AMAC Exclusive – By Shane Harris
Today, new COVID-19 rules will go into effect in Queensland, Australia, that effectively creates two classes of citizens: the vaccinated, and the unvaccinated. While many restrictions will finally be lifted for vaccinated individuals, the unvaccinated will now be subject to a host of new restrictions, which critics say will do little to protect anyone from the virus and amount to an intentional effort by the government to coerce citizens into taking the vaccine. After Australia witnessed some of the most draconian lockdowns anywhere in the world over the last two years, these new mandates underscore the extent to which government power over the daily lives of every individual has increased under the justification of “pandemic precautions,” in ways previously thought impossible in western-style democracies.
Under the new policies, which were announced earlier this month and mirror similar restrictions implemented previously throughout the country, bars and restaurants will now be allowed to return to full capacity, but all patrons must be fully vaccinated. In addition, unvaccinated individuals will be denied entry to nightclubs, concerts, hotels, sporting events, government buildings such as libraries, and a host of other venues – in effect, making Australia the first free country to fully implement the equivalent of a “vaccine passport.”
Queensland health minister Yvette D’Ath warned that there would be strict punishments for anyone who failed to comply. “When you walk up to that door and you see that sign that says, ‘This is a vaccinated business,’” she said, “if you choose to walk past that sign unvaccinated, it is you that are breaching the rules, it is you that is committing an offense, and there are consequences to it.” Those consequences include fines and even jail time for offenders.
Fines have become a favorite tool of the Australian government to punish those who dare to break the country’s overbearing COVID laws. In July, August, and September of this year alone, the government of New South Wales, the most populous state in Australia, issued more than 47,000 fines totaling $43,234,340. Many of these fines were also levied on indigenous and homeless individuals who often did not understand or were unable to comply with the restrictions.
The Australian government has gone to great lengths to enforce COVID laws as well, at times employing profoundly authoritarian measures that critics say were wildly disproportionate to the threat. For instance, the state of Victoria reportedly used cameras mounted on vans to catch people not wearing masks in public parks. One Australian woman, who was pregnant at the time, was arrested for trying to organize an anti-lockdown protest. Police told another pregnant woman that she was not allowed to rest on a park bench during her allocated one hour of daily exercise. In April of 2020, the Australian government launched an app that would track individuals’ locations, which police say they could use to prosecute anyone who violates COVID restrictions.
The Australian government has also set up a so-called “quarantine center” in a remote part of the country to hold citizens returning from abroad, COVID-positive patients, and even COVID-negative people who were in contact with someone who tested positive. While the government has pushed back against characterizations of the facility as an “internment camp” those being held there are not allowed to leave until their designated quarantine period is over. Anyone who does is promptly arrested and returned.
All of these policies have predictably led to widespread protests throughout the country, some of which turned violent after police began mass arrests of marchers. Thousands of workers affected by a sweeping government mandate who have already lost their jobs sparked many of the demonstrations – something that has also been seen in the United States.
Most Americans have no idea about any of this; it’s no accident that the mainstream media, the Biden administration, and Congressional Democrats have paid precious little attention to what’s unfolding in the Land Down Under. It’s easy to see why – the complete government control over the lives of all Australians, along with the trampling of individual rights in service of “the greater good,” and in the name of “protecting” people from a virus, is precisely what many on the left would like to see implemented in the United States. But instead of lowering case numbers or revamping the economy, Australia’s lockdowns have led to a dystopian nightmare, directly undercutting the liberal narrative about the efficacy of extreme pandemic policies.
Indeed, Australia’s COVID policies have not even been particularly effective at stopping the spread of the virus. While lockdown advocates pointed to Australia’s extremely low case numbers early on in the pandemic, medical experts warned that the virus was likely to spread after restrictions were lifted. Those predictions soon proved to be true, as a single case of the COVID-19 delta variant soon spread throughout several Australian states despite the lockdowns. By pursuing the so-called “Zero COVID” policy employed by some blue-state governors in the United States, Australian authorities created a metric for success against the virus that was unattainable and therefore justified perpetual government control.
While the nightmarish scenario unfolding in Australia may seem like a world away, there are some signs that similar forces are at play in the United States. As President Biden has said directly to unvaccinated Americans: “We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin.”
The story of Australia also highlights the sinister creeping nature of government abuses of freedom. Governments know that an outright abuse of authority could threaten their grip on power. So they push, incrementally, seeing how much they can get away with. When the people speak up, the government backs off, biding their time for the protests to die down. Then the government pushes again, taking a little bit more each time until, one day, hard-won rights have been subsumed by the government. Such has been the case in Australia, and that is why Americans should remain vigilant.