Features Australia

Recover reparations, restore independence

Covid-19 is teaching us much about ourselves and our leaders

11 April 2020

9:00 AM

11 April 2020

9:00 AM

Australia seems to have replaced representative democracy with government by computer modelling.

When the Wuhan virus struck, the nation’s political leaders had three clear tasks.

First, stop the virus coming in while imposing a strict quarantine.

Second, stop it spreading.

Third, look after the sick and vulnerable.

As usual, computer modelling dominated decision-making.

Unlike the only show in town, Donald Trump’s daily White House briefing, Australian modelling was during key decisions a closely-guarded state secret, tolerated by a media too easily dazzled by the exercise of raw power

Based on the principle, purgamentum init exit purgamentum — garbage in garbage out — experts agree, modelling is invariably wrong.

Australians should not for a moment forget how computer modelling has been   misused by politicians.

While global warming models are as fictional as a Barbara Cartland novel,  they have been used to justify Australia moving from having among the world’s cheapest electricity to among its dearest.

With the poor unconscionably burdened, much of what is left of manufacturing closed down and yet another burden imposed on mum-and-dad farmers whose extinction seems as arranged as the Kulaks’ was by Stalin, the result has been a disaster.

Free trade modelling justified moving factory jobs to communist China and  selling off key assets to front entities under Beijing’s control.

And while modelling in the current crisis can be useful, it has limited utility.

Testing is insufficient and despite government claims about Australia being world leader this is not close to true. Also, it is not clear without verification, as we have seen in Italy, of those who unfortunately passed away because of the virus rather than with the virus

The suspicion remains that the politicians overreacted in their second task, stopping the spread, because they were embarrassed by their failure to stop the virus on entry.

Despite media suggestions to the contrary, the Ruby Princess scandal is but the tip of an enormous iceberg involving our leaders presiding over the untested and unquarantined entry of thousands and thousands, by air and by sea, throughout February and most of March.

The leaders should have learned from the Spanish flu, when their common-sense predecessors controlled entry rigorously while imposing a strict quarantine, even on returning diggers.

Relying on secret modelling, today’s leaders concentrated on stopping the spread of the virus they had let in by  destroying jobs and much of the productive part of the country and, while leaving the bloated public sector intact, squandering billions of the next generation’s inheritance on a succession of ill-thought and knee-jerk measures. Just think, for example of that foolish decision to ban all elective surgery

And then, reinforced by the Bondi beach non-scandal, governments used social distancing to strip long-held freedoms from us.

Stalinist decrees imprisoning people in their own homes, stopping  an old lady sitting on a park bench or a man sunbaking in a park are no doubt well beyond the authority of mundane public health legislation. No court would surely uphold these. This dictatorship by the premiers during this crisis also highlights the need to have new states, beginning with North Queensland’s ancient claim. There should be variations in the application of social distancing policy reflecting different parts of our country. The increased concentration of population on top of one another into the three crowded eastern capital cities is especially unhealthy in a pandemic.

It comes from things politicians want  even if they damage ordinary Australians.

First is the almost infantile obsession of successive federal governments to claim Australia is never in recession. This is done by a statistical sleight of hand achieved by flooding the country with vast numbers of immigrants. Most cram into Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane and far beyond their infrastructure capacity. The gross domestic product grows as a consequence, while Australians become poorer both on average and in the increasingly congested and unhealthy lives they live.

Then with the capitals bursting at the seams, the powerbrokers collect an increasing number of city seats to fill with the candidates they own. Meanwhile, northern Queensland brings in the wealth to be spent as the powerbrokers decide.

In the meantime there can be, as in the US, national guidelines on reasonable and not hysterical social distancing during a pandemic, but greater variation allowed on the ground in a true federation.

Social distancing is important but it does not supply all the answers. Both California and New York have typically large amounts of air travel to and from  China, with both adopting tight social distancing rules in March within two days of each other. But the death rate per million from the virus in New York is sixty, in California four.

No one knows why. It may be that ‘herd immunity’ is for some reason stronger in California or it may be the greater uses of mass transport in New York.

All this is not to say there should not be sensible guidelines including returning to a standard of civilised behaviour once typical. Those who, unlike politicians, use public transport, know how standards have fallen with people for long coughing and sneezing without restraint across a carriage. The point surely is that this will not be the last pandemic the incidence of which, some experts warn, is increasing exponentially.

The third task of the leaders is to look after the sick and vulnerable including the elderly, but only to the extent they want to be looked after.

Once the tasks are completed, the agenda must be to extricate the nation from dependency, recover reparations for massive damage and restore Australia’s independence so shabbily given away by the politicians .

And as for the next pandemic, Australia’s leaders must first rigorously stop the entry of the virus and institute a strict quarantine. They should never again leave this for almost two months. If the political class remembers anything, that should be it.

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