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Byron Shire
October 16, 2021

Opinion: Finally, some things we can ALL agree on

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Now for the seemingly impossible – a tight-rope, Pollyanna-esque attempt at ten propositions on the virus, masks, vaccines, and lock-downs on which the whole entire North Coast will unanimously agree. Dare me?

One: that Annastacia Palaszczuk is just plain mean. She’s the nasty smug schoolyard bully who won’t let kids with cancer get treatment over the border, who blocks children from visiting their dying parents, who has isolated pre-term newborns and who has made the border impassable for essential workers. It is state jingo tribalism gone mad – impassable, except if she needs to go to Japan unnecessarily for the Olympics of course. Or to let football teams in. Or celebrities.

Two: Gladys is like the prefect at school who savoured dobbing in the gentlefolk having a bong behind the metal-work shed. The NSW team at Gladys’s press conferences reek of racist, classist, anti-immigrant dog-whistling. Roughly translated, the message is ‘If you Westie others/new immigrant/sub sub sub subcontractor/non-Anglo/western NSW people would just behave yourselves – as we did in the Northern Beaches or Eastern Suburbs – we would have been out of this mess ages ago’.

Former magistrate David Heilpern. Photo Jeff Dawson

Let’s not dwell on the inevitable neoliberal consequences of overcrowding, disengagement, or insecure employment. Or what we Marxists used to call ‘alienation’. Nor should we dwell on her failure to lock things down early, or on the previously unavailable vaccines. We should just blame the victims.

The deputy health officer (since disappeared) nailed it when she went off-script and said that the vast majority of cases were not from people doing the wrong thing at all! It was because they were essential workers and lived in larger households.

Three: Scott Morrison is all smoke, no mirrors. He reminds me of the kid in the playground who you just know is going to end up being a pastor in a one-tent uncharismatic church somewhere west of the great divide. When he says “the national plan is crystal clear” I can’t decide to laugh, cry or poke myself in the eye. I usually do all three.

Four: ‘The rules’ (all 57 pages) are so ridiculously complex and ambiguous that you need a whole team of lawyers to work out what you can and can’t do. And I know this because my legal eagle mates are failing and flailing. Just for example, here is the key rule when in stay-at-home lockdown; you must stay at home unless you have a reasonable excuse to leave. A reasonable excuse includes ‘to obtain goods or services… for the personal needs of the person’s household or for other household purposes, including for vulnerable persons or pets’. So, what if you have a ‘household purpose’ (whatever that is) which is not a need, but just a want? Like, say, getting some new tiles for the bathroom? The sad truth is that the more ambiguous a law is, the more it hands powers to the enforcers – so don’t worry too much because the police or soldiers will soon set you straight.

Five: Our fortress Australia rules have led to grave injustice and hung citizens out to dry. The way we still have Aussies overseas who are desperate to come home is just cruel and incompetent. The caps are an indictment of our federal government, which promised to have them all home over a year ago. Different rules, of course, for those who are on a business trip, and for politicians. To top it off, there was also the Kafkaesque rule on stopping people from leaving. WTF!?

Six: They need to stop showing the Full Monty of injections on the television. I have to watch the news with my hand over my eyes, which is juvenile-precious but there you go. At the start, syringes puncturing skin were blurred, or hidden, or just implied. Now it is the whole vaccine porn over and over again. How can I eat my dinner on my lap with that nauseating squirm-inducing vision?

Seven: My trusted health advisors tell me there is no harm and lots of potential help, vaxed or not, in taking zinc and vitamin D. The case for building immunity, decreasing obesity and wellbeing is overwhelming. It’s called preventative health. So, where’s the education campaign? Not a peep.

Eight: And this is good news, in the last few weeks the federal government has introduced its vaccination compensation scheme for adverse effects. This is Australia playing catch-up with the rest of the world.

Nine: There is a second pandemic – of videos. There is a reason that education and research is based on written material with references, and not three-hour raves without any. The former allows for checking, mulling over, comparing and critiquing. The latter permits sleep, hoodwinking, and boredom. I recently was emailed a list of sixteen videos that I ‘must watch’ totalling eighty hours of viewing pleasure. Who has two weeks spare for that when Netflix’s offerings are so much more fun?

