Families in Perth are protesting the mandatory COVID lockdown with an upside down Australian flag – the international sign of distress and with a pair of boots slung over their fence symbolising the need to give Marxist Mark the boot! Article here.
Here are some of my thoughts on the most recent lock-downs in WA….
About one month after the world came to the realisation that we had to deal with our lives under a COVID “new normal”, I posed some tough questions in an article published by Cauldron Pool, titled: Are our Fears of the Coronavirus Undermining our Freedoms? – and I am now asking these same questions again. More than ever before, these questions remain not only pertinent, but also require a fresh assessment.
For almost one year now, we have accepted restrictions to our personal autonomy, our freedom of movement and association by obeying orders to self isolate in our homes, to restricted gatherings as social and faith communities, we wore mandatory face masks, we were willing to quarantine at our own personal expense, and we lived with restrict ions to our personal and professional activities – at the detriment of our economic, social and mental health and wellbeing.
Of course, there are always exceptions to these rules, such as the freedom of movement of sports stars, politicians and rich business men, as in the example of Andrew Forrest.
During 2020, we saw Dictator Dan control citizens in lock-down in Victoria with drone surveillance and watched as he sent police in to a private residence to drag out a pregnant woman for posting anti-lockdown sentiments on social media.
According to The Age, more than 19,000 penalty notices were issued for breaches of chief health officer orders by October last year in Victoria. People were fined $200 for not wearing a face mask in public and up to $1652 for stay-at-home order breaches. Fines of $4957 applied to unlawful gatherings and COVID-positive people who failed to self-isolate.
In August last year, WA Today reported that more than 100 people in Western Australia were charged with breaching quarantine or social distancing rules. Around half of the 106 were convicted of failing to comply with a direction. Forty people received fines ranging from $300 to $8000, a woman who hid in a truck from Melbourne was jailed for six months, and two men served a month behind bars while a young woman from Adelaide who escaped hotel quarantine received a suspended jail term.
The maximum penalty for the offence of breaching quarantine or social distancing rules in Western Australia is 12 months jail or a $50,000 fine.
This week, Anthony Charles Blurton of Ellenbrook spent 18 days behind bars over an alleged mask refusal, and in Tasmania, two travellers were just fined $2,300 for not wearing masks at Hobart Airport.
I think that humans in general dislike being told what to do, and Aussies are particularly accustomed to leaning towards civil disobedience more so than compliance. These restrictive measures lead us to question the threshold for penalties and whether the punishment actually fits the ‘crime’.
Firstly, it is worth noting that the violations of these COVID restriction orders are, of course, civil in nature and not criminal, and should not, under any circumstances attract a prison sentence, a criminal record, imprisonment or detention of any kind.
Civil penalties are usually monetary in nature, are often enforced by regulatory bodies or government departments or public servants, and they exist as to act as a deterrent to civil misdemeanours. Fines play a key role in regulating socially disruptive behaviours.
Secondly, there is also the question of the efficacy of the fines that have been given out during COVID lock-down. For example, Victoria is considering waiving $2.3 million worth of fines that was issued to young people under the age of 18 alone.
Legislation is only as good as its enforcement, and of course, in order to enforce these restrictions, there has to be a carrot and a stick. This approach is more stick than carrot.
Let’s look any these measures a little closer. As an example, the Western Australia Declaration of State of Emergency was made by the Minister for Emergency Services under section 56 of the EM Act on the 15 March 2020, which officially declared WA under a state of emergency using Part 6, division 1 of the EM Act.
The State of Emergency has been extended every two weeks.
A public health state of emergency was initially declared a Public Health Emergency on the 16 March 2020, under s 167(1) of the Public Health Act 2016 (WA), and has since been extended every two weeks.
The Public Health Emergency declaration gives the Chief Health Officer broad powers to manage the declared emergency in respect of COVID-19 referred to as Public Health Powers under part 12, division 5 of the Public Health Act. During a Public Health Emergency, the Chief Health Officer may authorise certain people and health professionals such as Emergency Officers under s174(2) of the Public Health Act to exercise one or more of the Public Health Powers.
The State of Emergency declaration gives the State Emergency Coordinator; the Commissioner of Police broad powers to manage the declared emergency in respect of COVID-19. Police officers and others may help an Emergency Officer exercising a Public Health Powers under s 190(3) of the Public Health Act.
These are unelected officials – public servants – deciding which freedoms we deserve and have a right to access, and how they are to be restricted. We need to ask: to what extent should a public servant make decisions on behalf of our economy, health, freedoms and rights – and, for how long?
Thirdly, the restrictions to trade and commerce across state borders continues. Restrictions to trade and commerce across state borders is a direct violation of Australia’s Constitution. Section 92 of the Constitution makes it clear that: “trade, commerce, and intercourse among the states, whether by means of internal carriage or ocean navigation, shall be absolutely free”. This means without restrictions.
The powers exercised by State leaders such as Premiere Mark McGowan and Daniel Andrews are a clear overreach of their Constitutional powers as Premieres, with grave ramifications for small and family businesses, and to the economy of Australia for future generations. As I write this, I am under a five-day lock-down for one case of COVID.
Are we prepared to sit by and watch people be placed in prison for not wearing masks?
Are we prepared to allow unelected government officials to decide on what we can and cannot do – without public discussion or input, and how long are we prepared to accept the restrictions on commerce and trade across the state borders within our country?
Our democracy is under threat.
I was born in a dictatorship regime, and I never want to live under a dictatorship again.
I love Australia – I love our way of life, our culture, but above all, I love the freedoms and rights afforded to its citizens here. It is incumbent upon each of us to protect our way of life, and preserve our freedoms. Have we compromised on these detrimentally?
We need a community conversation about not only the restrictions of our freedoms we are currently living under, but we also need to consider how we can recover and become stronger as a community into our future – medically, socially and economically.
Do not allow your fear of dying from COVID kill your Constitutional rights to our collective freedoms of movement, association and even our freedom of speech. Fight for freedom.
It’s all we’ve got.