Among Covid’s casualties, Australia’s Larrikin Spirit

Every nation cherishes an image of itself.  We are often told that ours was formed on the beaches of Gallipoli, but long before the Australian union the people of the Australian colonies came to self-awareness.  Few were proud of the ‘convict stain’, but almost all stressed our independent spirit, our impudent mockery of authority, our strength and toughness in the face of adversity.  The much-loved poet Henry Lawson, in his 1888 piece Andy’s Gone with Cattle, asked: when Andy’s gone away over the Queensland border, who’s left behind now to ‘cheek the squatter?’  That nicely sums up the spirit of an age when most people barracked for the underdog – including even outlawed bushrangers.  Our other great poet Banjo Paterson, Lawson’s rival for popular acclaim, met ‘Breaker’ Morant and didn’t like him much as a man (he does seem to have had a brutal streak) but being shot by a British court martial made him a hero in the eyes of many.  Bruce Beresford’s 1980 movie is worth watching.  Squatters of course had their own self-image as ‘rural toffs’ and ‘bunyip aristocrats’, but such pretensions cut little ice with average working people.
When the states finally agreed to form a federation they drew many of their constitutional ideas from the United States and chose to call their new union a Commonwealth, which is actually a very respectable English translation of the Latin term res publica.  That choice reveals that there was a tension even then, as there still is, between our nation as a monarchy and as a republic.  The term ‘crowned republic’ is an apt one to describe the unique Australian political compromise.  To borrow from Frank Sinatra, we did it our way.
But Covid seems to have done what no other calamity succeeded in doing.  It affected the psyche of the nation.  Clive James reportedly claimed that Australia’s problem is not that there are too many descendants of convicts, but too many of the offspring of their gaolers and prison officers!
The words disinformation and misinformation have been around for many years, but have recently risen to prominence as the Australian parliament debates a bill which would ban false or misleading information in the media. 
The two terms are not interchangeable. The proposed law defines misinformation as ‘online content that is false, misleading, or deceptive’. Such information may not actually be intended to deceive, but could be deemed to have harmful consequences.  Disinformation, however, is the more serious of the two – it is misinformation deliberately intended to deceive. 
It simply beggars belief that the loudest demands for the suppression of so-called disinformation and misinformation seem to come from the biggest offenders against truth and integrity, who ran with the official Covid line from the beginning and worked hard to silence those who questioned the narrative.  People were sacked for refusing the vaccine.  They were not respected as conscientious objectors should be in a civil society, but denounced and gloated over – ‘serves them right’ was the cry of far too many of us.   
It was a spectacularly nasty couple of years.  From the beginning of 2020 there was no shortage internationally of responsible medical practitioners and researchers who questioned some of the measures adopted by governments to combat Covid.  But they were effectively kept in the shadows.  The so-called social media were transformed into tools of oppression.  On Facebook opinions that ran counter to received wisdom were abruptly taken down.  Wikipedia likewise practised a kind of informational cleansing, adulterating any entries that appeared to contradict the accepted narrative.  
It now seems clear, at last, that the large pharmaceutical companies played fast and loose with the truth, connived at silencing opposition, suppressed research that questioned the effectiveness of vaccines, and persuaded (to put it most tactfully) government bodies from the WHO downwards to buy the drugs and enforce some of the toughest regulations and restrictions on human liberty ever experienced in peacetime.  
And all for what?  Covid took lives, of course, but apparently no more in those countries that refused to impose lockdowns than in those that did.  It was a nasty illness, but the miseries inflicted by isolating or deferring the treatment of those who were sick and dying from other causes, and by driving so many small businesses into bankruptcy, were in the final analysis even greater.  
In many ways the performance of the mainstream media was even more heinous than all the others combined.  Those that are funded by the people (such as our ABC) have a moral duty to report facts without interpretation.  Of course, there is a place for commentary and opinion in the media – but not at the news desk!   
The government has now launched an enquiry into our national responses to Covid.  That would be good and heartening news, if it weren’t for the fact that the performance of the states is to be excluded from the terms of reference.  Yet state governments were the prime offenders!  It was they that mandated masks outdoors while walking, playing or even driving tractors, restricted travel across borders or even between suburbs, and imposed quite irrational minimum distance rules.  All these things were absurd beyond imagining.  Did they really happen?  Was it just a bad dream?  How could we have so far departed from our traditional Australian larrikinism as to submit quietly to such nonsense, and even to thank our governments for ‘looking after us’?  Here was the Nanny State in full flower.  

