Monday, August 10, 2020

Coronavirus: Australia’s covidiots and scofflaws are nothing more than more of the same

This article assumes that the current wisdom is correct and that lockdowns are helpful.  Many scientists have questioned that so the "Scofflaws" could simply be well-informed rather than being ratbags.

Sweden is the well-known example of a reasonable survival rate without lockdowns but there are many others.  The truth is that lockdowns sometimes go with HIGH deathrate, much higher than Sweden. See here and here

Feel the need for a Big Mac meal and a sundae? Why not drive 320 km from Melbourne to Wodonga and hit the drive thru?

Tested positive for covid but don’t want a pesky viral pandemic to cut into your busy social life?

Perhaps you have a party to attend, a sweaty danceathon where social distancing begins and ends with the swapping of bodily fluids only for the wallopers to arrive, leading to scenes not unlike the Roman raid of the headquarters of the People’s Front of Judea in The Life of Brian where the rebels hide very badly.

With Victoria commencing Stage 4 lockdowns this week and a night time curfew imposed, the media has been feasting on yarns of non compliance, driven either by unfathomable stupidity, gross negligence or calculated anarchy.

In the late, great Southern City there have been a total of 800 out of just over 3000 individuals who have tested positive for covid but thought quarantine was optional and instead strode out into the community with hacking, dry coughs.

Have Australians changed? Are we a bunch of criminally negligent scofflaws thumbing our noses at authorities?

Earlier this week, a 38-year-old woman allegedly assaulted two young police women after she was seen not wearing a mask at a shopping centre in Frankston in Melbourne’s south east. The alleged assault was so serious one of the police officers was treated at hospital for “concussion and significant facial injuries.” The 38-year-old woman reportedly has no criminal history.

Sovereign citizens and an imaginary Constitution

What on Earth is going on here? Victoria Police report they have encountered pockets of the sovereign citizen movement, a loose coalition of ultra libertarians who claim they have the right to opt out of the state’s laws whenever it suits them.

Aside from their amusing waffling about the Australian Constitution that they could not possibly have read or selective citing of the Magna Carta that they also have not read, events in Victoria show just how dangerous these people can be and how quickly noncompliance of temporary Covid laws can escalate into violence.

Both in the US and here the SovCit movement poses a significant threat to law enforcement. In the US, police officers have been murdered while undertaking routine traffic stops.

The FBI lists the SovCit movement as a domestic terrorist group.

Dangers, and rise, of SovCits

Senior police in NSW received briefings five years ago on the rise of SovCits which were estimated at 300 dedicated scofflaws statewide back then but in the midst of a pandemic with government imposing laws on social distancing, the numbers are bound to have risen.

The answer is to train and skill up police at the coalface so they can recognise SovCits and act accordingly.

VicPol Chief Commissioner Shane Patton reported that officers have had to break driver side car windows on a handful of occasions, one spectacularly involving the grinning covidiot, Eve Black who had been filmed refusing to disclose personal information while gloating at police at a checkpoint.

O’Brien’s windscreens are said to never have been busier.

For all that, I question that COVID-19 has changed the nature of our society in any permanent way, despite the covidiots who flaunt laws and regard wearing a mask as a fundamental breach of their human rights rather than an imposed measure of community obligation.

SovCits might be as mad as cut snakes but they remain in the absolute minority. They may be an alarming and growing group but they do not reflect the national character which oddly now is less of the anti-authoritarian and more of the docile and compliant kind.

During the Second World War, PM John Curtain railed at Australians’ unwillingness to support rationing of clothing, food, petrol and booze.

Almost every household had access to black markets. Many used them for special purchases or when the drinks cabinet was starting to run ominously dry.

The arrival of the Spanish flu pandemic of 1919-20, a disease that swept across the globe killing millions, had eerie similarities to that of COVID-19 in that it first appeared in the summer months in Australia. The second wave was more lethal, largely driven by political intransigence at state level. Sydney locked down three weeks earlier than Melbourne and then as now, Melbourne bore the brunt of infections and deaths.

By September of 1919, it was all over.

One story you probably won’t hear down at the War Museum is the only reason Australia was beset with a viral infectious disease was that returned service men from the First AlF jumped quarantine, spreading clusters of infection wherever they went.

Wearing a mask was compulsory in NSW for several months in 1919 but the rules were drawn up with gaping, noodle-scratching inconsistencies. Churches were locked down but Sydneysiders huddled together in trams to get down to the beach. They could pack in like tinned anchovies at the footy, too, but not the races. Go figure.

