• Aisling Salisbury

Enjoy But Never Forget And Demand Accountability

Updated: Feb 16

At last, the news in Melbourne and Victoria is somewhat pleasant. The longest lockdown in the world has finally been lifted. After losing a heap of Civil Liberties that many in a free society take for granted. When those liberties are returned, even restricted, then it's still going to be seen as "freedom" and even celebrated.

“We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end."

Even now people have gone to extremes for their first day of "freedom" as people lined up outside K-Marts from 6pm to ensure that at the stroke of midnight when K-Mart opened they could shop. The best response from a girl questioned as to why they were there was simply "because I need new undies." That is vitally important I'm sure after months of lockdown.

Traffic for Shopping Centres was even reported at being over 2kms long. Bars, Cafes, Pubs and Restaurants, the hardest-hit industries started opening up again with reservations backed up from the moment of the announcement. Granted many of these places still might not be able to make ends meet with the limited number of people allowed in, however, at least they now have a fighting chance again. Many had even planned a pub crawl throughout the night. Now that is quintessentially Australian right there.


In further news, it appears that the Australian Economy may even be out of recession and with Victoria, 26% of the nation's economy, finally getting people back to work then yes it's wise to cautiously celebrate that the country finally looks to be on the way to recovery. As Winston Churchill said:

"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

Regardless it is cause for celebration. But what is more important whilst you support struggling business owners as you go to your favourite cafe and have a latte over your smashed avo or your first cold beer from the tap for months is that we must never forget, nor should media outlets, the litany of errors that lead to economic damage and disaster that happened in Victoria. It took Victorian Authorities over three months to correct their own bungling. It happened under the watch of the Victorian Government and it must never be forgotten. Or as many commentators say, you started the bushfire and want to be applauded for putting it out? This celebration belongs to the people of Victoria, not the Government.


Australia from the get-go had the best opportunity to avoid the COVID virus from ever getting to Australia. Being an Island Continent with very few options of arrival ports then Australia had the perfect opportunity to shut itself off from the rest of the world and as a nation keep working and hide under the doona until the pandemic either had a vaccine or an effective treatment. Cue the Hotel Quarantine Programme. Simple, arriving Aussies from overseas are quarantined in a hotel for two weeks. Monitored by health authorities and kept away from the rest of the public until given the all-clear. The virus was already in Australia on a small scale but the general public was locked down to give exactly what even the WHO says about Lockdowns, to allow medical facilities to get ready and prep. Remember, flatten the curve? Yet in Victoria, it went nuclear and Australia had the dangers of becoming just like every other country with mass infections because of it. I have previously posted and still agree with the figures. That this virus is serious but it's clearly not the "Doomsday Virus" we thought it would be. If nearly 45 Million Cases is not enough of a sample size to understand a virus, then I don't know what is. However, as the Federal Treasurer and fellow Victorian, Josh Frydenberg said when it comes to Victoria, it's not overseas that is the comparison:

"The comparison is with New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and South Australia"


Frydenberg was even labelled by Andrews as being nothing more than playing politics. That's very rich Mr Andrews when you have been playing politics with this throughout the pandemic to boost what must be your own ego. It's also rich to attack the hand that is currently feeding you. The Federal cheque book that is paying for your Government's screw-ups and in turn, the rest of the country who are paying off the extension of assistance packages for generations to come. Packages that would've been turned off or have been more targetted if it wasn't for Victoria. As Frydenberg also stated:

"Victorian's comprise 26% of Australian's population but now make up 40% of the nation's unemployed."

Now when Victorian Cases started to spike, Victoria was shut off from the rest of the country. This meant countrywide management and any other state or territory would've faced the same plan in the event of an outbreak, I have no doubt in that. But Victoria failed because of the authorities in charged to keep us safe failed. If the fault isn't due to the Victorian Government then problems would've happened everywhere else, especially in New South Wales and Queensland who were having the most international arrivals of any other territory in Australia. These states, with similar populations, had arrivals with COVID and yet they didn't have the mass community transmissions that Victoria had. These are facts people.


It is important that people never forget the management of this, even the events throughout the second lockdown.


The Hotel Quarantine

Hotel Quarantine was meant to keep us safe from importing the virus yet as Tony Neal QC stated:

“Comments made by the chief health officer to the media have suggested that it might even be that every case of Covid-19 in Victoria in recent weeks, could be sourced to the hotel quarantine program.”

