‘Annus Horribilis’ was how Queen Elizabeth II described 1992, a tough year at the palace. The Latin term means ‘horrible year’.
28 years on, Her Majesty’s description looks thoroughly modern and exposes a gift for 2020 vision.
There is another term, or word, that is getting a good run this ‘annus’.
It is the Premier Daniel Andrews’ favourite – and it has been rolling off his tongue for some time.
I remember it first during the 2018 Victorian State election, during which he used it as a common deflection against arguments for the East West Link. He used it to describe the Opposition, the Opposition Leader and more broadly any question he didn’t want to answer.
Again and again we would hear phrases such as ‘that person is irrelevant to me’, or ‘what the Opposition says is irrelevant’, or ‘that issue is irrelevant to me’. You get the drift.
It is a term that he hasn’t boxed away. In fact, it is holding increasing currency as the questions from the Covid media room slowly get crustier.
Even when the Cedar Meats Coronavirus outbreak happened in May, the abattoir that provides financial donations to the Labor Party, Mr Andrews again trotted out his line. This time, the Opposition’s criticism of the handling of the outbreak was not just ‘irrelevant’, it was “completely irrelevant”. He simply would not respond to “silly political games”.
I thought it was perhaps an opportune moment to take a closer look at his vernacular of choice.
Let us start at the recent media call for his ‘Road Map Out of Coronavirus’ announcement – otherwise referred to as the dead-end, road to nowhere. The Premier did not even bring his data on regional Victoria to the big announcement.
He made it very clear that regional Victoria is irrelevant. We heard it and felt it. We still do – despite this week’s easing of some restrictions. Just ask any business or café.
He relies on a Gang of Eight Ministers to run-down the state, leaving the bulk of his own Ministry irrelevant.
He has largely shut down the Parliament, making democracy irrelevant.
He ignores the plea in writing from hundreds of practising medical experts to end the lockdowns, leaving them feeling irrelevant.
He has brutally ignored the business sector in his plans, rendering their concerns irrelevant.
He has made irrelevant any incoming voice that is one of dissent, or any proposal that enables a more nuanced response to the virus problem across the state, some parts of which have remained virus free.
And of course, he continues to label the Opposition irrelevant. By extension he is telling anyone who voted for the Coalition that they are also irrelevant.
Mr Andrews should know that within the Westminster system by which we are governed, an Opposition is a critical part of the structure. Oppositions ask questions on the public’s behalf.
This is the same man who repeatedly purports to have ‘no time for politics’. The same man who ad nauseum has told Victorians that his every decision is guided by the science and the advice of his Chief Health Officer (CHO) and experts.
Yet we now know that this is not the case.
The CHO, Doctor Brett Sutton, revealed on radio recently that it was not his advice to institute the draconian, liberty-sucking 8.00 pm curfew across Melbourne. The Police Chief has also denied providing such advice. So, if it wasn’t medical or police advice the Premier was following, it could only have been political gamesmanship. A dictatorial nod to his comrades.
Victorians are not irrelevant. Their right to democracy and freedom is not irrelevant. Their right to have their elected representatives voice their concerns in Parliament is not irrelevant. Their right to have a job is not irrelevant. Their right run their own business – is not irrelevant.
Even I am not irrelevant, despite the wish of many with opposing views.
This state of disaster – in a state of emergency for months – is not irrelevant: Victoria is critical to Australia’s prosperity and buoyancy.
During his roadmap announcement, Daniel Andrews referred to the piles of information being fed into a supercomputer. What information is going into the computer is very relevant – but we are not being told what it is. Yet it is this data – churned and spat out – that is forming the solutions he demands we respect.
Modelling is an inexact science as we well know. Enabling broad debate would help this process, not hinder it. Yet we are too irrelevant to be given the truth and facts.
We are expected to have our lives organised by what this supercomputer tells us.
As the Little Britain team would put it, ‘the computer says no’.
What is clear – supercomputer or none – is that this Premier is now subject to his own term: he is irrelevant – most certainly to Victoria’s future.
Beverley McArthur is a Liberal Legislative Councillor for the Western Victoria Region.
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