Early this week, Liberal Democrat David Limbrick MP asked an excellent science question of the Victorian Chief Medical Officer appearing before the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee:
How do you make the decision between which activities should be prohibited and which shouldn’t?
In a sense these are not easy decsions to make – there is some arbitrariness. That is why you’ll see an enormous variety across jurisdictions in Australia.
I’ve been an outspoken critic of the loss of liberty still being endured by Australians in the name of the global pandemic that might have been. So far the global death toll is just 290,000. While every death is tragic, it’s not really a big number justifying the hyperbole we’ve been subject to.
For some perspective, in Australia alone we kill that many people every three or so years deliberately, care of the abortion trade. That perspective also belies the excuse given for removing our God-given freedoms, ostensibly out of sincere concern for preventable loss of life. No one can disagree with such a motherhood statement, and when I do, many have been quick to accuse me of callous disregard for the lives of others by my critique of the oppressive measures taken by our national and state leaders.
Of course, we should critique every decision prime minister or premier makes. That’s everyone’s job in our liberal democracy; even those not permitted a vote are still permitted a voice. Support and give strength to good policies publicly, and equally criticise and oppose bad policies. The inconvenient news is you need to be bothered to think critically, consider alternative views and weigh policies against the justice, peace and liberty of our 25 million neighbours. An effective parliamentary opposition, independent courts, free media and engaged voters are critical to good government. They need us!
Incurious people are emotionally manipulated into supporting loss of liberty by appalling claims that anything short of full compliance with the delegated authority of unelected “experts” is not only anti-science but selfishly, literally “risking lives“.
Mid-April, I liaised with the officer in charge of a local police station to organise an approved outdoor activity, and he tried to recruit me to make complaints about other people who would be there without approval. He wanted to justify more police resources to fine people $1,300 each for watching the sun set on a grassy hill.
That any person, let alone a police professional, should be so gullible as to think there was an unacceptable risk of virus transmission by sitting two metres apart in a paddock in the sun is incomprehensible. Didn’t these people have a mother? Surely every son’s mum told them plenty of Vitamin C, fresh air and sunlight would kill viruses. Turns out that’s established by the science, and coronavirus has a half-life of 90 seconds in direct sunlight – with or without vitamin supplements.
Yet the Chief Medical Officers of every state and the Commonwealth variously decreed activities such as reading a book on a park bench, playing golf or going fishing prohibited because they arbitrarily deemed those merely recreational and not “essential” exercise.
Also deemed “non-essential” are natural freedoms such as movement, association, assembly, religion, privacy, trade, commerce and employment, and protest. The healthcare system doesn’t exist without an economy, and ours has been recklessly vandalised by the arbitrary decisions of unaccountable public servants.
The prime example in just one industry is the Victorian CHO who, by his own testimony, with “some arbitrariness”, put up to 6,900 golf course employees out of work and in so doing added $10.5 million per fortnight in JobKeeper payments to the national debt while taking $34 million per fortnight out of the Victorian economy.
Because according to this government science “expert”, walking on a golf course isn’t exercise – but going for a walk is.
It is recklessly irresponsible for voters to allow any elected leader to simply point to an unelected “expert” (bureaucrat) and claim, “He made me do it!” Leaders cannot claim credit for surviving a disaster while being absolved of all responsibility for any and all excesses and failures advised by trusted “experts”.
Make no mistake: this will not be the last time Australian governments make a grab for fundamental freedoms we’ve always taken for granted. The domestic peace and prosperity we’ve enjoyed for over a century have become an opiate making us unfortunately indifferent to the potential for tyranny as government gets bigger and individual liberty gets smaller.
The power of precedents is lost on too many people, and successive governments have ratcheted up their “services” making us ever more dependent on them instead of relying on ourselves and each other – good old fashioned community. With more services comes more taxes. With each power surrendered once (with surprising ease) comes a significant reduction in the reluctance of the same or future governments to try such audacious oppression again. The greatest risk comes not from the government and politicians we know now, but those of unknown character in 10 or 20 years hence.
In an age where Christian ethics which diverge from the post-modern status quo are described as “hate and violence” and merely quoting scripture can end high profile careers if not land you before an activist judiciary, it is remarkably naive (let alone historically ignorant) to express any confidence in the character of future governments.
Have there not been enough integrity scandals in recent decades to give all voters pause before simply rolling over to government demands for more power? Let us return to the wise restraints and limitations on government intended by the founders of Western democracy instead of implicitly trusting them to always act in the public interest. The very fact that citizens are imperfect and in need of some governance for the common good is the same fact which demands at least equally imperfect politicians are in need of continuous scrutiny and strict limits on their exercise of power.
Dave Pellowe is a speaker, writer and political commentator and blogs at PelloweTalk.com.
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