That’s the headline from an article I published in Independent Australia last week. Apparently, rather than offer a serious response to the unfolding disaster, Berejklian and Morrison intend to send in more troops.
The incapacity of NSW Premier Gladys Berejklian’s “gold standard” Government to contain the latest outbreak of COVID-19 has become a political liability for Prime Minister Scott Morrison. So, as has become standard in such situations, Morrison called in the army, offering 300 troops for what was described as a “crackdown” on compliance with COVID-19 regulations.
The practical impact of this deployment is virtually zero. The NSW Police Force has over 18,000 officers along with thousands of other employees who could assist with many of the routine tasks involved in compliance checking.
4 thoughts on “Government reliance on army for lockdowns a weak move”
Agreed, absolute overkill. And even if the additional manpower was strictly necessary there is no need to have them walking around in camouflage / combat uniform. They seem to be confusing compliance with intimidation.
Still got to see a single country where the army made a notable positive contribution to Covid containment. Not even going to the point of proportional to the military budget or anything…. just noticeable. One would think for example, soldiers could do at home delivery of food or sth. like that.
I agree that the use of army personnel in this manner, in the current NSW pandemic context, is symbolic, token, ineffective and probably even counter-productive. The symbolism sends the wrong message. However, we on the left who are calling for stronger or more effective state action, implying a widening of state powers as well as state inititavies, in the context of being a democratic nation in a dangerous pandemic, must still grapple with the issues of both education and compliance. Where information and education fail, why do they fail? Where information and education are arguably “good enough” and still fail, if they are, how are greater compliance measures to be implemented? And what sanctions ought to be applied for non-compliance?
The moderate left, as democratic socialists, cannot dodge these question lest they be characterized as unrealistic about human nature and suffer accordingly at the ballot box. More importantly, leftist prescriptions will fail to deal with social problems, including public health problems, if recalcitrant and recidivist persons are not wisely dealt with before (with preemptive social programs) and and/or when they offend against measures, like the cordon sanitaire, implemented for the common good.
The mention of preemptive social action introduces the general theme of the failure of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism partly dismantled a range of social programs in the arenas of health, welfare and education. If you sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind. Create uneducated, deprived, alienated and angry people with no stake in the current system and that is a recipe for social disintegration. Neoliberalism, or rather the people subjected to it and suffering under it, is/are now reaping what it has sown. Selfish individualism and a range of behaviors which could be characterized as anything from boganism to glibertariaisnism to lumpenproletarian behaviors threaten to undo all efforts to stop this pandemic. Of course, we have to add in the incompetent efforts of the neoliberal NSW and Federal govts led by individuals who clearly do not understand the science at all or else place their own ideological and personal priorities above both science and the public good.
If and when in power, the moderate left must confront these issues.Social programs in the arenas of health, welfare and education must be greatly revived along with programs like infrastructure renewal and dealing with climate change and the zoonotic disease dangers which will keep arising in an overpopulated, over-connected world continuously encroaching on the wilds (until if and when that problem set is solved).
By the same token, moderate left governments must make it clear, via a Left Realist stance, that with rights to proper social programs, equality and inclusivity in the arenas of health, welfare, education and others, come responsibilities for citizens, in line with their abilities, to be constructive contributors to, or at least not mischievous, malicious or criminal disrupters of the social and common good. In other words, after all enlightened measures are taken, persistent, deliberate, lumpenproletarian  behavior simply cannot and should not be tolerated. For sure, further attempts should be made at enlightened measures and reformation, rather than blind punishment or coercion.At the same time it must be realized that intelligent sociopaths and psychopaths will attempt to game enlightened tolerance.
A point must come, when even enlightened tolerance towards some runs out and consequences may need to be quite severe for behaviors which amount to social and economic sabotage. In a potentially exponential pandemic these behaviors can result in a rapidly escalating disease burden, many deaths and the destruction of economic value which is (formalistically) measurable in the millions of dollars.
Arson is regarded as a very serious crime not just because it can result in deaths and property destruction but because a single spark can escalate in a contagion manner into vast blaze causing immense quantities of death and destruction. Pandemic arson is just as bad. Honest mistakes and innocent asymptomatic transmission are clearly not pandemic arson. But there appear o be some cases where behavior is egregious enough to approach the definition. At some point, something like the concept of pandemic arson has to be brought home to people, if all enlightened attempts to educate fail.
1. Lumpenproletariat – An underclass devoid of class or social consciousness or conscience. The unthinking lower strata of society exploited by reactionary forces. Trumpian rednecks are a good example as are the worst of the racist police in the USA..
JQ, I consulted a former graduate Officer on this topic. He agrees with your assessment. In his opinion, the employment of military personnel in civilian matters is useful if the employment is very short term (weeks or at most a few months) and it involves heavy machinery and engineers. He gave substantial bushfires, earthquakes, floods as examples. In his opinion, dealing with the Sars-Cov2 virus and its variants is a long term project and there is no obvious need for an engineers corps that can build a temporary bridge in a day or two or clear blocked roads or demolish and clean up damaged buildings that have been assessed as unsafe by civilian engineers who pass on the job to the military (clear command structure).