Flat White

Schwarten’s 'Covid logic' cruelly divides Queenslanders

14 January 2022

4:00 AM

14 January 2022

4:00 AM

It’s far past time that people stop playing politics with Covid, as former ALP Old Guard enforcer Robert Schwarten did last week in Queensland.

This is undoubtedly part of a strategy by the state government which allowed the unvaccinated free range before the state reached 85 per cent vaccination rates, but severely restricted the venues they could attend afterwards.

This makes no health sense. If you believe vaccines work, then 85 per cent should be above any threshold for herd immunity and as close to 100 per cent as you could need. Achieving this would be the time to release restrictions, not tighten them.

In the absence of logic, this seems to be an attempt to set-up a portion of the population as political fall guys in the event the state’s vaccine strategy doesn’t work.

Playing on the fears of the public – and focusing those fears on a minority using falsehoods or half-truths – is a well-trodden path to electoral success, but it is ultimately corrosive of democracy.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has staked her reputation on keeping the people safe, and now that the vaccine strategy is in disarray (with infections rising daily) she needs a substitute threat. Sending a former hack politician out to make a brutish attack is one way to road test the new strategy.

Hopefully, the strategy will backfire.

Schwarten has come out and demonised somewhere between 20 to 30 per cent of the voting population who are either unvaccinated or were vaccinated under duress. These people know they are not ‘ill-advised, selfish, or self-centred hypocrites’ and they resent the treatment being meted out by the state government and its urgers. Many of these people voted Labor at the last election, but they won’t next time.

People don’t like to be lied to, they don’t like being insulted, and they certainly don’t like being put in a basket of ‘deplorables’.


Many of Schwarten’s facts, while implicit in government pronouncements, are flat-out wrong. Not only can the vaccinated transmit Covid; according to many studies (if not most), they are just as likely to transmit the virus as unvaccinated people. This reality is being reflected in the current spread of Omicron among fully vaccinated populations.

The extent of the benefit of the vaccines is to protect the vaccinated in the event of infection, and with the advent of the Omicron variation, this comes at a significantly reduced rate.

Unvaccinated Queenslanders are not Typhoid Marys roaming the streets infecting the population, they are just like everyone else when it comes to transmissibility – happy to accept their personal risk.

Most unvaccinated people I know are not anti-vaccination, and they’re not stupid, but they do have a preference for which vaccines they use and are knowledgeable about the science involved. Many like me are waiting for Novavax, although that position may become moot if we catch Covid before it becomes available.

That is because natural immunity remains superior to vaccine-induced immunity. This makes sense, as the vaccine only switches on part of the body’s alarm system to the spike protein. Natural immunity trains the body to react to a whole range of other viral characteristics through broad-based protection.

On Schwarten’s logic, if we are going to punish the unvaccinated, we should give special privileges to those who have recovered.

The effectiveness of the vaccines fades over time, with the recommendation for a third shot coming just three months after the second dose. This leads to an easy deduction that there are going to be people who have been double-jabbed whose immunity is similar to, or less than, many who haven’t. So, where is the basis for the blanket preferment of one group over the other? If this discussion was purely based in science, there would be an allowance for the recovered.

Schwarten conjures up visions of ICUs overloaded with the unvaccinated to guilt trip the population – if you’re unvaccinated you’re killing someone else who might need the hospital bed you’re needlessly occupying.

If you are young and healthy, there is little chance you will need to be hospitalised. Plenty of people are in hospital across the world as a result of the vaccination itself, as shown by this recent British study of over forty-two million shows more people with myocarditis from vaccination than infection. The effect was particularly pronounced in men under 40.

It is clear from the data that vaccination is not a risk-free proposition, and individuals ought to be able to assess their own risks and benefits in taking one, especially if it doesn’t protect others. There is certainly no way healthy young sportsmen should be coerced into vaccination.

The idea that the unvaccinated ought to pay for their hospital care creates a new category – the ‘undeserving sick’. It appears the ALP is looking to ameliorate its neglect of the hospital system (which it had 18 months to modify for Covid) by implementing a neo-liberal ‘user-pays’ system.

Let’s apply that to lifestyle illnesses like obesity or lung cancer as well, or the casualties of risky sports.

If I go to hospital with Covid, do I also get credit for my exercise and diet regimen which has made my hospitalisation footprint very light over the years?

In my experience, the unvaccinated aren’t reckless. They’re using other methods to stay healthy, spending their own money ensuring they are as fit and healthy as possible and investing in prophylactics.

Unlike many of the fully vaccinated, they’re not arrogantly (mistakenly and dangerously) believing they are invulnerable.

We’ve seen where tactics like Schwarten’s have led in the past. You don’t have to go to 1930s Berlin to see where it leads, just look at Capalaba in 2022 where a crowd hassled police for ejecting an unvaccinated patron from a coffee shop. It wasn’t fair on the police, but the public know an unjust law when they see it.

This won’t be the last incident on the way to riots. Pitting citizen against citizen is no way to run a state, but it appears the totalitarian impulse runs deep through the generations of Queensland ALP.

Graham Young is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress and founder and editor of On Line Opinion.

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