After yet another unnecessary and damaging snap lockdown in Western Australia, government hypocrisy has once again been exposed. It seems like there is no end to it. In another demonstration of double standards, it has been revealed that patient zero, the root of last weekend’s lockdown that left residents of Perth and Peel unable to celebrate ANZAC Day for the second year running, was a man who had travelled to India for his own wedding.
Now it may seem as if this is innocent, given this man could have travelled before the worst of the pandemic and may have just been stuck in India for months on end before being permitted to travel back home. But that was not the case. Instead, this man was permitted to leave Australia in December to travel to India, one of the most populous nations with very high numbers of COVID-19 cases. In order to leave the country, one must be granted an exemption from the government, which would have known that India was rife with cases at this time, given it was widely disseminated information. Yet somehow this man was permitted to travel to the country to get married.
That same man ultimately tested positive to COVID-19 upon returning to Western Australia with his new wife, and the virus leaked in hotel quarantine, spreading to others, and eventually sparking a lockdown on Friday after WA Premier Mark McGowan overreacted and overegged the pudding for the second time in three months, not out of character for him. As it turns out, the virus has barely spread past those initially infected in this “outbreak”.
But what would irate most is the double standards arising from this situation. This time, these operate on several levels. First, the wedding itself. Over the last year, lockdowns and restrictions implemented by state governments have seen numerous weddings and funerals cancelled, postponed, or at the very least restricted to the bare minimum. Family and friends have been unable to celebrate or mourn with their loved ones. But for some absurd reason, the government thinks it is perfectly fine for a man to go overseas to a nation ravaged by the virus to get married, rather than making him wait like everyone else.
Second, the government are unwilling to allow people to travel overseas unless they are vaccinated, and even then they are still hard-pressed to open up. Health Minister Greg Hunt stated on April 13 that “vaccination alone is no guarantee you can open up. If the whole country were vaccinated, you couldn’t just open the borders.” This logic did not seem to exist in December when the government granted permission to a clearly unvaccinated individual to travel to India. Many are waiting with bated breath for the borders to open up so they can travel overseas again. Why should one man be allowed to get married overseas when so many others had to cancel their destination weddings last year?
Finally, there is one double standard that applies on both state and federal levels. Since it was discovered that this latest “outbreak” in Western Australia was a result of overseas travel, both the WA Premier and Victorian government called for tighter exemptions to leave the country, claiming that the Morrison government’s allowance of “thousands of people to leave every month” was “neither safe nor logical”. Hunt did, however, hit back at these calls, stating the current border ban is the “heaviest peacetime restriction” in our lifetime. McGowan stated on Sunday that the federal government have been allowing exemptions for “weddings” and “athletics meets”. This is a hypocritical move by the Morrison government considering many were unable to attend such gatherings at home last year.
Since then, the Morrison government have announced a ban on flights from India until May 15, a move that was likely necessary, yet has again garnered criticism. There are around 9,000 Australians now stuck in India, left to fend for themselves for at least the next 17 days, until flights restart. It appears this is yet another damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. And just to add to the confusion, while travel to India for weddings and funerals is off the cards, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke confirmed yesterday that the measure will not be extended to other countries.
However, McGowan is not exempt from criticism for a request he has made of the federal government over the intake of overseas travellers returning home. Over the weekend, McGowan asked the Morrison government to cut international arrivals into Perth in half, a request that has since been accepted and will be implemented from Thursday, the new halved cap being 512 arrivals per week. The WA Premier clearly lacks faith in his contact tracing and quarantine systems given this is his response to a minor leak. If anything, he should take a leaf out of New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s book. NSW has borne the brunt of international arrivals and has managed it extremely well. It is no wonder they are described as the “gold standard”. Other premiers like McGowan would do well to pick up the phone and ask Berejiklian how he can improve his own state’s COVID-19 response systems.
Both state and federal governments must learn that the people of this nation are watching closely. It goes without saying that many Australians are beyond tired of the double standards espoused by politicians, and this will no doubt translate into public outrage if our so-called leaders keep these shenanigans up. Some may have already faced elections, but that does not give them immunity to do whatever they wish and get away with it. And as to those who are still yet to face elections, in particular the federal government, they would do well to ensure they do not enrage their voters in the lead up.
After all, power is a gift given by the people. It can just as easily be taken away.
Joel Agius is an independent writer. If you would like to read more of his work, you can do so at JJ’s Outlook.
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