Extract from my 13 September email to Tim Pallas after my resignation

Thanks to Sinclair for having me on this wonderful forum on a regular basis (some of you might recall a few posts I’ve made here over the years).

I’m starting my free citizen innings with an extract from my 13 September 2020 email to Tim Pallas, Victoria’s Treasurer. No response yet but he doesn’t need to talk to me – there are good people within his department who can advise him if he asks them.

The question is, of course, why did the senior public service not advice on the pandemic policy in a sensible manner? One of the issues arising from this pandemic is the failure of senior public servants to perform their role – I’ll have more to say on this issue in due course. I’ve incidentally alluded to this issue in my AFR piece and also in an interview with Peta yesterday on Sky News (it was prerecorded so I’m not sure if she’s put out everything I said).

===EXTRACT===

Till 10 September 2020 I worked as an economist in the Department of Treasury and Finance.

Unfortunately, I can no longer support the policies and strategies being implemented in Victoria in response to the coronavirus pandemic. To be able to speak my mind directly to the people, I have resigned in protest and reverted to being a free citizen.

I am writing this email since I have held (and continue to hold) you in high esteem and would like to provide you with an opportunity to consider an alternative view.

The Victorian Guide to Regulation states: “It is not possible for governments to provide a completely ‘risk free’ society, or to prevent every possible event that might cause harm”. Further: “the direct and indirect costs imposed by regulatory approaches may not be … immediately obvious. Risk regulation that is poorly targeted or costly will divert resources from other priorities”.

For 15 years I have advised governments in Victoria based on these long-established principles but this time around these principles have been trashed as if they did not exist. There has been no sign in Victoria this time around of risk-based regulation, evidence-based policy or cost-benefit analysis. I must add that epidemiological models do not constitute policy analysis. Policy analysis considers an enormous range of trade-offs and unintended consequences.

I have written 17 articles on my Times of India blog that provide a flavour of an alternative view – at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/seeing-the-invisible/

I am happy to personally brief you should you so wish.

==

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 22 Comments

The case for calling off the Covid dogs

This is from Chris Uhlmann in the Age and Sydney Morning Herald, and yet for all that, I find I agree with the whole thing. There is some minor softening of his criticisms but he does seem to get to the heart of the matter and relentlessly makes the case for calling off the Covid dogs. Is Australia reaching some kind of consensus on the madness of the past few months? It’s titled, COVID-19 has hammered home some uncomfortable truths about us as a people.

Soon enough there will be a global reckoning on whether the coronavirus defences did more damage than the disease. It will be driven by the swingeing economic destruction imposed by governments that will deliver millions into poverty, driving internal and external conflicts. Beggared states will turn inward, the world will become more polarised, angrier, more dangerous. In time it’s a fair bet the cure will be seen by many as the real curse, as people whose lives have been destroyed seek retribution.

The COVID cure will be seen as worse than the disease, particularly in Victoria. Though it will be a small wave in the storm, here the Victorian solution and internal border closures should be counted among those judged as doing much more harm than good. That’s because there was abundant evidence by mid-year that pointed to more road maps to recovery than the “only way” decreed by the Victorian Premier or the self-interested, colonial-era border wars led by his peers.

You can forgive the early response of all governments to the horror of a novel virus. Plagues are in the front rank of human threats. In February and March little was known about COVID-19 and the worst was rightly assumed. Australia’s leaders reacted quickly, worked in unison and chose to buy time; to lock their populations down while health systems were fortified with a timetable set for easing their way out. That was a sensible, defensible plan. Now there is no nation plan and that is as indefensible as Victoria’s panic-stricken response. Because now we know much more about the disease and, while it is a serious illness, it is a whole lot less frightening than it is made out to be.

COVID-19 is nowhere near as deadly as the Spanish Flu, which killed an estimated 50 million, mostly young, people worldwide. Fifteen thousand of those deaths were in Australia, in a population that was then just 5 million. At the time of writing, COVID-19 had killed about 930,000 people globally. Here 816 have died in a population now pushing towards 26 million. No matter how hard the death of anyone under 50 is spun, it is so vanishingly rare among Australia’s body count as to be close to zero. If you are a woman, it is zero. In Australia there is a far greater statistical chance that someone under 60 will die in a car accident.

