Britain rediscovers liberal democracy on vaccine passports – while Australia trashes it

As reported in yesterday’s Morning Double Shot newsletter, in Britain and Australia we have two countries, two opposing approaches to the same problem.

In the UK, Boris Johnson, the master of political reversal, has somehow rediscovered what it means to be a Conservative. Not only does he have abandoned vaccination passports,. On the same day, Johnson also released a statement that his government repeal in the near future some of the emergency powers enacted by theCoronavirus Act 2020.

Powers that are “no longer needed” include the power to shut down sectors of the economy, enforce restrictions on events and gatherings, disrupt education and childcare, extend deadlines for urgent warrants or to detain infectious persons.

In Australia, we are driven every day to jim crow medical, where unvaccinated people will be considered unfit to participate in society.

The report in The Sunday Times on Boris’ maneuvers made some interesting observations that should not go unnoticed. The article stated that: “Vaccine passports are considered a redundant measure given the ongoing community transmission. New research also suggests that national vaccine passports increase hesitancy and distrust of governments.

In terms of ongoing transmission, the report notes that with a high percentage of the population double-dose, between February 1 and August 29 there were – wait for it – 1,054 vaccinated deaths and 536 unvaccinated deaths. So much for the “pandemic of the unvaccinated”.

Moreover, while in the UK laws restricting fundamental freedoms are being repealed, here in Australia the government is stepping up its surveillance. The federal parliament has just passed a law which will grant major law enforcement agencies intrusive new powers to tackle cybercrime on the dark web, but the new law has some groups worried about the breadth of capabilities it unlocks.

The hasty passage of Surveillance (Identity and Disruption) Legislation Amendment Bill 2020 has been heavily criticized by some legal bodies who argue that the Morrison government has not fully considered the recommendations provided by the Joint House Committee on Intelligence and Security.

The Law Council of Australia has expressed concerns about the bill, saying it omits key recommendations made by the PJCIS, particularly regarding the implementation of key safeguards.

Concerns about the use of the extraordinary and unprecedented new powers have also been raised by the Human Rights Law Center, including their possible use against journalists and whistleblowers:

Since the powers are unprecedented and extraordinarily intrusive, they should have been limited to what is strictly necessary and subject to strong safeguards. This is why the Committee unanimously recommended significant changes.

It is alarming that instead of accepting the Committee’s recommendations and allowing time to consider subsequent amendments, the Morrison government has rushed these laws through Parliament in less than 24 hours.

As Double Shot said yesterday, the message that so-called liberal governments send is that freedom of thought only goes so far as these governments allow their citizens to think. Liberal democracy in Australia is in intensive care, while in other parts of the world it is being brought back to life.

Dr. Rocco Loiacono is a senior lecturer at Curtin Law School.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Curtin University.