Leading article Australia

Dog days

19 September 2020

9:00 AM

19 September 2020

9:00 AM

‘I feel a bit like a dog returning to eat its own vomit,’ explained Victoria’s Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius, to general approval from the usual excited press pack. It was an unusual metaphor, but perhaps a revealing one too. Intended as a reference to his police force yet again having to deal with public protests against the most draconian curfew currently in place across the planet, and his displeasure at having to order them to do so, it succeeded in conveying his frustration at those who refuse to simply obey the ‘no protesting during lockdown’ decree. The plain-speaking Mr Cornelius had on a previous occasion colourfully described those Victorians daring to protest against Dan Andrews’ imposition of quasi-martial law (aka Stage 4 Lockdown) as the ‘tin-foil hat brigade’ and as being ‘bat sh-t crazy’, so at least he can’t be accused of obfuscation or hiding his true feelings behind bureaucratic jargon.

Mr Cornelius, along with his colleagues, the ‘railway-crossings’ premier and the ‘doe-eyed’ chief medical officer, is clearly enjoying the limelight and in particular entertaining the crowds at regular press briefings. But if the Assistant Commissioner self-identifies as a dog, who or what is the vomit?

From the actions that have followed in the last week, one would be forgiven for assuming that ‘the vomit’ denotes what were once called ‘the great unwashed’ or ‘the hoi polloi’, ie the public themselves. Or in this instance, anyone who fails to show instant obeisance to or even dares question the absolute authority of the Victorian police.

If the Assistant Commissioner had deliberately wanted to dehumanise the protesters in the eyes of over-zealous officers (and the media), it’s hard to imagine a more effective way of doing so.

Daily, Australians are being confronted by the horrific brutality being visited upon their fellow citizens in the ludicrous name of ‘fighting the virus’. Put aside for the moment the illogical (verging on moronic) idea of trying to stop the spread of Covid-19 by physically manhandling or even assaulting individuals either for not wearing a mask, driving more than 5km from their home or posting something untoward on social media, the deeper problem is that the curfew may not even be legal and the closed borders and checkpoints are quite possibly unconstitutional.

If ever there were a time for a lightness and deftness of touch in policing, this must surely be it. Many Australians, traumatised by a long and depressing winter of lockdowns and business closures, not to mention an upsurge of mental health issues, are struggling to cope with a life of perpetual isolation. The real killer pandemic is the hidden misery of every individual who, like the Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby, ‘waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door. Who is it for? Look at all the lonely people.’

Thus far, among the many Victorian horror shows we have witnessed (and only because they happened to have been caught on camera) are the woman handcuffed in her pyjamas, the man who had his door smashed open because of a Facebook post, the woman being strangled by police, the woman manhandled and dragged out of her car and most disgustingly of all, the man who it appears was run over by a police car and then stomped on.

Which brings us to the African American George Floyd. Only a few weeks ago members of the Victorian police were seen eagerly ‘taking a knee’ in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, a renowned hard core, left-wing, neo-Marxist, anti-police political movement, following Floyd’s death shortly after he was forcefully constrained by a white police officer. Assistant Commissioner Cornelius also expressed his ‘support’ for the ‘community’ in ‘giving a voice to their concerns’, although how many Minnesotan African Americans are currently resident in Victoria is questionable.

Perhaps Mr Cornelius failed to adequately convey the real message of Floyd’s death to his own officers. It was the brutal police violence that was so repellent, not anybody’s skin colour.

Thawley winners

Heartiest congratulations to this year’s Spectator Thawley Essay prize winners, and our thanks to all who entered the competition. The winning essay ‘As History fades into history’ was written by Emma McCaul, with the runner-up ‘Submarines’ by Tom Lewis. Both essays will be published in these pages and the prize includes dinner with the judges, Michael Thawley, John Howard and Rowan Dean. And Emma takes home a handy $5,000. As always our sincerest thanks to the Thawley family for this wonderful prize and inspirational competition.

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