Putting the Health Fascists back in their box

In my last post, I expressed the hope that our state’s new premier, Dominic Perrotet, having previously held the portfolio of Treasurer, might strike a better balance in the state’s Covid policy between health and economic outcomes, and be less inclined than his predecessor, and certainly than his counterparts in other states, to spend money like a drunken sailor supporting the victims of enforced idleness, and more careful to preserve the business life of his state.

With that thought in mind, it was good to see him fronting the press today with, as he put it, ‘half the cabinet’, but without the baleful presence of the Prophetess of Doom, aka Dr Kerry Chant, the state’s Chief Health Officer. Gladys, so far as I’m aware, would never have countenanced such a thing, so keen was she to reassure us that she was ‘following the science’. Could it be, then, that we are finally in the hands of a premier who understands what a disastrous claim this has been, from the very outset of this outbreak of mass psychosis?

The willingness of governments all over the world to delegate the formation of policy to health professionals who held none of the responsibilities of elected office has had disastrous consequences wherever it has happened. The politicians who shirked their duty in this way bear a heavy burden of blame, but so must the medical profession, for its enthusiastic embrace of powers it should have known it was quite unfitted to wield.

When a politician asks a health official ‘what should be done’ upon the arrival of an epidemic, that official should politely point out to his interlocutor that he can give opinions on the likely health outcomes of policies they may propose, but that they are not qualified to judge their social or economic effects, and so cannot, and should not be asked to say what the ‘right’ policy is. Back in March 2020, our state and federal health officials showed no such reticence, embracing their new role as gauleiters with gusto, with the result that Covid-busting has been pursued to the exclusion of all other considerations, and with complete disregard for its economic and social cost, and indeed for the adverse outcomes for other aspects of health. It didn’t seem to matter how much damage they caused – the only thing that mattered was the Covid stats.

By even the most generous estimate of the Quality-Adjusted Life Years saved by these policies, those life-years have cost the community orders of magnitude more than the $50,000 hitherto regarded as the yardstick for responsible health spending. Under the Reign of Error of the likes of Kerry Chant, the reasonable aim of ‘flattening the curve’ so as not to ‘overwhelm’ the health services morphed almost instantly into a more or less explicit policy of ‘zero-Covid’. Even as the evidence began to mount that Covid was not the plague it was painted up to be, and that the assumption that the population had no prior Immunity at all to it was flat out wrong, the Kerry Chants, egged on, it’s true, by the politicians hiding behind them, were given daily a platform to issue a diet of terror, as justification for their preferred regime of extreme social control. That regime, of course, entailed the suspension of normal parliamentary activity, further enfeebling any attempt to exercise parliamentary scrutiny, or to check the unaccountable power of the health gauleiters.

The decision to exclude Dr Chant from a press conference which was not only his very first, but at which the supposed milestone of 70% full vaccination was to be celebrated, is not one the new premier can have taken without appreciating its ulterior implications.

Of course, right on cue, a half-wit from the 4th estate took him to task for this break with tradition, suggesting it was ‘disrespectful’ to the ghastly woman to have left her out, given that she had ‘led us through this crisis’. The same moron went on to badger the premier about whether Dr Chant had ‘endorsed’ the changes he was announcing. Perrottet swiftly pointed out that it was ‘an economic crisis, too’, and, indicating the ministers in attendance, reminded the assembled hacks that they were the ‘elected’ officials.

Quite right, too. Finally, perhaps, it’s possible for the people of NSW to hope that the ratchet has been reversed, and that our politicians may be beginning to wrest back from the health fascists the power they should never have been given, and to begin to take proper political responsibility for what should always have been political decisions.

Tom Forrester-Paton

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