Flat White

Lockdown might be loosening but who’s in charge?

17 October 2021

4:00 PM

17 October 2021

4:00 PM

In his two weeks or so in office New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet has done more to lift the spirits of the nation than all the other state leaders combined in the 20 months since the pandemic hit — yet he’s been rebuffed by the Prime Minister.

Much has been written in these pages about the broken state of this nation. However, the events of last week provided us with the most compelling evidence that Australia is like one of those rafts heading towards a huge waterfall in an old western. 

I don’t need to elaborate in any detail on why this country is in a mess, save to say that National Cabinet has seen the Peter Principle come to life in a devastatingly dangerous way. Indeed, the words of Jesus Christ in St Mark’s Gospel about the ruling class of His time are just as relevant now: “You know that among the pagans their so-called rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt.”

On Friday Perrottet, told us the bleeding obvious: that we cannot live in a hermit kingdom forever and he decided to open his state for all as of November 1, and abolish quarantine for all vaccinated travellers. While this is far from perfect since it entrenches vaccine apartheid for which, as Professor Andrew Pollard, who led the Oxford vaccine team, has stated there is no epidemiological justification, and as Joel Agius wrote in these pages, there is no “freedom day” until we are all free, it signalled a mighty move in the right direction.  

A few hours later this plan was overruled by the Prime Minister, who declared the borders will remain closed to international tourists. Comment was also made about whether Perrottet had the authority to make such a decision, since the Commonwealth has constitutional responsibility for quarantine and international borders. As we know, the Commonwealth and the states have distinct responsibilities but often share the burden, which is what happens in a normally functioning federation. For example, emergency services are a state responsibility, but that doesn’t mean Canberra won’t chip in with financial and other assistance in times of bushfires, floods, drought and so forth.

Yes, quarantine is a federal responsibility, but over the last 18 months the Commonwealth has asked the states to share the burden (a big mistake in the case of Victoria). So when a premier who states openly that he believes in freedom wants to deploy police and health resources (state responsibilities) to better use, he should be encouraged. But of course, when you have a prime minister who has stated openly he couldn’t care less about freedom, and failed to defend the Constitution in the Palmer case, what would you expect? 

Naturally Morrison made no condemnation of Peter Gutless (I know that is not his name, but that is what he is) locking up half his state last Friday even though 67% of Tasmanians have had their two doses. Let’s not forget that this is the percentage at which Norway and Sweden abolished all coronavirus restrictions, but of course, Van Diemen’s Land was one of the most brutal penal colonies ever established, so keeping people imprisoned must be in the genes down there.   

The PM has also been silent about South Australian Liberal Premier Steven Marshmallow (I know that is not his name, but that is what he is), a frightened rabbit in the headlights too terrified to move despite the Festival State missing the delta outbreak.

Then we have mixed messages. Also last Friday the Assistant Attorney-General, Senator Amanda Stoker, in her weekly email missive to constituents and supporters, had this to say: 

Good news … we’re almost there!

If you’re anything like me, you’re frustrated, bothered and sick of hearing about COVID-19.

Which is why I thought now was about the right time to point out the hope on the horizon.

Even though Labor state governments have been busy letting you down and locking you up, the Morrison Government is preparing to push ahead with a plan to re-open Australia.

Once we get to stage four of the National Plan, no Australian will be treated any differently.

Everyone will have either had the chance to get the jab, or accept the individual risk that comes without getting it.

It means we’ll be managing COVID-19 as an infectious disease like any other in the community.

While I admire the good Senator for her optimism, with the greatest of respect, she is in la-la land. Her Liberal colleagues in other states haven’t had any hesitation in pulling the lockdown trigger, and even when we get to “stage four” whenever that will be, already there is no indication that “we’ll be managing COVID-19 as an infectious disease like any other in the community.” 

There will be a “vaccinated economy” in Victoria, vaccine passports will be required to get into the Northern Territory, and the king of the windbags himself, Marshall Mao Zedong McGowan stated (again on Friday) that when he eventually opens the border to the People’s Republic of Westralia, capacity limits will be reintroduced and we may have to wear masks, which of course is not in the National Plan. Naturally, only Dominic Perrottet has said that vaccine passports are not a long term solution 

What does Morrison say about any of this? No praise for Perrottet, and nothing but silence or quiet encouragement for authoritarian rulers who want to lord it over us. All of which begs the question: who’s in charge here? 

I don’t follow AFL, but I know a little about Ron Barassi and his haranguing of players. I’d say if Morrison were one of Barassi’s players, what you see at the end of this clip is what the latter would do to the former, and describes him most accurately. 

Dr Rocco Loiacono is a senior lecturer at Curtin Law School.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Curtin University. 

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