As autumn fades and the final leaves fall, the bitter winds of winter loom. Cold hearts of powerful people begin to frost over, as we approach another season typically associated with colds and flu, but, with the existence of COVID-19, becomes all about that one virus. After the destructive tendencies of power-tripping Premiers were revealed last winter, it stands to reason that people are concerned about what they may do this year. So what might we expect to see over the coming winter months?
If the last few months are anything to go by, it is likely we will see more absurd restrictions enforced by governments and unelected health bureaucrats. If they can overreact to one case in the summer and autumn periods and use that as an excuse to decree a snap lockdown, then just imagine what they might do when more cases inevitably pop up through winter.
The states that should have the greatest concerns are those with Labor governments, in particular Western Australia, Queensland, and Victoria. Mark McGowan is quick to pull the trigger on snap lockdowns, given he clearly has little faith in his state’s contact tracing system. Both McGowan and Annastacia Palaszczuk have become infamous for being quick to shut their borders to states that have a case or two of local transmission pop up. And Victoria has built a reputation (although not the good kind) for bungling the COVID-19 response, be it through issues with hotel quarantine or their contact tracing system and imposing harsh restrictions on its people. Given what took place last year, it is understandable that Victorians would be fearful of what may occur over the coming winter.
Victoria is the most significant concern currently given an increasing number of cases of local transmission, a result of failures in their contact tracing system. For a brief moment this week Acting Premier James Merlino gave Victorians hope that their government may have finally changed tack and become more rational. It seemed the one thing that may have been preventing lockdown was the absence of Premier Daniel Andrews, on extended after sustaining significant injuries in a fall. He has remained unsighted for a while now, although he is expected to return to his role in June.
Merlino has said Andrews is “fully aware and supportive of the changes we are making”. However, it appeared for a moment Victorians had dodged a bullet, then Melbourne was plunged into another hard “circuit-breaker” lockdown, this one set to last at least seven days, boding terribly for the lockdown state as the winter months approach. Old habits die hard.
Seemingly, the only unproblematic and reasoned State when it comes to corona is New South Wales. Gladys Berejiklian has been measured in her approach and has remained so in the face of challenges that have arisen and criticism she has copped. When a case of local transmission occurs, rather than jumping straight to a snap lockdown, Berejiklian carefully assesses the situation and imposes only what is absolutely necessary. Although there was some slight overreaction to the most recent cases, those being a couple who lived in the same household, whereby restrictions were unnecessarily extended for a week, NSW has been for the most part secure, stable, and fairly close to normal. The Premier has even extended reasoned advice to other States, most recently Victoria, rebuking lockdowns and asking them to take a more rational, measured approach like NSW has. If the good and sensible leadership of Premier Berejiklian continues, NSW may just be the envy of the rest of Australia this winter.
Obviously, with the rollout of vaccines across the country, this winter could end up being better than the last. But we are still almost certain to see politicians wielding their power and pinning blame on their counterparts. The Premiers and the federal government have on several occasions found themselves at odds with each other, and the federal opposition do so love to blame the Prime Minister and his government for outbreaks that occur. In fact, earlier this week, Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek tweeted out about the Melbourne outbreak, saying “If Scott Morrison’s failed vaccine rollout wasn’t so far behind, this might never have happened.” It is disingenuous to put the full blame on the PM when much of it lies with the systemic contract tracing failures in Victoria. But the political blame game never ceases and is likely to get even more bitter in the months to come.
What is clear is that politicians have obtained a taste of greater power, and they have become addicted to it. They will do almost anything to hold onto those powers for as long as possible, even if that comes at the expense of their state. They can do almost anything they want, as long as it is under the pretence of protecting the public from a virus with a 99.9% recovery rate. It seems that they can excuse their actions, however arbitrary they are, at the tip of a hat and the utterance of the tired old phrase: “these changes have been made on the health advice”. But where is the “health advice”? Will we ever see it? That question has been asked, and it often falls on deaf ears. You would be hard-pressed to find it anywhere. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack, except there is no needle and you just wasted countless hours looking for nothing. Yet the “health advice” is sure to be the basis of restrictions that will inevitably be imposed this winter. Coupled with continued government incompetence, it is like a match made in hell.
Hell may not have frozen over, but your freedom might just be about to.
Joel Agius is an independent writer. If you would like to read more of his work, you can do so at JJ’s Outlook.
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