It seems the pandemic has disappeared – from our TV screens at least.
Last week, the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader debated the usual run of pre-election promises without making mention of the virus. Meanwhile, polls suggest a significant swing away from major parties towards minor parties and independents.
Why? Neither the media nor the major parties see fit to address the elephant in the room: the reckoning of Australia’s pandemic response.
For the past two years, Australians have endured impositions on liberty from both national and state governments, all in the name of ‘keeping us safe’. The question is: did it?
While many seem keen to move on and forget the whole affair, the reality is that thousands of Australians are still enduring mandates, restrictions, and the devastating effects of Australia’s pandemic response on their businesses, families, and health.
Our politicians need to recognise that restoration of public trust in government is paramount if Australians are going to recover from the past two years of struggle. To do this, we’re going to need a comprehensive review in the form of a Royal Commission, and this is why:
It’s part of the process
Australia’s pandemic emergency response plans include the Emergency Response Plan for Communicable Disease Incidents of National Significance (CDPLAN, 2016) and the Australian Health Management Plan for Pandemic Influenza (AHMPPI 2019). These are supported by federal and state legislation, and contain no mention of large-scale lockdowns, curfews, mask, or vaccination mandates.
Australia’s CDPLAN promises that, ‘The Department of Health will initiate a review of actions taken during the emergency and outcomes of the response.’
Evaluation and review are the bedrock of any emergency response and involves asking the questions: What went well? What didn’t go well and why? And what should be done differently next time? The CDPLAN indicates these questions should be asked. However, any review should be fully independent of the Health Department. Should this occur, we might find answers to why Australia’s response ignored the established plans.
Costs need to be counted
The health, social, and economic costs from the pandemic response are emerging and will be with us for years to come. Australia’s response saw unelected bureaucrats hold extraordinary power with a military-like orientation to the task of eliminating the virus. Instead of Chief Medical Officers, we had ‘Chief Covid Officers’; instead of Health Ministers we had ‘Covid Ministers’. Meanwhile, the health of the nation suffered.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently reported a 22 per cent increase in all-cause mortality in the year up to 30 Jan 2022: cancer deaths increased by 6.7 per cent; heart disease by 5.8 per cent; dementia by 29.2 per cent; and diabetes by a whopping 38 per cent. Experts hypothesise that prolonged lockdowns, fear-based health behaviour, and inadequate chronic disease care contributed to this. Mental health suffered too, with increases in depression and anxiety-related disorders, substance abuse, and mortality through suicide.
Significant social costs have accrued in terms of lost education, childhood development, family breakdown, domestic violence, and loss of social cohesion due to segregation behaviours. Economically, families and businesses have suffered due to lockdowns, and mandates; the national debt has exploded and the next generation looks set to foot the bill for decades to come.
We owe it to ourselves and others
If we don’t review now, future generations will suffer, perhaps even more than we have. The starting point for the next pandemic will be the end point of this one.
We owe it to those who have suffered and sacrificed as told through heart-wrenching stories in the news: last moments missed with loved ones; funerals unattended; births missed by partners; weddings cancelled; hands not held during cancer treatments.
We owe it to those who lost jobs because of lockdowns, mandates, and decimated businesses.
We owe it to those who bravely stepped up for novel vaccines and suffered adverse events, or even death.
We owe it to the thousands of healthcare workers who were prepared to blow the whistle or give up careers rather than participate in something their conscience would not allow.
We owe it to the elected few who bravely withstood derision and ridicule while fighting political battles for the vaccine injured and those affected by the mandates.
We owe it to our children, and the country we are going to hand to them. And we owe it to ourselves.
The trust Australians feel towards the government and its institutions is at an all-time low. Restoration of this trust is fundamental to our liberal democracy and cannot occur unless a timely review of the pandemic response happens and happens soon. In an independent enquiry or Royal Commission into bureaucratic handling of the Covid pandemic at both Federal and State levels, with appropriate legal ramifications and prosecutions where warranted, we need to ask the following:
Pandemic Plan and Legislation
- Why was there such extensive deviation from pre-established pandemic plans?
- Was there appropriate and proportional application of the Biosecurity Act 2015, National Health Security Act 2007, Therapeutic Goods Act 1989, and relevant state Public Health, Disaster and Emergency Acts?
- Why were prolonged extensive lockdowns used when the evidence is lacking for these?
- What were the effects (both short and long term) of prolonged lockdowns on:
- health – individuals, families, children, pregnancy, mental health, chronic, and cancers
- children, including social development and education
- substance abuse, addiction, and domestic violence
- household economies, businesses, state, regional and national economies, and
- social connection and cohesion?
- Were mask mandates effective?
- What were the:
- effectiveness against viral transmission
- risk versus benefit in specific groups
- costs in terms of childhood emotional and social development?
- What was the justification, rationale, and legality for the vaccine mandates?
- Were mandates a proportional response?
- Why was no provision made for conscience or moral objections to the mandates?
- Why wasn’t there an independent, transparent review of the emerging safety and efficacy data including recently released Pfizer documents?
- What has been the extent and nature of the injuries, and full account of recorded deaths?
- Why did the vaccines continue to maintain provisional approval despite significant safety signalling?
- Why has there been no review of the timeliness and transparency in reporting?
Regulatory body activities
- Why have regulatory bodies such as AHPRA, TGA and ATAGI continued to act without independent oversight, accountability, and open consultation with broader scientific communities?
- Specifically, what is AHPRAs justification for silencing and suspending healthcare professionals for dissenting or providing medical exemptions?
- What was TGAs justification for removal of early treatment options and why were no efforts directed towards investigating early treatment options.
These are questions all Australians deserve answers to.
Dr Julie Sladden is a doctor and freelance writer with a passion for transparency in healthcare.
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