Monday, October 25, 2021
Opinion Pieces

Herald Sun: Premier's grip needs to loosen at 80 per cent

“We won’t spend 2021 bouncing in and out of lockdowns,” was promised Daniel Andrews last year.

After 263 days locked up since March 2020 and four lockdowns this year, the vast majority of restrictions should end for good when Victoria reaches 80 per cent fully vaccinated this weekend. Then could Mr Andrews and his government please get out of our lives?

The Premier is busy on his focus-group inspired sales pitch to Victorians as he desperately tries to crack a smile, hoping we will forget the past two yearsof appalling mismanagement by his government.

Every time a Victorian enters a shop, restaurant or office in 2022, they will be forced to prove their vaccine status– reminding us that at any moment our freedoms could be stripped away yet again by the state government.

Locking unvaccinated Australians out of virtually the entire Victorian economy in 2022 shows the Andrews government is still obsessed with control and not getting back to normal.

Andrews has set no date for the end of the state of emergency. He has not indicated when primary close contacts won’t have to isolate for a week. He has also told gym owners and retailers they must remain closed for another week.

These small business families have been without a regular income for 18 months, Andrews telling them to “suck it up” for another week is morally reprehensible, while his income continues to increase.

The NSW Liberal government has announced all major restrictions will cease in Sydney on December 1, and both vaccinated and the unvaccinated will be treated the same (except for obvious vulnerable settings like education, health and aged care).

In Victoria, the requirement to prove vaccine status will be in place throughout 2022.

For those of us who are fully vaccinated, being forced to prove our “status” for another year is ridiculous, as it is wrong to lock out the unvaccinated for another year.

On ABC radio last week Andrews was asked “Will Victoria never ever go back into lockdown?” Andrews responded: “Well, the national plan has targeted lockdowns, potentially so if you have a particular community where there was a very low vaccination rate, for instance. I don’t know what variants are coming at us down the track and all those sorts of things.”

The final phase of the National Plan says “minimise cases in the community without ongoing restrictions or lockdowns”.

Victoria will reach 90 per cent fully vaccinated in November, so Andrews is clearly not ruling out lockdowns altogether in 2022.

Equally, when Andrews was pressed on the notorious curfew – “What about never ever on a curfew?” Andrews responded “Oh, I will follow health advice as I always have done.”

Don’t forget this “advice” that has never been disclosed publicly ensured that we were locked down for the sixth time on August 5 with fewer than 100 active cases, and Victoria now has almost 25,000.

Andrews was also asked about whether he intends to extend the state of emergency that’s been in place since March last year and expires in December.

He spoke of “pandemic specific legislation” being introduced into parliament this year, which leads to the reasonable conclusion that state of emergency style restrictions will be enshrined in law for 2022.

Victoria lost 122,000 jobs in September, 90 per cent of the national total. Melbourne’s CBD is a ghost town, and the Victorian people are now being asked to believe that the Andrews government that caused this mess now has some idea on how to rebuild and get us out of it.

With Victoria having reached its 70 per cent fully vaccinated target, 20 people are allowed inside a cafe, pub or restaurant, and home visits are allowed for up to 10 people.

Yet in Sydney, hospitality is open. Retail is open. Gyms, cinemas and indoor pools are open. Masks are only required indoors, or in certain common sense settings like public transport. Compare this to Melbourne.

Masks are still compulsory everywhere. Gyms are closed. Indoor pools are closed.Retail can only trade outside. A clothes store can only open on the footpath in Melbourne. These Victorian restrictions must end now.

Every single day counts for the thousands of small business owners who have not received a grant and haven’t had an income for months.

The sheer inequality of why some businesses can open while others can’t, afterthe vast majority of us have been vaccinated, is adding to the already fractious nature of society.

Andrews was asked last week: “Do you regret the decisions you’ve made?” “It’s not about looking backwards,” he said. He was given an opportunity to offer some contrition to the people of Victoria and he refused to do so.

The longest lockdown in the world, the highest number of Covid deaths and cases in Australia, the hotel quarantine fiasco, and thousands of livelihoods ruined, and not the slightest utterance of remorse from the Premier of Victoria.

Mr Andrews might like to be reminded of this quote from Tony Blair: “We are not the masters. The people are the masters. We are the servants of the people... What the electorate gives, the electorate can take away.”

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