Australian politicians care more about the health of our prawns and bananas than about people

Australians need to wake up – your politicians right now are deciding between jobs and high house prices on the one hand, and a higher death rate amongst over 40 year olds on the other. Between economic activity and people’s lives.

In this time of global pandemic, Australia has a choice. Use our significant advantage of isolation and our adept biosecurity knowledge and skill to fight tooth and nail to minimise the impact of the rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic on our citizens, thereby ensuring more of our parents and grandparents live out a full life. Or choose a “lighter touch” with lesser impacts on our economy while accepting that a consequence of that will be a higher level of mortality amongst our citizens and especially those over 40 years of age. 

The really sad thing is that the people who are best able to stand up and bring this dilemma to your attention – the same people who bought the serious but long-term threat of climate change to our clear attention – are some of the most conflicted within our society, or at least their employers are, given it is their own economy that our academic institutions are concerned about due to the impacts on their revenue from restricting entry of foreign fee paying students.

In the last 24 hours we have witnessed all major western countries acknowledging what I have been publishing at MacroEdgo for the last 3 weeks. That it is inevitable that this coronavirus will become pandemic and cause significant numbers of deaths throughout every country in the world.

So none of this is new information to anybody with even a cursory knowledge of infectious disease who has been paying attention. 

Already the concern of what a loss of confidence would have on economies has led to most political leaders downplaying these risks that were obvious from the earliest information emerging from the outbreak in China.

For those who still unwisely attempt to play down the situation and compare it to the typical flu, please realise there is a 1,000 to 2,000%, perhaps even more, greater chance of someone with COVID-19 dying than there is of someone dying with a typical flu. In highly susceptible groups that probability is even higher. COVID-19 is not to be downplayed, and already most people are getting a sense that our world has changed.

Sure the pandemic will eventually pass, within a few years, but we will be forever changed by what occurs with the pandemic and those who endure it will live in the knowledge that we humans are far from invincible on this wondrous planet. This is the event of our lifetimes.

I guess we should be grateful that it is finally being acknowledged now by our political “leaders”.

However, along with accepting that inevitability, some seem to suggest that it is also inevitable that we must choose our economy over our people.

This is what Ian Mackay Ph.D., a virologist and Associate Professor at University of Queensland, had to say in Fairfax press today:

However, we’re suffering a daily economic impact on our tourism, education and export sectors and this may not be sustainable for much longer. At some point, travel will resume, and we should expect new COVID-19 cases. This is inevitable.

Is it really “inevitable”?

This is what another group of Australian scientists said at The Conversation about Australia’s pandemic emergency response plan:

We would expect phase two to be put into place when we’re seeing community transmission occurring in Australia. In this second phase, the current strict border measures and quarantine for arrivals will likely be relaxed as “keeping it out” becomes futile. 

Gee that is a defeatist attitude if I ever saw one. Makes you wonder why, no?

When we sell our primary products abroad, our meat, seafood, fish and vegetables, we trade on our image of being clean and green. Part of that message is being free of many of the diseases present in other regions of the world. And it is true, largely because of our isolation being an island continent. I should know all of this – I once was a part of the team developing biosecurity policy to maintain the good health status of our primary industries.

Think about it for a second. How much is spent each and every year keeping it that way – have you ever seen such a significant quarantine effort at airports elsewhere in the world (and at ports and in many other efforts that the general public do not see daily)? And when we do have an animal or plant disease incursion – when a disease that occurs overseas is introduced to Australia – we go to great lengths to eradicate it.

If we are prepared to go to such extent and spend so much money on keeping out and responding to animal and plant diseases, why would we not throw the kitchen sink at preventing a serious disease of people?

It makes no sense at all!

It really does suggest that the Government is only interested in marketing!

Australia’s isolation really is a huge advantage for us, and it is time that we made use of that very significant advantage. As COVID-19 begins to rage globally, we should strongly consider whether we should close our borders to people flows and tightly manage vessels carrying freight to and from Australia.

It really is as simple as that; we could close our borders and significantly cut down the opportunity to reintroduce the virus while we threw everything at containing the virus within the country. That would minimise the human cost while we wait for a vaccine to become available.

There is no doubt that we have the biosecurity know how to manage a very significant program.

The politicians just have to decide to enact that program.

China’s politicians clearly set their minds to that and have launched an enormous containment program when they already had very many cases which has proved very successful. They were prepared to take the economic”hit”.

Nobody can say that we have not been forewarned. It seems hugely inconsistent to act defeated before the pandemic even reaches our shores, or at least before we are aware of its presence.

Being very much a globalist and extremely pro multiculturalism, I do not say such things lightly. These measures need to be enacted in a way that makes it clear to the world that in this time of crisis we are doing our best to combat the disease not only for our people but for all of humanity. As comments from the World Health Organisation make clear, every country has a responsibility to all other countries to proactively manage this outbreak in their own country. Where we can, we should also assist other countries that could do with the help as the WHO has been pleading.

So in enacting any such program it must be made crystal clear that this is absolutely an extraordinary and temporary measure, and that when the pandemic is over we will proudly open up and take in even more people from the rest of the world, especially our brothers and sisters from our Asian neighbourhood, to continue proudly building one of the most successful multicultural societies in the world.

But right now it is up to Australian citizens to decide – how much is your world record high house prices worth to you? The life of your grandparents or maybe even your parents?

Be in no doubt, that is what is at stake here.

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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

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