By Mike Canavan
The world is very different today — and not just because of the coronavirus. Events seem to turn it more quickly: Viruses become pandemics in weeks; medical challenges become life-and-death emergencies in days; and freedoms, once sacrosanct, are removed in minutes live on TV, or with the stroke of a faceless bureaucratic pen. Once secure and prosperous societies now seem precariously vulnerable, even fragile — open to new challenges governments have neither the experience nor the intelligence to address.
The reality, of course, is that the world has changed — it has never been quite as small. It took the Black Death years to reach Europe in the 14th century. It took the coronavirus a matter of weeks to go global. The politics of this pandemic reflect this — jarring and seemingly out of control, forced into a furious sprint just to keep up with the exponential mathematics of epidemiology (be them as flawed as they have turned out to be). But while the world is different, certainly at least in Australia where life has largely been locked down, humans are not. Then as now, we fear death and crave security and search for leaders who fend off one with the other. One after the other, World leaders sort security by hibernating their economies — repelling boarders and terrifying the population at large. They ordered that no one leave their home, and empowered our police force to fine anyone who does so for anything other than life’s essentials. International and State boarders were and still are closed.
Battle analogies are everywhere. And for good reason. “The way ahead is hard, and it is still true that many lives will sadly be lost,” urging each and all to do their duty — download the Covid-19 app. Summoning up the spirit of the ANZAC’s as fuel for courage — rallying cries such as: “we’re all in this together” abound.
By using the language of war, Morrison inevitably both invites comparisons with history, and suffers in light of them. Karl Marx wrote: “The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living,”. As was then, as is now. Each country today, as it battles the coronavirus, has its own memory weighing on its leaders.
World War 2 rallying cry poster
In times of national crisis, people turn to what they know — to the myths and caricatures that define them.
On this occasion the sad but inevitable truth is that this national crisis is very much a homegrown, and a self-inflicted one.
Shortly after World War II, British writer and theologian CS Lewis examined what he called “moral busybodies” in one of his essays on ethics. “Of all tyrannies,” he said, “a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.”
Some might say that I am overstating the issue by using such a strong word as tyranny. However to counter that I would draw your attention to the ramshackle policy on the run thinking that we’re experiencing now: incompetent politicians exercising powers they have no idea how to control, in response to Covid-19 fallout. For arguments sake let us not question their intentions, even though Annastacia Palaszczuk motives suspiciously look like being politically driven as she faces an election in the next few months. Although it is hard to understand what political milage she might gain by crippling the entire state.
The shibboleth parroted by our federal and state leaders, surrounded by their medical bureaucratic masters to hide behind, is that they will do nothing that threatens their constituent’s health — forgive me did I say constituents, I meant citizens.
Noble sentiments indeed, but this nobility has come with what potentially could be fatal economic consequences.
Our Premier Gladys Berejiklian made what could only be described as a remarkable “own goal” this week when she said: “More than 220,000 jobs lost in April is beyond our wildest expectations in terms of what could have happened.” Surely, she is joking. The horrifically flawed medical modelling that I have written about before that predicted a 150,000 Australians would die by the end of May was taken as holy writ, but the job figures astonish her! Please!!
Notwithstanding the obvious breach of Section 92 of the Australian Constitution; (That the trade and intercourse between the Federated Colonies, whether by means of land carriage or coastal navigation, shall be free from the payment of Customs Duties, and from all restrictions whatsoever, except from such regulations as may be necessary for the conduct of business), Queensland’s Annastacia Palaszczuk (or is it her chief health officer’s?) continues to state, that despite having next to no infections she would not be opening her state until September. When pressed for what might have to happen to satisfy the needs to reopen the Border’s, she went on to say: “two consecutive 14-day incubation periods without community transmission in Victoria and NSW”. So one must assume that the new slogan for Queensland tourism will be beautiful one day bankrupt forever.
