Leading article Australia

Flawed democracy

6 February 2021

9:00 AM

6 February 2021

9:00 AM

In an interesting report by Catherine Philp in the UK Times, we learn that the coronavirus has seriously damaged democratic institutions and nations around the globe. This would come as no surprise to Zoe Buhler, the pregnant woman hauled up and handcuffed in her pyjamas in front of her children by thuggish masked officers simply for posting her thoughts on lockdowns on Facebook. Prior to 2020, we would have presumed correctly that such an event could only have occurred in Zimbabwe, Myanmar, China, North Korea or some other hellhole, rather than sleepy old Ballarat in rural Victoria.

The Times article was a summary of the 2020 Democracy Index from the Economist Intelligence Unit, which concludes that ‘democracy [in 2020] has deteriorated in all seven regions of the world… driven by government measures to address the [pandemic]’ and that ‘the removal of individual liberties in development democracies was the most remarkable feature of 2020’.

‘The willing surrender of fundamental freedoms by millions of people was perhaps one of the most remarkable occurrences in an extraordinary year,’ Joan Hoey, the Index report’s author claims.

The Democracy Index tracks the momentum towards or away from democratic norms, with the category one down from ‘full democracy’ being ‘flawed democracy’.

A phrase that increasingly describes our own sorry state of affairs.

On the very day the report was issued, we saw our own increasingly flawed democracy hard at work: an attempt to silence a questioning and informative voice rather than determine where the actual truth lies.


The biggest news story of the day was the hounding of Liberal backbencher Craig Kelly over his Facebook posts, which have for many months provided up-to-the-minute information on covid treatments that involve hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin. Rebecca Weisser has also written extensively on this topic over many months in this magazine,

Apparently, the Prime Minister summonsed Mr Kelly to his office for a dressing down following a vicious and irresponsible campaign against Mr Kelly by Labor, the ABC and the mainstream media. The ABC has accused the Member for Hughes of spreading ‘misinformation’, and even the increasingly woke Australian’s satirist couldn’t rise above cheap abuse, writing a ditty about Kelly that sneered:

‘He thinks face masks are child abuse and tweets it from the stair. And underneath his MAGA hat, he has Ivermectin in his hair!… How do you find a word that means Craig Kelly? A hydroxychloroquine twit? A will-o’-the Whip? A COVID clown?’

So witty. Yet of course, as Ramesh Thakur writes in this week’s cover story, masks are indeed controversial and may be doing more harm than good. There is increasing evidence that they may indeed amount to child abuse.

What the ABC and others fail to mention is that Mr Kelly’s posts are basically nothing more than an objective compilation of the vast swathe of medical papers, many peer-reviewed, that detail the successful treatment of covid patients around the world with these drugs.

Yet the ABC and Labor MPs, including the newly appointed shadow health minister Mark Butler, leader Anthony Albanese and wannabe-leader Tanya Plibersek, continue the false narrative that Mr Kelly is putting lives at risk by drawing attention to these international studies. In attempting to silence the MP, history may well determine that it was they who were guilty of endangering Australian lives.

Ironically, and as an aside, the ivermectin treatment, available in India in a blister-pack for around $2.65, was discovered here in Australia by the highly-respected Professor Thomas Borody. It is more than likely that history will look back on this as being one of the greatest missed opportunities for the Australian pharmaceutical industries of all time.

As Ms Weisser points out in her column this week, ‘In England, the WHO has commissioned Professor Andrew Hill to do a meta-analysis of the effectiveness of ivermectin, which has been studied in 35 trials and shows a 90 per cent improvement in 10 prophylaxis trials and an 84 per cent improvement in early treatment. It is already being used in Slovakia, South Africa and Uttar Pradesh… Hill [says] the purpose of his report was to forewarn people that ivermectin was coming.’

At least the Sydney Morning Herald had the professionalism to report that: ‘Australian immunologist, Emeritus Professor Robert Clancy of the University of Newcastle… said the evidence showed hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin were safe and should be used. “But they mustn’t be used instead of a vaccine. They need to be used together,” he said.’

As Ms Weisser astutely notes, ‘Perhaps the ABC and the Labor party can get ready to apologise to Craig Kelly.’

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