Australians found out this week that if they are foolhardy enough to travel to China they could be arbitrarily detained. It must be disconcerting news to expats already there but who would have thought Australians might also be arbitrarily detained in the People’s Republic of Victoria? Victorian taxpayers are not yet privy to the terms of the Belt and Road agreement Premier Daniel Andrews signed with China on their behalf but let’s hope it’s not modelled on the agreement the Brits signed with China when they ‘handed back’ Hong Kong. It is hard to say which side could be trusted least to stick to a ‘one-country, two-systems’ arrangement but one could forgive the residents of Melbourne’s north-western suburbs for feeling like they had woken up in ‘Wuhanistan’ last Saturday. Those that tuned into the ABC were informed that they were ‘in detention’. Shortly after, those with mobiles received a message from the state government instructing them not to leave their residences unless it was an emergency and in case they were tempted to, police surrounded the building.
Andrews has given a whole new meaning to former federal Labor treasurer Wayne Swan’s book Postcode: The Splintering of a Nation. Swanny was an old fashioned socialist and his tome was more of a little-read book than a Little Red Book. Andrews is proving to be more a socialist with Maoist characteristics. In few jurisdictions, other than Hubei itself, have people been treated so harshly and with so little respect. All that was missing were enforcers from the CFMEU welding the weeping residents into their Stalinist steel boxes, but perhaps that is reserved for stage four of the lockdown.
Hapless housing commission tenants who imagined that arbitrary house arrest might count as an extended vacation, albeit in socialist holiday camp, were quickly disabused of that illusion. The premier’s only promise was pain. ‘This is not going to be a pleasant experience for those residents,’ he scolded, like a school master about to deliver a recalcitrant schoolboy six of the best. ‘But I have a message for those residents: this is not about -punishment but protection.’
This seemed to be the sort of protection offered on Underbelly with prison fare provided. By Sunday afternoon, all some had received was a gladbag of frozen soybean and potato curry, past its use by date, abandoned on their doorsteps. One poor woman and her elderly disabled mother had received nothing but four sausage rolls in 48 hours.
Yet what made the ABC’s economics correspondent, Emma Alberici ‘really uncomfortable’ was the headline on the front page of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph which read, ‘Mexicans Shut Out.’ It was an equally rude awakening for one of her followers, Laura, who replied, ‘Today I found out people from Sydney call us Melburnians “Mexicans”. Just when I think this country can’t get any more racist.’ There was a despondent discussion among the Twitterati as to whether the epithet was a musical reference or ‘racist’. ‘Sigh…Laura it’s like they’re literal Nazis. The oppression is endless,’ tweeted one, but the irony was not appreciated.
The feeling of being illegal immigrants was not helped by the premier’s announcement that there would be road blocks around Melbourne and that police would randomly stop freight and heavy vehicles crossing the border to check they weren’t hiding Victorians or anyone else travelling from the southern state. Just like that, Albury-Wodonga is Berlin with Checkpoint Charlie on the Murray Bridge. Unlike the Berlin wall, however, this one was agreed to by both sides.
After believing themselves to be the morally superior guardians (and Guardian readers) of the nation, the progressives whose harsh lockdown would make them the envy of New Zealand, the true believers who understood the science of epidemiology — just as they understood the science of climate change — it must be depressing to find yourself in the midst an outbreak that should only happen to rabid Republicans or white supremacists.
Long gone is the sense of superiority that promoted the premier to say on 17 June, ‘I don’t want to be offensive to South Australians but why would you want to go there?’ There must be many Victorians that wish they were anywhere else on earth other than facing another six weeks with Dictator Dan and Labor’s utterly illogical lockdown. Once again, fishing is banned, long solitary walks in the country are banned. Who knows why? To protect the koalas?
Naturally, there were no apologies from Andrews for allowing the massive Black Lives Matter rallies which sent the message that social distancing was an optional extra for woke progressives and which translated into ‘anything goes’ to so many others. Nor any apology for the monumental mismanagement of hotel quarantine; the crazy decision to hire root rats as security guards who gave a whole new meaning to the term ‘unprotected sex’. Andrews smugly told the media on Tuesday that ‘We all know someone who was breaking the rules,’ as if it was nothing to do with him.
Even the Age turned on the premier. The state political reporter wrote bitterly that Monday marked the last day that anybody believed Premier Daniel Andrews’ Labor government was in control. ‘It’s no longer the medieval plague scenes that preoccupy our thoughts, but the prospect of more months of misery in lockdown. … Faith in Mr Andrews and his health authorities to steer the state through the fresh crisis has been shredded…’
One Dan fan was outraged. ‘The level of othering in this piece shows how far from quality the Age has fallen. This is not a reality TV show with Dan Andrews crossing a swaying bridge,’ he railed, though no doubt many Victorians would find that a more just and appealing prospect, especially if there were any chance he might slip.
What is truly bizarre is that the premier, the government and the chief health officer appear to have learnt nothing over the last six months. They seem to be reading the same stale script from Central Planning. Andrews told the media on Tuesday that the virus would be with us until there was a cure or better treatment. You’d think President Xi might send him a memo about how China, Iran, Italy and all the other Belt and Road nations have got with the program and are using hydroxychloroquine. You’d think he might have seen that even CNN now believes that Trump’s game-changer can reduce mortality and speed recovery. But no. And it doesn’t seem to have occurred to him, that rather than locking down all three thousand souls in the gulags of Mitchell, he could seek out the vulnerable — the sick and the elderly — and put them in more pleasant surroundings, like the hotels where other Australians are quarantined, until arrangements can be made to keep them safe from infection.
But when it comes to respecting the rights and the dignity of the individual, Dan’s not the man.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.
You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10