Victoria went it alone with their Quarantine and it blew up in its face. Every other state utilised either their Health Department, Police Force and Australian Defence Force (ADF) or all of the above in order to run it with a clear chain of command. Victoria appears to have the only state leader who left a National Cabinet meeting thinking that Victoria was the only state not allowed to use the ADF. Then for weeks likely hear in meetings about ADF numbers being used in other states. Yet he had no idea that the ADF was available? We also have a number of bureaucrats and state ministers using the Sgt Shultz approach? No one knew what was going on, no department had sole responsibility and the programme apparently ran on a "creeping assumption." So it seems that simply Victoria is devastated because of an assumption, no accountability and poor leadership.


The Clusters

Like the problems in the Quarantine programme, they were raising alarms as early as April according to documents submitted to the Inquiry and from reports in the media as early as May. Victoria also failed to manage clusters in timely manners. In April the warning signs that Victoria's Heath system and contact tracing systems weren't ready, nor used these errors as a wake-up call, like NSW with the Ruby Princess. One of Victoria's first clusters was a company called Cedar Meats. After a positive test of a staff member at this abattoir, there was no follow up by the health department or agencies to continue monitoring the place and thus put the emphasis on the company to do it themselves. The reason given was that the staff member had never been on-site, but other staff members reported that they were at times. At the end of April, this was the biggest cluster in the state and threatened to derail everything. Blame was placed at the company for not reporting to the Health Department for at least a week. However, a red-flag was raised at the start of April and there was no follow-up or monitoring? Instead, the honour system was in place at a food handling facility during a pandemic? Police were fining people left, right and centre but a food processing plant was assumed to be "ok" with no follow-up? Combine it with the fact that they are a political donor to the Government and it starts to smell of a "cover-up". Further Clusters arose because of the Hotel Quarantine and the Health Authorities appeared to be on the back foot with the management of it. Despite strict fines being in place for anyone breaching a COVID restriction, those responsible or part of this cluster, causing hot spots weren't fined? Further adding to, there's one rule for some and one rule for everyone else.


"We are following the health advice"

Apparently, Victoria was following the best Health Advice. Yet when questioned as to wanting to know or gain access to the data they were using to make these decisions it was denied. Even when there were hundreds of Doctors and Specialists, including the WHO's own advice to lockdowns why was Victoria dismissing these concerns? What made their advice so accurate? It appeared that it was one way or the highway. Melbournians were locked in their house for 23 hours a day and had a 9 PM-5 am Curfew. No Medical Advice anywhere suggested these measures, so what was the data or advice that they were receiving to make these decisions? Now many people might now say "well the advice they had was right" indeed, for a number of days in the last week Victoria has lodged case numbers that were single digits, or even zero. But by the logic of Victoria's actions, we could also reduce the road toll, probably even eliminate it permanently if we made driving illegal.


The Lies and Dismissivness

When it came to the curfew it was stated that it was based on the Medical Advice, yet when the State's Chief Medico said "it wasn't my idea" Daniel Andrews replies "oh it was the Police" so the Police go "no it wasn't us, we weren't asked about it". What kind of circus was running under Andrews in the first place? There were numerous occasions too when members of the media were shutdown or denied answers and were labelled as #Thisisnotjournalism for asking legitimate questions of the elected officials. The main elected official, being Andrews was frequently dismissive and failed to answer questions. Mostly it was "what's your point?", "what's the issue/problem?", "I am unaware" etc.


The Accountability

Don't forget that our elected officials and their bureaucrats who during this time are all in highly paid roles, some with pensions for life, face an Inquiry and evade answers or state that they were "unaware" and that there was a "creeping assumption". Simply being unaware and making assumptions is what caused Melbourne's second wave and whenever they are pressed by either the Inquiry or elements of the media they are shut down and attacked. Andrews even at one point told Peta Credlin "don't put words in my mouth" to which she simply replied with words that Andrews had actually stated. As one commentator has stated the Victorian Government seem to want to play the Jedi Mind Trick on the public. Don't fall for it people. This Government has caused so much pain to the Victorian people and the economy, they are in public office and Accountability is required of everyone but none more so than those in Public Office. Especially when Parliament has been shut. In just four months 800 people died due to the second wave. Now a legitimate argument is that Aged Care facilities are the responsibility of the Federal Government. Well, would it not be fair as well to question as to why it was only Victorian Aged Care Facilities that had mass outbreaks? Or like Dan Andrews when it came to the ADF was it simply a belief that assistance from the Federal Government was only for other states?


