Scott Morrison's spread of fear has turned Australians from the public good

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Through poor leadership and a media who loves to sensationalise, our government is turning Australians against those truly in need, writes Noely Neate.

HOW MANY TIMES have we seen something horrible happen such as a racist incident, some entitled man trashing a teenager, misogyny from our so-called leaders or bigotry celebrated and the oft-quoted lament is “this is not Australia”?

It has always puzzled me how people seem to think the whole “fair go” thing is real, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Australians love “myth”. Look at the hero-worship of Anzac Day — well, jingoistic “Anzackery”, not real history as we could interfere with a bit of political grandstanding. Though it's apt of our politicians to muscle in on an event which should depict bravery and integrity hoping it rubs off on them, based on a myth with only the good bits highlighted and the not-so-good bits flushed down the historical toilet.

Speaking of toilets, the latest sigh of “this is not who we are, this is not Australia” has been in response to the great toilet roll shortage of 2020. COVID-19 ramps up in this nation and what do we do? We rush out to hoard toilet paper.

I will admit, a week ago, it just seemed like some quirky thing that was started on Facebook – let's face it, most irrational and unfactual rubbish starts there – and the jokes and memes were amusing. Forty-eight hours later, not so funny. People on low incomes or no incomes, the elderly, those who physically incapable of shopping – you know, the vulnerable in our society – were then put at risk because of hoarders.

Instead of the leadership in our nation doing a national press conference to calm the populace and stem the panic, we got Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a coronavirus briefing encouraging people to drop off a curry to the neighbour if they have to self isolate.

A week on, we are still seeing hoarding of more than just toilet paper, but it still seems to be the main focus of a scared nation, resulting in all sorts of unedifying displays in many locations.

We have been groomed to be a selfish nation ever since John Howard did his rubbish “battlers” campaign, telling Australians who were not exactly struggling that they were and deserved better. Given a choice at the last election to cut back on negative gearing rorts and franking credit refunds or policies that assisted the “many”, Australians chose the option where the “aspirational” acquire more wealth in spite of the vulnerable.

To now call for people to self-isolate, not hoard and think of the “public good”, is just a joke.

When was the last time a government in this nation did anything that was for the public good?

Self-isolation to combat the spread of COVID-19 to “protect the community” is great in theory, but not going to happen in reality.

A perfect example was a case with a student in Hobart. ABC Breakfast News and others were squealing about him “defying” self-isolation orders, demonising him for going to work and hitting the clubs after putting others in danger.

A 20-year-old kid comes back from Nepal – not Iran or China as the media kept warning about – gets the sniffles, rings a hotline and is “advised” to self-isolate until tests come back. Instead, he just carries on with his life as usual, going to his V.E.T. college (he didn’t just go clubbing) and to his casual hospitality job — pretty much your typical bulletproof young adult.

Instead of the media using this as the perfect opportunity to raise serious issues of not taking self-isolation seriously – how will casual workers survive if they have to self-isolate for 14 days, should there be better information about who should be tested and so on – there was just demonisation of a young kid.

To be frank, considering the future facing the kids in this nation with ignoring climate change, priced out of ever owning a home and the ever-increasing casualisation of workforce and gig economy work, who could blame them for thinking “live life while you can”?

But again, it comes back to this weird myth that Australians “look after each other”. We don’t and have not done so for a long time. We have a government that cares more about marketing than reality, we have a media that prefers promoting the “game of politics” instead of the reality of political decisions, so it is no surprise the whole house of cards spectacularly collapses when reality bites.

This is not the bushfire crisis where you have people in small communities looking out for each other, because that is what they do — they have no choice, they don’t have the facilities cities do, but that is not the Australian psyche that is a “small town” thing.

With the bushfires, we had professionals in charge. Scotty from Marketing was late to the party with a flashy video that he probably dreamed up in Hawaii on holidays while the country was burning, but in general, people didn’t panic because they knew experienced, professional fire commissioners around the nation were onto it and doing their best to keep us safe.

We don’t have that in this coronavirus pandemic. We have a PM as recently as yesterday doing a lame teaser on how he might address the harm to the economy, scaring punters further bragging this might be worse than the Global Financial Crisis for the economy.

That is what the nation needs when it is panic buying — big-noting from a PM that he has a bigger crisis on his hands than Labor. Just to give excuses for why we won’t have a surplus he bragged about – that never was, mind you – it was just a projection based on the best-case scenario, borrowing from Tony Abbott with his “Team Australia” patriotic rubbish.

No wonder the nation is fearful and caught up in panic buying. Even if they don’t follow politics, they're subconsciously thinking they are “stuffed” as no leadership in Australia at the moment will keep them safe. There is no concrete plan to address how they will be kept safe. Mixed messages and political marketing ploys don’t cut it when there is the unseen fear of a health pandemic exploding in the community.

Combine that with a nation groomed to be selfish over two or more decades and look after themselves at the expense of all others and what do you expect? Calls for acting in the public good will just fall on deaf ears.

Sadly, the panic buying toilet paper crowd appear to be Mr Morrison’s quiet Australians in the main. They won’t even be the most at risk — it will be the casual workers who can’t afford to not work for 14 days of self-isolation. It will be the aged in homes (also looked after by those low paid shift workers). It will be the single mothers who have to care for kids or an elderly parent. It will be those on Newstart who can’t afford to buy two meals ahead, forget about stocking up for 14 days.

Basically, it will be the vulnerable in society who will suffer if this virus gets worse and people need to self-isolate.

I would like to say that at some stage the PM and government will step up and act like adults in an emergency, but I doubt it.

Decades of the economy being more important than the community being perpetuated by both government and media to Australians is why we are at risk now to this pandemic.

Sorry, people, but welcome to the acrapolypse.

Read more from Noely Neate on her blog YaThink?, or follow her on Twitter @YaThinkN.

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