Almost every day for the last few months, I have received DMs from people in various parts of the world (esp the US) asking how Australia fell under some Orwellian tyranny with our major cities under public health orders/lockdowns. I think I need to explain 'Australia 101'.
Firstly, there is Australia's size. We are 26m people on a massive island at the world's end. Many of your countries would be mere suburbs or farms here. And your countries are where our population has largely fled from to come here. People still flee here. Not bad, really.
Secondly, Australia was a rugby & cricket team before it was a country. The Australian nation-state was born on 01 January 1901 when our Constitution came into effect. We are a Federation, so our States with their 'police power' run much domestics vs the national Govt which has $
Thirdly, Australia is a monarchy - this is important as we are not a republic, indeed, we never rebelled. Our civic culture is of a very law-abiding & form-filling out people. If there is a queue, Australians will form it. Ironic given some of Australia starts as a penal colony.
Fourthly, whereas the Americans saw the Crown & the State as some tyranny to be thrown off (the ingrates....), Australians saw the Crown & the State as an essential builder. The Crown has always played a large role in our life, building infrastructure & remediating problems.
Fifthly, as the Crown/State had played a positive role in building & remediating, there is a large degree of civic trust. Our institutions mostly work well, our most important public officials are not politicians & so people generally have faith that the process should/can work.
Noting the above, this means that, in a pandemic (or any sort of crisis) Australians, generally, trust that the functional parts of the government will work well (Police, armed forces, science nerds etc) & that they will get the benefit of the doubt & significant cooperation.
Additionally, we Australians inherited and have maintained a sort of quasi-British culture of muddling through, esp in War, with the expectation that everyone will do their part, complain but still play on our team, and otherwise desist from being dramatic or attention seeking
The reciprocal aspect of these traits is that Australians expect Govts to protect "home". Australia has for decades (regardless of who is in Govt) had both a significant legal immigration & refugee resettlement program as well as a very consistent denial of illegal immigration.
The Australian expectation that the Crown & Govt will protect "home" is longstanding. One of the key drivers for Federation of the British colonies that become Australia in 1901 was defence and security....our ever present awareness of our geography & relatively small population
Put all these traits together and Australians expect their Federal and State Govts to protect "home" from a pandemic - esp as, after WW1, in which Australians already suffered an enormous casualty toll, we then suffered terribly as a remote people from the ravages of Spanish Flu.
Where foreign observers may see the Australian lockdowns in Sydney etal as severe, we are not yet sufficiently vaccinated to relax measures & we also have populations who are vulnerable to Covid esp Indigenous populations. I emphasise "we". Australians are just more "we" than "I"
As far as the apparent tyranny that Australians labour under goes, it is quite mild. Unfortunately this week in Sydney, the Police did seek some military assistance but this is unarmed & will be freeing Police to do policing. The Police hate Covid enforcement as do the military.
Many Australians have considerable anxiety about getting out of lockdowns & resuming normal life. Many of the mores that make Australia the greatest place to live are on hold for now. We will be OK though & our general cultural tendency as Australians is to 'grit' through trouble
In respect of the current crisis, we as Australians will have to learn how to live with Covid, even as we vaccinate and learn to open up. But, at the same time, the general Australian expectation is that Govt will do all in its power to minimise deaths and infections.
I do not want to paint a too broad picture but it is important to emphasise that Australia is different. We expect Govts to do positive things for the 'common weal' hence we are a Commonwealth of Australia. We have a mixed healthcare system that takes care of everyone mostly well
Similarly, when the pandemic started last year, a somewhat conservative Australian government opened the national chequebook to 'conserve' the nation laid low by the pandemic's economic collapse. There is just no constituency here for meth-addicted, 'let it rip', libertarianism.
Thus, where some people see Australia 2021 as "freedom lost, they need guns".... Australians (inc those with guns in a huge country) think that is a very strange take. Instead, this is a country in which we all grow up aware of how tough life here can be-flood, fires, drought etc
To make a country of Australia's size, with our relatively small population, work, in a Federation, with all our natural advantages and disadvantages, there is just a large element of communitarianism in our civic culture. We all suffer things together for the greater good.
To return to what I said before: Australians are very law abiding, form filling, people. We all pretty much (except for some cranks) wear our masks and check in with the Covid app when shopping. People expect everyone to do the right thing & will call Police on those who do not!
One reason I am reasonably optimistic about Australia's Vaccination program eventually delivering is that it is slowly resembling our War mentality: Australians expect everyone to do their part & get vaccinated & those who refuse are being treated as traitors not dissenters.
In short, Australians are a herd and we expect everyone in our herd to do their part to protect the weakest in the herd. That means gritting through lockdowns, that means getting vaccinated, that means shutting the proverbial up about your issues, as someone may lose a loved one
One reason every young Australian grows up learning the story about Simpson and his donkey at Gallipoli is because Simpson epitomised that part of the Australian spirit that says we look after each other & we always help our weak & our wounded. It is a very Australian story.
I would only add that under Australia's Constitution of Crown & Parliament at Federal & State levels: we have frequent elections, we even have compulsory voting on a Saturday, so if Govt oversteps its remit or fails our people, the people can remove them, as per our Constitution.

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More from @GrayConnolly

31 Jul
Welcome to the Sydney Lockdown day 37 ....

[Max Dupain, "Gilmore's Bookshop, Bond Street, Sydney", 1936]

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#Insiders - what is David Speers going on about? Sydney is the national engine room. If David's package from the Country Road remainder sale was delayed because the western Sydney mail centres were locked down, he would be the first to complain
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30 Jul
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Some of us did try to warn in January that the Vaccine rollout was a cluster in the making but almost no one in media or politics was interested. Morrison & Hunt would not had the first clue but relied on Prof Murphy & the doctors lobby. Crazy.…
If you protest in Sydney today, you are a fool and deserve the full force of the law coming down on you. [Also, if you excused the BLM protests this time last year, no serious person cares what you think. You own this mess.]

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29 Jul
Welcome to the Sydney Lockdown day 35 ....

[Max Dupain, "The tug Hero towing Pamir to Sydney Heads", 1947]

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Gladys calling on everyone to get vaccinated.
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Gladys to fight for New South Wales to get "its share" of vaccine supplies so that more people can get vaccinated .... a lot of "jabs in arms"

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28 Jul
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[Max Dupain, Sydney Harbour Bridge from Observatory Hill, 1930s]

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The 'hottest places in Hell' in this Sydney lockdown are reserved for every person who contributed to vaccine hesitancy esp in relation to the Astra-Zeneca jab - and everyone in Govt, esp ATAGI, who let this hesitancy become endemic.

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20 Jul
Welcome to the Sydney Lockdown day 26 ....

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Please note that I have no trouble with near mandatory Vaccination: Vaccines work on Herd Immunity & some of the Herd's more vulnerable canot have the Vaccine. You (whether you accept this or not) have a moral duty to help protect the Herd's weakest.
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There are few upsides to a lockdown but purging one's followership of anti-Vax cranks and FB group paranoids .... in Australia, we are all part of Medicare & the Tax system. The Govt already knows a huge amount about you. You are not that interesting.
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19 Jul
Welcome to the Sydney Lockdown day 25 ....

(The HMAS Sydney (1) mast and Naval memorial at Bradleys Head, Mosman, in happier, pre-Covid times)

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For all in Sydney (or, indeed, anywhere) .... happier times

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For the Government staffers who follow me:
- every day we are in this, we think of glacial vaccines rollout & problems obvious in January. That is on you in Canberra. There is an election due next May...
- It is July & there is still no reopening plan
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