Australians were shocked when the news of the potential enormity of the coronavirus pandemic struck in early 2020. Many were also terrified, justifiably concerned about the impact of the virus and its particularly high mortality rate amongst the elderly. Mercifully, the impact of the virus on children was relatively benign but there wasn’t a family that didn’t have elderly relatives that didn’t look at the one in six mortality rates for older people and pray they would not be infected.
The response of the media to the pandemic was hysterical and frankly irresponsible. Every day brought a body count of fresh Covid deaths, new infections, and stories about outbreaks. It was a drip feed of loss, tragedy, and outrage. Media hysteria drove panic buying that emptied supermarkets around the country after Australians feared a breakdown in supply chains. A significant portion of the population seriously believed society would begin to disintegrate around them and it would be every man for themselves.
In such a febrile environment, the response of our political class was not measured, assured, or thoughtful. Our politicians, on both sides, stoked the fear, genuflected to it, and morphed it into a broad range of heavily intrusive policy measures purportedly based on fully disclosed health advice. These interventions were unprecedented and highly damaging to jobs, economic activity while curtailing fundamental personal freedoms. Transparency around these decision-making processes was limited and dissenting voices were ruthlessly pilloried and shut down.