Too often when politicians talk about responsibility, it's to say that a particular problem or disaster is not theirs, but someone else's.
Over and over this week, in the face of the latest outbreak of COVID-19 in Victoria, and a series of exposure sites in NSW, the lack of responsibility taken on Capital Hill has been a running theme.
Ensuring hotel quarantine is effective at stopping the virus from spreading? That's the states and territories.
The glacial pace of the vaccination rollout, especially in aged care and disability care? That's the problem with international supply, changed medical advice, and the states and territories.
Economic assistance for businesses unable to trade and workers unable to get shifts in lockdown? The Prime Minister and Treasurer wouldn't go as far as to say that wasn't their responsibility on Wednesday, but the states and territories do get a mention.
"The Commonwealth government is not part of the decision-making process," Prime Minister Scott Morrison told question time on Wednesday when asked if he took any responsibility for the lockdown in Victoria.
"I am having further discussions with the acting Premier this evening, as the Treasurer is having with the Treasury in Victoria. Lockdowns in states are decisions of state and territory governments, that is a responsibility that the states and territories have jealously guarded over the course of the pandemic and that is their responsibility and they are making those decisions and taking those responsibilities."
Mr Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg have committed to speak to their Victorian counterparts, and consider their requests for help, but the public reception so far has been lukewarm as peak bodies call for a return to wage subsidies for Melbourne businesses.
The latest COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria has brought a litany of failures to light, and the federal government is banking on Victorians being angry at their state counterparts, no matter the reality of who was in charge.
It's a political solution to a public health problem, and while it has worked in the past, the federal government can't rely on voters pinning everything on the states.
There is now more than 21 incidents where COVID-19 transmission has been linked to hotel quarantine across the country and blithely saying "it's not a race" to concerns about the vaccine rollout are contributing to a building sense of anger among voters.
It seems again and again that lessons that should have been learnt in 2020 have not been heeded, and the last thing voters want to hear is that a problem is someone else's responsibility.
The federal government and the states and territories showed they could work together in a crisis last year and as we can now see, the crisis isn't over.
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