Flat White

It's a win for 'Novax' and a win for Australia

11 January 2022

12:00 PM

11 January 2022

12:00 PM

I’m glad that Novak Djokovic will have a chance to defend his title at the Australian Open. Good luck ‘Novax’. One win in the court, next to win on the court. Previously I had no favourite, but now I’m barracking for you, and for no better reason than it would make justice feel poetic.

As for Australia, we only got half the win we needed yesterday.

We got a win for applying a rule with due process, but we needed the other win also – to get rid of the stupid rules altogether.

The first win shouldn’t be undervalued; it’s one in a series of wins we sorely need as we try to recover a few Western democratic norms in the coming year. What a good start though, to be reassured that our bureaucrats have a duty to provide due process according to written rules, rather than daily diktats, and that they can be held to account.

But the second win we need is a win for good sense, because things have changed in the last two weeks and paradigms need to shift in response.

I know I’m not the only one who feels it, though I hesitate to say it because I know some people will take it the wrong way, but…

I’m relieved.

I’m relieved that Australia is finally having a pandemic.

Back in June 2020, I thought things were gonna get real! But no. With the most aggressive Covid control policies imaginable for a Western country, we managed to put the Covid cat back in the bag.

Then madness descended. While nothing changed in the realm of science, in the realm of ‘policy’ shutdown responses became more extreme. Mask rules became more onerous. Contact tracing technologies became more invasive. And as the science surrounding vaccines provided more and more evidence of how effective they aren’t, health bureaucrats became more and more strident over how necessary they are.

Federalism, I believed in you! Then you became a race to the bottom.

‘So you want people to die!?!’ Do I hear you cry? Of course not. I don’t want anyone to die. But that objection presupposes that we have a choice in the matter.

Many of us have believed all along that the only way out of the pandemic is through it. It can’t end till it’s endemic. Eventually, one way or another, Australia would have to have a real outbreak. If our politicians were sensible, their highest priority would have been readiness. Readiness of hospital capacity, readiness with ventilators, and readiness with a new package of policy settings suited for the occasion. If they aren’t ready now, we need to have a word with them about what they spent the last two years doing. Regardless, one way or another, this pandemic had to finally happen.

So hurray, it’s here! Everyone on every side of that particular argument should be happy. We’ve gotten just about the best outcome we could have asked for:

For those who were worried about the end-game – the pandemic is going to happen; no amount of scratching and hissing will be putting this cat back in the bag.

For those who were equally worried about the individual health impacts and fatalities – it can be argued that the two-year delay wasn’t wasted. It was long enough to get vaccinations up, and long enough for the far less deadly Omicron variant to come. Realistically, we will never be more vaccinated than we are now. We are experiencing the mildest consequences that we ever could have expected. Hospitalisations, ICU admissions, ventilations, and fatalities are all low.

All we need now is to realise it. Our situation has fundamentally changed in the last two weeks. Policies and mindsets that might have applied in early December are now entirely redundant.

Border controls are pointless. When the situation on both sides of a border are the same, what does controlling the border achieve? It was embarrassing that we rejected Novak Djokovic’s passport in the first place. Because he isn’t vaccinated? He’s a healthy young guy; he won’t be a burden on our healthcare system.

‘Rules are rules!’ says the guy whose job it is to write the rules. Well, change them dear Eliza; they’re no longer fit for purpose. ‘These rules protected a lot of people last year.’ Well, it’s not last year anymore. Happy New Year, dude, some of us had fireworks.

QR codes are pointless; contact tracing is dead. Many people are contagious while asymptomatic, so without contact testing there can be no contact tracing – it’s a waste of time. We have reached the point where over 1 in 25 Australians has had Covid. For the first time in two years we all know people who’ve had it.

Isolation rules are pointless. They’re making things worse, not better, by keeping healthy people away from work and hence amplifying the impact of the outbreak. Bad enough that those who are sick have to take time off, if we keep isolating the healthy each time they have ‘potential’ Covid, then a large portion of the population won’t go back to work for a couple of months. Any sensible healthy person under fifty is more worried about Covid policy than Covid itself – that’s not a great look.

If there is a genuine threat to healthcare capacity then our leaders should be ashamed, given they had two years to prepare. And if we really need to, for the first time in this pandemic, measures to ‘flatten the curve’ actually make sense; we finally have a curve to flatten. This only applies to the hospitalisation curve, not the cases curve.

It’s agonising to see our leaders singing from the same song-book. Or, ‘humming’ along with a mask on if they bring back the bans on singing.

This isn’t ‘Covid-zero’ anymore. In a few months, the bulk of the population is likely to have immunity and then the vulnerable will be much safer to re-involve themselves in society.

Though the situation has changed dramatically, public mindsets have not. It’s terrible that so many Australians found themselves on the losing side of Novak’s legal battle. This is not their fault, but the fault of a blissfully under-informed, biased, sensationalist, and frankly dishonest media. At the time I write this, they’re leaning into it; holding onto the fading hope that a minister will overrule and send Novak home. That minister is a moron if he does.

Tolerance and understanding are not the natural state of human behaviour. Our media and politicians have been reckless to stoke division. They need to start explaining to the Australian public that an unvaccinated person, at most, poses a threat to themselves – not the people around them. And that if an unvaccinated person is young and very healthy and has already had and recovered from the virus at least twice before – they aren’t presenting any risk.

We all need that second win. I’m barracking for Novak on the court. I’m barracking for Australia and good sense in the halls of power.

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