The violence we saw on Sydney streets last Saturday, was unfortunate and not representative of the majority of people.
I disagree with the protest, however people have a right to be heard – just not in a mass of bodies breaking public health orders. We saw a punch or slap of a horse and other moments when people pelted horses, trampled plants threw projectiles and rubbish in the street. Small sections of what was three or four thousand people misbehaved. The police did their job.
Before I go on, I just want to say, people have a right to their voice. Write to your leaders, ask for your voice to be heard. Do it safely.
I am unclear what ‘freedom’ many people wanted to protest for. Freedom is what we have now in an apparent secure democracy. It’s a temporary lockdown to help slow the spread of the virus. We do not live under the Junta, and we can still go outside to exercise, go to the supermarket or visit the doctor.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, along with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, has made many mistakes and should be punished at the ballot box, not at super spreader rallies. These antics have helped enable the government to call in the military.
In recent times, we have seen the power of the military grow in conservative governments. For instance, we have seen General Peter Cosgrove named as Australian of the Year! With a nation of high achievers in medicine, arts, sports, education, science, community, business, we chose a general, whereas our last two governor-generals also had military backgrounds!
Our vaccine rollout was poor at best, and is now assigned to the military who also handle vaccine comms. This is not good enough. If the government is unable to find logistics experts in a nation of 26 million civilians, amongst the business community or NGOs or government agencies, then we may as well be a backwater nation.
The calling in of the military to assist police with enforcing the public health order is a bad look for a democracy. A democracy which has general sitting as the representative of the constitutional head of state, a foreigner, the Queen.
Military patrolling the streets in some places in Western Sydney where many people are migrants from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Brazil, China, Afghanistan, former Yugoslav republics, and more, is intimidating. Yes, many people have not listened. This includes the more affluent eastern suburbs, home of the original outbreak in June.
I have taken my Pfizer shots and proudly wear a Bulldogs mask, I social distance though I’m sure people are happy to keep their distance from a long-haired Bulldogs supporter! I do my bit. Most people do their best to comply.
From the moment of the outbreak, the eastern suburbs were treated well, respectfully and not fully locked down quickly enough. The outbreak spread easily. When it reached Western Sydney, the Premier made a show of force saying that extra police and police dogs would be out there in those areas. Its possible the sniffer dogs would be seeking out feta and felafel that some rebellious grandparents might sneak to their families.
I think the police have done a reasonable job. The government has struggled with messaging. It wasn’t until Labor state MPs issued a video in community languages that I saw communication with ethnic communities. Before that, feeble attempts had been made by the government and the heads of department who lack ethnic faces, failed to go hard on delivering key messages about COVID. Instead, social media is filled with random people who suddenly have medical and science degrees, which they didn’t have previously. Memes and misinformed posts are rife. Will the military do as Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro and enter homes and take control of your posts? Can the military stop me from claiming that I now have a microchip (thanks Bill Gates)? Of course, they cannot.
The military should have zero role in civilian affairs, especially bearing in mind that NSW Police numbers 21,455 staff, 495 volunteers and have a budget of $4.13 billion. Councils too employ a form of law enforcement officers, who know their areas well.
Community leaders could be used to engage with other people, and there could be daily broadcasts in community languages as well as use of the multicultural media to get the message across.
If the government is unable to govern without use of military force, they should surrender their mandate to the opposition. In the early years of the NSW colony, the military overthrew Governor Bligh in the Rum Rebellion. Over 200 years later, we should be wary of military playing a role other than defence in day-to-day affairs. It’s not a good look for a democracy.