It is probably worth noting, too, that the decade immediately following World War One led to spikes in violent crime, serious assaults and murder the frequency of which the country had never seen before and would never see again although the 1980s came perilously close.

Then again if a pandemic struck in the 1980s, NSW police detectives from that era would have taken prevention into their own hands and whipped Sars-CoV-2 out past the heads for a spot of fishing.

Three men and a virus go out. Three men come back. Old Kooka, mate. Don’t make ‘em like they used to.

Australia’s national character has not changed very much and probably not at all.

Groups of scofflaws have always been here. In times of pandemic, their frankly oddball views of the world have received greater coverage and more scrutiny than these ratbags can handle. Nevertheless, the times we live in and the challenges we face with this pandemic make them far more dangerous than they’ve ever been.


Border bubble: Residents of Tweed heads and Coolangatta can move from one to the other

This page contains changes to border restrictions that will take effect from 1.00am on 8 August 2020.

To cross the border you will need to obtain a Queensland Border Declaration Pass. Applications can be made at the border, however you may face delays.

Border restrictions Direction (No. 11)

A border zone resident is someone who lives in a community on the Queensland New South Wales border. See the map here (PDF). This includes both sides of the border – people who live in Queensland but work or go to school in their neighbouring border town, or people who live in New South Wales but come to work or school in their neighbouring border town in Queensland. Border zone residents can cross the border for any purpose.

Queensland border zone residents cannot travel outside the border zone in New South Wales (but can travel anywhere within Queensland) and New South Wales border zone residents cannot travel outside the border zone in either Queensland or New South Wales.


State rivalries in virus response

In the middle of June, with coronavirus on the wane, South Australia relaxed its hard border restrictions with some states but left them in place for Victoria. This revived a fierce interstate ­rivalry that once played out in AFL State of Origin clashes when Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews retorted; “Look I don’t want to be offensive to South Australians, but why would you wanna go there?”

SA Premier Steven Marshall responded with a tourism video clip that mocked Andrews’s put-down. But his point was made more potently for him a few weeks later when Victorians were pursued, arrested and fined for fleeing across the border into SA, dodging police patrols bolstered by drones and helicopters intent on keeping Victorians out.

Melbourne-based Croweaters started returning to their home state and endured a fortnight’s isolation to escape an ominous coronavirus shambles in favour or an almost COVID-free existence.

Victoria’s 13,940 cases and 181 deaths dwarfs fewer than 500 cases and four deaths in SA. After allowing for population differences, Victoria’s toll is at least six times worse than SA’s.

In the AFL, Port Adelaide are now at the top of the table and the Adelaide Crows are at the bottom but everyone in the free-settler state feels they are winning the coronavirus challenge. So much for the federation, and so much for the national cabinet. In 2020, it is now every state for itself.

Thankfully, this is not absolute. During the week, Adelaide nurses flew out to put themselves in harm’s way in Victorian hospitals — but the essential truth is ­obvious. The response to this pandemic has exposed many of the weaknesses of federation rather than the strengths.

Despite the national cabinet, we have devolved, at least partly, into six colonies pursuing their separate interests.

Consider mendicant states such as Tasmania and SA, which are heavily subsidised economically by the larger states every year. Leading the charge on closed borders this year, they take additional federal subsidies to fund JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments, shutting out their fellow Australians while putting their hand out for even more of their cash.

And, sure enough, when Tasmania ran into strife with an outbreak, it called for federal help and eased its border restrictions to ­accept defence force assistance. Shunning the rest of the federation to keep the disease out; ­appealing to the federation when the problems arise.

When Scott Morrison generously threw together the national cabinet to co-ordinate the pandemic response, there was terrific co-operation between the states when it came to locking down ­society and accepting federal funding to support businesses and individuals. But when it came to fundamental decisions — such as keeping schools open or starting to ease restrictions — the states have tended to go their own way and resist Morrison’s urgings.

And, most consequentially, when the states were given the ­responsibility for funding and imposing quarantine on international arrivals, not all of them responded to the same level. The most crucial states (because of the numbers of arrivals) were NSW and Victoria; one used police to enforce quarantine, the other outsourced it to the private security industry.

We are all left to endure the consequences. (It is passing strange that the Socialist Left Premier should commit his most telling error through a penchant for outsourcing, while a right-of-centre government decided there are some tasks that government can do best).

