Daniel Andrews is just under a decade older than Jacinda Ardern, but the two have much else in common. Both are Arts-degree socialists from religious families who’ve never in their adult lives held a job outside politics.
More recently, both oversaw draconian responses to the Wuhan pandemic – and both saw the virus resurge just when they were boasting about “eradicating” it. Victoria has become the literally sick joke of Australia. But how did this happen?
After all, Victoria has easily been the most authoritarian state in Australia in its response. The Vic Police were ruthless, fining people for washing their cars (even though that was a legally permitted activity), taking their children for driving lessons, fishing, or even playing golf.
On the other hand, massive leftist protest rallies were a-ok. So were large gatherings of certain cultural groups. Then there was the absolute fiasco of its hotel quarantine effort, where untrained private security guards were given – no exaggeration – all of 30 seconds training. Which apparently didn’t include the instruction to not shag anyone in quarantine.
So which minister has accepted direct responsibility for it?
Which minister has apologised and resigned over a mess that will cost countless billions of dollars to the Victorian and national economies and have as yet unknowable health consequences?
Answer: no one.
The Victorian government has not even told us which minister was chiefly responsible for deciding to use untrained security guards. Instead, it established a judicial inquiry that it exploits to say it has no responsibility to provide any public information. Yet the inquiry report is months away.
In other words, as is both Andrews’s and Ardern’s modus operandi, announce a never-never “inquiry” and wait for everyone to forget about it.
The performance of the Andrews government has been so disastrous partly because there is no effective democracy in Victoria[…]all the normal mechanisms of democratic deliberation and accountability have been diminished or erased in Victoria. This is true of state jurisdictions around Australia, but it is extreme in Victoria.
Bizarrely, and for no good reason, the Victorian parliament is not sitting and is not due to sit until next month. When asked about the opposition this week, Andrews said he didn’t have time for silly political games. That is exactly the tone that non-democratic leaders take. Politics is a distraction from their greatness.
The only chance of any useful accountability or scrutiny for the hotels fiasco lay with the Victorian parliament’s public accounts and estimates committee. The committee has 10 members: five Labor, three Coalition, one Green and one Liberal Democrat. Every non-Labor member voted to hold an inquiry that would call senior bureaucrats and ministers. The Labor chairwoman used her casting vote to ensure no hearings were held.
When Andrews was asked about this, his response was contemptuous. He knew nothing about the committee, no concern of his, he hadn’t been briefed on it and didn’t intend to give it a moment’s thought. It was a response Fidel Castro would have been proud of.
All of this will be a familiar story to BFD readers. Like Daniel Andrews, Jacinda Ardern is not a dictator. But both, with the acquiescence of the legacy media, like to behave like one.
[They have] contrived a circumstance in which almost all mechanisms of democratic scrutiny and accountability have disappeared.
This is not just wrong in principle. It produces really bad government[…]
In a properly functioning democratic culture, Andrews would come under irresistible political pressure to answer the questions and provide the information. But under the emasculated political culture that surrounds state governments — and is so exaggerated in Victoria — there is no way the political culture can bring that pressure to bear.
The media are failing, too. For all that they brag about “speaking truth to power” (as opposed, apparently, to just speaking truth), the left wing of the legacy media (which is to say, most of them) in Victoria are as slavish and supine in their adoration of Andrews as New Zealand’s are of Ardern.
The ABC has also failed us[…]The state press gallery in Melbourne is a ghostly chamber[…]
If the ABC was serving the nation, it would make sure it covered state politics properly. I could bear the loss of quite a lot of ABC comedy in return for good state political coverage. A state government should not get scrutiny only when its mistakes — such as those of the Andrews government — are so egregious as to demand national attention.
New Zealand doesn’t have states, but it has the same failings of good governance and media scrutiny as Victoria.
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