The First English-Speaking Totalitarian State? Victoria, Australia Looks Like a Trial Run for America
Amid ongoing lockdowns in Australia due to COVID-19, the state of Victoria has stood out. Premier Daniel Andrews has been widely criticized for draconian lockdowns. Instead of “flattening the curve” or sparing hospitals, Andrews is holding the state he governs hostage to the goal of eliminating the virus.
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, accused Andrews of running a “health dictatorship.” Current Prime Minister Scott Morrison attacked Andrews’ plan as a road to nowhere. He insisted that Victoria bear more of the economic toll the indefinite lockdown will cost at the federal level. Noted Australian rapper Illy complained that “the Murdoch press [is] ganging up on Dan Andrews.” However, criticism comes from more than conservative politicians or newspapers.
Half of Small Businesses Gone
Apart from the usual suspects, Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Sally Capp has criticized Andrew’s measures as harmful to businesses. She warned “our city is on its knees, with business hanging on by a thread.” Jim Penman, owner of Jim’s Mowing and other services also sounded off. He said “the only thing [Andrews] is good at is trashing the Victorian economy.” Penman directed his contractors to defy the lockdown, as he will pay their fines. Now, he takes on the state government in a multimillion dollar lawsuit.
Even the chairman of Andrew’s Victorian COVID-19 Advisory Group, has urged for restrictions to be eased. He argues that the restrictions have caused too many unintended consequences. Likewise, the chair of the Australian Retailers Association, Paul Zahra warned that Victoria’s current policies could wipe out 50% of small businesses. He says Andrews’ government ignored a staged reopening strategy that would have limited economic damage.
Locking the Poor in their Apartments
ABC, the leftist government outlet, has also criticized Andrews. His policies created wretched conditions in quarantine hotels. The food, for instance was often near or past expiring. Muslim residents’ requests for Halal were ignored. Likewise, residents of public housing towers in Melbourne were locked in by police. They were not allowed to leave under any pretense. They could not go out to buy groceries. They were also forced to eat whatever was provided.
Handcuffing Citizens for Organizing Protests
Most egregiously, a pregnant woman was arrested for organizing a legal protest against the lockdown via Facebook event.
Zoe-Lee Buhler of Ballarat was handcuffed. Police seized her electronic devices due to “incitement.” Her “crime”? Organizing an anti-lockdown protest, which would have included masks and social distancing. She may face jail time ranging from 4 to 15 years. Her brother started a GoFundMe for her legal fees. However, typical of GoFundMe, the company shut it down.
It Can Happen Here
Australia and America are shoots from the very same tree. Both were established under the British crown. Both have a common law tradition and constitution. However, differences grow from there.
In the United States, the Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms through the Second Amendment. Some people still own guns in Australia. But the government largely confinest that to rural areas and sport shooters. Following the Port Arthur Massacre, Prime Minister John Howard enacted a mandatory gun buyback. (In the U.S., Joe Biden has promised to deputize Beto O’Rourke to “seize your guns.”)
No Second Amendment, No First
The U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees the freedom of religion, speech and the right to assemble peacefully. Forcing Muslims to eat food that violates their beliefs and arresting organizers of peaceful assemblies clearly trashes those freedoms.
Through the Second Amendment, Americans have a guarantor of their liberties. As Jason Jones and John Zmirak explain, the Second Amendment originated to protect Protestants from religious persecution in England. The free exercise of religion, and all the other rights of the First Amendment, stand as inextricably linked. All of them depend upon the Second. An armed citizenry functions as a fail-safe should a tyrannical government overstep its boundaries. It is an important link to understand, as these freedoms can quickly erode. So we’re seeing in Victoria, Australia.
Punishing Churches and Dissident Speech
The threats to personal liberty down under aren’t all predicated on the pretext of fighting COVID. Recent laws seek to force priests to violate their conscience, mandating disclosure of crimes told during confession.
Sportsman Israel Folau had to go through court for months after being wrongfully fired when he expressed his religious views. Section 18c of the 1975 Racial Discrimination act is often used to punish “intolerant” or “hate” speech. Commentator Andrew Bolt was penalized for breaching the act when he speculated that some whites identified as Aboriginal for personal gain.
In the U.S. we’d see such laws as a clear affront to constitutional rights. But what if the Democrats win in November? Would the Supreme Court they’d appoint (perhaps with two or four new justices added to “pack the court”) still care about such quaint, 18th century holdovers? Democrat mobs are tearing down our Founders’ statues, with no condemnation by Joe Biden or Kamala Harris. That doesn’t inspire much confidence, does it?