This begs the question about the lack of national response and co-ordination. It exposes the impotence of the national cabinet and the fragility of the federation.

So one state had quarantine imposed by overseas students recruited as contractors via Whats­App, absent any training in their specialist task, without accountability, receiving below award wages and figuring it might be okay to go shopping, share a smoke or even have sex with the people they were supposed to be isolating.

The other appreciated the import of the task and ensured its health authorities and police force provided the oversight required.

One state kept closed its schools and exacerbated the economic pain within its borders while other states followed the ­national medical advice and kept schools operational. One state accepted the responsibility of keeping society as open as possible by tracing and contacting all people affected by sporadic outbreaks and isolating them, while others shut their borders to keep the ­bogeyman away.

Listen to the premiers. The pandemic response is about Queenslanders, Tasmanians, West Australians, South Australians, Victorians, and New South Welshmen. Suddenly no one wants to call Australia home.

In NSW, the government has done its best to stop mass gatherings such as Black Lives Matter protests; in SA, they gave the protesters a permit; in Victoria, they stood back and watched thousands gather without arresting them, but later they were happy to arrest and fine people protesting against wearing masks.

As a nation, we gave ourselves a critical opportunity to consider our next steps. The Prime Minister and the premiers deserve praise for flattening the curve and buying us that time.

What is deeply troubling now is that, as a nation, we are no closer to deciding what to do next. We have one state under lockdown, others pulling up the shutters, and NSW seemingly the only jurisdiction trying to do what we all need to do — live with the virus.

Having written in these pages for months about sustainability — the need to find a pandemic res­ponse that can last — it is depressing to see politicians who seem to think that endless shutdowns, endless debt and endless welfare are a viable outcome. Andrews keeps talking about getting to “the other side” as if Victorians must simply endure a few weeks of pain before they are delivered into the land of milk and honey.

But it has been clear for months that we might need to consider a future where a vaccine is not available for years; or might never arrive. We need to return to our initial discussion of flattening the curve and ensuring that the demands of the pandemic do not outstrip medical capability.

We spent billions of dollars boosting capacity from less than 2500 critical care beds to 7500 so we could cope with the pandemic demand. But COVID-19 cases have never used more than 100 on any one day, and even now are using only about 50 beds at a time.

Either the coronavirus is not as bad as we thought, or we have changed our strategy from flattening the curve to eliminating it, abandoning any semblance of cost-benefit analysis. Perhaps we are doing the pandemic equivalent of banning cars to minimise the road toll.

So far, 85 per cent of Victoria’s fatalities and about 70 per cent of the national death toll have occurred in aged-care homes. Our extreme efforts to suppress community transmission really exist to keep the virus out of aged-care facilities — we should be searching for smarter and more sustainable strategies.

It is deeply worrying that we are not hearing more about a ­medium or long-term strategy. Most countries in Europe and North and South America would happily swap with Victoria’s COVID-19 performance let alone Australia’s.

But can we stay isolated from the world forever? Can we tolerate or afford more lockdowns? At what rate of infection do we maintain control of the health system and keep society functioning? How can we protect the vulnerable while freeing up the rest of society? At what level of exposure do we approach herd immunity? What are the best treatments for coronavirus infection?

It is unfathomable that these questions are not dominating ­national debate. But there was one glimmer of hope this week.

It might have taken a missive from the largely discredited World Health Organisation to prompt him, but the ABC’s medical guru, Norman Swan, who has led the alarmist, reactive, hard lockdown rhetoric, finally conceded that we might need to live with the virus. A vaccine might be a pipe dream.

“This the conversation I think that Australia has to have,” Swan told ABC breakfast television. “We are behaving, and governments are behaving, in the hope, you can just see it in their eyes, in the hope that there will be a vaccine sometime in the next six to 12 months and there is no guarantee of that — we all hope, there are some very promising results, but there may not be, it is not an easy bug to actually get a vaccine to — so what if there’s not? Is that sustainable? What are we prepared to tolerate? I don’t have the ­answers, but I think we need that national conversation.”

It was an echo of this column a fortnight ago: “We might wait years for a vaccine, or never see one. To prepare for that, we need economic policies and public health responses that are sustainable … As always, it is for politicians to carefully weigh up costs and benefits.”

When the ABC is simpatico with this column on policy imperatives, the case must be strong.


