The uncompromising nature of Australia’s lockdown may well have been inspired by the example set by other countries. Or it may be that, as a practising Christian, Scott Morrison found precedent for the severity of his strictures in the pages of the New Testament. It is now clear to everyone except Daniel Andrews that trying to prevent the spread of Covid-19 by closing all schools, offices, factories, sports venues and restaurants was, in terms of problem/response proportionality, entirely consistent with the spirit of Matthew 5:29, which says that the best way to avoid seeing something you might find offensive is to cut out one of your eyes.
Fortunately for all of us, the Pentecostal Church to which Mr Morrison belongs accepts that we all make mistakes and indeed promotes the tenet that without transgression there can be no redemption. So in light of how much less of a health threat Covid-19 has turned out to be than the experts told him it would be, and in view of the social and economic damage inflicted by his response to it, you might think Mr Morrison would be consoled by the words of another apostle, St. Luke, who reminds us that there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine souls which are without sin.
But evidently even political leaders who are hailed as messiahs and said to have benefitted from ballot box miracles can be short on humility, and so far, the only one who’s come close to a ‘my bad’ in a Covid context is Mark McGowan. Having admitted to jumping the gun in accusing the federal government of ignoring the threat of infection posed by a Kuwaiti sheep-ship, the WA Labor leader, less than a year from an election, might have seemed to be trying to score anti-Coalition points. But as he is, by some distance, Australia’s most popular premier, I prefer to think that his intention was to boost the morale of sand gropers of every political stripe. As a nation we may have survived the Covid conflict with an enviably low casualty rate, but with just nine fatalities at time of writing, Western Australians can’t claim to have seen much action.
While most states are working hard to lift their lockdowns, Victoria seems to be not so much dragging its heels as nailing its feet to the floor. Not because most Victorians don’t want to go back to their jobs or their schools or their footy. But because Melbourne, not unlike Basra in the closing stages of the Iraq war, still harbours pockets of resistance to the forces of liberation. And that’s because the 2020 Victorian Labor party, like the Baathists’ Sadr wing of 2008, is controlled by a handful of fanatics who are fiercely and fundamentally opposed to Western democratic values. Only a month ago that sentence would have seemed at best over-reactionary and at worst paranoid. But recent revelations about the influence of the Chinese Communist Party in Victorian affairs, and in particular the relationship between Mr Andrews and certain CCP apologists within the Victorian business community, are starting to lend the wildest conservative conspiracy theories a whiff of credibility.
If Mr Andrews is persuaded by the federal government to unbuckle his Beijing Belt, and if the US, EU and other UN governments feel it incumbent upon themselves to continue backing Australia’s demands for an independent Covid-19 inquiry, Scott Morrison will soon be not much higher up President Xi’s Christmas card list than Tsai Ing-wen, his courageous and admirably outspoken Taiwanese counterpart. But a principle isn’t a principle until it costs you something, and we can be sure that the cost of Australia’s leadership in this matter will not merely be a matter of trade. With the build-up of China’s military power fast becoming almost as conspicuous as its economic expansion and its South Pacific sabre-rattling louder than ever, now would not be the time for Australia to reduce funding to our own armed forces. And to further enhance our readiness to back words with actions, it is to be hoped that Mr Morrison will make it clear that while the rest of the workforce may continue to work in their pyjamas and only put a collared shirt on for Zoom meetings, requests that the army should introduce casual Fridays will be turned down.
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