Narrative (Dictator Dan)

I have previously posted that the narrative from the Victorian Government has been off. For a good leader, you need to show accountability, honesty, be upfront, logical and be on key points to ensure that you have the masses go with you. Well, Dan Andrews' Government has only worked well with a key point. That is "this virus is deadly" and that's about it. At the start of the year when questioned as to why certain rules were in place, such as the Golf ban, the response was always "it's not worth a life". When questioned as to why the data suggested that Victoria's data said "Golf was Deadly" but other states didn't then it was "you will kill someone". That's not logical, that's emotion. Other rules such as the 5km rule, the curfew, 25km rule etc. are all in the same boat. Simply questioning or wanting to know what data was being used for these decisions were dismissed as "we are following the health advice" but what was the health advice? Where was the logic in the decisions being made? It lead to the narrative of Dictator Dan, combine it with the #Istandwithdan mob on Twitter then anyone who simply wanted to know "why?" was attacked. It added to the "Dictator Dan" narrative. If you weren't with him, you were against him and therefore was an enemy of the people or a granny killer. A colleague of mine and I were discussing this and he is married to an Iraqi Refugee and he told me that her attitude was "unless you grew up in school and had to learn about his favourite foods, write birthday cards for him then he isn't a dictator." Quite true, but I will say this, we do know that Andrews loves Krispy Kreme doughnuts and what his favourite whiskey is, just saying.


The delay/Grand Final

Now yes, for the rules that are currently in effect now there was a delay, but it was only by a day. But remember that the rules were supposed to be lifted one day after the Grand Final. Like Mother's Day the rules were lifted two days after Mother's Day. Therefore what data was used to say that today is unsafe, tomorrow is safe? The other thing too was the targets to get out of the second lockdown was deemed by many medical experts as being unachievable. I even agreed with that sentiment. Yet, by an amazing string of circumstances, they were achieved. So against the odds you achieve what was deemed impossible, you meet your goals and then got told by your leader not "congratulations" but "oh we need time to reassess". You set the target and achieved it but failed to follow up on your actions. It comes back to the narrative of 'Dictator Dan'. In this case, it more so leads to the belief that the Government just wanted to keep you in Lockdown and thus only after outrage over the next 24hrs they simply had to open up. Remember this is the same Government that said it was ok for 1200 people to attend, yes in a socially distanced racetrack, the Cox Plate. But heaven forbid that a church with seating for 1000 has more than 10 mourners in it for a funeral.


The Job Losses/Economic Damage

Many of my friends back home work in the Hospitality, Tourism and Aviation sectors. They have seen the damage and have been living on the edge on whether they have a future or not. This includes one person I know who took their own life because their Pub was now financially ruined by the shutdowns. It was estimated that the shutdowns were causing a loss of 1200 jobs a day. Yet at the end of the day, we were told: "we must stay the course." Well, what course was that? Eradication? Because as those numbers started to trend downwards they were at extremely low levels even back to the numbers that other states had, including Victoria, when they started reopening. The curve was flattened. This is the thing, it's not about valuing the economy over health. The two go hand in hand. Even the WHO has stated that Mass Lockdowns could be far more damaging in the long run. Stating that Lockdowns should only be used as a means to prep the Health System. For me, it leads me to believe that Victoria's Health System hasn't had that preparation despite over seven months of knowledge. If that's the case then there are far worse problems. It would certainly provide an explanation as to why the Government officials would dismiss those that questioned the requirement of the lockdowns including the duration and the need to pursue a possible eradication strategy wouldn't it?


Education

Victorian School kids have missed over six months of in-school learning. But what else comes from that is the ability for kids to actually have a social life and interaction outside of the home. When kids were thrilled to go back to school, then you know that school is more than a "prison" but is a vital part of your socioeconomic development as a person. The fact that other states didn't have a closure of their schools for such a period time like Victoria it puts Victorian kids at a disadvantage on many levels compared to their interstate counterparts. Who knows the long term damage done here?


Suicides, Self Harm, Depression and Mortalities

Many Melbourne Doctors and Specialists have written letters directly to the Premier, State Leaders and to publications that state the longer-term effects of this harsh lockdown. One is a Melbourne GP, Dr Stacey Harris who sent a letter to the Premier that was co-signed by nine other doctors. In it she said:

"I see approximately 180-200 patients per week and it is disturbing what the effect lockdown is causing. I have many 12-15-year-olds so depressed that I have no other option but to put them on antidepressants. As this lockdown moves into months not weeks, access to psychiatrists and psychologists is now almost impossible and/or the wait is too long. Seeing children as young as 12 years describe their darkest thoughts, some suicidal, is very disturbing."

