Leading article Australia

Conservatives and Covid

3 July 2021

9:00 AM

3 July 2021

9:00 AM

It is the absence of political convictions that has landed the federal government in the Covid mess it is currently floundering in. For poll-based, focus group-driven politicians and leaders, the going is easy when an issue slips neatly into accepted party line parameters (such as border control or lower taxes) but gets particularly tough when the public is confused on issues but not along traditional party lines. Climate change falls into this category, with many Liberals and Nationals every bit as environmentally loopy as their Labor and Greens counterparts. Thus, Scott Morrison skids around the energy policy rink like a drunk in an ice-skating competition: waving a piece of coal in parliament one year, promising ‘net zero’ fantasies the next.

But it is on the coronavirus that an absence of any genuine political convictions on the part of the PM and his advisers is most apparent. Devoid of a bedrock of political philosophy to stand upon, the government makes it up as it goes along, reacting, presumably, to internal polling as much as to media hysteria. It is not a pretty sight.

When in doubt, return to basic conservative principles and it is likely you will find a satisfactory solution. It is the arrogance of the modern age that suggests today’s problems are so unique that nobody who came before us could have possibly figured out how to cope. It is the mirror image of the ghastly obsession of the woke Left with tearing down all that went before, from statues and books to blocks of cheese, because a person, institution or product is tainted with the stain of ‘racism’ or ‘slavery’. The modern ‘soft right’, instead of being guided by the thinking and experience of conservative heroes from the past, pretends that the times are different today. They are not.

Obviously, all politicians should be guided by the latest scientific and medical advice when it comes to any issue of public health and be flexible enough to adapt to changes in that advice. But what happens when that medical advice has in turn been polluted and corrupted by politics? Clearly, for example, the war against cheap, easily available and highly effective drugs like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin being waged by our own TGA and health bureaucrats owes little to ‘the science’ and everything to some bizarre post-Trump Derangement Syndrome hangover. With even the UK Daily Mail now touting the astonishing success of ivermectin, following innumerable studies from around the world, it is verging on the criminal that its use is banned and even illegal in much of the very country that developed the treatment – Australia.

But let’s get back to basic conservative principles. Conservatives believe in maintaining strong borders and the sanctity of the nation state above and beyond all other political entities. Lefties believe in the very opposite; for them, it is globalist bodies like the United Nations and the WHO to whom they turn. Thus, back in early 2020 when the coronavirus first appeared, it was the instinct of conservatives to slam the borders shut to China. This was President Trump’s response and indeed Scott Morrison’s. The Left, including Joe Biden, immediately cried ‘racism’, with one US Democrat urging New Yorkers to hug as many Chinese tourists as possible during Chinese New Year celebrations. The swift shutting of Australia’s borders, urged by this magazine at the time, remains the single greatest success of the Morrison government in avoiding a spiralling Covid death toll. But we cannot remain closed forever, and, as the saying goes and nations like Singapore have now decided, we must ‘learn to live’ with the virus. But how? Conservatives believe in the rights of the individual over the power of the collective and big government. The Left believes the opposite. Alas, Mr Morrison has repeatedly tilted the scales away from personal freedoms and small business by refusing to condemn the closing of state borders and knee-jerk lockdowns. The ‘National Cabinet’ is a disaster, removing elected federal government MPs from decision-making at a critical time and replacing them with a motley gang of mostly left-wing premiers and bureaucrats who have used fear and over-the-top authoritarian measures to pander to the polls, whilst the humble taxpayer has been left to pick up the tab. Had Mr Morrison followed conservative principles, he would have backed Clive Palmer and challenged as unconstitutional the shutting of our internal borders in the High Court.

Overseas, those US states or nations that have put the interests of the individual over the collective have reaped the benefits. Sweden is in no worse a position than many aggressively pro-lockdown European countries and life has largely returned to normal in those Republican states that likewise put their faith in the individual rather than big government authoritarianism.

It’s not too late for Mr Morrison to get out of this mess by a return to conservative values: trust the quiet Australians and get big government out of their way. Namely, condemn the state lockdowns; make all vaccines and treatments (like ivermectin) available to GPs and pharmacies as swiftly as possible with appropriate risk information; and allow individuals, not bureaucrats, to make the decisions that they feel best protect their families’ health.

Just like we always used to.

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