I want to speak to all Australians today – those here who have already decided that they are no longer submitting to ‘the politics of Covid’ (as they see it), and those at home who remain fearful of the potential impacts of the disease on themselves and their family. To speak to one group and not the other would ignore the fact that we, as Australians, share both this land and this society with each other. In some cases, we even share the same family and yet remain divided. It is time for the divisions to end. It is time to heal.
So let us first and foremost love and seek to understand each other. Because, as has been said many times over the last two years, “we are all in this together”.
And so it is that together, and understanding each other’s perspectives, we must all choose a path forward. For as a nation, we are now at a crossroads:
On the one hand, seemingly throwing our population into the perils of covid, such as they are, by dropping all mandates, masks, and restrictions.
On the other, doing away with the founding principles of our Western liberal democracy, and in so doing laying the foundations for a future that may be bleaker than we can yet imagine.
It would seem there is no easy choice; it may be that we must simply choose the least worst option. This is why it is especially important that we decide it together.
It’s a cold comfort that history tells us that that which is right is not always easy. When Chamberlain returned from signing the Munich Agreement with Hitler in 1938, he was greeted with applause. “My good friends,” he said, “for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time.”
Those words now echo forever in infamy.
Churchill, meanwhile, lamented: “You were given the choice between dishonour and war; you chose dishonour, and you shall have war.”
History shows Churchill was, of course, correct. The subsequent war was far greater and cost many more lives than necessary; failure to recognise the risks of accepting a smaller cost earlier led to a much greater suffering later.
Now, to echo those same words, we might say we have the choice between constantly fearing covid, and risking death; and if we fear covid, we risk death. For constant fear of covid means the death of basic freedoms like the ability to move freely within our nation, to see friends and family without demands for ‘papers please’. The death of long-held principles like bodily autonomy, whereby a third, fourth, fifth, or twelfth booster shot may be required to participate in normal life. The death of independence from government, where a person can work and act with autonomy, not beholden to the state for approvals to do the most basic of human activities such as watching a sunset, holding the hand of a dying relative or visiting their lover. And, of course, there is the potential death in real human terms as we allow science to become a lever of the state.
This may sound far-fetched now, but we have seen it before, across time and cultures. We saw it in eugenics which was widely accepted across Western academia; we saw it in Lysenkoism, a Russian abuse of agricultural science that brought starvation upon millions. And we also saw it in China where one-child policies led to forced abortions of late-term babies, and a gender-skewed population where 25 million men are now without the potential for a wife. The warning is clear, friends: when science is downstream of political and commercial interests, it is no longer an arbiter of truth; rather, history tells us, its corruption is a harbinger of death. Here, as around the world, we are facing the death of liberty and the death of choice.
Only two years ago, most Australians rightly recoiled in horror at the measures taken by authoritarian states overseas – surveilling, controlling, coercing, and punishing large swathes of the population in the name of some ‘greater good’.
Now, such measures are still being embraced by many of us. But we must be forewarned: The walls we build to protect ourselves today may well become the walls of cells that confine us and our children for generations.
So it is time to choose between living with covid endemically, without constant public health interventions, or the furtherance of such an authoritarian state. Those who agree with the justifications for such a state today may not agree with the justifications given tomorrow. And as history shows, tomorrow will come.
Better that we take a stand today, then.
As G.K. Chesterton warned “The wisest thing in the world is to cry out before you are hurt. It is no good to cry out after you are hurt; especially after you are mortally hurt… sound historians know that most tyrannies have been possible because men moved too late. It is often essential to resist a tyranny before it exists.”
Yes, even in this little country of ours that has historically been blessed with good government – by world standards at least – a tyranny may arise that threatens our cherished way of life. And yes, even by ‘good people’. Perhaps especially by them. For “No one is an unjust villain in his own mind,” says American author Jim Butcher. “Some of the cruellest tyrants in history were motivated by noble ideals, or made choices that they would call ‘hard but necessary steps’ for the good of their nation.”
Such ‘necessary’ steps cost millions of lives last century, where government intervention ‘for the good of the people’ led to system collapse and immeasurable suffering, from Stalin to Mao. More recently, we have seen the same happen in Venezuela – once the richest nation on the continent, and now rife with poverty, starvation, and political violence.
It is therefore firmly resolved in my mind that the lesser evil before us is to accept the reality of covid’s presence and then to deal with the consequences as best we can without furthering draconian policies.
Our health system is amongst the best in the world. Our people are amongst the brightest and most capable. Our resilience as a nation is lauded the world over, whether in the face of battles, droughts, fires, or floods. We have prevailed before, and we shall prevail again.
Will there be a cost? Yes, there will be a cost, albeit much lower given the small risk now presented by Omicron. But we have also had ample time to prepare. Vaccines will continue to be available for those who want them, though not one single more person should be forced to submit by force through mandates.
Monoclonal antibody treatments and other multidrug therapies are available in increasing numbers. The need for hospitalisation due to covid will continue to decrease, allowing our health system to better deal with the myriad other needs for which it also exists. And, of course, those who are particularly afraid of Covid may continue to isolate and adjust their behaviour for as long as they choose, at their own determination. The rest of us must get on with the business of living, rather than simply avoiding dying – for those two are not the same thing.
