One of the many casualties of the war on COVID, apart from truth, small business, education and faith in public institutions, has been civil liberties. Nothing is too precious, apparently, to be sacrificed in the war against a virus from which 99.85 per cent of infected people recover, often without even knowing they have been infected. The right to work, freedom of movement, democratic accountability and control of what goes into your body – all these and more have been trampled under the size-twelves of political authoritarians relishing their self-granted ’emergency powers’ in cahoots with their limelight-loving ‘public health’ Svengalis.
In Australia, we have Sandgroper Premier Mark McGowan living the WA secessionist dream by repelling all who attempt to board the state by land or sea, even to the extent of denying his citizens the pleasure of an Ashes Test. Broad-based vaccine passports are in play in Victoria, WA, Queensland and (for the moment) NSW. Most states have enacted no-jab/no-job mandates for many workers. The Victorian franchise of the Little Lockdown Shop of Horrors stocks a novelty range of assorted paramilitary offerings — protest on the streets of Melbourne and, while recent mass demonstrations have been tolerated, a shift in the Spring Street wind may well see dissenters spending weeks in one of Dan’s dungeons, as happened to Monica Smit (see the video below). The more fortunate may get away with a blast of pepper spray to the face or be shot in the back with volleys of VicPol’s plastic bullets.
Some parliaments in Australia have been effectively dissolved under unelected bureaucrats’ public health orders, which deem it unsafe to meet in numbers, whilst freedom of information inquiries for the ‘science’ underpinning the many and various restrictions on normal life are routinely spiked by those whose legal responsibility it is to rustle up the relevant documents and release them upon request. They must fear acute embarrassment if the ramblings of their court astrologers, otherwise known as public health experts, are dragged into the light of day.
The smorgasbord of abuses should have been a lay-down misère for Australia’s usually voluble civil liberties organisations, yet they have basically shut up shop. They, too, have fallen under the manic COVID spell and surrendered to the simple worldview of authoritarian hysterics, of which Premier Dan Andrews mugshot is the dictionary illustration.
Missing-in-action, the normally voluble civil liberties mob: The national and state branches of the market-leading civil liberties organisations in Australia have been unable to tear themselves away from defending the ‘human rights’ of fake refugees and real criminals. This has left no time to squeeze into their busy agendas the serious harm being done to our civic and personal freedoms.
Lockdowns help to “curtail a deadly pandemic”, according to the NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSW CCL), adhering to the foundational myth of lockdown saving lives, despite stats from lockdown-free Sweden, South Dakota, Tanzania and Belarus (and, latterly, Florida) showing otherwise. The NSW CCL does balk, however, at special police powers such as locking down apartment blocks, not because it is wrong in principle, which it is, but because the police “do not have the skills and capacity” to make the relevant health assessment. If a Chief Health Panjandrum deems that COVID ‘hot-spot’ apartments be locked up, placing all residents under China-style house arrest, then they deem police enforcement is justified.
Curfews and the limiting of outdoor exercise are also regarded by the NSW CCL as disproportionate, as are the steep fines meted out to lockdown miscreants. But criticising only proportionality leaves the principle of restrictions on activity, and accompanying penalties, as acceptable by default, so the NSW CCL is just haggling over the exact civil liberties price to be paid in the fool’s quest of ‘controlling’ a virus.
Australia’s peak civil liberties body, Civil Liberties Australia (CLA), experiences similar discomfort with the suspension of customary civil liberties during lockdowns, but is likewise prepared to suck it up because once “mass vaccination eases the pandemic”, we can then “restore democracy, civil liberties and human rights to Australians”. How’s that panning out? We now have fast-tracked, experimental, liability-free, ‘leaky’ vaccines that stop neither infection nor transmission, that appear not to be reducing hospitalisation outcomes (officialdom’s favoured metric) all that much, and whose limited efficacy rapidly wanes, requiring a hamster-wheel of boosters that statistics suggest come with an adverse-reaction cost well above that of traditional vaccines. Thus is the restoration of civil liberties put on ice.
Freedom of assembly: Australia’s civil liberties organisations have deep-sixed the democratic right to protest in public whilst lockdowns are in effect. Thus do they find themselves on the same page as former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian, who said the appropriate time to protest a lockdown is only after lockdown.
Conveniently for governments, declaring a public health emergency due to a virus negates the democratic right to challenge, in public, if such an ‘emergency’ actually exists. What if the governments of Australia have got it wrong about the virulence and lethality of the virus which, while certainly nasty, was always a long way short of apocalyptic? About the whole ‘pandemic’ being on statistical life-support from a dodgy PCR test that can’t tell a live infection from a long-dead one and is in the process of being withdrawn from use in US? About the necessity and effectiveness of ‘non-pharmaceutical interventions’ or fast-tracked pharmaceutical interventions?
