Scott Morrison and Dominic Perrottet have shown a reckless disregard for the wellbeing of Australians in their questionable COVID strategy, writes Geoff Dyer.
IN A RECKLESS MOVE, the leaders of both the Federal and NSW Governments offered anarchy as a solution to the COVID-19 pandemic. Prime Minister Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet presented themselves as Santa Claus, giving back Christmas in a bid to capture the imagination of the voting public.
However, Perrottet announcing his version of “Freedom Day” as Omicron spread through the community shocked health workers and public alike. Unnecessarily dropping mask wearing and QR codes from the list of COVID precautions prior to Christmas caused widespread confusion in the community.
His aerial backflip, reintroducing both mask wearing and QR codes, was an almost impossible feat, even for a politician. Despite this hesitation in his let-it-rip policy, Perottet was quick to put responsibility for managing the pandemic firmly back in the hands of the individual.
So, is Morrison ready to continue his own walk to “freedom” from government regulation? Or will he put on his leotard in preparation for his own extreme gymnastics performance? With Omicron now spreading rapidly, he certainly doesn’t want to accept responsibility, so we can expect a PR drive to depict the situation as inevitable. Not out of control, but uncontrollable.
The Premier and Prime Minister are offering Australians a gift, an absence of government and removal of mandates which they claim intrude on personal decision making. They, apparently, see absolute freedom of the individual as the way forward to winning the next election.
There is no doubt that they are trying to shirk their responsibility and suggesting a new Australian way. A system of no government that the crowds flocking the streets of Melbourne with their nooses, MAGA hats and fascist paraphernalia would certainly be voting for. Anti-vaxxers, COVID deniers, anti-lockdown activists, far-right and far-left “freedom to do what we please” fighters, the lockdown weary and a smattering of lost Proud Boys were all on the streets supporting the spread of COVID-19.
This “hands off the wheel” approach to pandemic is not so appealing to health workers about to be overwhelmed by a flood of COVID patients; nor the patients themselves, a percentage of whom may end up in ICU or ultimately pass away.
For the Coalition, the move to anarchy seems inevitable. Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce has always wanted the Government out of his life, as long as he receives his parliamentary pay cheque and pension. PM Morrison has also laid his cards on the table declaring he doesn’t want Government telling Australians what to do. Perrottet agrees.
Anarchy is the absence of government and, let’s face it, Morrison has always excelled at being absent. Bushfires — time for a holiday. Vaccine strollout — not a race. Climate change — let’s invest in fossil fuels. Integrity commission — leave it in the bottom drawer. The Voice from the heart — he refuses to hear it beating. The list goes on.
Both PM and Premier believe that this new age of personal responsibility will give us the freedom to self-regulate COVID-19, hold our own hoses and join private enterprise in responding to climate change. Scrapping testing requirements, shortening quarantine times, and redefining close contacts are all measures that will aid the spread of COVID-19. They are an irresponsible echo of Donald Trump's belief that if you test less, you’ll find less cases.
Unsurprisingly, despite the L-NP’s actions and assertions, governments do not exist to make our life harder. There’s a long list of services we would miss if we got rid of, outsourced, or privatised them. To name a few: defence, social services, pensions, health, environment, schools and public transport.
Morrison and Perrottet’s offer of personal responsibility? What could go wrong? You only need to look at the uncomfortable crowds of half-masked people in supermarkets, or the speed of the upsurge in COVID cases in NSW and the long lines of people waiting in line for a COVID test to find out. The shortage of rapid antigen testing kits is another case in point.
Our own leaders would have us believe that our “freedom” to act individually is under threat from mandates, or regulations, like never before. This is not true. It is a failure to recognise the context we are living in and a failure to meet the challenges we are facing.
Historically, governments have always shouldered the burden of responding to pandemics. They are the only ones with the resources to do so.
Since the 1800s, fear of shipborne diseases has, at times, led us to quarantine new arrivals. It was already too late for many of the Indigenous population, 70 per cent of whom had already died of smallpox.
The Tasmanian, Queensland and WA borders closed when Spanish flu arrived in 1919. Even the NSW/ Victorian border closed for a short time. Australia had remained free of Spanish flu due to our strong quarantine measures, but it was impossible to maintain this as the war weary soldiers returned.
Servicemen, however, found themselves quarantined aboard ships and forced to follow preventative measures including inoculation and fumigation before being demobbed. Despite this, 12-15,000 Australians died of the disease.
Introducing measures to prevent or control epidemics has always been a government responsibility. Though our last quarantine station closed, in 1984, vaccination has long been a requirement when travelling to many parts of the world.
Today, caught out with inadequate preparation and planning, our leading politicians have teamed up to throw a hospital pass to the public rather than continue to deal with the pandemic. Catch this, it’s your responsibility. Unfortunately, being responsible citizens and skilled with the oval ball, we are catching it in droves.
The idea that it is the Government's job to address the problem and organise community response to pandemic is repugnant to Perrottet and Morrison. Instead, state and federal governments are concentrating on redefining COVID-19, contact, quarantine and the need to get tested out of existence. Despite coordinating the responses to pandemic being vital to limiting the human cost.
Regulations exist to protect communities, not to steal their freedom.
Scott and Dominic were competing to be the Christmas turkey, not leaders of a nation. Cry freedom, here’s Santa with a bag of COVID, every man for himself! This is clearly more of a political tactic and an election cry than a sign of governments doing the hard yards, protecting the community.
It will be interesting to see if after witnessing Dominic ‘s backflip, and the upsurge of COVID-19 cases Australiawide, Morrison decides that COVID regulation is a state responsibility and we should move on.
As the Government spins out of control, with negligible and negligent actions, I am not looking forward to three more years of holding my own hose as the wildfires burn and the virus drifts and shifts.
Where did I put my MAGA cap?
Geoffrey Dyer is a retired teacher with 41 years of experience in the classroom. Subjects taught include English, Modern and Ancient History, Society and Culture, Aboriginal Studies.
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