Australia’s sheep left without shearers as Covid halts travel from New Zealand

It’s a tradition that stretches back decades. Every year, hundreds of New Zealanders fly in to Australia for the spring shearing season – a huge mobilisation of workers essential to the success of the nation’s wool industry.

In dusty sheds on outback farms they join up with local shearers and, between them, relieve five million sheep of their fleeces over eight weeks. But this year, there is a spanner in the works.

Australia faces a desperate shortage of shearers for its 68 million sheep – and looming animal welfare issues – as hundreds of New Zealand shearers are barred from making their usual annual trip due to the Covid-19 pandemic, or are unwilling to do so as cases of the virus surge in parts of Australia.

The Australian industry is reliant on short-term shearing contractors from New Zealand and Britain, with at least 480 New Zealanders crossing the Tasman in August each year for the spring season. They bolster a local population that only numbers about 3,000 shearers, said Jason Letchford, a spokesperson for the Shearing Contractors Association of Australia.

“We’ve got two animal welfare issues looming … one is that shearing is facilitated at the right time, so that they’re in the right condition to deliver their offspring,” he said, referring to the current spring season, which started in August. “The second is going to be flystrike … If wool stays on the sheep for a longer period of time, we’re going to see an increased rate.”

Flystrike is a condition caused by blowflies laying their eggs on sheep; it can kill or require euthanasia of animals, and costs Australian farmers AU$280m (£154m) each year, according to Western Australia government figures.

Usually inhabitants of Australia and New Zealand – closely-tied neighbours – can move between the countries at will, with no visa needed, but the Covid-19 pandemic has led to strict border closures for both, with exemptions difficult to win. Only Australian citizens, residents and immediate family members can travel to the country, and they are required to quarantine for two weeks in a hotel on entry.

Even if New Zealand shearers were able to attain Australian government exemptions to cross its borders – no attempts have proved successful so far – the contractors face costs of up to A10,000 (£5,500) just for flights and quarantine upon arrival in each nation, Letchford said. New Zealand this week ruled that all those leaving the country for trips of fewer than 90 days – as many of the shearers would be – must pay for their own mandatory isolation on their return; they would also lose two weeks of income at each end of their trip while they quarantined.

“We can’t expect Australia and New Zealand citizens to pick up our quarantine costs but the governments have got to work out the costs to the animal welfare if shearing isn’t going to happen,” said Mark Barrowcliffe, the president of the New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association. “If Australia wants us there bad enough, do they want to pick up the quarantine costs?”

There are other problems: flights across the Tasman have dried up, with Air New Zealand halting new bookings until at least 28 August. And as the Covid-19 crisis escalates in the Australian state of Victoria in particular, said Letchford, the trip was no longer appealing for New Zealand shearers.

“We’ve gone from two or three weeks ago having all these New Zealanders busting to get over here, chomping at the bit,” he said. “Now there are very few of them … they’re reading the newspaper like everyone else.”

New Zealand has successfully quashed the spread of the coronavirus for now, with no known community transmission, while Victoria’s capital, Melbourne,has entered its strictest lockdown yet after a resurgence in cases. New South Wales is also struggling with community outbreaks.

Glenn Haynes, a Shearing Contractors Association spokesman in South Australia, had helped facilitate some creative proposals to Australian authorities for how New Zealand shearers could enter the country; one in which the shearers would work at a remote property – where they would essentially be in isolation due to their location, thus sidestepping a fortnight in hotel quarantine – was unlikely to be approved, he said.

Another where four New Zealand shearers were offering to pay for their own quarantine costs was being considered, he added.

But it was still a far cry from the hundreds of contractors who usually arrive for the season, and money would be tight for many in New Zealand, Barrowcliffe said, with some looking for other farm work. New Zealand would then face a shearing shortage of its own in November, with Australian and British contractors unable to enter the country, he said.

Crossbred wool prices were already at record lows, Barrowcliffe added, and some farmers might choose not to shear animals before they were sent to the abattoir if they could not find enough shearers. “The whole world’s jammed up at the moment,” he said.

Letchford and Barrowcliffe both said their governments had invested funds in training new shearers, but that would not happen quickly enough to save this season.

“How have we got to the point where we do not have enough people to harvest our primary production and we’re beholden to foreign labour? How did we drop the ball on that?” Letchford said. “The commercial reality is that we have this nice, fluid transient labour force where one in a hundred years it’s buggered up but usually it works really well.”


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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