Governments are very good at getting things wrong – including, as we now know in spades, in the field of public health. In this regard they are busily making Inspector Clouseau look like an ace detective, certainly not one who would ever claim pizza boxes and footballs are agents of viral contamination, as has South Australia’s CMO.
CLA is a highly selective tribune for freedom of assembly. Street demonstrations during lockdown are out, but pet causes (BLM, refugees, etc.) get an OK tick. It helps if anti-lockdown protesters are caricatured as “dangerous, anti-science whack jobs … who put everybody’s health at risk”, as Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young put it, or as a gabble-gob talkback compere put it, “stupid irresponsible bastards!” Then there is the formerly hanky-headed Peter Fitzsimons pronouncing that “gathering tightly without masks to promote batshit crazy ideas is INSANITIY!”, the emphatic capitals demonstrating once again that words have failed him. According to Socialist Alternative Australia , protesters are “marauding fascist mobs” (no hyperbole there!) engaged in “a frightening show of force” to “stoke suspicion towards vaccines and vaccine mandates”. No civil liberties for proletarian Deplorables, comrades!
Meanwhile, the Dan Andrews political virus which has so sickened Victoria and its civil liberties has caused little distress to Liberty Victoria (LV), where Julian Burnside is president and Gillian Triggs, who would like to control free speech even around the kitchen table, is a recent honouree. LV does support the right to protest during lockdown – but only if it is ‘COVID Safe’. This means being masked-up and with 1.5 metres separation between protesters.
Liberty Victoria has a ‘boots-on-the-ground’ auxiliary, Melbourne Activist Legal Support (MALS), a self-described “independent volunteer group of lawyers, human rights advocates, law students and para-legals” which is cut from the same woke Left cloth as its better known big brother. MALS argues that “restrictions upon basic freedoms such as movement and gatherings are sometimes necessary and can be entirely ‘lawful’ ”. Translated, that says civil liberties can take a hike when necessitated by “public health purposes”. They use the analogy of compulsory seatbelts to make the case for lockdown restrictions but this is a flawed comparison. Plot the effect of seatbelts on a graph of road traffic accident deaths and the effect is stark; plot any lockdown restriction against any virus metric and the effect is entirely random, failing to alter the natural bell-curve progression of the infection. Compulsory seatbelts? Yes. But lockdown restrictions for a respiratory bug with survival rate on par with a bad flu? Hardly.
Although MALS is no fan of the militarisation of the police, the problem they have is not that armour clad riot cops firing volleys of plastic bullets into retreating crowds smacks of a police state but, rather, that it could lead to “distrust in public health authorities” whose magnificent efforts to put the virus back into its box (not a South Australian pizza box, by the way) are all that stands in the way of mass viral carnage. Instead, frets MALS, police over-reaction will send discontented victims, who don’t understand that this is all for their own benefit, scurrying down rabbit-holes of “baseless conspiracy misinformation on the Internet”.
Nor will MALS have a bar of dissenters against the authorised COVID narrative trying to present themselves as some sort of minority facing scapegoating, discrimination and persecution. No, that honour belongs only to the woke/green/Left constituencies that matter, what MALS designates as the “structurally oppressed” groups i.e. minorities as determined by skin pigmentation, ethnic origin or sexual identity, helpfully itemised by MALS as “First Nations, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples; refugees or asylum seekers; migrant communities; people of colour; or LGBT+ communities”. These are the ‘deserving’ minorities allowed to assemble, unlike opponents of lockdown or mandatory vaccines and passports. They represent theb ‘undeserving’ minorities.
Mask mandates: The Gospel of the Mask in the authorised version of the COVID Bible is also proselytised by Australia’s civil liberties groups. The CLA fully supports mask mandates, believing the face nappies’ bacterial petri-dishes and toxic CO2-traps should be imposed on all, despite abundant evidence that neither the made-in-China supermarket cloth mask, nor the slightly superior surgical mask, do anything at all against a virus even as they pose their own health risks, ranging from the dermatological to the periodontal, from brain-fogging oxygen-deprivation to bacterial pneumonia.
Leaving aside the science, though, it remains wrong on civil liberties principle to mandate masks. People who believe that masks work, or who at least gain some psychological benefit from them, should be free to wear them, but those who regard them as useless placebos, or as a means of political obedience training, should be able to bare-facedly take their exceptionally good chances with the virus. The right of every person to make his or her own health decisions is, or should be, a fundamental civil liberty that protects against government overreach. Masks should never be imposed under threat of financial penalty, job loss or jail, even assuming, generously, that the things work against a particle so small that it can only be seen with an electron-microscope.
