American entrepreneur and podcaster Tim Ferriss has observed that writing can sharpen your thinking. Putting things down on paper, you’re more likely to avoid sloppy thinking and illogical arguments, and you will have to think more carefully about your assumptions, judgments, and evidence. That is why, once upon a time, governments would make important decisions affecting millions of people based on written advice which could be reviewed and contested within government and often outside of government. Based on the news in today’s Courier-Mail about Queensland Health keeping CHO Jeannette Young’s 2020 interstate border closure advice secret, I suspect there was no considered and cogent written advice analysing the public health, economic, and social impacts of interstate border closures and outlining the grounds for her border closure recommendation.
Queensland Health’s excuse for not releasing the CHO’s advice is pathetic. The Courier-Mail reports:
Documents detailing the health advice used by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to keep the state’s borders closed have been kept secret by Queensland Health, which says it can’t access chief health officer Jeannette Young’s emails because they “keep corrupting”.
It appears that, despite the tens of millions (I’m guessing) spent each year on Queensland Health’s ICT system, Queensland Health should instead get its bureaucrats Google Workspace and Evernote or Notion subscriptions so they can keep proper records. The Queensland Audit Office should investigate whether the CHO’s office is complying with the Queensland Government’s recordkeeping policy, which notes:
Public authorities are responsible for making, managing, keeping and preserving complete and reliable public records.
Based on today’s Courier-Mail report, it does not appear to be fulfilling that responsibility.
Yes, COVID-19 is a serious disease and the CHO has a huge amount of responsibility. But her decisions are affecting millions and causing great financial and emotional hardship in many cases, and we should be demanding much more justification for her decisions than we have seen to date.
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