGowan.
It all started last week when, some 30 minutes into an unrelated media conference about TAFE, Steven Marshall casually dropped the news that “people this Christmas can look forward to having people coming from interstate to spend time with them”.
This was all, Marshall went on, part of a plan “that we should be able to announce in the coming weeks”.
“We know that some people coming back will need to do some quarantine if they’re not double vaccinated, but I’m hopeful those people coming back from interstate who are double vaccinated [and] who haven’t been to exposure sites will be able to come back and enjoy a relatively normal Christmas in SA.”
Asked to clarify that people from NSW and Victoria would therefore be able to enter SA without quarantine in time for the festive season, the Premier confirmed: “If they’re double vaccinated… they should be able to come in, but we also want some provisos around some testing when they arrive and we also want to make sure they haven’t been to exposure sites.”
“We’ll go through all that detail in the coming weeks but I think people can have some confidence that as we get closer to Christmas there will be pathways for people to come back – and we’ll be avoiding statewide lockdowns,” he concluded.
Cue much merriment from frustrated expats pondering their yuletide plans.
However, the celebrations were curtailed yesterday, when Health boss Dr Chris McGowan poured cold water on the whole thing.
Asked directly about the Premier’s remarks in a parliamentary committee, McGowan said: “That’s not our expectation, that there will be no quarantine requirements – even for double vaccinated people at this stage.”
“I’m not aware of any advice to that effect – any advice to the effect that there would be no quarantine required by Christmas,” he went on, grinchily.
Marshall today doubled down on his advice, telling journos he’s since met with McGowan and chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier, and they were all now singing from the same song sheet (Christmas carols, presumably).
But not before one of Marshall’s own Liberal colleagues – former federal heavyweight and one-time state leadership thought-bubble Alexander Downer – weighed in to give McGowan a virtual kicking.
Commenting on InDaily’s report of the health chief’s committee performance, Downer tweeted: “So sad. Is he by chance related to [WA Labor Premier and noted border enthusiast Mark McGowan]? Same mindset!”
Asked by a fellow Twitterer why he was so aggrieved, Downer replied: “I want to be with my family!”
SA Health boss casts doubt over Christmas border opening plans https://t.co/u3T4kwxCWB via @indaily
So sad. Is he by chance related to the @MarkMcGowanMP ? Same mindset!
— Alexander Downer (@AlexanderDowner) October 11, 2021
Asked by InDaily about Downer’s remarks, McGowan said in a statement that SA “is working to the national roadmap, which includes the opening of borders by Christmas”.
“As the Premier has stated, some restrictions may continue to apply for individuals coming from areas of extreme risk,” he said.
“The nature of these specific requirements will be reviewed in the lead-up to the easing of border restrictions.”
SA Health also helpfully clarified that “Dr McGowan is not related to WA Premier, Mark McGowan”.
No flies on Marshall… almost
McGowan may have wished he was in WA this morning when Marshall met with him to ensure that he was “very much on the same page” as the Premier.
Marshall then fronted media to double down on his assurance that “we’re looking forward to welcoming people back to SA for Christmas”.
He may have been bullish, but he was also something of a Shetland Pony; ie he was just a little hoarse.
Conspiracy theorists might have mused that the Premier’s croaky throat might have been the result of a strongly-delivered debrief to his unfortunate Health boss, and as the media conference progressed the croak got beyond a joke, prompting one of the assembled reporters to ask after his wellbeing – including whether he should seek a COVID test.
But no, the Premier reassured them: “I swallowed a little fly and I think I coughed too much in the car.”
Libs tell Cregan to Zuck off
While Alexander Downer was making the most of his Twitter account, the state MP representing a chunk of his former Mayo heartland – newly-independent Kavel incumbent Dan Cregan – was bemoaning the sudden demise of his Facebook page.
Cregan quit the Libs late last week, and hopes to follow in the footsteps of Rebekha Sharkie in becoming a long-serving Hills crossbencher.
However, he may need to set up a new page on Mark Zuckerberg’s site first, after his former party colleagues took it upon themselves to delete his longstanding profile – thus demonstrating they’re handling the latest crossbench defection to hit the Marshall Government in an appropriately calm and rational manner.
Cregan told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning he was “seeking to resolve this issue collegially with the Liberal Party”.
“It seems that my Facebook page has been taken down [and] it’s an essential platform for me to communicate with my community,” he lamented.
“I’ve shared bushfire recovery information [and] other essential safety messages – we’re coming into the bushfire season and there are bushfire preparedness messages that I want to share with my community [along with] COVID-19 information.”
Marshall today croaked that it was a “matter for the Liberal Party” but that “obviously, it was a Liberal-branded Facebook site”.
“It was run by the Liberal Party, so they took that action,” he explained.
State director Sascha Meldrum told InDaily: “Mr Cregan received significant support from the Liberal Party – this support ceased when he resigned.”
“That includes access to a Facebook page that was established with Liberal Party support,” she added.
If things carry on at this rate, that hotly-anticipated post-election pizza might need an extra layer of topping.
-additional reporting by Jemma Chapman
Notes On Adelaide is an occasional column telling the inside stories of Adelaide people, politics, institutions and issues. If you have information that you believe should be noted in this column, send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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