How long will Australians tolerate politicians abusing their powers, while under-performing in so many areas under their responsibility, even something so fundamental as education? We live under a constitution based on the eternal rule that power tends to corrupt. An increasing number of Australians suspect that addressing the Wuhan virus is being abused for the purpose at least in part of winning elections and even maintaining opinion polling ratings.
There is an increasing suspicion that media briefings are being held in good part to panic the population, with shock reports about a small number contracting the virus. While most are likely to recover, a draconian solution is then imposed on the population, even across the whole state. What is obvious is that while the vulnerable should be protected, there never was any justification in so seriously damaging those in a specific range of essentially small businesses and their employees. When the virus first struck in Australia the declared policy was to flatten the curve, that is, to slow down its impact so that the hospitals could cope. That has never been changed. But the conclusion from the actions of too many politicians is their aim is an obvious impossibility, eradicating the virus before the population can develop immunity.
The original modelling the National Cabinet chose exaggerated the impact of the virus and may well have justified the choice of the communist solution of drastic lockdowns rather than the solution proposed by the country that designed what was obviously world’s best practice, Taiwan. The transcription of the modelling for the National Cabinet also contained an error significantly magnifying the need for beds in hospital for serious medical attention. Had the modelling not been kept under wraps, the error would no doubt have been noticed much earlier by experts at James Cook University and the solution rectified. It seems that imposing damaging solutions is not in the past.
Over the recent ANZAC Day weekend, vast numbers of Australians were again seriously disadvantaged, and confidence weakened again because of a minor outbreak in, of all places, a quarantine hotel in Perth. Rather than accepting responsibility, Premier Mark McGowan decreed yet another damaging lockdown and blamed the Federal government. And as with so many politicians, the first and easiest target in the lockdown was to be the Anzac Day Dawn Services while major sporting matches were allowed to go ahead. The truth is Canberra has failed dismally to take the role clearly and specifically intended by the founders in matters such as the Wuhan virus. The constitution (section 51(ix)) empowers the federal parliament to make laws for the peace order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to of quarantines, with the power to prevail over the states in this regard.
This should be done in a system which discourages lockdowns unless really justified, which in my view, has not yet occurred. Such a system should be evidence-based, determined in public with politicians and their subordinates discouraged from resort to this as a solution by also having to suffer the consequences, consequences from which they have totally escaped so far. For example, there could be a cap of a very generous $3000 cap per week on salary and allowances for three months or the length of the lockdown, whichever is the longer. In addition, the law with respect to misfeasance in public office should result in not only damages payable by the taxpayers. It should extend to requiring some reasonable contribution by the decision makers and advisers. In other words, sharing the pain.
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Professor David Flint AM is an emeritus professor of law and was chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Authority and the Australian Press Council, president of the National Federation of the English Speaking Union, Associate Commissioner with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and convenor of the Committee of Australian Law Deans. He has been National Convenor of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy since the 1999 referendum campaign. He has authored books on topics such as the media, international economic law and on the Constitution. At Barcelona in 1991 he received a World Jurist Association award as World Outstanding Legal Scholar. He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1995. His Good Sauce show,Take Back Your Country, discusses the problems and solutions to the decay of federalism and democracy.