Steerpike

Five more lowlights from Australia’s Covid fight

Five more lowlights from Australia's Covid fight
Rohan Thomson/Getty Images
Text settings
Comments

It was less than a fortnight ago that Steerpike wrote of Australia's various missteps in its long fight with Covid. Since then, the (not so) Lucky Country has introduced a smorgasbord of extra restrictions to add to its various rules and regulations already in place, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison himself admitting that 'this is not a sustainable way to live in this country.' Below Mr S presents his list of some of the more egregious of these...

Tracking

Few Covid innovations have generated as many headlines as that of South Australia's home-based quarantine. The state has developed and is now testing an app to enforce its quarantine rules which – in the words of the Atlantic – is as 'Orwellian as any in the free world'. Those travellers returning and quarantining at home have to download an app that combines facial recognition and geolocation. 

The state will then text them at random intervals, with the quarantining Aussie being given just 15 minutes to take a picture of their face in the location where they are supposed to be. Should they fail, the local police department will be sent to follow up in person. State Premier Steven Marshall appeared untroubled by this overreach, breezily claiming: 'I think every South Australian should feel pretty proud that we are the national pilot for the home-based quarantine app.'

Thousand dollar fines

Much like certain politicians here in the UK, some Aussie lawmakers have positively revelled in the chance to implement four figure fines. In New South Wales, groups of more than two people were not allowed to meet outside, prompting stories such as the two young pram-punishing mothers who were last month slapped with $1,000 fines for daring to stop and talk to one another in Bronte park in Sydney's lockdown. A day later fine rates were hiked to $5,000 or £2,683.

Mask madness

Steerpike has already pointed out the case of Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews, who went viral online after suggesting you could not remove a mask to drink outside. Victoria was not alone in its misguided approach to transmission; Queenland's health minister Yvette D’Ath ordered citizens in the Greater Brisbane area to wear a mask whenever they left their home including when walking, cycling or even driving alone in a car. At the beginning of August, a video of an elderly man being arrested for not wearing a mask in Brisbane’s Botanic Gardens went viral after he appeared to have a seizure while being led away by police.

Still, it could be worse. In South Australia the chief health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier warned attendees of an Aussie rules football game: ‘If you are at Adelaide Oval and the ball comes towards you, my advice to you is to duck and do not touch that ball.’

Curfews

A day after Steerpike's article, New South Wales introduced a curfew for two million residents of Sydney until the end of September. Australians here had already been under stay-at-home orders since June but now those unlucky enough to live in the city's worst-hit suburbs have to endure an eight hour curfew between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. The state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said it is primarily a way of ‘reducing the movement of young people’ and is just the latest in a long of curbs on travel. Citizens are already banned from leaving the country without permission, in violation of the UN Declaration of Human Rights

Parliament suspended

While New South Wales deployed the military to enforce lockdowns, Victoria went even further with its curfew and suspension of Parliament at various points of the pandemic. Eschewing technical solutions, like Westminster's own virtual sittings, the aforementioned Premier Daniel Andrews declared 'it is not about human rights. It is about human life.' 

This is despite both federal and state parliaments sitting continually during both world wars and the pandemic of 1918-19. As one dissenting lawmaker noted: 'This is a very powerful government using every armoured force that they can to actually control the message, control the state, control the community.'

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to steerpike@spectator.co.uk or message @MrSteerpike

Comments
Topics in this articlePolitics