COVID-19 mostly kills the elderly, especially if they have an existing chronic disease. That is not an argument to let them die but it should guide government responses. Of the 816 Australian deaths the vast majority, 606, were in residential aged care. So if you are going to throw a ring of steel around anything it should be around aged care homes, not Melbourne. The rest of the population should be liberated to get on with their lives while taking sensible health precautions.

Governing should be about balancing risks against costs and only fools and sophists make arguments based on false choices. The debate is not between what we are doing and doing nothing. It should be about what response delivers the greatest good for the greatest number. The Victorian solution punishes the many for the few. It preferences the very old over the young, mortgaging the future of the entire school and working age population. It is hard to imagine how you could design a policy which is more profoundly unfair or damaging to a society.

If the argument is we must do everything in our power to protect the elderly then were are already doing well. Federal Health Department data, first published in The Australian, shows that there were almost 1000 fewer deaths in residential aged care in the first seven months of this year than in the same time last year. I sourced the same data from the department and received two a tables and a note.

“The lower number of deaths for this period in 2020 (32,398) compared to the same period in 2019 (33,383) is likely the result of increased influenza immunisation rates, and increased infection control protocols introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the health department note said. So, why is it a crime for someone to die of COVID-19 in care but it’s OK if they die of absolutely anything else?

This disease has revealed the character of our leaders and hammered home some uncomfortable truths about us as a people. As a nation we seem comfortable with authoritarianism and too many relish the role of prefect [he means dictator, but that’s the only bit where I feel he may have pulled his punches – SK].

And nowhere in this often-opaque democracy has a less transparent court system, bureaucracy, police force or government than Victoria. The people there have been badly served, even as some revelled in the servitude. Its systems of power have combined to deliver the wanton destruction of its vibrant society. Its government has condemned its people to a poorer future, to higher unemployment, more poverty and less opportunity.

Rejoice. Dan Andrews has destroyed the village to save it.

If the mainstream of the mainstream media are worrying about threats to our freedoms and prosperity from centralised government controls and an overbearing politicisation of the public service and the police, we may yet be able to save ourselves.

Posted in Classical Liberalism | 34 Comments

Gideon Rozner: In Australia, Having Your Say Shouldn’t Put You In Handcuffs

When I first saw the video of Zoe Buhler’s arrest, my first thought was ‘this has to be a fake’. When I realised it wasn’t, my second thought was this – ‘This is not the Australia I know’.

And I know that you agree. This is not the Australia we know. Zoe’s case is not something that should be happening in any country purporting to be a liberal democracy.

That’s why I’m delighted to tell you that the great Andrew Cooper and our friends at LibertyWorks have set up a page to help fund Zoe’s legal defence.

You know the video I’m talking about. It starts with a troupe of masked police officers rampaging through the house and ends with a pregnant woman in handcuffs as her children watch on. The phone recording the whole incident is confiscated, along with every other phone, computer and tablet in the house.It’s the kind of treatment we usually see for drug dealers, suspected terrorists, or child pornographers. But Zoe’s alleged ‘crime’ was none of these things. Zoe was arrested, detained and eventually charged over a Facebook post.Zoe had posted days earlier about a peaceful gathering in Ballarat in protest against Melbourne’s lockdown. She encouraged mask-wearing, asked everyone to adhere to ‘social distancing’ guidelines, and, in what is now a sad irony, stressed that it was to be a ‘peaceful protest’ so that ‘we don’t get arrested’.For this, Zoe has been charged with ‘incitement’ to breach Victoria’s ‘public health orders’, and now faces the threat of a criminal conviction and a fine of up to $19,000.

IN AUSTRALIA, HAVING YOUR SAY SHOULDN’T PUT YOU IN HANDCUFFS – Support Zoe’s legal defence fund here

As I said to Andrew Bolt the night after the video, it’s not just that Zoe’s arrest was the worst thing I’ve ever seen in Australia – it’s that I never thought such a thing would or could ever happen in Australia.

