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State of Pandemic Disaster: Melbourne Moves to Stage Four


Being in control of a sinking ship is not enviable. Regulations previously passed have a museum feel to them, distinctly obsolete. Directions, once dictated with confidence, lack timbre. Coronavirus is serving as that most wily and cheeky of agents, with the most appropriate of accomplices: Homo sapiens. Human beings are fed up, munching on conspiracy tales, wondering when a vaccine will arrive, and generally fatigued.

Globally, people are exhausted, disgusted, deluded and dying. Somewhere in that cocktail of ill-taste are those who think they are doing their best and abide by regulations with understanding obedience. They are told about a science that is altering. They are told that they must stay home and avoid going to work. If they are infected, they must undertake measures of self-quarantine, irrespective of whether they have support or income. Stiff fines and penalties follow in cases of transgression, including the shaming howls of social media junkies.

The language of political authorities in a state of desperation is ominous, paternal, judgmental. For Daniel Andrews, premier of the Australian state of Victoria, this is starting to seem natural. “Where you slept last night is where you’ll need to stay for the next six weeks,” he revealed in his statement on Sunday. Modest dispensation is permitted for those “partners who live apart and for work.” A curfew operating from 8 in the evening to 5 in the morning is now in place for six weeks. “The only reasons to leave home during these hours will be work, medical care and caregiving.” Exercise is confined to an hour a day within five kilometres. People, at most, can move about as couples.

Like locusts, purchasers have been swarming the aisles, trolleys heavy, and emptying them of meat, vegetables and fruit. The obsession with lavatory paper does not seem as pronounced this time (purchase limits have been maintained), but people are stocking up on certain food items knowing that their access is stifled by both time and geography.

What is in place is similar to the elimination regime used in New Zealand, though it is not articulated as such. It might best be described as suppression with an eliminating spirit, a somewhat more brutal approach. The Melbourne model is even more onerous: no curfew was imposed in New Zealand, or the compulsory wearing of face masks between March 26 and April 27, or a time limit on exercise. But the view from across the Tasman is that merely applying such a regime to Melbourne is not sufficient. Valuable time, suggests University of Auckland academic Siouxsie Wiles, has been lost. The less restrictive Stage 3 level that came into force on July 8, applying only to Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire “provided too many opportunities for the virus to spread.” From this less oppressive environment bloomed 7,000 active cases of coronavirus, 2,000 of whom are still a mystery to contact tracers. Wiles’ suggestion? Imposing Stage 4 restrictions across the entire state, thereby giving “Victoria the best chance of success, rather than setting it up to play an endless game of COVID-19 whack-a-mole.”

Pandemic politics is also proving to be a nasty business. On the state opposition benches, Victorian Liberal MP Tim Smith continues to hyperventilate and fantasise about the ultimate demise of the Labor premier. “These ministers and Daniel Andrews have blood on their hands,” he spluttered on Sydney radio station 2GB. “They have so monumentally failed the people of Victoria.” Smith sees the crisis as an opportunity for political harvesting. “We are so sick of this man… we’re so utterly sick of him. In the name of God, would he just go!” On Radio 3AW, he was truculent. “We can’t suspend democracy, accountability and the basics of a free society just because we’re dealing with a global pandemic.”

Smith’s demagogy is proving rather rich fare, even for those on his side of politics. The federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg preferred giving his party colleague a wide berth. “They’re not words that I would use,” he admitted to radio host Neil Mitchell. “Daniel Andrews is obviously operating in a very difficult environment.” For the moment, grievance and disagreement had to be put aside. “My message would be, to Tim and to everybody else, let’s work together towards that one single objective, namely to reduce the number of cases and to get the virus under control.”

Frydenberg might well think so, but other party members do not. Craig Kelly, a federal Liberal MP who can always be counted upon to dynamite the waters of moderate contentment, has mounted his own quixotic crusade against the Victorian premier. His particular pet project of late is praising the merits of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, and sniping at those who disapprove and ban its use in treating coronavirus cases. Should that disposition, he asked over the weekend, mean that Andrews face 25 years in jail? This drew criticism from shadow health minister Chris Bowen as being positively Trumpian, but a clumsy sidestep from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who refused to “get into what people talk about on Facebook on a day like this.” This, from a leader keen to take Facebook to task for content extreme and extremist in nature.


The clock has been reset; the gains of the last three weeks regarding the coronavirus annulled. Many businesses were already on the road to ruin during the previous phase of lockdowns. Many more will now assuredly perish. Mental health will atrophy. The death toll will continue to rise. Other states are monitoring and adjusting their responses. The measure of grief and concern just went up.


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  1. Matters Not


    abide by regulations with understanding obedience.