Mandatory vaccinations: Ten months ago, Civil Liberties Australia took time away from their various woke obsessions to issue a mealy-mouthed statement that, whilst “in general” COVID vaccination should not be mandatory, “if governments or businesses seek to make vaccination a compulsory requirement to access benefits, services, places of education or specific jobs, it must be rationally based”. So, CLA is fine with the concept of compulsory vaccination, on the proviso that it is ‘rational’. They conveniently leave the definition of ‘rational’ up in the air so any passing premier can simply say that any abrogation of freedoms in regard to vaccination is entirely justified by the declaration of a public health crisis where. As Prime Minister Scott Morrison put it during a 2GB radio interview: “It’s got nothing to do with ideology, and these issues around liberty and so on. We all believe in freedom, but we also believe in people being healthy”. The premiers who have given him so much grief could not have put it better.
And CLA agrees with Morrison too, believing it is rational “for good community health reasons” that all “health workers, hospital workers, aged care workers and prison guards” should be compulsorily vaccinated (or lose their jobs). CLA falsely assumes the ‘vaccines’ work in stopping the transmission of the virus, despite much evidence to the contrary showing that even double-jabbed workers can still infect their institutionalised charges.
The NSW CCL also backs No Jab/No Job policies for broader sections of the workforce. “We support the right to a safe workplace”, they say, trotting out the ‘safety’ incantation that has wreaked so much damage on Australia, including on civil liberties.
The vaccines are often presented, including by civil liberties groups, as simply a continuation of the socially desirable practice of immunisation against childhood diseases (MMR, DPT, polio, etc.), a practice which is now backed by coercive financial penalties and denial of services. The childhood vaccines have a deservedly positive reputation because they provide lifetime sterilising immunity against truly terrible diseases (smallpox, for example, had a 30 per cent fatality rate), they use traditional techniques (injecting a non-dangerous, dead/weakened virus to pump-prime immunity) and they have been exhaustively vetted for safety.
The childhood disease vaccines have a well-earned ‘social license’ but the water has been muddied somewhat by coercive No Jab/No Play policies. Back in 2015, the Commonwealth (under former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott), introduced a No-Jab-No-Pay policy under which families declining recommended childhood immunisations do not receive the Commonwealth benefits of Family Tax Benefit Part A or child-care subsidies. As Peter Smith credibly speculates, “you don’t think coercion will apply? Think again. Little unvaxxed Gillian and Johnny will be segregated at school, forced to wear masks all day” – unless they get the jab. The current push to vaccinate kids as young as five — with talk of even newborns being inoculated down the road — suggests Smith powers of prophecy are not to be disputed.
In 2015, some saw the coercive childhood vaccination policies as unacceptable infringements of civil liberties. The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (the professional medical body for specialists) and the AMA both gave the new policies a civil liberties thumbs-down. Liberty Victoria also had its mojo working, noting that
there is something deeply unpalatable in using compulsion, whether direct or indirect, to force parents to subject their children to preventative medical interventions when they believe such interventions may be harmful to their children. It is certainly not an approach favoured by medical ethics.
Like Groucho Marx, it seems that if you don’t like the principle defended above, give Liberty Victoria a few years and it will have others.
COVID vaccine Passports for access to venues and much of social life are now doing the heavy lifting against the vaccine recalcitrants in order to increase jab take-up to meet the political imperative of using mass COVID vaccinations as the exit ramp from the lockdown carousel without the authors and enablers of disastrous lockdowns having to own up to their original lockdown sin. How is that going? Well, on December 11, Victoria proudly announced that 92 percent of the population had been vaccinated, yet the number of new daily cases has remained resolutely above 1000, with spikes of 1400 or more.
Australia’s civil liberty groups have, disgracefully, embraced the ensuing discriminatory medical apartheid. The CLA, for example, is supportive of denying the unvaxxed certain freedoms such as “not being permitted to attend packed football matches or netball games” or banning them from participation in other ‘discretionary’ activities such as entertainment and travel.
The NSW CCL is also onboard with vaccine passport discrimination by arguing that if, say, a restaurant is open only to the vaccinated, whilst this might be discrimination, it is not “unreasonable discrimination”. The analogy they use in support is that, just as denying unlicensed drivers the right to use the roads to avoid the “terrible impact” they would have on licensed road users by causing accidents, those who choose not to get and carry their COVID papers ‘license’ must be prevented from mingling with the vaxxed whom they would otherwise kill (despite their wonderful vaccine) by sharing a common space. Bob Carr, the former Foreign Minister who roamed the globe berating international human rights miscreants, recently added a dash of his profound insight by slamming the “pig-headed view that one has the perfect right to be unvaccinated without medical justification is a violation (potentially fatal) of the rights of others to life and health. This should be enforced, as we enforce smoke-free work environments or no driving while drunk”.
