The National Cabinet, comprising the prime minister, the state premiers, etc., liken themselves to a wartime high command. They are only tempting a court-martial.
But even now, were they to re-open the economy and successfully recover massive damages from Beijing, they could still redeem themselves.
Future historians will ask how could a virus from a disgusting Wuhan ‘wet market’ or, more likely, from some depraved communist laboratory project, do what two world wars and a depression could not do — turn Australia, one of the world’s oldest democracies, into a grossly indebted, authoritarian and misgoverned polity.
With the great gift of being, after New Zealand, the world’s most remote island nation, the National Cabinet’s primary role was a pushover — stopping the virus at the border.
If the politicians had not spent decades consorting with Beijing, they might have noticed how a democratic Chinese government prepared for what anyone in government should have known was inevitable. With a population similar to Australia’s, yet geographically far closer to the Chinese mainland and with much more crowded living conditions, Taiwan’s virus caseload is a mere six per cent of Australia’s, the death rate ten per cent, there are no serious cases in hospital, no lock-down and the Taiwanese aren’t loaded with a debt of over $300 billion.
In defence, we are told that their Confucianist discipline could never be replicated among rebellious Australians.
But all that comment shows is that the only thing we learn from history is that man never learns from history.
The fact is that no matter how silly and how disastrous our politicians’ decisions are, Australians are much more likely to obey them even though repression is absent. In any event, it took the National Cabinet almost two months to impose what was obviously essential, strict entry controls.
In the meantime, thousands came in medically uncontrolled, by land and by sea, thus unknowingly creating chains of infection across Australia.
When it finally dawned on the National Cabinet to impose minimal entry controls in late March, these were inexplicably lifted one night in early April to allow the entry of a cargo flight direct from — believe it or not — the very heart of the problem, Wuhan.
Not only did the cargo come in, the crew checked into unquarantined airport accommodation in Sydney.
Meanwhile, the National Cabinet has seemed determined to cure the very problem they have created by making ordinary Australians suffer.
Premier Berejiklian even announced that restrictions would stay in place until a vaccination was found. No doubt told that an early or indeed any discovery was in no way assured, she backtracked.
Then on Holy Saturday, the peace over the exquisitely beautiful and unusually placid waters off Bondi was disrupted by instructions shrieked into a loud hailer by a rotund gauleiter who was charged with closing the path to Tamarama.
She gratuitously ordered a startled youth on a surfboard, totally alone in the water and well out, to return immediately to shore.
In the meantime, it is commonplace to see police breaking up illegal gatherings. Christopher Woodley described one in the Sydney Morning Herald. It arose when his wife, her 65-year-old brother and 89-year-old father were out for a walk and they decided to take a rest while ‘dad got his breath’.
Everywhere politicians and police are showing signs of similar authoritarianism. It is as if some dictator, some Mussolini, Mao or indeed Xi Jinping had moved into Government House.
What on earth has this nonsense to do with fighting the Wuhan virus?
But there is even worse.
Without preparation or proper debate in a parliament miniaturised to protect the bulk of our priceless politicians, much of the productive part of the nation has been both closed down and saddled with a mountain of debt threatening the very stability of the currency. With the bloated public sector wholly protected, the lives of the people are being controlled minutely and unnecessarily with most of the mainstream media transfixed by and even lauding this unchallenged and unbelievably negligent exercise of naked power.
Reopening the real economy is urgent, but the politicians are unlikely to move on this until President Trump does, even if the American mainstream media misuse the re-opening to carry on their campaign against him.
The other thing is for the federal government to do its duty and speedily extract fair reparations from Beijing. Most ways which will be suggested are, unfortunately, a waste of time.
First, foreign governments, or sovereigns, are immune from legal action in our or any nation’s courts. None of the small exceptions are applicable.
Second, none of the international governance venues, the United Nations, the World Health Organisation, World Court, etc. — all perfect on paper— will work. They all depend on Beijing’s consent or not using pressure on weak and dependent governments. Even where Beijing was legally subject to the jurisdiction of an international tribunal — that in relation to the South China Sea — Beijing has cavalierly ignored the judgement. In place of the rule of law, communists believe in the rule of the party.
There is one way and one way only.
This is a Nuremberg-style solution with a commission or tribunal set up under treaty with the United States and similar powers.
Mandated to move quickly, the commission would determine responsibility for the damage done and make both interim and final awards of damages.
The Treaty should provide that were a state to be found to be responsible for damages and then to default, property controlled by the defaulting government, whether or not vested in personal or corporate ownership, could be taken in settlement.
Apart from our regaining premium and strategic assets, such an outcome might make Beijing think twice about weaponising biology.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.
You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10