March 27, 2021
TRANSCRIPT OF TONY ABBOTT’S COMMENTS AT THE 8 DECEMBER 2020 CONFERENCE
Here are the extracts:
Eric, we cannot have another a year like the year we’ve just lived through, which has been corrosive of the human spirit, destructive of human liberties and disastrous for prosperity. Absolutely catastrophic.
Now, again every death is sad, but an illness which claims people at about the same age that they can be expected to die anyway is not something that we should have turned the world upside down over – at least after the initial period of looking at it and considering what the best way forward was. I think we should have proceeded with a lot fewer restrictions on people’s daily lives than we in fact have had.
I think we have never really been clear about our objective. Was it to flatten the curve, was it to suppress the illness, was it to eradicate the illness? And in Australia without ever really properly debating and deciding the matter, effectively we’ve got an eradication strategy.
Now you can eradicate the illness if initially, or in the face of any significant outbreaks, you introduce drastic lockdowns and you keep your borders closed more or less indefinitely. I’m not sure that is realistic – even with the vaccine now in the offing – I doubt that we can really get away for the for the medium term with a continued eradication strategy.
Frankly, once we knew what we were dealing with, I think we should have adopted a management strategy – which was to do our best to protect the vulnerable, to keep the health system functioning, but otherwise to allow people to get on with their lives.
And while governments have a duty to keep the health system running, while governments have a duty to protect people as far as they can, I’m not sure that government can close down or should close down society for any significant period of time simply to prevent people from dying of what have become natural causes, and that is effectively what I think coronavirus has now become.
I certainly think that it would be good if we could devise ways of keeping the disease out which are far less drastic and intrusive than a 14-day effective prison stay – so look, I think that’s well worth looking at, but again what we’ve got is this safety first mindset, better to be safe than sorry. And I guess it’s understandable at one level but in the end life is to be lived, not to be cowed from, and I just have this sense that too many of us have basically spent the year hiding under the doona. And if it was Ebola, fair enough, but it’s not.
In terms of virulence this pandemic is about on a par with the Hong Kong flu pandemic of the late 1960s and the Asian flu pandemic of the late 1950s and there was nothing like the economic and social reaction to those that we’ve had to this.
Now, I accept that people move on and times change but again I’m not sure that we are a more resilient society now than we were then. And I’d like to see more resilience, frankly, and a bit more stoicism in the face of various forms of peril.
Democracies are by nature risk-averse and the media by nature plays on people’s fears, but I think the problem is that in a country like Australia where 500 people a day roughly can be expected to die of natural causes anyway, we’ve allowed ourselves to fixate on a new cause as it were, and let that dominate everything. It’s very understandable why this has happened but I think the job of leadership is to keep things in more perspective than we’ve been able to over this last nine months or so.
So look, would we do this again when the next pandemic strikes – because there will be a future pandemic. When all of this has at least for the moment passed and we sit back and try to consider that I’d be very surprised if we say that we could do it all again exactly the same way.
I think that the next pandemic should be handled much more from a medical perspective and much less from a lockdown perspective. Keep the health system as beefed up as it needs to be to treat people, but don’t try to order people to give up their life for