    ‘Understanding obedience’ suggests a level of passivity or even a reluctant resignation by those who might be affected. For me and mine, it’s more the case that we welcome and actively participate in such exercises of rationality. Indeed, we wonder why it took so long.

    But then again, some of us are almost out of Aces.

  2. Kerri

    Either Tim Smith is channeling his inner Abbott or he has been self-assigned the role of party half with and distractor-in-chief.
    What a pair of morons he and Kelly are? Who votes for these idiots?

  3. Phil Pryor

    Tim Smith (who the effing hell..?) and C Kelly (a sausage skin full of excrement) are two neanderthal (sorry originals) of conservative shitskullery and political perversion who have loud mouths, empty craniums, no intellect, primitive tendencies and regressive egos. There are more brains in a can of catfood than in kelly, a slut for his future of greedy droppings from energy prompoters. As for this Smith, dogshit dinners are more succulent than a dill on high volume, an arse with a larynx. Poop.

  4. A Commentator

    There is no getting away from the fact that the Victorian government has overseen a health and economic debacle.
    After the toughest restrictions and the most fines , the government didn’t get the basics right to protect workplace and public health.
    They’ve provided a (previously irrelevant) state opposition with plenty of talking points.

  5. Michael Taylor

    A Commentator, I’m not going to lay the blame at any government’s feet, but if other state premiers don’t learn from this I will be less-forgiving.

  6. A Commentator

    Yes, i know the government will hold that hotel isolation happened very quickly and decisions were made on the run, but that doesn’t excuse the government from its public health responsibility.
    And over the course of weeks and months it didn’t follow up a number of reports of poor safety and non conformance.
    The Victorian opposition has been irrelevant bystanders in all of this, and now they have a range of particularly difficult questions for the government.

  7. Matters Not

    A Commentator re:

    didn’t get the basics right …

    So it would seem. And now it’s your chance to say what should have happened. So fire away! The options are almost endless ranging from – Public floggings? Extended prison sentences? FGMs? Castrations? Self-immolations? Etc

    Or perhaps education efforts re the roles and responsibilities of citizenship? Audit trails for private contractors when tendering for public works? Rethinking the public administration revolutions engineered by Jeff Kennett? Developing public sector expertise re the supervision of contracts?

    Over to you!

    (Just noticed your latest post – too late! But within mine there’s a few serious (conceptual) questions that go to the role of government including the role of the public service, the media, the public etc)

  8. Jack Cade

    The Victorian government was faced with enormous pressure from business interests to cut short the lockdowns. At first it did what the powermongers wanted (not least the Victorian opposition). Nobody knew or could have even foreseen the extent to which the community would ignore the bleeding obvious and the abundance of boneheaded fuckwittery (see Craig Kelly) prepared to sacrifice as many of the lumpen- proletariat it might take to maintain the Coalition commentariats (I know – Ive produced an overkill of ‘ariats’).
    ‘A commentator’ seems to me to be the alternative point of view to the majority of AIMN posters – he or she seldom agrees with any points raised, but never offering different views, just anti. The posts are the sort of comments you find in the handful of contrary posters on the Guardian sites, one of which is a coalition staffer. Classic ‘look over there’ posts.
    I have family living in Melbourne and they ALL support what Andrews is doing.

  9. DrakeN

    Jack Cade: ” …he or she seldom agrees with any points raised, but never offering different views, just anti.”

    Echos of: “Nope. Nope. Nope.” from one A.J.Abbott.

    I live in WA, Jack, and the past actions and current ‘hard border’ of our government is being praised from all quarters.

    Our economy has taken a hit, for sure, but it is nothing compared to the hits that the UK and USofA are encountering, nor is it likely that the economy will deteriorate because of the numbers of chronically sick and needy which will result form their principle of putting money before the health of those who actually make their money for them.

    It was lovely last week to take advantage of a sunny day to drive 100km to the coast and mingle with the other people doing the same, taking only the basic precautions necessary to limit the consequences of some accidental, rogue, infection.

  10. Michael Taylor

    Jack, ‘A Commentator’ did like one of Ad astra’s posts about a month ago, but apart from that I don’t think he likes us much. I don’t have a problem with that, of course. He has been civil and respectful to we other commenters, even in disagreement with us. But I do wonder why a person who clearly dislikes us would bother dropping in. Maybe he needs to reinforce his reasons for not liking us.

    I live in Victoria and am very satisfied with what Daniel Andrews has done, and has been doing. How can he be held responsible for the behaviour of idiots?

    As you might have seen from my last post I think the first level of responsibility is with the federal government. If ‘A Commentator’ reads it, who knows, he may even agree with me.

    Pandemic preparedness: who has responsibility?