From Andrew Bolt to Bill Leak to Calum Thwaites to Peter Ridd, we have seen some shocking attacks on free speech over the years. But even in my wildest paranoid nightmares I would never have imagined that we would see a pregnant woman handcuffed in front of her own children over a Facebook post.

It is a terrifying new low. It is not something that we should be seeing in any country purporting to be a liberal democracy – and it’s something we must never, ever see again in Australia.

The night Zoe’s arrest hit the internet, IPA Executive Director John Roskam and I were on the phone until late. By the next morning, we had already put Zoe’s family in touch with Stuart Wood QC, Stephen Andrianakis, and several other top barristers and solicitors. And following a barrage of abuse and death threats, we helped move Zoe to a secure location and engage private security.

Since that time, I and the IPA have received many, many emails from our members who are just as proud as we are to be involved in Zoe’s fight, and know just as well as we do what it means for our fundamental freedoms and Australia’s future. We all know that Zoe’s arrest is about much more than just one woman’s Facebook post, and that what happened to her could happen to me or you or any other Australian if we don’t stand up for our rights.

And we all know that what happened to Zoe has been, in a way, a long time coming. We’ve seen how Victoria Police have become deeply politicised, how they’ve gone from being trusted community protectors to henchmen for the bureaucratic-managerialist state.

We need only look to what happened when 10,000 protesters gathered in the centre of Melbourne just months ago for the so-called ‘Black Lives Matter’ rallies. Not only was nobody arrested, but Victoria Police indicated that they ‘supported the right to protest’. When asked about the double standard recently, Victoria Police indicated that they let the rallies go ahead because there was a risk that protesters would ‘turn violent’ if police tried to stop them.

If Victoria Police are telling the truth, then they’re basically admitting that they’ve given in to mob rule – that the threat of violence effectively supersedes the rule of law.

And if they’re lying and Victoria Police never really had a problem with the ‘Black Lives Matter’ rallies to begin with, then we have reached the situation in which the police are picking and choosing which political protests get to go ahead, and which don’t. Which political speech is acceptable, and which can get you arrested for ‘incitement’.

That’s why we need to fight – and why Zoe needs your help.

Defending a charge like this is not easy, nor is it cheap. Zoe’s lawyers have estimated that, even at a heavily discounted rate, she will need almost $300,000 to fight these charges.

All funds will be sent directly to Zoe’s lawyers’ trust account, and any money leftover will be donated to a youth mental health charity of Zoe’s choice.

Posted in Oppressive government | 36 Comments

The Only Honourable Course

YES, be more like this guy. The now former Victorian Treasury economist Sanjeev Sabhlok certainly is. His apologia in today’s AFR is sufficiently important to warrant being posted here in full in the public interest. To those who would argue that civil service rules mandating strict adherence to official government policy chart the only honourable course, I counter that there is a point at which twee convention becomes the Nuremberg Defence and we’re now well beyond it.

Last week I quit my job as an economist in the Victorian Department of Finance and Treasury so that I would be free to speak out against the state’s management of the COVID-19 infection.

I had made a number of criticisms of the state government on social media. The head of human relations at Treasury asked me to remove them. I considered deleting the few direct criticisms, but they wanted all indirect criticism removed too. I resigned on the same day, the only honourable course for a free citizen of Australia. I never dreamed I would see some of the tactics being used to defend the state’s health.

The pandemic policies being pursued in Australia – particularly in Victoria – are the most heavy-handed possible, a sledgehammer to kill a swarm of flies. These policies are having hugely adverse economic, social and health effects, with the poorer sections of the community that don’t have the ability to work from home suffering the most.

Australia is signalling to the world that it is closed for business and doesn’t care for human freedoms. This will dampen business investment but also impact future skilled migration, the education industry and tourism.

The whole thing hinges on the scare created by politicians and health professionals. For instance, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton claims this is the “greatest public health challenge since the Spanish flu”.

But this is no Spanish flu – we can verify that easily.

The Spanish flu killed at least 50 million people worldwide in 1918 when the global population was 1.8 billion. Proportionately, to be as lethal as Spanish flu, a virus would have to kill at least 210 million people today. Instead, only around 0.9 million have died so far (compare this also with the 60 million who ordinarily die each year).

