Here's a story that should serve as a warning to Queensland during the pandemic and we need to be really careful it doesn't take hold in Australia.

And it happens when politicians let bureaucrats run the show. In 1999, a mate of mine married his sweetheart in Minsk, Belarus, formerly part of the Soviet Union.

They went to a bakery on the Wednesday and asked could a wedding cake be baked for the Saturday ceremony.

They were told that they couldn't be accommodated because orders for wedding cakes were taken on the Tuesday and the cakes were baked on the Thursday for weekend weddings.

"So how about I give you double the normal price and you take the order now because you're not actually baking the cake until tomorrow,'' my mate said.

Blank stares.

"No, you must order Tuesday,'' the baker said. And that was that. No flexibility, no proactivity, no initiative and the baker did himself out of a nice little earn.

That is the Russian way. The Communist way. Rules are rules. If somebody deviates from the rules, they will invariably be punished. Chernobyl was a much more deadly example of totalitarian rule having lethal implications.


Queensland’s Health’s response to coronavirus has helped protect Queenslanders but has lacked compassion. Picture: Tara Croser
Queensland’s Health’s response to coronavirus has helped protect Queenslanders but has lacked compassion. Picture: Tara Croser


Fast-forward to Queensland in 2020. The incongruity of Queensland Health decision-making during this pandemic is a dark stain on its reputation for empathy and compassion.

Nobody argues this is not a difficult job during COVID-19 and providing life-saving solutions and caring for people is all part of any health body's charter.

But proper healthcare is not just about administering the letter of the law. It's about lifting people's spirits, not crushing them.

What this pandemic has exposed in Queensland Health is an overly bureaucratic organisation, run by people too scared to make discretionary calls.

Gold Coaster Jake Ryan, who survived the 2002 Bali bombings, died last month after being hit by a train in Italy. His body has been repatriated back to Australia and his private funeral service will be held this Friday, followed by a memorial at Metricon Stadium. Jake was an excellent Aussie Rules player and the Suns have kindly given the family the ground for the day.

The family had twice asked for the funeral cap of 100 people to be lifted for Jake, and both applications were refused.

They were told that funerals were "high risk'' COVID-19 gatherings. However, with a proper COVID-19 safety plan in place, they can have as many people as they like to the stadium for the memorial service.


Bali survivor Jake Ryan (right) with his brother Mitch in 2003. Picture: Adam Head
Bali survivor Jake Ryan (right) with his brother Mitch in 2003. Picture: Adam Head


The Ryan family is devastated. They believe many hundreds of people would attend his funeral.

Brother Mitch Ryan believes the inconsistency in the application of the rules is bewildering.

"Tell me the difference between having 500 people at a funeral and 30,000 at a footy game,'' he said.

"I asked that question and they wouldn't answer it. Tigers fans were hugging and kissing and high fiving at the AFL grand final.

"How is that different to people hugging in grief at a funeral.''

Let's put politics aside. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk won the election, campaigning on keeping people safe through hardline border measures. She deserves great credit for a brilliant strategic victory.

But last week she asked journalists to exercise common sense when asking questions on when the border will be reopened to Sydneysiders and Victorians.

That's a good word - common sense. It means, according to the dictionary, "good sense and sound judgment in practical matters''.

Queensland Health, hamstrung by a culture that doesn't reward enterprise, does not apply the premier's own rules on common sense.

Look at the case of Gary Ralph, who died last week. A brain cancer victim, he was robbed of precious days as he was dying after surgery in Sydney.

Forced to quarantine for five days in a cramped hotel room, he should have been at home with his loved ones.

Then there's Sarah Caisip, who was denied the opportunity to see her dead father at his funeral, despite coming from the ACT, where there had not been a case of coronavirus in the previous 60 days.

There are many within Queensland health who do a brilliant job. There are also many who make decisions around exemptions and funerals who would probably like more discretion.

It's up to politicians to give them that autonomy. The current lack of empathy, compassion and common sense is a disgrace.

Originally published as 'Disgrace': Key thing missing from our COVID response

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