The defiant stupidity is palpable. If it weren’t so tragic it would be laughable. It’s costing Queensland $53 million a day in lost tourism revenue. The state relies heavily on domestic visitors during the winter, with a cornucopia of small businesses running resorts, hotels, cafes, pubs, clubs, restaurants, tours, transport etc..etc. Businesses that used to employ tens of thousands of people, but not now. If the borders do not reopen now, neither will many of these businesses. The possibility of an Australia / New Zealand travel bubble has given rise to the insane proposition that Australians from southern states could ski in New Zealand before they surf in Queensland. Palaszczuk glibly dismissed Berejiklian call to open the boarders by saying: “ I know how much of Gladys enjoys holidaying in far north Queensland and their resorts, but she’ll just have to wait’. If she holds out to September, the problem will solve itself, there won’t be any resorts to reopen. Long before then the liquidators will have been summoned.
Sadly what these dimwits failed to recognise is even if there is a vaccine developed for Covid-19 and it may be years away, there will be some cases of it into the future. Just like there is a flu vaccine, people mostly during winter contract it; and some will die with it. In fact 902 died in Australia in 2019 due to the flu virus according to The Melbourne WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza.
Covid-19 is a virus, no doubt a highly contagious one, but one that will be with us all as a community for many many years to come.
So far, the pain is dulled by unsustainable federal handouts, haphazardly and ludicrously applied. Have you ever tried to complete the government forms to apply for relief. They are so misleading and complicated that over 100 applicants of corner stores and small businesses put in 1500 employees incorrectly were eligible for the JobKeeper payment rather than one. Not only was this missed by Centrelink but it also appears that the ATO (Australian Tax Office) has no trouble in believing that Joe’s fish shop might possibly employ 1500 staff. The consequence is a staggering 60-billion-dollar error in budgeting allocations. The infighting on this insanity is only just started who knows where it might lead.
Then on the other hand there are employees who were receiving $350 per week for part time work, now because of the job keeper program are receiving $750 a week for not going to work at all.
When the financial merry-go-round stops, and the supports are removed, millions of Australians will fall into a cavernous and avoidable suffering. All too soon they will be more afraid of poverty than coronavirus. As night follows day, the banks will move; their generosity will have passed like ships in the night, and the debt holiday will be over. It would be nice to believe that banks and creditors would be compassionate, but I can find no historical precedent to suggest this will be so.
When we reach the end of this economic disaster, let’s not forget it was self-made. When the chickens come home to roost, and you can be sure they will, the political fallout will be cataclysmic. History is littered with the remains of political leaders who appeared to fight the good fight, but were then defeated at the next ballot box. Fisher, Menzies Churchill to name a few.
The indisputable truth is a healthy economy is necessary for life and prosperity. The decision that must be made now is to allow business to endeavour to pull itself up from the canvas and get back to some form of normality. The equation now is lives versus lives: the fractured lives of people left unemployed, destitute and facing bankruptcy, with the inevitable physical and mental health issues, against the lives of those who will succumb and die with cavernous. Let us not lose sight of the fact that the average age of those who have died with the virus is 82 years, with 86% of reported COVID-19 deaths involved at least one or more comorbidity issue.
Yoram Lass, the former Director of Israel’s Health Ministry recently argued, “The draconian measures are of biblical proportions. Hundreds of millions of people are suffering, in developing countries many will die from starvation. In developed countries, many will die from unemployment. Unemployment is mortality … more people will die from the measures than from the virus. And the people who die from the measures are the breadwinners. They are younger … what has been done is not proportionate, but people are afraid. People are brainwashed. They don’t listen to the data and that includes governments”.
The time has well and truly come for governments to get out of our lives and let us try and get ourselves back to some form of normality. CS Lewis, once wrote: “Those who torment us for our own good, will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” Mr Morrison, please, I beg you stop helping us and let us help ourselves. Please remember the road to hell is paved with good intentions.