What about a second wave? There has never been a second wave hundreds of times bigger than the first. We can be reasonably certain that while this virus may create further ripples, its ultimate magnitude will end up in the range of the 1957 Asian flu.

But even if the pandemic had been as big as the Spanish flu, lockdowns could never have been justified. There are strong scientific arguments against lockdowns too.

So what should the government have done? The data were clear from February itself that the elderly are many times more vulnerable to a serious outcome than the young. It was necessary, therefore, to work out a targeted age-based strategy and start aggressively protecting and isolating the elderly, even as the rest of the population was advised on relevant precautions. But that wasn’t done.

The need for good policy process does not disappear just because we face a public health crisis. In fact, it gets even more urgent.

The Victorian Guide to Regulation notes that “It is not possible for governments to provide a completely ‘risk free’ society, or to prevent every possible event that might cause harm”. Further: “The direct and indirect costs imposed by regulatory approaches may not be … immediately obvious. Risk regulation that is poorly targeted or costly will divert resources from other priorities.”

Governments back in February needed to commission a cost-benefit analysis of alternative policy options that took into account different scenarios (such as with and without a vaccine). Thereafter, the best option had to be picked given the uncertainty, but consistent also with the need to intrude minimally into human freedoms. This cost-benefit analysis and policies needed then to be updated as new information emerged (such as the fact that epidemiological models have badly exaggerated the risk).

Governments should have also realised at the outset that they are hostage to chronic groupthink and actively sought alternative advice. I attempted repeatedly to raise my voice within my public sector role, but my attempts were rebuffed. The bureaucracy has clamped down on frank and fearless, impartial advice, in a misplaced determination to support whatever the government decides, (instead of performing its taxpayer-funded duty of providing forthright analysis of alternatives).

While there is scientific argument against lockdowns, there are divergent views on matters such as the effectiveness of masks. I am a mask fanatic but there was never any reason to mandate these debatable requirements. Voluntary, performance-based rules would allow the private sector to innovate, leaving people with the power of agency, to determine their own fate – thereby minimising economic harm, and harm to mental health and general well-being.

So what happens now? Billions of dollars in income and wealth have been wiped out in the name of a virus that is no worse than the Asian flu and which can (even now) be managed by isolating the elderly and taking a range of voluntary, innovative measures. All the border closures, all the lockdowns, all the curfews in Melbourne will not eradicate the virus from planet Earth.

The problem for politicians now is to reverse course without losing their job. I don’t know how they plan to do it but if they don’t do it sooner rather than later the damage to Australia’s future would have become so great it would undo the good work of decades of reform.

 
Now, I would prefer it if Sabhlok – he blogs here and Tweets here – did not call himself the “pope” in a “Church of Reason and Liberty.” Nor do I have any time for the weird notion that “thinking with proof is the only proof of humanity.” If that were true, all children (and most adults) wouldn’t qualify. He makes himself an easy target for charges of crackpottery – even though fake Catholics like Daniel Andrews and Annastacia Palaszczuk almost certainly have more disdain for the real Church and papacy than he does. Atheist hubris aside, I commend Mr Sabhlok for standing up to the liars. Thank you.

Posted in COVID-19, Freedom | 45 Comments

Government spins to disguse its energy policy failures

I have a piece in the Spectator coffee club on the raft of new measures the government has announced to shore up the electricity and gas supply industries, they and their predecessors have destroyed. 

A slow fuse  was lit in 2001, when Prime Minister John Howard Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) requiring electricity retailers to include two per cent of exotic renewables (wind and solar) into their electricity supply.  This gave a 50 per cent subsidy – paid for by customers — to these renewables.   Things only got worse until we now pay the equivalent to $13 billion a year.  Aside from this cost, these measures bring about highly volatile prices an d destreoy the economics of intrinsically low cost coal generators.

The new energy policy announced on Tuesday is a recognition of the problem but offers poor solutions while flaunting developments that have actually caused it.  

The government has recognised that, having been stampeded into an energy supply based on boosting the high-cost unreliable renewables component, it has to engage in ever-increasing interventions if the system is to avoid a Californian style permanent crisis.   