Such comparisons from the civil liberties spruikers and putative champions of human rights do not hold, however. Drivers who have not passed their test do present a real risk to others, but a person unvaxxed against COVID presents no more of a public health risk to others because the officially endorsed experimental COVID therapies are not sterilising vaccines and prevent neither infection in, nor transmission by, the vaxxed. The central conceptual flaw of the vaccine passport is that, if the COVID vaccines work as billed, then passports are unnecessary. If the vaccines don’t work, then a passport is pointless – or, as the sceptical might put the absurdity of the passport idea, ‘COVID vaccine mandates are necessary because the protected need to be protected from the unprotected by forcing the unprotected to use the protection that didn’t protect the protected’. And, of course, naturally acquired immunity through infection doesn’t count at all to the passport advocates.
The NSW CCL also argues that, whilst vaccine passports may be distasteful, they are nevertheless justified so long as the discrimination they enforce is “temporary and proportionate”. After 20 months of ‘two weeks to flatten the curve’ and, when the air went out of that meme, the rolling extensions of ‘temporary’ authoritarian executive powers under perpetually renewed states of emergency, there an be no denying what we have seen and endured represents a triumph of hope over experience.
The NSW CCL’s endorsement of Vaccine Passports is an unfortunate example of international groupthink, the ideological affliction which has taken hold of much of the world during COVID. When you have run out of your own magical thinking on stopping the virus but need to be seen as doing something then ‘monkey see, monkey do’ is all you’ve got. Other countries have the passports, including China, says the NSW CCL (and Singapore!, chimes in the oleaginous Bob Carr). That other countries have gone nuts with the things is no reason we should do likewise, particularly when the passports were pioneered by a neo-Stalinist dictatorship which has its domestic civil liberties activists banged up in no time flat.
The American Civil Liberties Union goes one further than its Australian clones by proposing that passports actually advance civil liberties because, whilst we all have “the fundamental right to bodily integrity and to make our own health care decisions … these rights are not absolute. They do not include the right to inflict harm on others” by declining a vaccine. So vaccine coercion is permissible for “devastating diseases like COVID”, the ACLU argues. Would this be the disease that, for the vulnerable (mostly the elderly immuno-compromised with comorbidities) has a flu-like survival rate of 99.85% (for the original Alpha strain, now up to 99.904% for the Delta variant) and which, unlike the flu, leaves the kids little troubled by the infection?
Not so long ago, in 2008, the ACLU was defending civil liberties in response to the avian bird flu pandemic, which (like COVID) produced alarmist modelling and hysterical forecasts of millions of deaths. Back then, the ACLU published a report which denounced as both unnecessary and dangerous state coercion in the name of public health. With ironic prescience, they wrote, then, that
too often, fears aroused by disease and epidemics have encouraged abuses of state power. Atrocities, large and small, have been committed in the name of protecting the public’s health.
Coercion and mandates are never preferable to persuasion and voluntary compliance, they said. But that was then — wise words, but so pre-COVID
So, why have Australia’s civil liberties voices failed so badly in their one job, which as their names attest is to protect civil liberties? James Allan, in the Australian Spectator, says, correctly, that the “hollow and massively politicised nature of the lawyer-driven human rights complex in this country” is at fault – “so many of them are plainly in the game of left-wing politics, run through the courts and disguised under the rubric of ‘human rights’”.
In other words, the incumbent civil liberties defenders have been hopeless during this unprecedented time of civil liberties abuses because they are left-wing fronts which have subordinated real human rights to an abstract ‘safety’. Australia’s civil liberties outfits share the political genes of the ‘people before profits’ Left, hence their political crush on masks, lockdowns and compulsory vaccination, none of which work against COVID but all of which make for dramatic leftwing political theatre about ‘saving lives’ . Meanwhile, civil liberties are trashed and the organisations’ letterheads belie their actions and acceptance of State edicts.
Traditional civil liberties’ norms, so often taken for granted, have been exposed by the lockdown crisis and ensuing medical tyranny as dangerously fragile and supremely vulnerable to a Great Fear. Australia’s Constitution has been MIA in the defence of civil liberties, as it has been in regard to the closure of state borders.
The virus-demented political, medical, academic, scientific and media classes have all gone gaga over COVID, all to the detriment of civil rights. The COVID crazies may sound apologetic at times (it’s only ‘two weeks to flatten the curve’, it’s only a mask, it’s only a QR-Code app, it’s only an injection, it’s only a temporary suspension of traditional rights) but the outcome in all cases is the same — further conditioning us to the sustained loss of our freedom.
Australia’s civil liberties incumbents will not be coming to our rescue. Indeed, they are to be counted amongst our gaolers – nicer gaolers to be sure, allowing us an extra hour in the exercise yard, perhaps, or more ‘privileges’ always contingent on continued good behaviour and more supine deference to authority. But jailers they remain.