Australian Police Received One Million Tip-Offs on COVID Rule-Breakers During Pandemic: Study

Australian Police Received One Million Tip-Offs on COVID Rule-Breakers During Pandemic: Study
A woman talks on her phone as she walks through Hyde Park in Sydney, Australia on Oct. 22, 2019. (Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
Daniel Y. Teng
11/14/2022
Updated:
11/14/2022

Australian police received over a million tip-offs during the pandemic years from individuals reporting breaches of public health orders, a new study has revealed.

In 2019 Crime Stoppers, the country's community program for receiving anonymous information on criminal activity, received 313,000 tip-offs nationally.

In 2020, this number jumped to 416,000 amid the first lockdowns and public health restrictions around the pandemic.

By the end of 2021, this number had spiked to 584,000 with a combination of online and phone tip-offs.

Notable examples include a tip-off in June 2021 about former Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who was seen not wearing a mask while in a petrol station. While just a month later, police received 6,000 tip-offs after a major protest against lockdowns in Sydney CBD.

Protesters march along Broadway and George St towards Sydney Town Hall during the ‘World Wide Rally For Freedom’ anti-lockdown rally at Hyde Park in Sydney on July 24, 2021. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)
Protesters march along Broadway and George St towards Sydney Town Hall during the ‘World Wide Rally For Freedom’ anti-lockdown rally at Hyde Park in Sydney on July 24, 2021. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)
"What we see, looking at the Crime Stoppers data, is that when the government creates a state of emergency, it really starts to be enthusiastically policed, including by regular people," said Associate Prof. Catherine Bond of the University of New South Wales in a statement.

Bond said that while many people might abhor the idea of "snitching" or "dobbing," Australians appeared to be happy to embrace the act, particularly during times of emergency or when they feel their safety threatened.

"We think we’re doing the right thing and are taking the moral high ground," she said.

Snitching's Roots Found in the Past

According to Bond's research paper, "Dobbing: Australia’s Favourite Emergency Pastime," the groundwork for snitching was laid during the two World War periods when governments passed laws that granted tremendous powers to executive officers.

One example during World War I was the War Precautions Act which gave the governor-general of the time the authority to create regulations for "securing public safety."

Australia's Constitution does not have an overtly enshrined Bill of Rights like the U.S. Constitution that could likely serve as a bulwark against such laws.

Instead, it has an implied right to political communication derived from two High Court cases during the early 1990s and a smattering of state-based human rights acts.

Meanwhile, clinical psychiatrist Tanveer Ahmed says dobbing is now ingrained in the psyche and culture of Australians.

Shoppers check their phones whilst moving along Bong Bong Street in Bowral, New South Wales, Australia, on Oct. 29, 2021. (Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
Shoppers check their phones whilst moving along Bong Bong Street in Bowral, New South Wales, Australia, on Oct. 29, 2021. (Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

"We are certainly not the egalitarian, relaxed, carefree, easy-going culture that we see ourselves as. In fact, we can be quite picky and rules obsessed. We are more obsessed with safety than freedom," he told The Epoch Times.

"We are one of the most safety-obsessed countries in the world, along with New Zealand and, to some extent Canada, although we are probably worse," he added. "We can be quite harsh on our fellow people and can get quite selfish."

He pointed to how the Australian government restricted international travellers (even citizens) from re-entering the country during the pandemic years, while areas like western Sydney (a lower socio-economic region) were subject to some of the harshest lockdowns in the state to contain the Delta outbreak.

Lockdowns and health restrictions had an outsized impact on those communities due to the higher percentage of blue-collar workers unable to work from home and needing to travel.

Daniel Y. Teng is based in Brisbane, Australia. He focuses on national affairs including federal politics, COVID-19 response, and Australia-China relations. Got a tip? Contact him at daniel.teng@epochtimes.com.au.
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