The Lancet in the UK has even reported that the shutdown of medical facilities to entirely focus on COVID and only "life-threatening" treatments has resulted in:

"Substantial increases in the number of avoidable cancer deaths in England are to be expected as a result of diagnostic delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK. Urgent policy interventions are necessary, particularly the need to manage the backlog within routine diagnostic services to the expected impact of the pandemic."

This was backed up in another letter to the Premier of 500 Melbourne Doctors and Specialists who echoed this sentiment stating that Victorian's aren't seeking treatments for symptoms related to cancer and chest pains. But they also emphasised the toll on mental health.

“The response to the virus will cause more deaths and result in far more negative health effects than the virus itself. There has been massive collateral damage in the mental health space due to the lockdowns."

Yet these doctors have been either "discredited" or ignored. You have not just a couple but hundreds of medicos around the world that are arguing that mass and harsh lockdowns are not the sole answer to this and by doing so you will actually be doing greater harm in the long run. Yet, our elected officials refuse to even acknowledge this advice or even state why it's incorrect. Are they heartless?


I have already stated that I know of someone who has committed suicide because of this lockdown. Another two friends are paramedics back home and they are attending suicides each day, whether attempted or dead on arrival. A funeral director at Tobin Brothers in Melbourne has even echoed this. The company itself has even stated:

"The suicide rate across Australia is a cause for concern and it's now time to raise awareness."

Therefore never forget the fact that there have been other numbers we haven't been told about. The increases in delayed medical interventions, increases in the toll on mental health and suicides. It's a failure by the Heath Departments because as 500+ doctors have said:

"The way you do public health is not to focus or have a fixation on one condition to the exclusion of all others.”

The Power Grab

Let us also never forget the double standards when it came to enforcing the rules. The BLM protest, still under a form of lockdown was all but green-lit but Government officials and in turn, we had 10,000+ people in the city. When people wanted to protest, even plan a "socially distanced" event they were arrested, cautioned or even charged by police. If wanting to protest is illegal during a pandemic, then why is one ok compared to another? The Andrews Government also let us not forget wanted to extend it's 'State of Emergency' powers by not a month, not even three but by 12. They also introduced an Omnibus bill that would even allow "Authorised Officers" which could've been anyone in the public service to arrest someone and detain them on the "belief" they were going to breach Health Orders - what happened to innocent until proven guilty? Prior to the bill even being introduced to the Houses the Government was recruiting for these so-called "Authorised Officers". Other parts of the bill would've even allowed Government Officials to not be accountable under the same laws that it's citizens are subjected to. Almost reeks of Nixon's famous quote:

"Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal."

Fortunately, parts of that bill were overturned, never the less a large majority of it did go through the Houses, shame on the crossbench for allowing it. Both the extension of the 'State of Emergency' and Omnibus Bill was introduced even at a time that Melbourne and Victoria had flattened the curve and were on the improve. So why the need for such harsh powers when it appears the emergency is over? It wasn't even a case that they were "selling" we need these powers so we can come down instantly on any cluster to prevent an outbreak in the future. It was, just "this is for your safety" I hate to be melodramatic but we have heard the same thing with many forms of government in the past. When it comes to this history I can hear Jerry Seinfeld in my ear going "people have we learnt nothing?" Good governments are the ones that work in the background and don't influence or dictate your lives, it's called Government Overreact and right now there is a ton of it in Victoria and this isn't a good thing.


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Therefore at the end of the day remember that this isn't over, not by a long shot. So don't be stupid, but be responsible. COVID is serious, it's not as serious as we first feared but the fewer people who get infected the better for everyone. We have learnt to live with other deadly illnesses and COVID should be no different. Therefore use common sense, adhere to social distancing, stay home when sick (including anyone who lives with you), wash your hands frequently, in times when social distancing isn't possible (such as public transport etc.) wear a mask.


COVID will not be eliminated unless there is a successful vaccine or a categorically proven treatment therefore learn to live with it and make your own risk assessments. Finally, never forget Victoria that our Elected Officials might have eventually got us out of this but it's because of them we were there in the first place. When danger reared its ugly head this Government failed miserably and failed to keep its constituents safe.


If your favourite cafe or business has disappeared or has a "for sale/lease" sign up right now, they are a victim of Government mismanagement. As your property loses its value and people struggle to find work and as we all face the possibility of higher taxes and debt levies remember why we are all there in the first place, it's the bungling of the Victorian Government.


Enjoy getting out and having a little victory right now Victoria. But never ever forget why! Never forget there is so much pain, who is responsible for it and most importantly demand accountability!


Ash

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