Victoria’s truculent Premier Dan Andrews – who ought to change his name to Dan-Xi Andrews in homage to his role model in Beijing, gaoler of the Uighurs and keen penal reformer (he pioneered the modern lockdown) – has spent at least $500 million of taxpayers’ money fitting out the Victorian police as his own personal pandemic praetorian guard. Girded and shielded like space-age gladiators, their job is to crush expressions of public disagreement with Dan-Xi’s policy of shutting down everything at the first hint of a Covid cough. Thousands of Victorians are fed up with this. Their jobs and businesses have disappeared and, though Dan-Xi, naturally, has made mass protests illegal, they want to let him know that enough is enough. His policies haven’t worked and it’s time to try something else – like common sense.
This is the last thing the Premier wants to hear, pacing his palatial chambers in Spring Street as he fulminates at the iniquity of people who won’t get vaccinated. In a fit of pique he has arbitrarily cancelled their citizenship. He treats them as his very own Uighurs, ejected from the business of daily life. Victoria, Dan-Xi has pronounced, ‘is going to be a vaccinated economy, and you get to participate in that if you are vaccinated’. Why doesn’t he go the whole hog, like that earlier upholder of democratic principles the Emperor Nero did with the Christians in ancient Rome, and shove the unvaccinated into an arena – the Melbourne Cricket Ground would do nicely – to face his gladiatorial police? Indeed, with the smoke from the bombs thrown by demonstrators in Victoria’s biggest anti-vaxing demonstration ever last Tuesday, staged by – the unkindest cut of all – Labor’s erstwhile chums in the building union, Dan-Xi only needed a fiddle to make his resemblance to Nero complete.
Last weekend Dan-Xi’s praetorian guard was at it again, stamping on dissent with all the zeal of the Beijing Xi recolonising Hong Kong (decolonising is so yesterday; recolonising is the smart thing now, as the Taliban are doing in Afghanistan). They were better prepared for this second Melbourne battle of the Covid Wars than they were for the earlier one in August. The police strategy was helped by Dan-Xi’s having imperiously shut down public transport, an action fully in line with the unstated policy of the Victorian government of causing maximum inconvenience for everyone wherever possible. But several hundred protestors turned up anyway and combat soon commenced.
Not for anti-lockdowners the easy camaraderie with the police enjoyed by approved leftist demonstrators when Black Lives Matter commandeered the streets in Melbourne last year. At that time Covid restrictions had only just begun but the disinclination of many protestors to wear masks and the reduction of ‘social distancing’ to five centimetres – if that – weren’t allowed to spoil the occasion, which was more like a relaxed Christmas street party, with much anti-white virtue on display from the overwhelmingly white crowd and the police happily genuflecting to the memory of St. George Floyd to show their goodwill to all. Instead, the spectacle on Saturday was again one of running battles, with protestors charging at police lines and police fighting back with capsicum spray. It’s not what we would once have expected to see in Australia. It’s the sort of thing they do in revolutions in banana republics, not on the sedate avenues of what still describes itself as the world’s most liveable city. ‘Most liveable’ is a moot point these days but Melbourne certainly ranks high among world cities as one of the most locked-down.
This kind of violence is due in part to a breakdown in trust between ordinary people and the police. The police blame protestors for this, who, they say, turn up at demonstrations with what Victoria’s robotic police commissioner Shane Patton describes as an intention to ‘confront and attack’.
As far as you can tell from news footage the weapons are mainly bottles and smoke bombs, and it is to combat these and the mobs hurling them that Premier Dan-Xi has spent all that taxpayer cash fitting out his praetorian guard with armour-plating and ‘military-grade’ weapons.
Unfortunately, the huge advantage all this stormtrooper get-up gives the police is somewhat undermined by right-on police recruiting policies. Now that you don’t have to be big, burly and male to become a copper, some of the troops are more, shall we say, petite, and tend to cluster on the fringes of the battle lines pointing out isolated demonstrators their colleagues can more easily tackle, but not doing any tackling themselves.
The breakdown of trust goes beyond police and public. And it’s not just local. All around the Anglosphere and beyond trust between governments and the people they rule is diminishing. In Australia it hasn’t been so low since the Whitlam debacle. Covid has been the catalyst. The lies and prevarication surrounding the imposition of pandemic rules and restrictions – the vaccine will protect you, the vaccine will only partly protect you, the vaccine might not protect you at all, masks are indispensable, masks are unnecessary – have undermined the already fragile edifice of public trust in the ability of governments to solve this crisis. Scapegoat-hunting by health commissars and irresponsible media – in Victoria with distinctly antisemitic overtones – has poisoned the atmosphere. And governments, inebriated by the extra power they have arrogated to themselves, act in a way that shows they have forgotten that, constitutionally, they rule by permission of the ruled. Victoria’s gives the impression that the voters exist to do its bidding, not the other way round. Premier Dan-Xi at his turgid media briefings talks as if the people had wilfully and tiresomely gone out of their way to annoy him. With theatrical sighs he announces lockdowns as though the public were naughty schoolchildren who have to be kept in yet again for not doing as they were told.
The comfortable apathy of many Australians towards politics has contributed to this political arrogance. We have let ourselves become so used to relying on governments for just about everything that we have played into the hands of the assorted control freaks and egomaniacs who fall over each other to scramble higher up the ladder of what was once considered an honourable profession of public service. They hold us in contempt. We shrug our shoulders and mutter ‘crooked pollies’ or ‘self-serving idiots’ and leave them to get on with it.
Unless we can somehow rid ourselves of this indifference and reinstate politics as an honourable profession by persuading candidates of higher personal qualities to enter parliament, Dan-Xi and his tyrannical type will continue to make a mockery of democracy.
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