First government tried to force AGL to keep the Liddell coal generator on line. That having failed it threatens to build a new gas generator to replace it if nobody stumps up the cash to do so and it canvasses a new subsidised transcontinental pipeline to supply gas that state governemnt reegulations forbid to be supplied iocally

Fatuously claiming that “renewables like solar and wind don’t need subsidies but do need integration”, the energy plan earmarks $250 million to accelerate three critical projects -– the Marinus Link, Project Energy Connect and VNI West interconnectors”.  Yet AEMO estimates these will cost $8720 million. And that spending will trigger further operational problems that will be costly to fix.  Papering over the cracks from 20 years of bad policy costs does not come cheap!

Oblivious to these contradictions, the Prime Minister boasts that Australia invested $30 billion in renewables over the past three years and will add 12.6 GW of renewable capacity in 2019 and 2020 – that’s eight times the capacity of the Hazelwood Power Station that was forced to close. 

All renewable energy is subsidised  and poisons the entire system.   

The competition reforms and privatisations that took place from 1990 brought Australia to world leadership in low-cost energy.  At first gradually then rapidly, tinkering by politicians has undermined this. 

Ministerial hubris and denialism will mean increased centralisation, political fixes and perhaps re-nationalisations, giving us excessive costs and unnecessary unreliability.  

Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments

Gas fires up the hornets of RE

The Coalition decision to go for gas (and a few other things) has poked a stick into the hornets nest of power generators and the RE industry. It is a move guaranteed to make nobody happy because there is no solution that is generally acceptable and it is hard to imagine a bipartisan policy in the current political situation.

In a world where facts are taken seriously I can imagine a bipartisan agreement on the “four icebergs” problem.  (1) In view of the AEMO data nobody plausibly deny that we  experience frequent and prolonged wind droughts. (2) It is also difficult to deny that the system should be capable of delivering 100% of demand 100% of the time.  Similarly, we need air all the time to survive, and hyperventilating last week does not prevent choking or drowning this week. (3) The island effect. This has hardly surfaced in the public discussion so far because we still have just enough conventional power to get along almost 100% of the time. That will not be the case when Liddell closes unless there is a miracle to conjure up 2GW of additional reliable power out of the blue. (4) The claims that transmission lines, batteries and pumped hydro will solve the storage problem can be refuted but not in the same knock-down manner that applies to arguments 1-3.

This video from Mark Mills and Prager is a miracle of compression to explain the key points with vivid images in 5 minutes.

500 years of production from the Tesla plant to produce enough batteries to store the power that the US consumes in a single day.


On the topic of the island effect, check out Germany’s dependence on her neighbours.  One of the briefing notes in preparation for the politicians will document the amount of power imported by the leaders in RE – Denmark, New York, California etc.

German Electricity Imports Hit New Record, Rise 43.3 Percent in First Half Of 2020!

Posted in Electric Power and Energy, Rafe | 15 Comments

Freedom Slipping Away

Well done to the Cats who produced this.

Many thanks to the people who have sent this to me.

Posted in COVID-19, Libertarians don't live by argument alone | 65 Comments

Liar Dan and the fine art of casuistry

This is the front page of the Oz: Andrews letters: PM’s offers met by silence. And then see precisely what Silent Dan says:

Revelations of the Prime Minister’s offers of help to Mr And­rews came as the Premier said on Wednesday that he stood by his statement to a state parliamentary committee hearing last month that it was “fundamentally incorrect to assert that there was hundreds of ADF staff on offer and somehow someone said no”.

Get it. No one said no. What a disgusting weasel. Responsible for hundreds of deaths and he wants to start defending himself by parsing the meaning of words. Will accept no responsibility for the catastrophe he has overseen and largely caused by his incompetence.

As for casuistry, perhaps he learned it when studying the classics, one of the fine arts of dishonest politics:

the use of clever but unsound reasoning, especially in relation to moral questions; sophistry.
“the minister is engaging in nothing more or less than casuistry”

I wonder if he was crossing his fingers when he said what he said. I also notice that on the new citizenship test there is this question:

Should people’s freedom of speech and freedom of expression be respected in Australia?

