Victoria: Australia’s Covid autocracy, by Nick Cater

Australia’s Victoria province has turned itself into a Covid-19 prison. From Nick Cater at

Freedoms, once surrendered, can be impossible to recover.

The pandemic is revealing more uncomfortable truths by the day, like our willingness to abandon our freedoms and traditions at the first whiff of grapeshot.

Governments mistrustful of citizens have been too quick to respond to risks to public health with coercion, rather than simply appealing for a civic-minded people to do the right thing.

In Australia there has been a level of official control seldom seen since the convict era. There has been barely any opposition. A people once prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice of lives in defence of liberty is surrendering its freedom on the pretext of saving lives.

It is teaching us that when we dispense with the checks and balances that make democratic governments better than they otherwise might be, there is an exponential increase in the number and scale of state-induced blunders.

Exhibit A is the state of Victoria, where Covid-19 has recently spread through the community in what might be called a second wave if there had been a first wave, which there wasn’t.

When Britain, the US and much of Europe were struggling with mass outbreaks in April, Australia and New Zealand had the virus under control thanks largely to the prompt closure of borders.

It might have stayed that way but for a breach of quarantine security in Melbourne, where inadequate supervision of returning Australians in hotel quarantine allowed infected people to escape.

The loss of life has so far been slight: around 40 deaths per million in Victoria and fewer than 15 in the rest of Australia, compared with around 700 in Britain and around 500 in the US.

Yet the elevated risk was enough for Victoria’s premier, Dan Andrews, to declare a State of Disaster for only the second time in Victoria’s history. Andrews, incidentally, was responsible for declaring both of them.

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