“It’s time”, as some readers will remember, was the Labor election slogan that ushered in the late Gough Whitlam’s disastrous time in office. Well now it’s time to dust off that slogan for another Labor disaster. It’s time for Victorian Premier Dan Andrews, now easily the world’s champion lockdowner, or locker-down if you prefer it, to get lost.
He won’t of course. He’ll cling on like a piece of chewing gum stuck to your shoe until he has to be scraped off. Unfortunately for their own freedom, too many Victorians don’t seem to mind their state limping around with this encumbrance. You’d think they’d be starting to feel the blisters but complaints are muted, partly because the media have ganged up with the government to portray opposition to Andrews, and especially to his COVID policies, which is just about the only thing people think about in Victoria these days, as antisocial if not outright treasonable. At this rate Victoria is well on its way to becoming Australia’s own little outpost of the kind of tyranny one of Andrews’s pin-ups, President Xi in Beijing, exercises over his unlucky subjects.
The Westminster system under which we allegedly live doesn’t envisage dictators among its public functionaries. But Andrews is one, to all effects. He’s the boss — and doesn’t he just love it, throwing his weight around. As such, he has done a lot of damage in the seven years he’s been entrenched in power. It has helped him that he has been untroubled by rivalries from lacklustre colleagues or serious challenges from Victoria’s risible “opposition”. Nor can the state’s supine parliament scrutinise him; he’s had it shut down because of Covid and rules by “emergency powers”. As a result Victoria has been transformed from a reasonably well functioning democracy to an incipient autocracy. Suspicion and mistrust are in the air you breathe there (through a mask of course). Neighbours are officially encouraged to be snitches and dobbers (so much for “Aussie values”). The “garden state” is becoming the gulag state.
Andrews’s word is law, his lightest utterance translated into policy by the teeming horde of bureaucrats he has turned into an instrument of his personal will. As in all totalitarian regimes, the bureaucrats are closely watched, Andrews’s “personal staff” of junior enforcers recruited from the universities having been deputed to keep them under observation, presumably for signs of disloyalty. When even the house journal of Victorian leftism, The Age, murmurs (it doesn’t want to be too critical of the boss) that under Andrews the public service has been unacceptably politicised, something must be wrong.
Andrews has shamelessly politicised the police too, dressing them up to look like shock troops in a Netflix churn-out about some futuristic dystopia. Clad in these battlefield accoutrements they engage in running skirmishes with anti-lockdown mobs, chasing each other across the tram lines of Melbourne’s streets, endangering everyone around. (The tram lines add a quaint soupçon of their own, giving the flavour of a riot in communist East Berlin, tram lines being ubiquitous in news film of such events.)
The military get-up is a visual declaration that the police are at war with the public. The enmity is palpable. The attitude the police show to ordinary citizens – aren’t they supposed to be public servants? – is summed up in a freeway hoarding I saw showing police booking an errant driver. “Catching you” is the key phrase. “Dan’s Gestapo” someone has daubed over it.
Did Andrews not realise that militarising the police might have the psychological effect of making demonstrators more aggressive too? Does he not realise that by effectively making the experimental and still dubious procedure of COVID vaccination obligatory he is alienating many fair-minded people who oppose coercion and care about their consciences? Not only that, but he’s also instituting a de facto apartheid between vaccinated and unvaccinated (a good example of the contradiction always inherent in leftist propositions: apartheid is only not OK when the separation is based on race). And what about the principle of “my body, my choice” endlessly harped on by Andrews’s back-up chorus of unsavoury feminists? Oh, of course, that’s for a different choice – that’s in favour of Andrews’s infanticidal abortion laws. It doesn’t apply to jabs. Another leftist contradiction.
You have to admit that Andrews has been pretty successful for a figure not noticeably endowed with great gifts of intellect or imagination. Like most of the bosses of contemporary Victorian Labor, he’s never done a hand’s turn of real work. Like them he went straight into the bearpit of Labor politics from university. For a time he was a “party organiser”, whatever that means (it was also the pseudo-occupation of that world-class leftist washout, Barack Obama). At least those earlier Labor stalwarts had humped bales on the wharves or driven railway engines. They knew what backbreaking work felt like. Andrews and his lot haven’t a clue, and it has shown in their failure to understand Victoria’s economy with its base in thousands of small and medium-sized businesses, now, thanks to the restrictions decreed by Andrews’s government, somewhat fewer in number and getting fewer.
Mind you, you can’t say Andrews is a stranger to the business world, as long as you mean the billion-dollar business world of tycoons and ostentatious consumption. He loves consorting with them, enjoying hospitality at their luxurious if meretricious residences. It was at one such, apparently, that Andrews fell down some steps and broke some bones. He was offstage for nearly four months, which at least spared Victorians his patronising daily lectures on what they’re doing wrong about COVID. He’s back at it now, scolding the public with an air of martyred patience as though he thinks anyone who disagrees with him about vaccination is actuated solely by the perverse satisfaction of annoying him.
Was it because of Andrews’s easy association with Victoria’s top business one per cent that he acquired the reputation early in his premiership of “getting things done”? It certainly wasn’t through balancing the books. His Metro Tunnel project is clogged with delays and a vast budget blow-out, currently around $2.7 billion. Then there’s the $339 million he gave away to the East-West Link contractors in 2015 simply to buy himself the crazed Green and NIMBY vote by dumping the project.
Andrews shows many of the absurder characteristics of Greenery himself. He has issued a meaningless “apology” to gays because the law was once against them. He allows “Safe Schools” to indoctrinate schoolchildren with “gender” fantasies but slammed the door on Christian religious education. And, though Premier of a state not a nation, he is cooking up a “treaty” with various Aboriginal malcontents.
COVID, considered as much a social crucible as an illness, gave Andrews the opportunity to turn Victoria into a state of lost freedoms. A Premier wedded to democracy would have sought to conserve the greatest degree of individual liberty consonant with the emergency precautions necessary to minimise the impact of the pandemic. Andrews, refusing to listen to any epidemiological opinion other than that of the World Health Organisation (i.e. China), went for the most illiberal and economically damaging anti-COVID strategy possible and spent over a year pursuing the chimera of total elimination of the virus. He’s belatedly abandoned that, but the case numbers in Victoria show his strategy hasn’t worked even in terms of containment.
Yet governments have had 18 months to bring the pandemic under control, ever since Canberra’s mendacious or deluded “two weeks to flatten the curve” promise of March last year. Victoria has had many more COVID deaths than any other state, most of them after a hopelessly mismanaged quarantine attempt by Andrews’s goons – for which at last charges have been laid.
“It’s time” all right, time for Andrews to go and let someone else try to restore hope and rationality to a suffering state. Andrews can’t, and even if he dropped his dictatorialism he is too closely identified with the misery the pandemic and his handling of it have inflicted on Victorians. An election is needed to clear the air. I know “the polls” say his government is doing a good job keeping Victorians “safe”, but safe from what? Only from the exaggerated perception of COVID’s capacity to decimate the community that Andrews and his not particularly well qualified “experts” whipped up to terrify them in the first place. Listening to people talk I wonder whether the polls have got it wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time.