Covid claims another victim in Australia!
a genuine one, this time, as a young government dies after just one term of lockdowns, restrictions and mandates
As election defeats go, this one was well and truly in the ‘baseball bats’ category. The one-term South Australian state Liberal government of Premier Steven Marshall was wiped out in a landslide last Saturday. Following sixteen years of Labor government in SA from 2002-18, the Liberals were defeated after just a single term.
At last count (54% of votes tallied), in an election where 24 seats (out of the 47 up for grabs in the lower house) is the magic number to form majority government, Labor is expected to have 28 (up from just 19 seats at the 2018 election). The Liberals have been reduced from 25 seats to 14. So, the Liberals lost a third of their seats to Labor and the swings were in the high single digits and occasionally in the double digits. The Premier is barely hanging on to his own seat whilst the Deputy Premier is also under siege (although both look like holding on with postal votes breaking their way) and four Liberal front-bench ministers also look cooked. The baseball bats were slugging away overtime on Saturday.
Things were no better in the upper house where 11 of the 22 seats were up for electoral auction. Labor has won four of these and the Greens one, with the Libs taking four, whilst Pauline Hanson’s One Nation (PHON), in an historic first for the state, is expected to win its first ever seat with the aid of preferences from other anti-mandate/restriction conservative parties (the Liberal Democrats, Family First and the Australian Family Party). The remaining chocolate will go to either Labor or the Lib-Dems or Family First. The Liberals bled support both the ‘left’ (Labor) and to the right (the conservative minor parties who all ran on strong opposition to the regime of Covid restrictions and mandates.
Where did it go wrong for the Libs?
The usual suspects have all been wheeled out for the Liberals’ devastating loss – they were riven by factional in-fighting and disunity, they were too close to social/green progressives, the federal Liberal government is a drag on the vote (Labor leads the Libs 55%-45% nationally in the opinion polls). All of these explanations have some explanatory power but would not have tipped the needle more than a percentage point or two at most - collectively they can not account for the landslide nature of the swing.
The big issue which did resonate with a large enough slice of the population to cause an electoral blowout was pandemic fatigue. Although somewhat mute as a campaign issue (Labor and the Liberals presented a unity ticket on ‘following The Science’ in support of restrictions and mandates) the issue is a burning one in the state where many people’s lives have been ruined or severely and pointlessly disrupted for a seasonally endemic virus that is just one of many that have never been dealt with by such a wild policy ride ever before. South Australia still has an indoors and public transport mask mandate, vaxx job mandates (get the vaxx or get the axe), vaxx passports (for entertainment venues, health care, etc.), mandatory isolation for people who test ‘positive’ and for their ‘close contacts’, and QR code check-in requirements for hospitality and healthcare venues for track-and-trace (yes, that is still a thing down here where the calendar seems to have stopped at early 2020).
Consequently, an electorally-decisive slice of voters took out their frustration on the incumbent Liberal government which has presided over the Covid policy debacle for two long years. Making voters front up on election day wearing the hated mask (which doesn’t work), bringing their own pencil (despite fomite/surface transmission of the virus being non-existent) and doing all the silly ‘social distancing’ rituals in the polling booth (which are pure theatre) was just a reminder to disenchanted/angry voters to vent their wrath on the Liberal architects of the nutty political response to the virus.
Covid incumbency is now an electoral risk factor
Covid incumbency is now a risk factor for electability. The sheen has gone off the earlier days of Covid when governments could (falsely) claim to be keeping people safe from a ‘novel’ virus through the harsh medicine of lockdowns, restrictions and mandates. Now, many people are just tired of the quackery and ready to move on.
The new Premier, Labor’s Peter Malinauskas, seems to get this, making his first order of business the amending of the undemocratic Emergency Powers Act under which the restrictions and mandates have been imposed by South Australia’s unelected Police Commissioner and the Chief Public Health Officer. Hiding behind the skirts of public health ‘Experts’, or reflecting in the dazzle of the braid on the top cop who runs the state, just won’t cut it anymore and Malinauskas is looking to reshuffle the bureaucratic deck-chairs to make the system more responsive to Cabinet control with Malinauskas in overall charge: “the people of South Australia elect a premier to make decisions and I seek to chair meetings that make decisions”, he has said.