One of the most unpleasant things about a nanny state is that it doesn’t trust its own people.  Do we really need to be protected from mis- or dis-information?  Can’t we be allowed to make up our own minds, to debate, to analyse, to think for ourselves?  The Left has never really trusted the people.
Dr David Daintree AM is Director of the Hobart-based Christopher Dawson Centre for Cultural Studies

26 thoughts on “Among Covid’s casualties, Australia’s Larrikin Spirit

  • john mac says:

    I certainly trust no institution now . Not a one of them has my best interests at heart , and indeed are actively supressing our rights as a citizens , from banks forcing a cashless world on us (the greatest threat to our freedom) , to councils deciding to do away with the cultural touchstones we have celebrated for a century or more , to health “experts” acting as defacto leaders , unelected yet all powerful , to a police force Stalin would be proud of , quashing genuine peaceful dissent , while allowing mayhem to ensue from grievance groups with the approved politics , no arrests during lockdowns for them ! To education K-12 and tertiary, really just propaganda mills churning out miserable activists , and a media so partisan they don’t even care when called out ! And yes , whatever Larrikinism we once had , has been shamed out of society , replaced by a self-righteous “dob in” culture , marinated for years by billboards , bus signs , radio and TV ads , school walls , sporting codes and political parties all designed to break our spirit , “Zero tolerance” on all behaviour not deemed acceptable , parroted by a compliant majority , it would sadly seem .

    • Paul.Harrison says:

      And I thought I was a lone voice in the wilderness John. A good exercise for the mindless is to challenge their popular opinion that Advance Australia Fair is our National Anthem. Once one educates them that there is only one flag and anthem for the country, and the very reason for an anthem is explained, they are quite incredulous and aggressive when I state that it is, of course, God Save the King.

  • pmprociv says:

    So very true that “The so-called social media were transformed into tools of oppression”, but the mainstream media have much to answer for as well. They’ve always been driven by a need to sensationalise, to attract audiences and readers, and COVID sure provided copious opportunities in that direction; instead of cool, balanced reporting, we were exposed to endless reports of “tragic deaths”, including of many bedridden, demented inmates of nursing homes. Even the ABC sunk to the low levels of repeatedly broadcasting footage of young relatives shedding crocodile tears about “poor old uncle Ted” who was a wonderful person who’d had such a great life and “didn’t deserve to die in this way”. It made me think, “How else would you have liked him to die?” As medical students, we’d been taught pneumonia was the old man’s friend (we’d simply assumed this also applied to old women), as it provided a pain-free exit from life, and happens to be the most common final straw for most people suffering a wide range of terminal diseases (explaining why it’s misleading for death certificates to report “dementia” as a cause of death, when death in such patients almost always results from pneumonia, and/or septicaemia). Once, most intensive care units restricted entry to under-70-year olds, a limit that extended over the years, and now is apparently completely removed, so I wouldn’t be surprised to find a centenarian in ICU!

    Complicating matters is the trend to opportunistic litigation, symbolised by the billboards springing up soliciting: “Do you think you might have suffered an injury at work? Come and talk to us”. I’ve heard that Australia has overtaken the USA in medical litigation, and class actions have certainly become a major industry here. Knowing there are hungry lawyers watching from the sidelines certainly doesn’t encourage any administrator or politician (or even doctor) thinking of bucking the trend, or questioning orthodoxy. Such legal cases rarely reach court, as the insurance companies find it cheaper to settle beforehand — explaining the exponential rise in premium costs.

    I have a pretty good idea of what the early settlers, or the Gallipoli veterans, or even my immigrant parents, would have thought of all this — but we’re a different country now, where things are done differently.

    • john mac says:

      Yes , covid was the gift our elites were waiting for , and boy did they enjoy it ! The “ambulance chasing” , fishing for victims ads from these law firms also disgusts me , plays right into the idea that everyone must be compensated for the slightest effect on their health or psyche for showing up to work . A rort on an industrial scale . I worked as a bartender for some years , never smoked myself , but also never really worried about people smoking as that was the environment I chose. Worked in construction later and there were many potential injuries to be had of course , but one must be careful and use commonsense , the best deterrent to workplace injuries , yet now sites come to a halt over minute infractions , adding to costs and less productivity , as the builders march to the tune of the unions and their law firms .

  • Sindri says:

    I had a convivial dinner recently with an old friend (a doctor) whom I hadn’t seen for some years. The conversation inevitably turned to Covid and I carefully — because I had no stomach for souring the atmosphere on this cheerful occasion — ventured the view, put a toe in the water so to speak, that in the matter of lockdowns and travel bans, we . . perhaps . . . “hadn’t quite got the balance right”. It was enough. The astonishment, censoriousness and disapproval were instantaneously evident. So I didn’t pursue it. So much for my larrikin spirit too!

    • pmprociv says:

      Sindri, welcome to the club!

