Australia, once a proud member of the free world has fallen into the bizarre and disturbing underground of bureaucratic oppression for the sake of public health.
Australia took the decision to eliminate COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic. It did so by imposing travel restrictions and lockdowns. It is the last G20 country to have more than 1,000 deaths from coronavirus. This makes it unrealistic to expect Australia to target COVID-zero for a specific duration and use targeted surveillance (“circuit breakers”) in order maintain it.
The delay of the pandemic has made this impossible in a country that is English-speaking. This has led to violence against freedom and commonsense. The blockade has weakened the norms of Western democracy and practice, from the suspensions of state legislatures through to the bans on protests and military implementations of the COVID-19 agreements.
More than half of Australians were detained as the delta grew, sometimes in response to minor cases. The Australian authorities are not going to play around. The governor of the State has great powers and uses them. Melbourne, Victoria has a curfew that prohibits people from leaving their home. You could face severe penalties if you fail to follow the regulations.
The spirit of the lockdown was perfectly captured by the Chief Medical Officer of New South Wales, a few months ago. He warned: “Although it is human nature to talk to others and be friendly, unfortunately, this is not the time to do so. This is what it looks like. Oh, that’s right, it’s all about the public health. Australian news media might also be a part of the bureaucracy for public health, creating hysterical reports and making dystopian predictions for those who broke the confinement order.
South Australia has developed an application to enforce family quarantine. As the news report explained, “The app will randomly contact people and ask them to provide proof of location within 15 minutes.” If they do not, the health department will notify the police and the police will send personnel to check for possible criminals.
Travel without restrictions is a sign that a society is free, but Australians cannot leave the country. States try to block travel between states, which makes it difficult for them to avoid being infected by coronavirus. Due to monthly restrictions on Australians returning home, thousands of Australians remain trapped abroad and are unable to return to Australia.
The government cannot control the delta variant, and all the economic and social destruction and coercion will not suffice. Scott Morrison, the Australian Prime Minister, finally admitted that “this is not sustainable life in this country” a few days ago.
Australia’s initial vaccination efforts failed, which should have been the focus of attention. Now, the country wants to sting 80% to get rid the lock box that it made. Coronavirus can be a deadly disease. No country is capable of doing everything perfectly. Australia has shown that it is dangerous and wrong to abandon key elements of a free society to defeat the virus.
Australia will not fall into dictatorship but this period in its citizens’ lives is a reminder that even in a perfect democracy core freedoms are easily compromised.
Rich Lowry is editor of The National Review.