I wonder how Dan would go with that.

LET ME ALSO ADD THIS: Despite 10,000 new cases a day, the French are embracing life – not imposing new rules.

The cafes of Paris are packed

No one is dying from the Covid any longer. The contrast between Melbourne and Paris is incredible. This is Melbourne, and note the masks in both photos.

Melburnians have been put back under Stage 3 restrictions, but what would Stage 4 look like?

Posted in COVID-19, Politics of the Left | 28 Comments

Mark Hornshaw & Zac Gorman: Australia’s Violent Enforcement of Lockdowns Sparks Memories of the Eureka Rebellion

2020 is looking eerily similar to 1854 for the people of Victoria, Australia’s second most populous state. This footage reveals a little of the current scene, with Aussies protesting against draconian lockdowns, and police in riot gear arresting them in large numbers. More on this below.

First let us wind the clock back 170 years… Australia is not yet an independent nation, Victoria is still a British colony. Established as penal colonies for convicts under the guard of British soldiers, the Australian settlements were government projects from the outset. Historian Robert Hughes described the convict experience as producing “an attitude to authority in which private resentment mingled with ostensible resignation.”

But the ‘gold rush’ of the mid-1800s brings in a new aspirational class of workers, including Americans, Irish, British Chartists, and people involved in various European revolutions. The Australian diggings were notably more lawful and organized than those in California. People were well behaved and generally unarmed—they just wanted to get on with digging in the hope of striking it rich. It would take an especially egregious assault by those in power to drive these otherwise lawful men into rebellion.

Government at this time consists of an appointed Governor and a legislative council containing some appointees and some elected members, but voting is mostly limited to landowners—so miners are not represented. With urban employers and wealthy landowners worried about a labor shortage and an exodus of workers to the diggings, the colonial government comes up with a scheme to coerce the entrepreneurial miners back into structured employment.

Their scheme was a ‘license fee’ similar to a poll tax, initially set at 30 shillings a month. Miners were forced to pay it whether or not they found gold. As gold became harder to find, the license fee became increasingly burdensome and resented.

The police were not neutral law enforcers, but would engage in “digger hunts” with accusations of extorting money, taking bribes, and imprisoning people without due process. Diggers were often asked for their licenses several times in one day. As testified by Peter Lalor “the diggers were subjected to the most unheard of insults and cruelties in the collection of this tax, being in many instances chained to logs if they could not produce their license.”

The miners moreover had no neutral court of law to appeal to if they were unjustly treated—their cases would be heard by the taxation administrators who were themselves “parties to the case.” Miners tried sending delegations to appeal to Lieutenant-Governor Charles La Trobe regarding the fees, but to no avail.

On October 17, 1854, some 5,000 miners gathered over what they felt was an injustice, as a hotel owner and friend of the local magistrate was said to have bribed his way out of a murder charge. In an unfortunate spill-over of fury, the Eureka Hotel was burned down. This was the catalyst for what was to become a more organized resistance movement.

On November 11, the Ballarat Reform League was formed under the direction of Chartist John Basson Humffray. Their demands were the release of three miners charged with the Eureka Hotel fire, and a Chartist inspired program of “no taxation without representation.”

But when delegates tried to negotiate with the Victorian government, Governor Charles Hotham felt affronted by the fact that they made “demands” rather than the traditional “petition.” As a rebuff to their apparent insolence, he instead sent 150 soldiers to Ballarat to bolster the police presence.

Then (as now) the situation was moving from petty despotism to organized tyranny. Authorities threatened to use the riot act to essentially ban gatherings of twelve people or more.

On November 29, as the miners hear Hotham’s response, they collectively decide to burn their licenses in outright defiance. The police respond with an even more aggressive “digger hunt” the next morning. From this point, to use an Australian expression, it was on.

The land we now know as Australia had previously seen a coup d’etat by the military, and scattered uprisings by Aborigines, Convicts, and Outlaws, which had all been swiftly quelled by those in power. There had never been a George Washington-type character or a popular uprising. But on November 30 that year, the miners at Ballarat came the closest.