Ten: Lockdown is really really hard on families with school-aged children. For myself, I can readily confess that if this had all occurred when my children were young, my career would have been interrupted with a stint in detention for committing acts of cruelty or violence on them, or me, or both. We must make safe return to school a priority.

So, is there more that unites us than divides us? Probably not. But it is worth remembering that we can at least chose things to whinge, worry, and rage about that are common to us all.

And as Norman Swan recently quoth, ‘for every complex problem there is a solution which is clear, simple, and wrong.’ (–H.L. Mencken)

May peace be with you.

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  1. Good article David Heilpern.
    As we parents have now become school teachers , where’s our 2 week school break to recoup ourselves ? Try being locked down with 2 autistic school age children and not losing it at least once. No breaks, no respite , no adult human contact. I used to be able to go to the toilet once the children had gone to school. I just want 5 minutes to myself, to go have a quite uninterrupted poop and a 3 minute shower . If so called freedom day is 11th Oct when we supposedly can be “free” again , why the hell have they locked us down 7 days before hand? Smells like “freedom” day is BS to me !

  2. Generally well done, David and I’d give it a 9/10 – 9.5/10. I don’t know why Annastacia is singled out for particular scorn when all the states – including NSW last year re Vic – have implemented very similar regimes, including not allowing interstate people to visit dying parents. Perhaps the considerations in the balance are that people visiting dying rellies may pave the way to creating more dying elderly rellies for others to visit.

    I don’t understand the situation about health care either as I know of some locals barred and others allowed over for non-urgent stuff. It seemed to depend on the attitude of the hospital or even the treating doctor and perhaps there were considerations behind this that we are just not privy to. Some of the stories about people unable to access health care across the border are heart breaking but perhaps allowing parents from the plague state into a children’s cancer ward is fraught with unacceptable risk.

    These are not easy decisions I’m sure, but I wonder how many are down to Annastacia personally, how many to the CHO and how many to those closest to the relevant information on the ground. Assuming it’s all about bullying and politics is a bit of a leap.

    Essential workers have been crossing the border with the introduction of a vaccination mandate. Given the number of skirmishes with the virus caused by interstate drivers, this seems an eminently sensible measure to look after the citizens of Queensland. The border bubble LGAs have come in and out of the bubble according to their lockdown status as determined by the NSW government and I assume those barred would be the ones not working if they worked in their own LGA. There is that degree of cooperation between the states.

    Overall a very challenging task you have set yourself and a good effort. I look forward to reading the deluge of others assessments you will no doubt receive!

  3. Brilliant remarks /comments and humour as always David. HOWEVER, YOU WILL NEVER CONVINCE THOSE OPPOSED TO VACCINES RE COVID & DELTA, I have tried & I’m sure you have too. The death rate speaks for itself , so this is not fake news. I guess some people believe that faking ones own death is somehow possible ? I realise even fully vaccinated citizens can still get the virus & pass it on, but their chances of survival are far better. Great to see the Greens Viva Tamara Smith …supporting vaccines. As someone has already stated here, pity Byron Mayor Mr Lyons (x Greens) couldn’t do the same as Tamara. Hey! maybe the planet is better off without all of us, that’s a given……… I was being sarcastic .

  4. Good analysis David.
    As far as Queensland is concerned I am amazed at the general incompetence. If you live in the Border Bubble and fill in the request to a pass, you will be asked a lot of questions … however no question on “have you been vaccinated” ?
    Bizarre! All the talk about being vaccinated, when you can enter Queensland without ever been asked the question!!

    • I’d still rather be there right now and, if Byron keeps going in the direction it is, we soon may as well be on the Goldie.

  5. Thanks David – the voice of reason is always welcome, dispelling the myth that if you support vaccination, you are by default a lackey of the Cabal. It is possible to be critical of the system and the enactment of public health policy and at the same time recognising the need for restrictions to protect the community.


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