Oz Blog News Commentary

How much for your life?

July 16, 2020 - 08:50 -- Admin

In August 1990, the
army of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded neighbouring Kuwait. The UN
Security Council demanded an immediate withdrawal of Iraqi troops, while a NATO
official said the aim of the sanctions which had been imposed by various
nations was ‘to cripple Iraq totally, chiefly by refusing to buy any of their

Thirty years ago, when
the Hawke government decided to join the attempt to oust Saddam Hussein’s army
from Kuwait, I seem to remember the late, great Paul Lyneham interviewing Bob
Hawke at the time, and asking how many body bags would need to be sent with any
Australian troops. However, I can find no reference to that online, even among
the transcripts of Prime Ministers speeches, interviews etc.2, so
maybe it didn’t happen as I remember it. While I was searching for it, I
stumbled across other interviews between Lyneham and Bob Hawke. One of those
concerning the invasion of Kuwait and the Australian participation is
interesting to read. Lyneham asks the questions and Hawke answers them3.
There is no “I do not agree with the premise of your question” or “I don’t comment
on gossip”. However, that is another story dealt with elsewhere4.
What I am on about here is the price of a life. In my memory, Hawke was very upset
that Lyneham asked about the reality of the cost of his decisions in lives.

Scott Morrison has said that we cannot shut
the country down in response to a second wave of Covid-19 infections to try to
eliminate the virus. This was in response to renewed debate around whether
Australia should respond to the latest outbreak and a spike in community
transmission with more forceful lockdowns. Furthermore, Morrison said on
Wednesday elimination was impractical, which was at odds with Victoria’s chief
health officer Brett Sutton who told reporters it was an idea “worthy of
consideration”. Sutton added that any shift in the public health strategy would
require consideration by chief medical officers and leaders through the
national cabinet5.

The Premier of New
South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian said on July 14 on the Australian Broadcasting
Corporation’s 7.30: “As much as we’d love to have
elimination, as much as we’d love to be able to be in that state, it’s not
going to happen in New South Wales”6. She received effusive support
from former Victorian Premier who tweeted on July 15: “Congratulations! NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian
correct [sic]. You can’t shut down every time you have a cluster of cases. Here
in Victoria we must learn to manage the virus and keep our lights on”7. Of course, the Murdoch
hack, Adam Creighton, who clearly still thinks he is an epidemiologist, was also
on the ‘don’t lockdown’ bandwagon, presumably at the behest of his editor at The
Australian. He said: “After weeks of ‘second wave’ hysteria
that’s put 5m people in lockdown for 6 weeks, still only 17 people in ICU in
Victoria with Covid-19 (over 4000 ICU beds avail). Meanwhile 107 Victorians are
dying EVERY DAY from other causes”8. This follows his tweet on March 30
when there were 18 dead (there are now 111) around Australia; in that, he said:
“This deliberate economic and
social catastrophe is unnecessary. It will tear us apart for a generation. 18
dead. Why not quarantine the elderly, stop travel, keep people in work and
avoid economic collapse?” Admittedly, being a Murdoch hack makes him impervious
to evidence, which was freely available on the web at the time, as I then explained9.
Even then, it was clear that for a proportion (now about 30%) of people who are
treated in intensive care and do recover, damage to lungs is permanent. One of
the authors of a recent review in Nature Medicine has said “Physicians need to think of
COVID-19 as a multisystem disease, … There’s a lot of news about clotting but
it’s also important to understand that a substantial proportion of these
patients suffer kidney, heart and brain damage, and physicians need to treat
those conditions along with the respiratory disease”10.

New Zealand has
eliminated the disease from its shores, with the only cases now coming from Kiwis
returning from overseas, most notably from India, Australia and the USA, and all
of whom are in isolation11. The last new case in New Zealand was in
late May, and from June 9, New Zealand lifted almost all Covid-19 restrictions
after there were no remaining active cases in the country. Under new rules, social distancing is not
required and there are no limits on public gatherings, but borders remain
closed to foreigners. Shops and other businesses are open, people can go to
cafes, restaurants, pubs, sporting events, weddings, funerals, and travel on public
transport12,13. Life has largely returned to something approaching ‘normal’.
New Zealand has a population just over 5 million, and has had 1,547 Covid-19
cases and 22 deaths. That is 309 cases per million population, and 4.4 deaths
per million, and these are relatively static. Australia has now had 10,487
cases and 111 deaths. That is 411 cases per million population and a similar 4.4
deaths per million14, and these seem to be slowly increasing with
the outbreaks in Victoria and New South Wales.

The main concern of
the conservatives mentioned above is to keep the money flowing through the
economy at the insignificant cost of a ‘few’ more deaths as outbreaks like that
in Victoria and New South Wales recur. This does make you wonder where the real
journalists are these days; those with enough gumption to ask people like
Morrison and Berejiklian how many lives they are willing to sacrifice in a bid
to placate people like Creighton’s boss Rupert Murdoch. It also makes you
wonder where Australia’s economy would be if the Morrison government had been
as aggressively successful as the Ardern government. However, that would be
pointless; the Morrison government is simply incapable. They have, as they say,
their eye upon the hole and not upon the doughnut. That is why we are going to
suffer a much more prolonged viral agony than those across the ditch. That
agony will be measured in lives.