Andrew’s law and the conflict between rights and fighting the pandemic

Photo from NCA NewsWire: Victoria's Premier Dan Andrews

Contributed from Victoria

The Victorian government’s pandemic legislation has created quite a stir. Extending the power of Health Minister to impose measures, including lockdowns and mandatory detention, without having to go through the parliament is controversial. It should be. Whatever increases the power of the politicians to impose their authority and diminish that of citizens is concerning.

it is easy to shout this down. But the situation is not so simple. The pandemic is real and appropriate measures to save lives are necessary. Everyone must recognise this. Standing up for rights involves a particular context that must be taken into account.

Image of sick COVID patient in NSW in intensive care shows the seriousness of a pandemic that cause serious illness and death

By bringing forward this legislation, the Andrews government has, intentionally or not, aggravated a conflict between the need to oppose rising authoritarianism across Australia and dealing with the pandemic.

The best way to deal with this would have been to confide in the population and be thoroughly transparent. Measures that the government thought were needed could have been iron clad guaranteed not be able to be used for other purposes. These were missing and the Andrews government got itself into hot water.

Human rights and legal organisations canned the legislation. The response has been to bring in some changes, including the scrapping of harsh fines and including the right to appeal detention orders. This reduced the criticism and with the support of the cross bench, it is now likely that the legislation will get through the upper house.

The original legislation provided for two years imprisonment, and up to $91,000 fines for individuals and $252,500 for businesses for aggravated breaching of the rules.

Meanwhile, the Liberal and national Coalition are branding this as the most dangerous move in Victoria’s history. They are digging in, using the opportunity to score political points. This from an outfit that has made it perfectly clear on many occasions that they are not defenders of our rights. Their political opportunism should not be trusted.

Into the picture come the antivaxxers. The movement has captured a small yet significant part of Australia. Ultra-right elements have successfully entered and are having an influence. Rather than condemning the whole lot, care should be taken to understand that his is one of the expressions of growing insecurity and concern over what is happening to Australian society.

Photo by Luis Enrique Ascui: Antivaxxers part of Australia’s loss of trust in the political elite

There is a world of difference between the bulk of the antivaxxers and the ultra-right groups. It is important to ally with the former and isolate the other. People are angered for good reason. They feel betrayed by the political establishment and worry about the future.

Targeting them all as fascists plays into the hands of the ultra-right groups. It gives credence to their claim that it is their ideological opponents, the political left, that are behind the attacks on our rights.

Instead of confrontation, there should be dialogue with the antivaxxers.  

The Andrews government has so far chosen against dialogue, and the mistake provides the ultra-right groups with ammunition. It guarantees ongoing conflict. This not the way to move forward.

It is the political ultra-right, now being promoted by a significant part of big media and the major pro big business political elite that is the main threat to the rights of Australians today. The activity of the small ultra-right and the bigger political base mesh together. countering the ultra-right is not about chest beating and confrontation in the streets.

Sky News is at it again

Video from Sky News Australia

Wiser head know that this is about standing for our rights and winning over to a far better vision for the future.  It means standing with the concerns of those who might be led down a wrong path, winning them over to a better alternative and the realisation that caring about others is a big part of standing up for our rights.

In this context, working with the community to overcome the pandemic is a battle for freedom. Serving and a vehicle to divide the community in the hour of need, as the ultra-right groups are trying to do, is to act against freedom.   

The Andrews government could have approached this in a much better way. But it cannot be denied that more must be done to ensure effective measures to take on a major health risk. Australia is fighting a kind of war after all.                                                                        

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