Flat White

Lockdowns: last resort or first response?

19 July 2021

4:00 AM

19 July 2021

4:00 AM

Just two weeks ago, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a four-phase plan agreed upon by the federal and state leaders at a meeting of National Cabinet. The plan was constructed to guide us out of the time of restrictions and lockdowns back to a sense of normality, which, as we have all learnt by now, is a promise unlikely to be kept. Although the plan consisted of several significant issues discussed previously, it also stipulated that in Phase 1 lockdowns would be used as a last resort. We should have known that was too good to be true. 

Since then, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has extended her state’s lockdown twice. Both Queensland and Western Australia, under the leadership of Labor Premiers Annastacia Palaszczuk and Mark McGowan respectively, have engaged in three- and five-day lockdowns. And Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews returned to work with an itchy lockdown trigger finger, plunging the notorious “lockdown state” into its fifth lockdown not even a day after announcing the return of mask mandates.  

What is clear from these actions from state Premiers is that, despite their agreement to the National Cabinet plan, they are still going rogue and running their own shows. Every time an outbreak occurs they turn to lockdowns for help. No matter what agreement they make, these state leaders are clearly on a power-trip, something they are not going to give up easily. As the old adage goes, a leopard cannot change its spots.  

The NSW lockdown is likely one of the most shocking to date, given the way Gladys Berejiklian has quickly descended from a place of sanity and measure into the depths of government overreach and absolute power. Only a month or so ago when Victoria last went into a snap lockdown, Berejiklian stated: “I fear for Victoria and I worry about what their government may do. I hope we have demonstrated to other states it is possible to manage an outbreak and not shut down a city.”

Yet now it appears she is following in Daniel Andrews’ footsteps, not only locking down Greater Sydney, but also the Central Coast and regional areas of NSW that have had no cases whatsoever. She has become just like her counterparts around Australia. 

What is important to recognize is that outbreaks will continue to occur no matter what. We already know that the vaccines do not prevent infection nor transmission of the virus, so it is unlikely to be eradicated from the community at large. The way our leaders and health bureaucrats are acting, it is more likely they are attempting to go for elimination rather than suppression.  

Elimination is unlikely to occur, and while restrictions and lockdowns continue to be imposed upon society, it will suffer greatly as a result, both economically and from a health standpoint. People are already suffering financially, losing their businesses, their jobs, and their livelihoods. Others are battling mental health conditions exacerbated by lockdowns and social isolation, and many more are being newly diagnosed with such conditions. It is also likely that Australians are only going to see a doctor if they absolutely need to, and so a whole range of health problems are going unchecked, undiagnosed, and untreated.  

Lockdowns are a detriment to our lives and to society. They only serve to do more damage. At this point it seems as if Scott Morrison is just going to keep giving the states money whenever they lockdown to support those who suffer the financial consequences of these choices, still being made on “health advice” that we never get to see. If we keep going this way, we are either going to run out of money, end up in a terrifying level of debt, or print so much money that we end up going the way of the Weimar Republic. The simple solution to the problems that arise from lockdowns is to stop the lockdowns for good. 

It is important to understand that diseases do not cause lockdowns. Politicians do. This has become a game of power and control to them. The repercussions of lockdowns are significant. They have already done irreparable damage to small business, while big corporations continue to thrive, the elimination of their competition a benefit to them. The damage bill will continue to increase. Yet politicians persist with this strategy. 

If we are really all in this together, politicians and public servants, including journalists who egg on the harsh restrictions and lockdowns, should have their pay frozen for the duration of the lockdown they impose. They should also be barred from any pay raises, instead taking a pay cut to help the victims of their power trips. If this were the price of lockdowns for these individuals, lockdowns would be completely off the table, never to occur again; because as soon as it affects their income, it is no longer worth it. 

If you have not realised by now, it is clear that politicians are not trustworthy individuals. They might sound somewhat sincere in their promises, but they are hard-pressed to keep them. The agreement made in National Cabinet was supposedly meant to put an end to the Premiers running rife, imposing lockdowns as a first response, and creating even more economic damage for the federal government to fix. Yet as we have seen, the Premiers cannot hold to the agreed plan and are still playing by their own rules. If Morrison genuinely wants to put an end to this, he cannot keep coming to their aid every time they lock down their states. If aid is held back, they may learn their lesson, albeit even this might not dissuade them from continuing on with their current strategy. 

But it does beg the question: If our leaders cannot stick to an agreement made only two weeks ago, how can we trust them at all? 

The simple answer – we can’t. 

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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