The Australian Way: What have we done to ourselves?

26 August 2021

By: Daniel Wild

Tony Abbott was at his erudite best in this weeks’ edition of Australia’s Heartland with Tony Abbott.

Tony drew on his vast wisdom and experience as a Minister for Employment Relations, Minister for Health, and Prime Minister to reflect on why conservatives are so often in government, but rarely in power.

You can listen to the episode in your web browser here, or listen to it on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube, or wherever else you listen to your podcasts. And don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss an episode.

If you have something you would like to ask Tony, leave your question at the Australian Heartland Hotline on 03 9946 4307.

Many of you have commented in your emails to me that so much has changed over the past 18 months that Australia no longer feels like Australia – and that so many Australians have simply accepted the new normal of less freedom and more government control. This weeks’ The Discussion explains why.

And this weeks’ The Must Read is a very astute comparison of the protests which took place in Melbourne over the weekend, and the Eureka Rebellion of 1854.

Thank you for your support of the Australian way of life.

This week Tony Abbott provided an enthralling strategic overview of the challenges which conservatives and liberals face in exerting influence over the direction of Australia. Tony reflected on his three decades in parliament, and observed how conservatives are often in government, but seldom in power.

Tony and I also discussed the influence that the public service and bureaucrats have over ministers and public policy, and the impact that lockdowns have had on small business.

And, as always, Tony and I took your questions in the “Tell Tony Abbott” segment, this week on the influence of “woke capital” – and what we can do about it – and why Australia should remove the ban on nuclear power.

Remember, you can leave your questions for Tony at the Australian Heartland Hotline on 03 9946 4307.

You can listen to the episode in your web browser here, or listen to it on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube, or wherever else you listen to your podcasts. And don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss an episode.

The heart and soul has been ripped out of Australia over the past 18 months.

Freedom of speech, religious tolerance, mateship, community, democracy, and free enterprise have been crushed – and many Australians have meekly stood by and accepted it.

Last week the Victorian parliament voted to suspend itself from sitting because the acting director of the “COVID-19 response division” determined that it was an “unacceptable risk”. Democracy, in Victoria, is a threat to public health.

Just days after democracy was suspended, Victoria Police shot their fellow citizens with rounds of pepper spray projectiles and canisters because they were protesting being under de-facto house arrest for over 200 days.

The freedom march was attended by thousands of families with children who have been denied a proper education for almost two years, small business owners who have lost everything, and those who have lost their job, their house, and remain isolated from loved ones.

A typical participant in the protest was 30-year-old Chantelle Jurcic, who was reported in the media as saying she had joined the march because she had had enough of lockdowns.

Chantelle said, “I started a business in February. I then had to get another job because my business turned to sh-t. I’m done with lies, I’m done with manipulation, I’m done with the fear-mongering.”

Chantelle and so many others were completely aware that protesting carried the risk of substantial fines and arrest. It could be that so many people now feel they have nothing left to lose.

The NSW police didn’t have to fire on their own citizens. They effectively outlawed protesting by dispatching over 1500 police, including the Public Order and Riot Squad and the Dog and Mounted Unit to stop residents from travelling into their own city.

But that didn’t stop them raiding a church in Blacktown in Sydney earlier this week and issuing $30,000 in fines because 30 people were inside attending a sermon.

And many Australians since March last year have not only been too willing to follow the public health orders, but have voluntary acted as enforcement officers themselves by dobbing in their neighbours to the police.

There are many reasons why we have allowed this to happen to ourselves.

“Lockdowns are changing Australia and will have a long-lasting impact.”

Partly it is because we are an island nation, and having quickly suppressed the virus, Australians got used to there being low case numbers and simply assumed this was sustainable.

Partly it is explained by the structure of Australia’s federation, whereby state governments control the public health measures and are responsible for state border closures, but the financial costs are incurred by the federal government.

Partly it is explained by the psychological phenomenon that events which occur less frequently become more salient. When cases of COVID-19 are rare people tend to notice them more. But if there are thousands of cases, as is the norm in most other nations, it becomes routine.

It is also partly explained by the fact that we haven’t all been in this together, and that those who have been the loudest supporters of lockdowns have not incurred the costs.

A landmark research report released by the IPA in February of this year found that low-income earners, private sector workers, and young Australians had disproportionally incurred the economic and social costs of lockdowns.

The report, Not in this together: An analysis of the economic and social impacts of COVID-19 lockdowns, found that half a million low-income jobs (defined as the bottom 20% of jobs by income) had been destroyed by lockdowns over the period March-November 2020. But over 200,000 high-income jobs (defined as those in the top 20% of jobs by income) had been created.

The report also estimated that total private sector wages had plummeted by $8.3 billion in the second half of 2020, but total public sector wages had increased by $2.75 billion.

Further analysis released earlier this week shows how the lockdowns are changing Australia and will have a long-lasting impact.

Taking just a three-week period from the commencement of lockdowns in Sydney on 26 June, IPA research estimated that over 540,000 jobs were destroyed in small and medium-sized business (those employing up 200 workers) across Australia. That’s the equivalent to 25,000 per day.

At the same time, 13,300 jobs were created in big business.

This means that 40 jobs were destroyed in a SME for every one job created in a big business.

Many, perhaps all, of those jobs may well be restored over coming months. But those who are out of a job do not know when that will happen, if at all. Their lives have been disrupted and dislocated. And in the meantime, they have to find another way to make ends meet, with all of the stress which that causes.

But there are far deeper forces which explain why Australians have gone along with living in a form of health dictatorship for so long.

In a contest between freedom and safety, many will instinctively choose safety. This is in large part because being free means taking responsibility for your own actions, and the broader conditions of your life and life as such.

COVID-19 could have been managed in many different ways – the herd immunity approach taken in Sweden, or quarantining and isolating only the unwell and vulnerable rathe