The great wartime British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is attributed with the expression “Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”. Clearly, Churchill never envisaged the Victorian government run by Chairman Dan during the time of the China virus.
The state of Victoria, as are all the other states and the Australian government, is based on a Westminster model where power is disbursed, the government of the day is answerable to parliament and the liberties and freedoms of citizens are protected.
Members of parliament and public servants instead of acting out of greed, self-interest or personal and party advancement are required to make decisions for the public good and concepts like ministerial responsibility and cabinet solidarity ensure collective responsibility.
The prime minister and in Victoria’s case the premier, in theory at least, are first among equals and while the government is formed by whatever party has the majority in the lower house the opposition has a crucial role to play.
Instead of oligarchs and dictators parliament is central as it expresses the will of the people and because it gives voice to the conviction, as written on the floor of the Victorian parliament: “Where No Counsel Is The People Fall But In The Multitude of Counsellors There Is Safety”.
Based on recent events at the COVID-19 hotel inquiry established to identify how the virus escaped leading to a second wave of infection it’s obvious, instead of responsible government, Victorians are living under a dictatorial, oppressive regime where Chairman Dan rules unquestioned and unchallenged.
Like China’s citizens, the liberties and freedoms once taken for granted by Victorians no longer apply. In a magnanimous gesture, the Chairman has announced this afternoon the curfew is to go, but it has been replaced by a new, higher fine on gatherings and the 5-kilometre radius outside of which it is illegal to travel still remains, meaning Melbournians are condemned to self-isolate in their own homes – whether infected or not.
The cult of personality is central to any dictatorship and like the pervasive presence of Kim Jong Un and Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei Chairman Dan appears daily at a press conference projecting a benign and reassuring presence guaranteed to deflect the reality his government is responsible for so many deaths and so many bankrupted businesses.
Such is Chairman Dan’s persuasiveness and skill at manipulating his audience that even after admitting as premier he is personally responsible and must be held accountable for the second wave crippling Victoria he successfully evades any criticism or condemnation.
At last week’s hotel inquiry, the ineptitude, negligence and disregard for long accepted Westminster parliamentary practice was obvious. On being questioned who was responsible for employing security guards manifestly ill-equipped and ill-trained to quarantine returned travellers the three ministers pleaded ignorance.
Notwithstanding all had been responsible for orchestrating and managing the hotel quarantine program the cabinet ministers like the three wise monkeys portrayed themselves as mute, deaf and blind.
Even worse both ministers and senior bureaucrats sought to deny any knowledge or responsibility by arguing the decision was a collective one that somehow assumed a life of its own. Leading counsel assisting to suggest how could you make a collective decision without there being any collective.
On being asked by counsel assisting the inquiry did he as premier and head of the crisis cabinet responsible for dealing with the pandemic know who made the decision to employ private guards Chairman Dan also denied any knowledge.
Like the consummate political operator he is, Andrews avoided any further questions by suggesting he more than most wanted to know the truth and that is why he set up the inquiry.
Contrary to the evidence provided by senior bureaucrats and a number of communications from the commonwealth government Chairman Dan also denied any knowledge that Victoria had been offered support by the Australian Defence Force to supervise hotel quarantine instead of using security guards.
Given Andrews is consumed by the need to exercise power and his government is one of the most centralised and rigidly managed in Victoria’s history it beggars belief none of the 3 ministers or Chairman Dan could remember who in the government made the decision leading to over 700 deaths, hundreds of bankrupted businesses and citizens being imprisoned in their own homes.
The obfuscation, mismanagement and denial of responsibility evidenced by the Victorian government and Chairman Dan perfectly also illustrates how stained and corrupted parliamentary democracy now is in Victoria.
It also further illustrates why in a survey of millennials by Sydney’s Centre for Independent Studies 58% viewed socialism favourably and so many appear apathetic and unwilling to be involved with mainstream political parties.
Dr Kevin Donnelly is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Catholic University and author of A Politically Correct Dictionary and Guide (available at kevindonnelly.com.au).
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