Flat White

Australia’s premiers: the fear mongrels

30 November 2020

7:29 PM

30 November 2020

7:29 PM

Anything can be characterised as a threat to national security under China’s recently introduced laws in Hong Kong. It’s a multi-prupose tool for doing whatever the Chinese Communist Party wants to whomever it suspects, fears or hates. 

Australia’s state premiers have adapted a similar political template to our more democratic environment after learning to use it under cover of coronavirus. Almost anything can be characterised as a threat to the safety of a state’s citizens — from infectious disease such as the flu; 310,011 cases, over 800 deaths in 2019, if no new Covid cases turn up, a salmonella outbreak or a dangerous criminal on the loose — and will be used to manipulate border closures to best election effect. It’s not about the actual threat. It’s about selling the threat.  

It’s a case of snatching precedent from the unprecedented.  

In effect, the premiers have weaponised coronavirus as a ‘threat tool’ for electioneering, escalating the dangers of a virus that can largely be managed by our health system, and kills about one per cent of those infected. Anytime there is an election looming, a premier can identify and magnify a threat of some sort outside their state and employ the closed border strategy to gain favour among voters. It may kill some babies, hurt the mentally fragile, damage economies and defy the Constitution, but hey, it’s politics … maaate! 

The prime exhibit? Western Australia, where premier Mark McGowan is running a pre-March 2021 election strategy of keeping WA ‘safe’ by isolation. His people love it. Hidden from public consciousness, of course, is the massive collateral damage being done to small and medium businesses, the anguish of families across state borders and serious medical needs unmet.

There is no question that the closure is illegal under the Constitution (High Court blunder notwithstanding), but there is no Constitution Police to enforce it. The wild west has an outlaw as sheriff, and who proceeds unchallenged, admired by the huddled masses of his state; other premiers take heart. They have already taken the liberty of doing likewise, and feel untouchable. 

And then, after failing such a character test, these premiers are re-elected, rewarded for their ‘strong stand’, for ‘keeping you safe’. Or is it ‘keeping you scared’?

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