But time has also afforded us something else: an understanding of the underlying covid data both from here and abroad. For instance, NSW Health data now reveals that more than half reported covid hospitalisations were, in fact, hospitalisations for other ailments – that is, people who tested positive for Covid after being admitted for something else.
Public Health England data shows that only 17% of hospitalisations with omicron were for omicron infection itself. Worldwide, deaths ‘with Covid’ were rarely delineated from deaths caused by Covid – meaning, for example, that even those who tragically died in a motor vehicle accident would be classified as a Covid death if they had recently tested positive. This overreporting served to drive some of the most authoritarian responses we’ve ever seen in the Western world because people were rightly fearful of the picture painted by such data.
Now, in the cold light of day, we know that picture was less than accurate. Australian states have begun to reform this data, and not a moment too soon. They have conceded that many deaths reported ‘from Covid’ were indeed amongst the very elderly who died ‘with’ Covid. So it seems we oversampled near to every point of covid data, whilst ignoring the red flags raised across countless data points of other health matters.
Deaths from cancer in Australia are up 5% in the last 12 months, deaths from dementia – a condition exacerbated by loneliness – are up almost 20%, and suicide amongst teens has seen double-digit percentage increases. Hospitalisation for self-harm is up 47%. Calls to Lifeline continually break records. Millions have been plunged into welfare dependency.
We’ve also seen ongoing and frighteningly widespread support for vaccine mandates and ‘vaccine passports’, despite all the available data now confirming that vaccinated people are both catching and carrying the disease in record numbers. Vaccine passport regimes and mandates have also frequently ignored natural immunity, which is shown to be vastly more effective than vaccines against symptomatic disease. In short, vaccines do not confer the safety for others that many of us hoped, meaning there can be no justification for such systematic discrimination between Australian citizens.
It should relieve us all to know that in spite of recent headlines about case numbers, covid poses very little risk to children. Leading voices and institutions affirm that children are unlikely to get very sick from it, and have almost no chance of dying from it. In fact, the latest research from Johns Hopkins University in America shows that covid was not responsible for a single death of an otherwise healthy child. Seasonal influenza poses a greater risk to children than covid.
To the middle of the age range, a 39-year-old Australian male infected with the Delta strain of covid had a 0.08% chance of dying – this is based on our latest local data, which still includes deaths ‘with covid’ in its totals. For those in reasonable or good health, the risk was even lower. With Omicron, it drops again.
While the figures were somewhat bleaker for elderly Australians, it is reassuring to know that 86% of those 90+ years of age will survive covid. Of those that may pass with it, they will frequently have been in their twilight hours as a result of significant and complex other health factors. Such are the facts of life at this age.
In summary, a sober look at the data reveals covid to be a much lesser threat than most of us have been led to believe. A recent survey showed some 37% of Australians thought they would die if they caught Covid. A most basic analysis shows this risk to be near 100 times overstated, and even more so for those under 70.
Yet, some will still pass. In spite of vaccines. In spite of medical treatments. We know full well that we will lose Australians who are loved and valued, and whose absence will be felt regardless of their age, and regardless of any previous health conditions. Death, sadly, is a fact of life. As we face this reality – in the same way, we do with every other disease, condition or accident that may threaten us, part of the simple fact of our ultimate mortality – we will love and support those amongst us who are mourning.
Let us not forget that previous generations of young Australians fought and died – in the prime of their lives, and in large numbers – to protect our nation’s freedom and way of life. To this day, we remember them and honour their sacrifice. It may be said that a very, very small number of Australians will once again pay a price for the same noble purpose – but such sacrifice will be of a different profile, and an entirely different magnitude.
If history is to be our guide, any such sacrifice now will be far fewer in number than any sacrifice we may be required to make in future – that is, if we wish to once again enjoy any of the freedoms we once took for granted. We must all recognise freedom as something that we inherently own, rather than something a government may choose to bestow upon us as a reward for compliant behaviour.
The words of Churchill decades ago once again present a timely warning for us today: “If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may be even a worse fate, you may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.”
The time to fight an authoritarian state is now, before it can no longer be fought with mere words, when a passport system turns into a social credit score, and when the tools of state meant to serve us instead turn to ensnare us.
Of course, our island may not be able to stand alone in this fight – but we can stand tall. In so doing, we shall become a beacon of hope in a world crying out for it.
We will demonstrate what it looks like to choose freedom over fear, to uproot the foundations of tyranny before they cure in place, and to lay out a future that is infinitely brighter than the one that is currently before us.
We have had time, Australia, but we have little of it remaining to choose. Let us show both foresight and courage, and prove ourselves a nation of Churchills rather than Chamberlains.
Let us turn to each other and not on each other.
Let us look to our neighbours and offer support, not suspicion.
Let us call on our media to once again inform us rather than intimidate us.
Let us hear the voices of those politicians who wish to represent us rather than rule us.
And let us ensure that our great police are only ever protectors against the few, rather than becoming wardens of the many.
Australia, let us arise from our knees and march forward into freedom as one, so we may truly, truly say: “WE. ARE. ALL. IN. THIS. TOGETHER!”