Led by Irish immigrant Peter Lalor the miners hoisted their own Southern Cross flag and made a pledge: “We swear by the Southern Cross, to stand truly by each other, and fight to defend our rights and liberties.”

With Lalor elected as a pseudo-military leader, the miners built a ‘stockade’ (a crude fort) and started engaging in military drills. But not for long. Almost immediately, on Sunday December 3 (when the predominantly Catholic Irish would be at Mass) government troops attacked and quickly obliterated their makeshift fort, killing 22 diggers and five soldiers.

The police arrested and detained 113 of the miners while many others went into hiding. Eventually 13 were taken to Melbourne to stand trial for high treason, including John Joseph—an African American man from Baltimore. The trials were held in the capital rather than Ballarat to avoid any local attachments.

The miners must have known that they never stood a chance militarily. But the real battleground, both then and now, lay with public opinion. People in the capital were initially fearful of a full-blown rebellion, but news of the government’s heavy-handedness and of the miners’ courageous stand against such brutal treatment, gradually started to win the sympathy of the general public.

Large crowds would gather outside courtrooms, with juries frequently taking less than an hour to throw out the case. Given that the accused probably were guilty of what they were charged with, it was a form of jury nullification of unjust laws. Anybody interested from a legal point of view can read about the trials here.

In the end, the accused were released and a general amnesty declared for those still in hiding, including Lalor. The license fee was removed, replaced by an export duty and a nominal £1 per year miner’s right. Half the police on the goldfields were sacked and one warden replaced the multitude of gold commissioners.

The Victorian Legislative Council was expanded to include eight members elected by diggers who held a miner’s right. One of these elected members was Peter Lalor who had survived the stockade as an amputee after being shot in the shoulder.

Former Justice of the High Court Michael Kirby states:

Eureka stands as a warning to indifferent politicians, judges and other officials. In the ultimate, the law is not obeyed because it is made in this or that way or even because it is declared in courts of the highest authority. In the end it depends upon the community’s acceptance of it.

This brings us to the present day.

At time of writing, the state of Victoria is facing perhaps the developed world’s most oppressive and mean-spirited overreaction from the government in response the COVID virus. Police in riot gear are forcefully clearing out farmers markets, harassing elderly women for sitting on a park bench, snatching infants in strollers from fathers, and fining people for catching a bus without a ‘work permit.’ In the modern town of Ballarat, a pregnant woman in her pajamas is handcuffed and arrested in her own home over a Facebook post promoting a peaceful protest, in a town not even under the severest level of lockdown. She was charged with ‘incitement’ similar to a terrorism charge, and could face 15 years in jail. People are being threatened with fines for merely ‘liking’ a Facebook post.

Meanwhile parliament has voted to suspend itself, giving dictatorial powers to the Premier under a so called “state of emergency”. The people are under an 9:00 p.m. curfew, and are only allowed out of their homes to exercise for two hours a day in their local neighborhood. Comparisons to dystopian novels can sound trite, but are fitting in this case.

Readers might be thinking that ‘the virus’ must be pretty bad in Victoria to elicit such an authoritarian response. Guess again. At time of writing there are 12 people in ICU in the entire state—check the latest figures here if you like. What makes Victoria different is the impossible threshold set by the Premier—as though viruses can be made to obey human laws.

The Premier has iterated that the lockdowns will remain in place until there are no new cases for 14 consecutive days. The number of new COVID cases is reported every day almost like a taunt to the public, while every other statistic—like suicides, business closures, bankruptcies, cancelled weddings, undiagnosed cancers, lonely deaths from other causes, etc, etc, is ignored. It is zero tolerance for a virus, or innocent people will be punished in countless other ways in perpetuity.

This excessive level of restriction goes against the advice of doctors, epidemiologists, lawyers, legal experts, the World Health Organization, and even Federal government medical officers. The modelling that provoked it has been shown to be wrong. Public policy experts have made the seemingly obvious point that a pandemic requires different responses from different sections of the public using dispersed knowledge, so any ‘one rule for all’ response is doomed to fail.

And since any reported case means prolonged lockdown and suffering for everybody, people are increasingly reluctant to report infections or admit to having left their homes. As a result, contact tracing is failing in Victoria, while working well in other states.

