Flat White

How long can Marshal McGowan and his hermit kingdom stand?

8 November 2021

12:00 PM

8 November 2021

12:00 PM

After a piece of mine on Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan was published in The Australian back in February, a former long-time state ALP ministerial staffer contacted me, thanking me and telling me I was “right on the money”. After this esteemed publication ran this before the last state election, the former staffer contacted me again to thank me. We had a lengthy conversation and the staffer proffered the observation, based on first-hand dealings with the premier, that there were many decent people in politics but that McGowan definitely wasn’t one of them. 9That is a sanitised version.)  

The latest announcement from Marshal McGowan that WA will be cut-off from the rest of the country until February, hot on the heels of a draconian and unethical vaccine mandate, serve only to highlight the tyrannical qualities of a premier not only drunk on power, but also of incompetence and hubris. 

All power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. These latest developments in the West are the culmination of a dangerous pattern of behaviour. Before the state election, McGowan promised WA’s electoral laws would not be reviewed, only for it to be one of the first announcements made following the swearing-in of his government. The aim of this review would be to reduce the amount of rural representation in the WA parliament, thus effectively disenfranchising these voters.  

Last July the Marshal had to reverse his policy of banning organisations (in this case the Australian Christian Lobby) that “do not agree with the views of the WA Government” from hiring theatres operated by the Perth Theatre Trust. It later emerged that Uyghur organisations had also been prevented from hosting events at Perth Theatres pursuant to the same policy. The Nine Newspapers in particular have focussed on the apparent closeness between the McGowan Government and the Chinese Communist Party. In fact, this video shows just how much the Marshal loves China. 

For a guy who says he is “following the science”, he is doing anything but. In announcing the “transition plan” (to nowhere), the Dear Leader stated that it was a “world first” because we would be moving from a situation of no community transmission. Ah yes, because, as he loves to say, the objective is to ‘crush the virus’. The Emperor now has omnipotent powers to eliminate diseases. Epidemiologist after epidemiologist around the globe has declared coronavirus will be with us for some time yet and that it cannot be eradicated. Which virus will you try to crush next, Your Magnificence? The ‘flu? The common cold? Gastroenteritis?  

Marshal Mark has deviated from “the Science” on vaccination, too. While other premiers and chief ministers were agreed that opening up would commence once 80% of those aged 16 and over were “double-dosed” in accordance with the Doherty modelling, the Emperor decided he had to extend that to include kids aged 12 and over, and only at 90% “double dose”. It obviously matters little to him that the statistics show us in the clearest terms possible that no one under the age of 16 has died from or with the virus, that kids at worst get the sniffles and don’t transmit the virus. Indeed, Professor Nigel Curtis has called for far greater testing before the vaccine is made available to children. 

When Marshal Mark locked out New South Wales in August, he would not even allow people to come home on compassionate grounds, while at the same time the AFL entourage entered WA with no trouble at all. This prompted a leading Perth cardiologist to call out this lack of basic human decency on local radio, describing it at ‘mental torture’. 

This plan to nowhere and the pernicious vaccine mandate of 75% of the WA workforce announced recently can not only be put down to a power-hungry premier but also to one who is trying to cover up for his own incompetence. WA hospitals are under strain as it is, and there is no COVID here. The emergency departments at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and Fiona Stanley Hospital, Perth’s two largest hospitals, are regularly forced into a code yellow which means they cannot admit non-urgent patients. 

This comes on top of record ambulance ramping levels (five times the level it was at when McGowan became premier), and the tragic death of seven year old girl at the Perth Children’s Hospital. After this, Health Minister Roger Cook promised to introduce a system that was proposed to give worried parents more chance to be heard in the children’s hospital system. Yet, when a tragic death in similar circumstances happened in 2016, Mr Cook, as then-Opposition Health Spokesman, promised exactly the same thing, only to forget about it when the ALP won government in March 2017. 

If ever there were a coronavirus outbreak here, there is no way our hospitals would cope. So rather than do the homework and get prepared, let’s threaten people with their livelihoods if they don’t comply. 

Naturally, Marshal McGowan faces no scrutiny from his sycophantic cheer squads at Seven West Media and the ABC. Such pathetic journalism (if one can call it that) allows him to muscle in and put on a display for his adoring fans with the family of Cleo Smith, the four-year-old abducted and thankfully found alive and well after 19 days. His contribution to the search effort was about as much as China’s contribution to cutting CO2 emissions, i.e., bugger-all. But why let the truth get in the way of a good story? 

Of course, anyone who disagrees with the Emperor on vaccine mandates is a “mad and dangerous anti-vaxxer”. Naturally, the lazy thing to do when you can’t win with the force of the argument is to insult and conflate opposition to your argument with madness. As we know, opposition to mandates is based on two things: first, the long-standing practice, embodied in the Australian Immunisation Handbook, that vaccination not occur as a result of coercion or manipulation, and secondly, even more importantly, the efficacy of the vaccines themselves, which as recently as last week was shown to be not that great. 

New findings published just last week in none other than the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal blow a hole in the argument that workers need to get vaccinated to protect those around them. The ground-breaking findings in Lancet show that fully vaccinated people who came down with COVID infected others in their household at the same rate (about 25%) as unvaccinated people did (about 23%). The vaccinated had just as much viral load in their upper respiratory tract, making them just as contagious. The journal also reported that COVID-19 vaccines have “minimal” impact on preventing transmission of the delta strain. 

I hope Graham Turner, the CEO of Flight Centre, is reading this. Mr Turner has threatened to take Marshal McGowan to the High Court if he doesn’t follow the Doherty Plan, arguing it will breach section 92 of the Constitution. If he does indeed try to put right what the High Court got wrong last year, I hope he realises that excluding 10-15% of potential passengers on the basis they haven’t had the vaccine is asking for a commensurate loss of revenue that has no scientific basis. 

(By the way, Mr Turner, at the time of writing, WA’s vaccination rate was around 65%, just 2% shy of when Norway opened up completely, vaccinated or not. Your lawyers might find that information useful.) 

As with any despot, the last resort is fear. In his press conference announcing the plan to nowhere, the Marshal said: “Everybody has to get vaccinated. I mean, other than, you know, holding people down and vaccinating them, there isn’t much else we can do.” One wonders whether he was hinting at applying section 157 of the WA Public Health Act (enacted by the previous Liberal government) which allows exactly that to happen. As Rebecca Weisser wrote last week, if we are to get out of this mess, we are to save ourselves.  

Dr Rocco Loiacono is a senior lecturer at Curtin Law School.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Curtin University. 

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