By Joe Montero
Melbourne is going into a new Stage 3 lockdown and it will last for at least 6 weeks. This is what the new Coronavirus outbreak has led to, proving once and for all, that a new outbreak could take place anywhere in Australia and at any time.
The battle against the Coronavirus is still far from being won.
Another reality is, that there are some who are less principled than others, who seek to use the situation for cheap point scoring. Blaming the Victorian government for the new outbreak is wrong, as it is to blame Scott Morrison for the initial arrival of the virus into Australia.
Accusations like these, cover up that this is an infection the whole world is having difficulty in coming to grips with. Recognising this does not mean that there can be no or should be no criticism, over the way the response has been carried out.
The difference is that this is an argument over how to best deal with the situation. Although the Morrison government’s handling of the matter was better than some other governments, it still left plenty of room for improvement. and the states were largely locked into this national response, Victoria included.
This brings us to the new Melbourne outbreak. The just announced lockdown is necessary. No doubt about it. At the same time, there are grounds for saying that so far, there has been far from enough to ensure, that the effort is put into effect in a humane way.
Taking on the Coronavirus should have never have been mainly about policing and the community little more than a mass to be told what to do. This disenpowers and breeds resentment. There should be a balance between involvement and the enforcement of necessary measures.
Experiences around the world have shown that when governments showing confidence in their people, consulting with them, and enlisting their active involvement as partners, the fight against the infection is much more effective.
Some may not like to hear that among the most successful nations have been China, Cuba, Venezuela, Vietnam, Korea (both sides of the divide), and some of the European countries. A common thread has been isolation, mixed with on the ground widespread local participation.
Communities organised themselves to deal with ensuring neighbours are properly informed, provide food and other physical necessities, organise widespread testing of residents, and make sure no one is left alone.
The scores are on the board. Participation has been a key factor in generating cooperation keeping up morale. Combined with a proportional medical response, this has led to much greater success in bringing down the rates of infection and deaths.
Through this, citizens are much more likely to see themselves being valued and part of the decision making, which makes them far more likely to do the right thing.
Add to this the need to ensure the livelihoods of those at risk are protected now and into the foreseeable future.
Although Australia might not have been the worst of nations in taking on the challenge, a lot more could have still been done.
There are those who have been putting themselves out ans landing a hand. Many more would do so if they had the political leadership.
A big reason for the failure, is that the Australian political system and political culture are not designed to involve citizens and communities as active participants.
The running of affairs is left in the hands of politicians and officials. The population is reduced to a mob that should stay out of the way, because a population organised and mobilised for a common purpose, is seen as a threat by the powerful.
However, unfolding events are proving that to meet the challenges of the day, a major shift is necessary, and this extends further than the Coronavirus.
A combination of climate warming and greater mobility, means that serious epidemics are going to be more frequent. Viruses are becoming increasingly resistant. We are now having a taste of what is going to happen more often in the near future.
The Coronavirus arrived at a time, when the economy was already suffering from systemic stagnation and decline in real terms, and in addition to the health impact, the outbreak has brought considerable extra damage to an already sick economy.
Cut through the hype and it remains that a new economy must be built to meet the challenges of the future, and this requires the active and conscious participation of the whole of society. It also means that political change is also necessary.
Little is possible if people are not put in the first place. Citizens must see that they are consulted, play an effective part in the decision making, and are justly rewarded.
Relying on the market as the solver of the problems is not going to cut it. Only the conscious will of the population and a capacity to implement it, will provide the solutions that are needed.
Back to the present outbreak in Victoria. Combating the Corona virus is a testing ground of our capabilities, can be a vehicle to develop our communities, and an opportunity for a foundation stone towards building a new political and economic reality.
Right now, Victoria has the chance to set the example for the rest of Australia