Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there basically hasn’t been a public health measure the loony right hasn’t fervently opposed.
On 29 March 2020, just eight days after social distancing measures began, Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt was insisting, “Australians could be back at work in two weeks”. In July, as hundreds of new cases were being found daily in Victoria, Bolt came out against something as basic as the mask mandate.
For the right, nothing can be allowed to take precedence over business as usual and the sacred accumulation of profit, including public health. Even relatively innocuous measures, like the mask mandate, must be opposed because they lend credence to the idea that COVID-19 is a serious issue that requires a serious response, and perhaps even a reordering of priorities on the part of governments and corporations. Allowing the profits of the tourism, airline or hospitality industries to be interrupted for the sake of the social good sets a dangerous precedent. If public health is prioritised during a pandemic, what’s next? Prioritising the planet during a climate crisis?
To advance the case of their COVID-19 death cult, this hypocritical brood of vipers is willing to say absolutely anything.
Last year we had Peter Dutton criticising Queensland’s border restrictions and calling for a reopening, claiming these restrictions were “having a very negative impact on people’s mental health and it is really devastating families”. This is the man who, as minister for home affairs, oversaw Australia’s anti-refugee border regime, which included forcing refugees to abandon their families in order to receive resettlement in the US, not something that is known to improve mental health outcomes. And his commitment to free movement has never surfaced in the more than two decades in which the Liberal Party has thrived on imposing cruel border restrictions.
It’s not just Dutton. Last year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Health Minister Greg Hunt put out a joint statement criticising Victoria’s lockdown, claiming to be “deeply concerned about the mental health impacts of a prolonged lock down on Melbourne residents”.
For the same right-wingers who have implemented or supported cuts to social and health services to be crying about the mental health impacts of public health measures is cynicism of the highest order. But in the last two weeks, Bolt has upped the ante in the cynical stakes.
In his 2 May Herald Sun column, Bolt became an overnight anti-racist, arguing the government’s ban on flights from India was “so mean and irrational that I must also blame racism. I can’t believe we would impose such a travel ban on white Australians fleeing from, say, England”.
This is the same Andrew Bolt who in 2018 penned an article headlined “Foreign Invasion”, warning about Australia being “swamped by non-English-speaking immigrants”. This is the same man who last year sought to blame Victoria’s second wave on “tribalism” and “diversity—taken to extremes”. The same man who has repeatedly denied the legitimacy of the Stolen Generations. If you were to pick one journalist who encapsulated the racism of the Australian media, it would be Andrew Bolt.
Bolt doesn’t care about racism, just as Peter Dutton doesn’t care about separating families and Scott Morrison doesn’t care about your mental health. They are just grabbing at any excuse to stir up opposition to public health measures. And if their arguments go against everything they’ve previously stood for, all the better for entrapping and befuddling the naive.
Predictably, an embarrassing number of liberals and leftists on Twitter and related platforms promoted this line, congratulating Bolt on his stance. “Andrew Bolt has actually said something good for once”, trumpeted Junkee, describing his having “called out racism for what it was” as a welcome “pivot”. His history of depraved, pro-death opposition to public health measures seemed to be forgotten the minute he cynically invoked racism in pursuit of his disgraceful cause.
There is plenty to criticise this government for. That an adequate national quarantine system still hasn’t been implemented more than a year into this pandemic is an absolute outrage. If the government had bothered to construct a proper quarantine system, we could easily begin not only the repatriation of the 9,000 or so Australians in India, but also restart the refugee intake, which has been on hold since March of last year.
But Bolt is not worried about this. All he is concerned about is sowing doubt about the seriousness of COVID-19 and fuelling opposition to the necessary public health measures to contain it. The pandemic has so far discredited much of the far right. The left should not be helping to rehabilitate it.