Samuel Pepys: July 13, 1665
… Above 700 dead of the plague this week.
July 13, 2020
Last time I wrote about covid19 I said that we seemed to be emerging from it in Australia. That was a silly thing to say, because down here in Victoria the number of infections have risen again and greater Melbourne is back in Stage 3 lockdown. It’s all gone a bit haywire, so much so that I looked up the origin of the word ‘haywire’. (Apparently it comes from logging camps in the USA at the beginning of the twentieth century, when ‘haywire outfits‘ repaired their tools by tying them up with wire.)
This is the second lockdown, but we’re still in the first wave. I can’t imagine how this Age of Covid19 is going to end. News reports today say that people who have recovered from it only have antibodies for a few months, so we might not be able to build up herd immunity. The article suggested that people might be reinfected over and over again, as we are by the common cold. I always thought the reason we were reinfected by colds was because each of them was a subtly different, that rhinoviruses mutated. But apparently not. And we’re all waiting for a vaccine, but that could take years. If one is found at all; we don’t have a vaccine for SARS although that was partly because SARS wasn’t the sweeping pandemic covid19 is and so scientists stopped looking.
Maybe countries like Australia and New Zealand could eliminate covid19 by closing our borders and keeping them closed, but is that even possible? Given both our economies are so dependent on people and goods coming from overseas, what would an impenetrable border mean? Rationing? A return to local manufacturing? The end of post-WW2 consumerism? The historian part of me is remembering everything I know about the world pre-WW2; if we have to return to home-made clothes I’m going to be in trouble. I can’t sew. Okay, time to stop catastrophising. There are real problems without me assuming that the modern world is over.
I have seen enough disasters in my time as an emergency chaplain to know that they don’t change people. The generous are still generous; the greedy still greedy. People act either courageously or with cowardice, but the roots of both were always in them. Prime Minister Morrison and his government have never seen a problem that can’t be addressed with tax cuts and hard immigration borders; Premier Daniel Andrews has never seen a problem at which he can’t throw the police.
Last week nine public housing towers went into ‘hard lockdown’. All other lockdowns in Victoria started at midnight and people had a day or more notice. (Which local author Mark Smith suggested to me may be why the Surf Coast is busier than usual even though people in greater Melbourne are meant to be in lockdown.) The housing towers went into lockdown as the lockdowns were announced, and the first people deployed were 500 police. At media conferences the Premier reassured us that people were being fed and taken care of; social media and reports from inside the towers told us otherwise. Generous Melburnians donated money to Trades Hall and the ASRC and the local charities that already worked with tower residents; Pauline Hanson said that the people in the towers were all drug addicts. The TV program on which she spewed her racist venom said that she had crossed a line and would no longer be a ‘regular’ contributor; the rest of the world pointed out that ‘spewing racist venom’ is Hanson’s entire shtick and for the TV program to pretend that that wasn’t the reason they had her on was disingenuous. Disasters don’t change people!
It is frustrating to watch Australians appalled that the federal government has halved the number of Australian citizens who can return home each week, and will make them pay for their own quarantine as an ‘unprecedented’ attack on the rights of Australian citizens. It is as though they have completely missed Peter Dutton becoming the oberfuhrer of Home Affairs after turning Customs and Immigration into the paramilitary ‘Border Force’. Or maybe these people just never thought that they or people like them would be affected.
- When the government illegally locks up asylum seekers in contravention of the Refugee Convention, is that okay because they are ‘boat people’ and ‘queue jumpers’?
- When Australian permanent residents are deported to the countries in which they hold citizenship, even if they left those countries as infants, is that okay because they are ‘criminals’?
- When the government tried to deport two Indigenous men for such criminal ‘bad character’, was that still okay?
- When the government started to automatically remove Australian citizenship from dual nationals allegedly involved in terrorist organisations, even in the absence of any criminal conviction, was that okay because ‘citizenship is a privilege’ that can be lost?
- When Australia refuses to repatriate Australian children in refugee camps in Syria, is that okay because ‘national security’?
- When otherwise eligible families are refused permanent residency in Australia because one member has a disability, is that okay because otherwise they might cause a ‘burden on taxpayers’?
I am sorry for the Australians whose return home will now be delayed (although it is just a delay; their citizenship has not been revoked) and who will have to pay for their own quarantine (although they can apply for hardship exemptions), but to be surprised by this government’s treatment of Australians is ridiculous. What the situation does show is that a government refusing to respect the human rights of any human being is a slippery slope, that will eventually lead it to refuse to respect the human rights of its own citizens. And I usually hate ‘slippery slope’ arguments!
Ah well, I’ll just stay off Twitter for a few days so I don’t get any more mansplaining about the evils of this federal government.
One thing about which I do not care is Morrison going to a football match. I am completely indifferent. This is the man who will do nothing about the climate emergency that is making bushfire seasons worse, and who has a trophy of a boat in his office with the words “I stopped these” on it. Given the lives Morrison ruins by his policies, maybe it would be better for him to spend more time at sporting events.
Anyway, I will stay down here on the Bellarine, avoiding travelling to or through Greater Melbourne, and wearing the new mask my mother has made me when venturing out.