Contributed by Joe Montero
As Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews has stood out from the pack in many respects. His politics have been more people centred than is usual. It may not have been perfect. Errors have been made. But it is the positive that has earned him widespread community support and the loyalty of Labor’s members.
But it must be said that the Pandemic Bill is a major error an overreaction. There is a need to act decisively, promptly, and sufficiently to any new wave of infections. The choice is to bring the reluctant into the fold through either compulsion or persuasion. In this instance there is an obvious tilt to compulsion.
Photo by James Ross/AAP: Victoria’s Premier Dan Andrews should not proceed with Pandemic Bill
The immediate effect has been to cause division and provide ammunition for Labor’s rivals. Scott Morrison and the Coalition are already milking it for what it’s worth.
More serious in the end, is the community division this has contributed to. Bringing people together to fight the threat to all from the pandemic has been given a blow. On both sides of the vaccine argument there is even less preparedness to listen. Name calling has replaced thoughtful consideration about the best way forward.
Most people support vaccination as an important part of reducing the impact of infections. A minority, although a considerable one, opposes vaccinations because they see the profiteering of pharma companies and dangers from the injection of insufficiently tested and invasive substances into our bodies.
Both are right. By recognising this, we can see that wisdom is in taking up both. The outcome of this approach would be to listen to concerns and adopt a strategy less reliant on the pharma companies. Although this is mostly a federal responsibility, the state still can have some wiggle room.
Stopping this is the approach that the antivaxxers are the enemy. A few of them are bad news. But most of those turning up to the rallies or supporting them are ordinary people angry about what is happening to them. Some have lost jobs and income. Others see a loss of rights. There are those worried about the threat to their health. Most are genuinely worried about the future for themselves, their kids, and the communities in which they live.
The reality of living in Australia today is making a lot of people angry. There is a basis for this anger, is justified, and can be positive if channeled constructively.
Calling antivaxxers a bunch of fascists for this, as some are doing, what the genuinely fascist elements are saying is made to sound attractive. If we want to counter this danger, the best way is not to act as recruiting agents for ultra-right groups.
Enter elements of the sectarian left. They are planning to confront the antivaxxers in Melbourne on 20 November. This stupidity is fanned by their political arrogance and fundamentally anti-people attitude. It is stupid because it plays right into the hands of the ultra-right elements, by making them look like the defenders of freedom.
Antivaxxers demonstrate in Melbourne. They are not the enemy
It would be much better to engage and find points of unity. This is not about left versus right. Building unity, fighting the pandemic, looking after the wellbeing of the people, and building a better future together are what is important.
What has this got to do with the Pandemic Bill? Quite a lot. The Bill has provided a stage for confrontation, and this works against all of the above.
The Andrews government has pulled back considerably. This is positive. Tt still doesn’t go far enough though. The main ongoing problem is the handing of power to the premier to unilaterally call a state of emergency. This should remain with the Chief Health Officer.
It might be that this is meant to be only used to deal with the pandemic more easily. Legislation like this can’t be limited in this way. If it gets through, this will be used by future governments as a quick way to impose big brother authority across the board, and this is significant threat to our freedom.
At least the passage of the Bill has been stalled for now. This provides an opportunity to consider all the ramifications more thoroughly.
The Pandemic Bill must be withdrawn and a different way to tackle the pandemic taken up. The best way is to win the argument by convincing Victorians that we need to voluntarily act together.
Dan Andrews and his government could put more attention to helping citizens to become involved in working with their communities to deal with all the related issues. Vaccinations are not everything. Cooperation in taking care, caring for others are even more important.
Every effort must be made not to divide by establishing different rights for the vaccinated and unvaccinated. This sets an even more horrible precedent. It also weakens the battle against Covid, which needs community unity and not division.
A sideline is that it creates an advantage for Scott Morrison. Imagine countering future outbreaks with him still as Prime Minister.