Malinauskas is also demanding a presentation by the state’s pandemic managers of the science behind their edicts, especially concerning the state’s increasingly disobeyed and deeply resented mask mandate, and the definition of a ‘close contact’ for the purposes of mandatory isolation.
Malinauskas wants to bring South Australia’s virus rules into line with the rest of the country which has ditched many of the failed constraints such as mask-wearing and he is slowly raising public expectations of an imminent end to some of the more detested public health theatrics. To raise then dash hopes would be stupid politics though that is not out of the question for Labor, especially if the Chief Public health Officer does a snow job on him with regard to ‘The Science’.
Malinauskas has also said nothing on the vaxx mandates or vaxx passport arrangements in the state (both the Liberals and Labor held their election night parties in segregated venues) and that is worrying. Malinauskas is a fan of Covid ‘vaccination’ so is deaf to all the safety signals and inefficacy data that are increasingly abundant. The Covid shemozzle is climaxing in the disaster of a mass frenzy of ‘vaccination’ and its incalculable harm but Malinauskas doesn’t want to see this.
What SA’s election result means for the rest of Australia.
South Australian Labor's win is the first time in two years that there has been a change of government in Australia since the beginning of Covid. If everyone in SA was still terrified of the virus and willingly compliant with tough restrictions, then the Libs would have been returned in this state, as has happened with the re-election of all those state and territory governments (whether Labor or Liberal) which went to the polls during the previous two years of virus hysteria, state panic and public obedience. The SA Libs would have taken re-election as vindication for all they have done in regard to the virus. That hasn’t happened, however, which makes the SA election result a clear turning point in the political history of the virus in Australia.
Other governments could well learn from the South Australian election that, if a government wants to ‘stay the Covid course’ by keeping control of the country in the hands of discredited epidemiologists and ‘public health’ hysterics, they will face electoral wipeout. Will they be clever enough, or opportunistic enough, to learn this lesson for the sake of the ultimate political virtue of electoral self-preservation?
What it all means on a personal level
The last two years of orchestrated stupidity and malign political overreaction have changed me in many ways. Already low in trust in the political authorities and the establishment media after so many years of pre-pandemic lies and propaganda on a whole range of issues, any embers of trust or lingering respect that I had in these institutions have been completely doused, never to reignite. I avoid all mainstream television and the radio as a source of news and commentary. I readily lose my cool with academia (The Conversation, for example) which has also been in a Covid fever for two years. I have lost my respect for the medical profession (from the regulatory agencies who are right little McCarthyists to the GP footsoldiers who have shown great cowardice and a susceptibility to scientific BS that I never would have thought possible). The readiness of great swathes of the population, including its highly ‘educated’ elite, to imbibe the fear porn, to lose all sense of perspective, to deep-six any ethical value-system and to revert to infantile obedience to authority has been an unpleasant eye-opener.
This negative roll-call has been balanced, however, by an opening up to sources of information that I would once have rejected a priori because they came from the ‘wrong’ side of politics (the Right) or from a cartoon view of what is and isn’t intellectually ‘respectable’ (so-called ‘anti-vaxxers’ have been a revelation of intellectual integrity to me). I have turned to on-line publishing platforms like Substack for welcome relief from Covid mania and keen anticipation for the thoughts and quality writing of people of good heart, clear mind and a clever turn of phrase to keep on top of the malicious nonsense we have endured for two years.
This transformation has continued with voting behaviour. Having previously scorned the electoral options of the Christian Right, or Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, or Clive Palmer, their principled position on defending personal freedoms and civil liberties against unscientific and authoritarian Covid restrictions and mandates has made them a pole of voting attraction for me, at least tactically. Do I agree with all the rest of their platform? No, and sometimes strongly so (I am an old lefty and remain so) but the Covid distemper is the most salient political issue going around and, as the worst aspects of the political response to Covid (other than mass ‘vaccination’) starts to abate, the job still remains ahead of us to hold the authors of the damaging farce to account in order to make it impossible to ever go down the anti-worker, anti-freedom path of lockdowns/restrictions/mandates ever again.
That is why it is so important, with the one accountability tool we all have, our individual vote, to use it to punish the authors of all the Covid stupidity and reward those who have stood athwart it, regardless of their political branding or history. The sun is still going to come up the next day – and it may just be shining on a world that has come to its senses and broken the harmful spell of the politically-manufactured curse of Covid.