This is a fairy tale.
The year was 2020.
The world was in the grip of a pandemic called Covid-19. It is a disease which killed millions of people and made many millions more, very ill, illness from which many would never fully recover
Near the end of June 2020, in Australia, an island country in the south Pacific Ocean, the Prime Minister and his colleagues, the Federal Health Minister and the Federal Treasurer, along with the bureaucrats who managed the Health Department and the Treasury, had just completed negotiations with five reputable organisations across the world, which were working to produce vaccines.
These companies appeared to be those most likely to produce an effective vaccine, soonest, and Australia’s leaders were following a policy of spreading their “public health eggs” across a number of baskets, just in case some of the vaccine developments failed.
Although, like New Zealand, Australia was less affected than the rest of the world by the pandemic, with relatively few deaths and comparatively little serious illness, the PM and the Federal Government were taking no chances on the virus getting a strong foothold in the country.
In a press conference Omo stated: “This is a race against time and the virus, and as Prime Minister, I’m now leading that race to get every Australian vaccinated. It’s the surest way of maintaining Australia’s lifestyle and our economy, by avoiding the need to lock down our communities, as we have seen happening overseas. Make no mistake, vaccination is the solution to this huge problem.”
Oh, I should have explained. You’ll be wondering where the name “Omo” came from.
It’s a nickname that the PM gave himself, shortly after gaining office. It harkens back to his pre-politics days as a senior advertising executive in a firm responsible for a marketing campaign for soap powder. The campaign was hugely successful, propelling the Omo brand to market leadership, and the PM, “Omo”, liked the idea of associating himself with success, and with the “squeaky clean” image which the Omo name conjured in the minds of imbeciles.
It also gave him access to such effective, attention-grabbing one-liners as “No dirt to see here”, “It’ll all come out in the wash”, and “We’re going to keep a clean sheet on this pandemic”.
Having secured access to enough vaccine to inoculate every Australian four times over, as soon as any vaccine was approved, Omo turned his attention to distribution.
“There’s not much point in having the vaccine sitting in our sparkling, economical, environmentally friendly, 5-star rated Fisher&Paykel fridge, if we don’t have an efficient mechanism for getting it into people’s arms”, he said.
Omo called together all State and Territory leaders, along with their respective Health Ministers, to make short-term, medium-term and long-term plans. He announced this series of meetings to the Australian people, via a late-night press conference. (He needed to get the message across quickly, before he forgot the excellent one-liner, which he had just created: “If you fail to plan, then you can plan to fail”.) He delivered that one with his trademark smile.
After each strategic meeting, Omo called a press conference, at which he informed the Australian people of the progress, made by the hard-working state politicians and bureaucrats whom he was leading from his desk in Canberra, towards developing his mass vaccination plans.
“I want all Australians to know what’s happening. We need to come clean about the virus and about our plan to beat it.” he said, grinning.
People were pleased to see that strong leadership was producing results. Within two months of tireless work by public servants, overseen by Omo and his Chief Medical Officer, Dr E. Duzzen-Knoe, a “medal-winning” broad plan “of breathtaking scope”, as Omo put it to the media, had been arrived at.
Doctors had been providing flu vaccines to patients for years, as part of an organised programme, so their expertise could be called upon to deliver some of the approved Covid vaccines. However, their role would be limited, due to the demands of inoculating 80% of the Australian people. “Doctors,” said Omo, “had other jobs to do as well. They’ve got businesses to run, and these businesses contribute to economic growth.”
Pharmacists were yet another avenue which would be utilised in order to “spread the load, not the virus”, Omo joked.
All public and private hospitals would be expected to assist. Qualified nurses who could be released from other duties, would man vaccination facilities, along with those staff who were prepared to work unpaid overtime. “We can’t afford to pay everybody”, Omo seriously intoned, “There are a number of electorates which require urgent injections of cash for the construction of carparks.”
However, the most significant, ground-breaking and “gold-standard” thrust, would be through the employment of private providers who would be contracted to manage mass-vaccination centres. Omo just happened to know a few suitable businessmen who could “get the needles jabbing”, from his meetings with them at Liberal Party fundraisers.
These centres would be established at a range of venues, including sporting arenas, empty carparks, showgrounds in rural and regional centres, and the like.
As part of his overall management strategy, ensuring that others carried out the required work to create and implement the National Plans, Omo was able to inform the public that as soon as a vaccine was approved by the TGA, and upon receipt of the advice which he considered suitable, from ATAGI, he would announce a date for vaccinations to commence. “We’re not mucking around on this. We might still be in the first half of the game, but I’m not waiting for the final whistle to blow before putting my boots on”, was his answer to a question from a journalist who wanted to know a likely date for the programme to commence.
As it happened, Omo’s caution was justified when one of the vaccine production programmes failed and another struck production problems. “This is why we secured vaccines from multiple organisations”, said Omo, “Australians can now be sure of access to three effective vaccines within a couple of months.”
