Tyranny in the Territory.
Here in New South Wales, the Covid pantomime has been bad enough – irrational, ever-changing constraints on our liberty, a one-eyed application of the Precautionary Principle and a vaccination policy which creeps, ratchet-like, from warm exhortation towards cold compulsion. We’ve tended to view the excesses of other jurisdictions as amusingly barmy, even when it was clear that they were playing fast and loose with the Australian Constitution itself. The chief objects of our derision have been Danistan, aka Victoria, proud holder of the record for the world’s longest lockdown; and Western Australia, whose demented premier Mark McGowan seems determined to accomplish by fiat the secession from the Federation that his predecessors failed to achieve by referendum.
We have tended to neglect the Northern Territory. But we shouldn’t, because, as this Unherd interview shows, Australian leaders’ tyrannical proclivities seem to stand in inverse proportion to the size of the population they are tyrannising. We had heard of the Howard Springs ‘quarantine facility’, but had casually taken it to be a tropical version of the hotel quarantine arrangements that have operated throughout Australia – somewhere to which only overseas arrivals were to be confined.
But as the video shows, a fully vaccinated Territory resident, Hayley Hodgson, was incarcerated there on the strength of her recent contact with a friend who tested positive to Covid. He story is a chilling one, the more so as it was made clear to her that her confinement – which resulted in her losing her job – was at least part a punitive measure, on account of Hodgson’s less than wholehearted compliance with the authorities.
I don’t know about you Harrumpfers, but this crosses a line for me. For all the protestations we have heard about these measures being for our own good (whenever I now hear the phrase ‘keeping Australians safe’, I want to reach for my service revolver) this is naked tyranny of a kind that would have been instantly familiar to Kafka or Solzhenitsyn. The idea that this woman posed a threat to the community sufficient to warrant her incarceration with no legal recourse, is patently absurd. I don’t believe for one moment that the people responsible for this outrage believe that in perpetrating it they are contributing to public safety. This is an extreme version of the face-saving game that has been played all over the world, by politicians and officials who responded to Covid 19 with panic, realised quickly that they had allowed themselves to be terrified by a moderately nasty disease that didn’t warrant a fraction of the terror they had invested it with, but were by then in too deep to about-turn without loss of face, and so have spent the last year and a half saving it, by piling on the fear, enacting ever more ludicrous and pettifogging regulation.
In the face this truly terrifying abuse of power, our national broadcaster, far from ‘holding the wielders of power to account’ has simply exhorted them to greater excesses. Our Federal Government, which has a range of legal remedies available to it to restrain overweening states and territories, has been entirely supine, and our lawyers and judges have been missing in action. What’s left? Take to the streets? Wait for a general election and hope that by voting below the line we can punish our government sufficiently that it looks to its constitutional duty, without ushering in a vile coalition of Labor and the Greens that would be infinitely worse?
Answers on a postcard, please.