  11. Michael Taylor

    I’m betting $50 that he won’t agree with me, and $100 that if he does agree with me that he won’t admit it. 😉

  12. A Commentator

    I think the contributors here are (generally) very interesting, though misguided.

  13. Matters Not

    Viewers of The Drum to-night saw comparative figures which reveal Victoria spends somewhat less on ‘Health’ than does NSW and Qld. While I have no inside knowledge why that might be the case, I suspect that its roots might be traced to Jeff Kennett and his penchant for ‘outsourcing’ services. In Kennett’s mind – If services were privatised, then they were ‘good’ and if they weren’t they were ‘bad’ (almost by definition). It was an ideological position that spread across Australia almost as quickly as any virus.

    But now there’s push-back. – even if it’s flying below the radar.

    For those opposed to privatisation, it can feel like a one-way journey, with the occasional win, like preventing the privatisation of the Medicare payments or the visa processing system.
    Even though there is wide public support for reversing privatisation in Australia, many think serious proposals are a distant dream. Though the economic fallout from the pandemic led to a discussion about nationalising Virgin, even with wide public support for taking an ownership stake, public ownership was never seriously considered.

    But what everyone has missed when they focus on whether Qantas or Telstra should return to public ownership is the biggest open secret in Australian public policy – that Australian governments have regularly reversed privatisation over the past 20 years.

    One of the biggest open secrets in Australian public policy-privatisation has failed (Canberra Times, 27 July 2020)

    Be interesting to see how Dan reacts in the longer term. But it’s possibly too late.

  14. A Commentator

    “How can he be held responsible for the behaviour of idiots?”

    In my view, the Andrews Government didn’t implement the safety systems and auditing to protect public safety

    There is no getting away from the accountability the government has for this, workplace and public health and safety can’t be delegated to contractors

  15. Michael Taylor

    What should have they done, AC?

  16. Michael Taylor

    I think the contributors here are (generally) very interesting…

    Thank you, AC, but you should give some of the other contributors a plug as well. It’s not all about me.

  17. Michael Taylor

    Perhaps, AC, you could also tell us what the federal government could have done better, as well.

  18. A Commentator

    The state government was unwise to decline the ADF.
    It should not have used a combination of inexperienced hotel bouncers, the guys that stand around the footbal boundary and part time uber drivers.
    Hotel isolation was a (known) hazardous workplace, and a Labor Government should have demonstrated a greater interest in the welfare of those working in this environment.
    Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of workplace safety knows the basic requirements-
    ○ Pre employment screening
    ○Safety induction training
    ○ PPE
    ○ Risk assessment and safety planning
    ○ Independent safety auditing
    ○ Investigation of reports of non conformance

    A Labor Government has no shortage of ministers with a background in the legal and ethical requirements of a safe workplace.
    For whatever reason, the government did not take the steps necessary to ensure the above basic requirements were implemented.

  19. Uta Hannemann

    AC says: “There is no getting away from the accountability the government has for this, workplace and public health and safety can’t be delegated to contractors.”

    I hope the government learns from this. Be careful with what you let contractors do!

  20. Michael Taylor

    Thank you for your measured response, AC.

    I’d like to hear your views on the Ruby Princess debacle, if you have one.

  21. A Commentator

    The federal government had the awful
    experience of all the fatalities in aged care facilites in NSW.
    As a result of this experience, I’m amazed that there was not sufficient planning to immediately deploy a capable workforce when those exposed in Victorian aged care facilities had to isolate.
    There was sufficient time, but the federal government neglected this

    The economic settings were problematic. Jobkeeper should have been reviewed earlier and better targetted.
    The pandemic leave should have been implemented earlier.
    But… I see plenty of demands for more spending , but no plan to fund the debt.
    The debt legacy will last a generation or 2, and future generations won’t be grateful for the policy option limiting debt

    And to others- please don’t bother to dismiss huge debt by a bland reference to MMT.

    Thank you Michael for the invitation.

  22. Michael Taylor

    Thank you, AC for your response. Admirable.

  23. Jack Cade

    A commentator

    Governments raise revenue by collecting taxes. One EASY way is to tax the kiddie fiddlers – many problems solved. There is absolutely no justification for churches to be treated any differently from other corporates. Because corporates is what they are. Okay, getting corporates to cough up is hard, but why should churches be deprived of the fun of devising tax avoidance schemes?

  24. Jack Cade


    The early rumours about the Ruby Princess rang true for me, ( ie, that a churchgoing mate of a prominent government MP was inconvenienced by not being allowed off the incubator.) But then I’m prejudiced against religions of all colours.

  25. Michael Taylor

    A monumental screw up that one, Jack. Someone should get their arse busted over that. But that’s in a normal world.

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