With the start of the vaccination programme imminent, Omo chose to launch a “full-scale assault” (his words) on the problem of people entering the country from overseas, and the risk of importing the virus which this posed:
“I’m throwing all of the ideas suggested by the selected interested parties into the super-economical Fisher&Paykel washing machine, spinning them around, and hanging the best ones on the latest model Hills hoist to dry.”
Special “quarantine hotels” had been set up as an emergency measure, since they weren’t needed by the tourists who normally inhabited them. Despite the fact that the responsibility for quarantine in Australia rested with the Federal Government, aka “Omo’s team”, these were managed, poorly as it turned out, by state governments which were inclined to use non-specialised security companies to maintain control of those in quarantine.
“The states, especially the Labor run states, have failed to carry out the tasks which we have entrusted to them, on behalf of the people of Australia. Therefore, we are going to immediately resume control of this critical area, by contracting a number of extremely reliable businesses, the CEO’s of which I know personally, to construct and control specific quarantine facilities, each located within a bull’s roar of an airport and major hospital near each state and territory capital. The Australian government will heavily subsidise the construction of these facilities, which will then be run at a profit by the businesses concerned, thereby contributing to our overall economy.
Given that this will take some time, I have decided to limit the return to Australia by non-critical citizens, who may only want to re-join their families, or escape the dangers of living in Covid-riddled countries like India. I’ve taken this tough decision in order to enable travel to and from Australia by important citizens – politicians and major business people – the people who keep the economic engine running, those who spin the dryer.
It might be necessary for people like Tony Abet, or Matty Korma, to jet across to Europe in order to enhance Australia’s global position as a major world economic power. The non-critical citizens should have returned home months ago, as soon as the pandemic was announced. Their failure to plan for the impact of Covid is deplorable and unforgiveable.”
Omo’s plan, which had been developed by bureaucrats responsible to his Ministers for Health, Immigration and Treasury, entailed all entrants to Australia, with the exception of politicians and selected businesspeople, having been vaccinated overseas, flying in to the airports located near the new private-enterprise quarantine facilities. Masked, and observing social distancing, they would then be transported directly to the facilities, where they would be housed for fourteen days, at their own expense, before being released into the community.
Omo’s plan was finally complete. Like the Creator, he sat back and looked at his work, and saw that it was good.
In a 2GB radio interview, Omo was asked this question:
“Prime Minister, your leadership in this crisis has been exemplary. The speed with which you have reacted to this pandemic is nothing less than amazing, and you have made every post a winner, as far as the nation is concerned. Your rival and Leader of The opposition, Elbow, could never have done anything like the magnificent job which you have done, are still doing, and doubtless will continue to do. Can you tell the listeners why you chose to act so decisively, tried so hard to ensure bi-partisan support, and made it your business to communicate clearly and effectively around all of the issues involved? I guess what I’m asking is why you’ve done such a magnificent job?”
Omo’s reply was statesmanlike:
“As this nation’s leader, the bucks stop with me, and I’m earning my dough, as the baker said to the bishop. This is not a soap opera. Australian lives are at stake. If I hadn’t acted so quickly there would certainly have been many very sick Australians, and probably some dozens of deaths as well.
Let me put this scenario to you, and to the Australian people:
Elbow is PM, and he fiddles around, spending months to get himself organised. He reckons that, since the country is pretty much free from the virus, we don’t need to race to get people vaccinated. That would be a totally irresponsible attitude.
As a direct result, in 2021 we might have seen the deplorable situation where, say, Victoria had been in lockdown half-a-dozen times, NSW had had a massive outbreak which had, for example, killed twenty or more people, and Queensland was losing huge amounts of tourist dollars, which would be doing unimaginable damage to the national economy.
With the population distribution as it is, we could have had twelve million people in lockdown simultaneously. Due to Elbow’s failure to get the washing done, The Australian People would have been hung out to dry.
Not on my watch. As Australia’s leader it’s my job the consider such a worst-case scenario, and to plan comprehensively and comprehensibly, to make sure that it never eventuates.”
The rest is history. By February of 2021, 80% of Australians were fully vaccinated. Occasionally, a non-critical citizen returning from overseas brought back some virus, but the impact of these rare events was almost imperceptible. Omo’s stunning leadership was lauded around the world as “gold-standard”, “the way to go”. In response to the praise directed at him by world leaders, Omo humbly stated:
“I don’t hold a hose, so I can’t fight bushfires, and I can’t use a syringe, so I don’t vaccinate people, but what I can do is provide outstanding leadership which focuses upon honesty, transparency, the acceptance of responsibility, the application of Christian empathy, and the provision of financial resources in electorates where I need them to go. Please continue to wash your hands, use one of the approved hand sanitisers, and maintain social distancing in all areas except exempted Hillsong gatherings. Remember that cleanliness is next to godliness.”
In answer to a question about his expectations for the forthcoming federal election, and his battle with Elbow, asked by a person claiming to be a Sky News journalist (?), Omo just gave his most amiable, good bloke grin and said:
“Just like Unilever’s excellent soap powder, it’ll be a whitewash.”