Rights and Freedoms

Lockdown Under: As The UK Opens Up, Australians Face An Endless Cycle Of Restrictions

Written by
27 July 2021

Spare a thought for your friends Down Under. When England had its Freedom Day on July 19, half of the Australian population were under strict lockdown orders. While Brits were free to head back to the pub, Victorians had only four reasons for which they could legally leave their home, other than work – and such excursions were limited to two hours in total per day.

When Brits think of Australia, they perhaps imagine a sun-washed coast, a high standard of living, and opportunities for work and leisure that have attracted millions of migrants in recent decades.

But Australia is no longer Australia. For the past 18 months, we have been living under a despotic public health regime. Our political leaders, and the bureaucrats and ‘health experts’ they hide behind, have suspended our freedoms and rights in the name of eliminating coronavirus.

That quixotic drive has led to some horrifying incidents.

Last year in Ballarat, a regional town in Victoria, a pregnant mother was arrested and handcuffed in front of her children in their home for posting her opinion about the lockdowns on social media. After another woman, pregnant with twins, was not able to get an exemption to cross state lines for emergency care at her nearest hospital in Queensland, the state’s Premier said that hospitals in the state were “for our people only”. One of the twins later passed away.

Then there are the examples of self-defeating, frustrating and thoroughly pointless enforcement. In South Australia, for instance, hundreds of people who happened to be at a winery or restaurant later identified as exposure sites were forced into 14 days of hotel quarantine. No reason as to why they could not quarantine in their home was given, other than the dubious explanation from the Chief Health Officer that it was “important in terms of protecting the public”.

The drastic examples above have become commonplace in Australia, and it’s now routine for entire cities, if not states, to be plunged into lockdowns after only a handful of cases are identified. The Premier of Western Australia (WA) sent the major metropolitan parts of the state into a five-day lockdown after a single case of coronavirus was detected in a hotel quarantine worker, forcing two million Western Australians to stay at home with only five hours’ notice. All retail stores forced to close, hospitality venues limited to take-away only, and exercise restricted to just one hour per day within a 5-kilometre radius of the home. There had never previously been a mask mandate in the state, but Western Australians were suddenly required to where them everywhere except at home.

Astonishingly, we have also been subject to communist-style domestic visas to move between states (something WA’s Premier speculated about continuing even after the pandemic). 

Some claim, however, that Australia’s low incidence of Covid shows the value of a tough elimination strategy. After all, we have had fewer than 1,000 deaths in a country of almost 26 million people. But it’s likely that at least some of Australia’s success in avoiding ‘excess deaths’ comes down to the fact that we are an island, which was the conclusion of one recent paper published in the United States.

Additionally, like other countries that adopted Chinese-style lockdown measures, Australia is now seeing higher excess deaths related to illnesses and diseases which appear to have been dismissed in the rush to implement lockdowns. According to the most recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, excess deaths during the first three months of 2021 were 1,716 above their historical average, during which time there were no fatalities related to coronavirus.

The problem with the extreme ‘Zero Covid’ approach of our authorities is that there is no end in sight for the endless cycle of hair-trigger lockdowns. In the meantime, our politicians and public health bureaucrats continue to infantalise us in an effort to maintain a level of fear. One chief health officer recently told football fans that if they are at a game “and the ball comes towards you, my advice to you is to duck and just do not touch that ball”. Another admitted last year that her decision to shut down schools was not based on health advice or any science; “it’s about the messaging”, she said.

But we cannot live this way forever. As England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam said recently: “Nothing reduces the risks [of contracting coronavirus] to zero other than standing in a meadow completely on your own ad infinitum with nobody coming within three metres of you.” If only we had had similar honesty here in Australia, where we still have not had a proper parliamentary debate about the extreme restrictions we are being forced to live under.

Brits like to joke that Australia was founded as a convict colony, but thanks to Covid, we’ve now turned into a prison island of a whole different kind.

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Cian Hussey

Cian Hussey is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs

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