Another Step Towards Totalitarianism in Australia?

December 14, 2021 Updated: December 14, 2021

Commentary

The scenes at the re-opened Queensland border, after being closed for several months, were almost ecstatic. There were tears, cheers, and smiles when residents crossed the threshold to return to their state of residence. Smiling politicians congratulated themselves, pointing out that the border re-opened on Dec. 13, four days ahead of the previously announced schedule.

The euphoria is undeserved since it is hardly appropriate to celebrate when a government doles out a limited amount of free movement, which until two years ago, was a birthright of all Australians.

Under the new rules, only fully vaccinated people are allowed to enter Queensland, provided they have completed and received a Queensland entry pass, which they can apply for online. In addition, if travellers come from declared hotspots, such as Melbourne or Sydney, they also must return a negative COVID-19 result within 72 hours of their entry into Queensland.

There is thus no reason to celebrate, considering that the ruling government forfeited one of the most basic of rights—freedom of movement.

Freedom of movement is protected in Article 13 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but conveniently abrogated by Australian state governments.

The abrogation of free movement is truly confronting, considering that nowhere in the world did governments adopt a rule that residents could not even return to their own state of residence, and their homes, simply because they found themselves on the other side of a state border.

However, the scenes of happiness at the re-opening of Queensland indicated that people were genuinely grateful, if relieved, that the ruling political class decided to open the border ahead of schedule.

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A couple reunite with family members after they arrived on the first flight from Sydney into Brisbane’s domestic terminal since border restrictions have eased overnight in Brisbane, Australia, on Dec. 13, 2021. (Dan Peled/Getty Images)

Any reasonable person would have expected that the sanctimonious politicians would be shamed for immorally treating people without compassion and disdain for several months.

The reality is, that from Dec. 17, a minority of people will be treated as second-class citizens in Queensland, not criminal enough to be jailed, but not innocent enough to participate in the daily activities of normal life. They will be discriminated against brutally on the ground of vaccine status.

The ruling political class is responsible for the creation of a two-tier Australian society, which has abandoned the equality that was part of the Australian culture and tradition since federation. Now, some people are more equal than others, involving the distribution of burdens and benefits simply on the ground of people’s vaccine status.

The predictable unpredictability, which is so typical of the imposition of health orders, is challenging those who want to return Australia to the stable, egalitarian, country it once was.

The intrusive intervention of the health bureaucracies and compliant businesses into the lives of law-abiding citizens reveals that governments have shamelessly embraced paternalism as a principle of legislation. The implementation of this principle results in the imposition of invasive health decisions, which individuals should be making themselves.

These bureaucracies and politicians are, in effect, embracing the “Nanny State” which seeks to achieve its objectives by prescriptively controlling, forbidding, or compelling the behaviour of individuals.

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Protests against government-mandated COVID-19-related health restrictions and the impending Pandemic Management Bill in Melbourne, Australia, on Nov. 20, 2021. (Armstrong Lazenby)

So, the question should be asked: “What could people do, if anything at all?” For months now, some people have tried to understand the reasons as to why people do not rebel against the creeping totalitarian oppression.

However, I came across an article by Ashley Sadler, a Florida-based journalist for LifeSiteNews, who comments upon the views of Prof. Mattias Desmet of the University of Ghent in Belgium, who has proposed an answer to this question. Desmet, a clinical psychologist, has argued that “historical analysis shows that so-called ‘mass formation’ can be the first step toward totalitarianism and atrocity in the name of collective welfare.”

For Desmet, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic is “an example of the psychological concept of ‘mass formation,’ a kind of broad scale hypnosis that causes large groups of people to band together to fight a common enemy with complete lack of concern for the loss of individual rights, privileges, and even well-being.” It leads to “a kind of mental intoxication of connectedness, which is the real reason why people continue to buy into the narrative, even if it’s utterly absurd or blatantly wrong.”

Specifically, he surmises that people might support these discriminatory health orders to exonerate their own failures and frustrations. For them, the COVID-19 virus is a convenient way to explain their own lack of success.

Commentators may well disagree with Desmet, but his views will resonate with many people because what he says is instinctively plausible.

Sadler notes that, “Discriminatory lockdowns, ‘show me your papers’ policies, mandatory quarantines for healthy people, and incomprehensible police brutality against anti-lockdown protesters who merely want their lives back have demonstrated that those who worried more about the creeping rise of a totalitarian health dictatorship were far more correct than those who panicked about what was supposed to be the worst pandemic since the Spanish flu.”

She rhetorically asks why “does our luxurious modern society appear to be marching toward the demonization and ostracization (or worse) of those opposed to the dominant regime?”

A law, recently adopted by the Victorian Parliament exemplifies that Australia is on the way to attuning people to a totalitarian mindset which is uncritically supportive of government.

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Protestors are seen during a demonstration outside the Victorian State Parliament in Melbourne, Australia on Nov. 15, 2021. (AAP Image/Con Chronis)

The Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021 is a particularly odious attempt to denigrate Australia’s democratic institutions. It gives the premier unprecedented power to rule by decree without having to seek the prior approval of Parliament.

The legislation even allows differentiation between people on the ground of their vaccine status—precisely what is happening in Queensland—while claiming that the legislation is consistent with Victoria’s Charter of Rights.

The minister of health would be able to make health orders under this radical anti-democratic legislation to better fight the COVID-19 pandemic and future pandemics.

Dec. 17 will undoubtedly become an ignominious day in the history of Queensland and, certainly, a first step towards the inexorable march to totalitarianism in Australia.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Gabriël A. Moens AM is an emeritus professor of law at the University of Queensland, and served as pro vice-chancellor and dean at Murdoch University. In 2003, Moens was awarded the Australian Centenary Medal by the prime minister for services to education. He has taught extensively across Australia, Asia, Europe, and the United States. Moens has recently published two novels “A Twisted Choice” (Boolarong Press, 2020) and “The Coincidence” (Connor Court Publishing, 2021).