Premier QLD
Premier QLD

Why we must not politicise the chief health officer’s role

Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young has been at the helm of one of the most successful responses to the coronavirus pandemic in the world for a reason.

She has autonomy under the Public Health Act to make decisions to protect Queenslanders without concerns they can be overruled by politicians.

Her swift actions during the health crisis, while sometimes controversial, have meant Queenslanders can go into Christmas with life almost back to normal, bar being able to travel overseas easily.

Dr Young was preparing for the possibility of a global health emergency weeks before the World Health Organisation declared a pandemic on March 11.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young. Picture: Sarah Marshall.
Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young. Picture: Sarah Marshall.

She activated the State Health Emergency Co-ordination Centre on January 25, the day Australia recorded its first case of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in Melbourne. It's been operating 24/7 since.

Her orders under the Public Health Act, including domestic border closures, have undoubtedly kept Queenslanders safe. Of the 908 Australian deaths associated with COVID-19, six have been Queenslanders - not even one per cent of the total.

The Greens' attempt to establish a parliamentary committee to scrutinise her COVID-19 decisions would give politicians, not health experts, oversight of Queensland's pandemic response.

It would politicise the chief health officer's role.

Thankfully, the move was quashed in parliament.

 

 

Greens Member for Maiwar Michael Berkman had wanted a COVID-19 oversight committee to have power to conduct hearings with the chief health officer on decisions, such as border closures and other restrictions.

Dr Young has been handed exceptional powers under the Public Health Act for a reason.

She has 15 years' experience in managing health emergencies, including the 2009 swine flu pandemic, and has assembled a team of experts to advise her on what's best to keep Queenslanders safe.

Her strategy has worked. Why get politicians involved?

Mr Berkman said: "People deserve to know the reasoning and evidence behind decisions that affect their lives, including during a pandemic."

The reality is, Dr Young has stood up almost daily to explain her pandemic responses. Making her front a parliamentary committee so they can be scrutinised again would just be wasting her time.

 

Originally published as Why we must not politicise the chief health officer's role


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