    • john mac says:

      Fortunately , Sindri , my current doctor tacitly agrees with me (and you) , as we might venture into conversation during an appointment , and my former doctor – also a friend- completely agrees on this subject and many others we discuss ! But this is why we conservatives have such an uphill task , a burden to bear . Even gently broaching a subject can set them off on a tirade that could end a friendship , while we just shake our heads in disbelief when confronted with irrationality and generally keep our mouths shut at dinner parties , for the sake of civility .

  • svfbrain says:

    Fear of opprobrium for speaking out publicly against PC causes is now killing our rebellious streak. How many in a captive theatre audience now dare to call out in protest against being subjected to repetitive acknowledgements of “traditional owners”?

  • Rob H says:

    Other than an apparent genetic propensity to petty crime and excess alcohol consumption the Aussie larrikin is merely a synonym for what American’s call an “asshole”.

    • john mac says:

      Actually , you’re right , Rob . Could never stand Shane Warne , and he exemplified the “Larrikin” perfectly , along with various football thugs and annoying celebrities , but I would think the author is using the term as one of individuality with a scepticism of authority , for want of a better term (but I know you knew that ), cheers !


    Australians response to the covid impost showed that our ‘larrikin spirit’ has suffered from comfort zone security induced complacency. Evidently and unfortunately, most Australians, like most of the rest of the ‘free world’ fell for the governmants con of trading freedom for security. The vaxx refuseniks who suffered various persecutions as a result of the covid treachery are the remnant of Australias larrikin spirit of individuals prepared to stand up to bastardised authotity.

  • lbloveday says:

    The Australian moderator may have been hungover this morning – I snuck “Covidiocy” into a comment that was ACCEPTED.

  • Watchman Williams says:

    The notion that Australia is a land of rugged individualists is a myth. We are a land of sheep, both two-legged and four-legged.

  • Watchman Williams says:

    The notion that Australia is a land of rugged individualists is a myth. We are a land of sheep, both two-legged and four-legged.

  • vickisanderson says:

    I often tell people that I still find it hard to believe that I had to obtain a Travel Permit to leave and return to my farm to get supplies. I describe the road blocks that reminded me of totalitarian regimes in Europe. Yet the friends that I discuss this with are curiously reserved about what happened. They seem to want to forget that it ever happened. This worries me a great deal, because it is a form of complicity which encourages repeat events.

  • vickisanderson says:

    “The vaxx refuseniks who suffered various persecutions as a result of the covid treachery are the remnant of Australias larrikin spirit of individuals prepared to stand up to bastardised authotity.”

    My husband and I attended the huge rally (we estimated around 150,00 based on our recollection of the old 42,000 crowds at the SCG) in Canberra against the mRNA vaccines. The protesters seemed predominantly families with kids and dogs. These were “regular” people from the suburbs who recognise false and dictatorial conduct by government.

  • Citizen Kane says:

    Australia has lost its larrikin spirit because it has become a culturally socialist society of that feeds of the teat of big government and expects government to fix everything right down to eating habits. Again, Lord Jonathan Sumptons article published here on Quadrant; goes a long way to exposing this phenomenon. The contemporary leftist elite is on a headlong charge towards global governance and demolition of the nation state and all the national character that imbues and the largely manufactured COVID pandemic (including the virus itself) was a wet dream for these anti-humanists.

  • Occidental says:

    A little anecdote about the australian spirit. In the early 80’s there was an attempt to steal bank note deliveries from the mint to various banks throughout Australia. One of the professionals hired was Robert Kidd who was in the hold of the plane that went to Mt isa. Anyway after doing time, he was in Sydney when he heard a cat crying out or what ever cats do when they need help, as it was trapped in a storm water drain. Kidd contacted waverly council and told them. They said nothing we can do. So he hired a crane and removed the grate and rescued the cat.

  • nfw says:

    How could we have so far departed from our traditional Australian larrikinism as to submit quietly to such nonsense, and even to thank our governments for ‘looking after us’?

    Easy, the level of IQ has dropped. The sheeple get their “news” and information from the palm of their hands. None of them think or question what they hear or read, because they haven’t been taught to and are berated if they try..

  • Geoff Sherrington says:

    Mid 1970s. In Los Angeles at a huge engineering firm run with an iron fist by the founder, C F Braun. I was manager of some new plant here in Aust, visiting them with my Aussie engineer named Bruce, negotiating to appoint them to consult. A rare invitation came to join CFB himself for a private lunch. The guy at the door whispered reverently “Geoff and Bruce, please meet our President”. Bruce stepped up for a handshake saying “Pleased to meet you, Mr President. And how is Mrs Eisenhower?”
    Some of our brightest people were larrikins at heart. The national heart is now being surgically removed. Geoff S

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