Flat White

Victoria has no ‘hyper-infectious’ covid plague – and no accountable government

17 February 2021

2:37 PM

17 February 2021

2:37 PM

So the lockdown has been lifted and the Premier is letting us out.

We can go outside without worrying about being arrested. We can visit our mothers again. Maybe we can go to another state for the weekend and get back again. Maybe. 

This weekend we can invite four delegated friends over to our houses and give one cheer for the Premier.

I guess we should feel glad the lockdown has not been extended, but there is no sense of jubilation, not even much sense of relief.

The Premier might be claiming victory. He might think he short-circuited a third wave. He might think he showed leadership and flattened the curve.

But I’m worried he flattened our spirits.

I don’t know about you, but this lockdown felt different.

There was a feeling of powerlessness and of “Oh no, not this again”.

The most shocking thing about this lockdown was the fear-mongering.

Let me start with the Premier’s new favourite word – hyper-infectious. This is a medical term the Premier seems to have invented.

Across Australia, people with the hyper-infectious UK variant have so far hardly infected anybody.

In a recent media release, Mr Andrews described the infection as being smart and has also warned that the South African variant could be worse. I guess this will be super-hyper infectious.

So why does the Premier say this?

There’s a saying that if you want to control people, all you have to do is make them feel afraid.

It worked. Within minutes of the latest announcement, people were calling my office in tears. I heard multiple stories of despondent kids who don’t want to be isolated from their friends.

Later we heard of a spike of calls to Lifeline.

I wish the Premier was hyper-accountable – or even, just accountable.

What made it worse is that the government simply doesn’t measure or care about the costs of lockdown.

And this is not a hunch — it is what I’ve learned over the last 12 months of asking questions in parliament and in committees. The Government cannot explain the costs of lockdown, or how their decisions are proportionate or the least restrictive of human rights, as required by the Public Health Act.

At the media conference announcing the end of the lockdown, the Premier was asked if the public could see the public health advice and we were told that “health directions are the advice”.

You’ve been told.

The Health Minister Martin Foley said this won’t be over until four billion vaccines have been administered.

Whatever happened to flattening the curve?

So this is the freedom you have when you’re not free. If you owned a restaurant, would you be rushing out to buy more fresh food that you might have to throw away? Or would you be researching new recipes involving spam, baked beans and frozen peas?

And now the Melbourne International Comedy Festival has kicked off early with the announcement that the Premier has been nominated for Politician of the Year.

Yet none of us will be able to buy a ticket to the festival with any degree of confidence, and the comedians themselves must be wondering if they will be able to perform, or if they do, whether they will be allowed to leave.

In my book, leadership is about making hard decisions where they need to be made, but being proportionate.

Businesses across the state were hit hard by this lockdown, but in country towns it was little short of cruelty. Business owners in Mildura and Wodonga now live in fear that any Melburnian may catch a cold.

The long term effects of this latest lockdown are no joke.

When you know the whole place will close down if a couple of people get sick, why would you do business here?

It’s time this government became hyper-accountable and hyper-aware of human rights. But I’m not going to hold my breath.

David Limbrick is the Liberal Democrats MP for Victoria’s South East Metropolitan region.

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