Of course, the Premier has his paid staff of experts who naturally say that the emperor has clothes on this. But even his own chief medical officer backed away from the Premier’s most excessive dictates, leaving him grasping for scapegoats. Apparently people will only sell so much of their soul.

C.S. Lewis famously wrote: “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive… those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” Perhaps the Premier really believes he is doing good by doing evil. Or perhaps he is just doubling down on past mistakes to save face. But with so little intellectual support, it is hard to see this as anything other than a ruthless social experiment to see just how compliant Australian people can be.

Politics always divides and this present case is no exception. Those supporting the Premier are generally those with a more comfortable work-from-home existence. The ‘pajama class panickers’ as they are sometimes called, just want a strong leader to ‘do something’ that seems like it might work, even if it doesn’t, having no concept of the cost—since the cost of their perceived protection generally falls onto others.

Worse, there are some who, Gillette ads notwithstanding, seem to think that violence against women is totally fine when it is carried out by ‘law enforcers.’ They cheer and gloat when people are arrested for simply living their life, because it apparently ‘serves them right.’ Some elements of the media are quick to smear any protesters as crazy conspiracy theorists, while the brother of the pregnant Facebooker mentioned above has reportedly received death threats for trying to raise funds for her legal defense.

But on the brighter side, just as the general public turned against the excesses of the police state in 1854, the same is happening today. When the government, in the name of saving lives, criminalizes actually living your life, people start to realize what libertarians have been saying for a long time: the state is them not us. The state is not on the side of peaceful individuals that make up society, and there is no aspect of your life that they won’t step on to show you who is boss.

States can usually rely on corporate CEOs and celebrities to tow the politically correct line—but thankfully not in this case. Business leaders are pointing out absurdities—like how municipal workers can work in groups but private contractors are prohibited from even mowing a lawn by themselves.

Those with a public voice are lambasting the Premier, like this football player whose father (also a famous footballer) died alone, saying “I lost my 78-year-old father, Premier… He wasn’t dying from this, he was dying from the isolation and the loneliness.” The general public is realizing it has a voice, that the medical experts (besides courtiers on the Premier’s payroll) are on our side, and the tyrants in charge are increasingly fumbling for excuses.

It would be nice if the police could have some backbone at this time—to say to their bosses, “We are not doing this anymore. We refuse to be degraded in this way, being sent to war against the people we are supposed to protect.” But that is unlikely.

More realistically, in the Australian political system, State Premiers can be ousted within days without parliament even sitting, if their own party room turns against them and calls a ‘spill.’ A deputy leader or cabinet minister who was ‘fully on board’ with the agenda five minutes ago, can suddenly come out as being diametrically opposed to it, and take the top job.

That is the most plausible way out of this nightmare for the people of Victoria. Viruses are not going away, but Premiers can be sent packing pretty easily. The backbenchers of the ruling Labor party need to fear for their own re-election more than they crave the favor of their failed leader.

All that is required is enough of a groundswell of support for peaceful coexistence with sensible, contextually appropriate safeguards, and the removal of support bullies and thugs. Resolute Victorians stood up to tyranny at least once before, and will stand up once again.

Mark Hornshaw

Mark Hornshaw

Mark Hornshaw is a lecturer in Economics, Entrepreneurship and Management at The University of Notre Dame Australia.

Zachary Gorman
Zachary Gorman

Dr. Zachary Gorman is a professional historian and an Adjunct Fellow with the Institute of Public Affairs. He has been published widely on the history of Australian classical liberalism, including a 2018 biography of New South Wales Premier Sir Joseph Carruthers.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Posted in COVID-19, Guest Post, Oppressive government | 27 Comments

Lawyers Working To Balance The Justice System

WHEN all other excuses fail, Democrat street terrorists brandish their brownness. It is impossible to respect an alleged renegade whose violence only proceeds on the understanding that he or she will be treated like a naive piccaninny when caught. They lack the courage of a George Washington’s convictions and should therefore be treated with contempt by everyone – including juries.

Posted in American politics, Tough on Crime, tough on criminals | 22 Comments