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The trouble with lockdowns in a democracy | ticker VIEWS

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Let me start by saying this: Lockdowns work. They have saved thousands of people’s lives and avoided a full blown medical catastrophe. But they only work while they’re in place.

And after 18 months of this – we’ve worked out the problem with lockdowns in democracies.

I remember sitting in the Ticker newsroom at 5am on a Monday morning in January last year. It was a small office as we were just a startup media news company back then.

As I looked around for stories to put in our 8am news bulletin, the obvious choice was the situation in China. The pictures coming out of Wuhan were frightening but felt like a world away. Streets being disinfected by ridiculously menacing looking machines. It truly felt like a 90s sci fi film.

Chinese streets being disinfected last January.
Chinese streets being disinfected last January.

But it was the sudden lockdown in China that was the story. We’d never seen anything like it in Australia, and had never even considered the thought that the government had the power to force people to stay home, welding apartment complex doors shut. Forcing people to isolate from each other, closing 11 major cities across China. All by the way, allowing international travel out of the country. We shrugged it off as “glad we don’t live under a totalitarian state:”.

Then alarmingly, the first case showed up In Melbourne. We know what happened after that.

ENDLESS LOCKDOWN

The trouble with lockdowns is once they start, there’s no point lifting them. Even as vaccination rates increase in the UK, and Freedom Day is days away, there’s growing debate about whether it’s safe to do so. In Spain, despite the jabs, restrictions are coming back.

We should have worked out now that as soon as lockdowns are lifted, despite the best efforts of all of us to follow the rules, circumstances outside of our control means we end up back in lockdown.

There are too many variables. The states blame the slow vaccine rollout and the lack of federal government controlled outback quarantine facilities. The federal government blames the states.

And now in Australia, the two largest states are in lockdown, with no end in sight, in the dead of winter.

It was the obvious question late last year as the Victorian Premier urged forced us to stay in lockdown to get the rolling average number of daily cases to below five, and then eventually eradicate the virus. It’s as if we win. But this doesn’t end.

The problem was obvious at the time but conveniently overlooked by politicians. The flights kept arriving, the cargo ships kept arriving. It might be possible to lock the population down, but it’s impossible to remain an affluent nation without allowing people to return home, or for cargo ships to arrive with products to build homes or sell in stores.

It’s also impossible to continue your way of life in lockdown.

THE SOCIALIST REVOLUTION?

Perhaps the most frightening outcome of this situation is the empowerment of certain parts of society over others. And the tragic inequality that lockdowns have on society. For example, if you work for the government, your circumstances aren’t the same as someone who is a sole trader or an employee in private enterprise. When the government snaps, you are unable to go to work. If your job requires you to be at a workplace, then you are out of work. And government assistance isn’t enough to cover your costs.

Too many journalists have fallen for the theatre of the daily press conferences, rather than reflecting the concerns of the people who are suddenly unemployed.

While every vote is treated as equal, every circumstance isn’t.

Over the past year and a half, businesses have lost so many employees that people who were thinking of leaving before now have no reason to ever come back. In the TV industry, it’s now hard to find people to take jobs, because so many people left the industry for good. The legal industry is facing the same crisis, made worse by a lack of immigrants to fill roles.

I have friends who drive trams, and even though public transport patronage is well down on pre-pandemic levels, the drivers haven’t been impacted. Governments have swollen. Debts have ballooned.

And yet, we’re not fussed by that. For the past decade, debt levels in local, state and federal governments have soared, yet because the economies have been growing thanks to Chinese buying power and immigration levels, the threat of debt hasn’t been something on our minds. We might have a big credit card, but we have had the money to pay it. Move on.

But now without immigration, and with China buying less of our non-resource based goods, no one seems able to answer the question – what comes next?

NOT EVERY BUSINESS IS A BIG BUSINESS

The hardest part of watching thing pandemic and transition play out is watching it through the eyes of running a business. I’m no longer just a journalist, I am accountable for 20 staff. It completely changes how you look at the world. It’s not just about my career anymore, it’s about their job security, mortgages and expenses.

When I hear or report on conversations about “business should be doing more” my eye twitches. Because what they actually mean is big faceless corporations. The big companies with big profits. The Harvey Normans, the Coles, the banks.

But unfortunately, the rules imposed on (big) business often impact small and medium business – whether it’s by increasing superannuation, or assuming business doesn’t need anything in the budget because corporate profits have rebounded. But not every business received JobKeeper.

Then there are the things you can’t measure. For example, when the Victorian government slapped a levy on big business to help pay for mental health (which suffered greatly due to the Victorian government’s record breaking lockdown), the banks responded by not hiring back 3-400 staff they were planning to. Marketing budgets were cut. The flow on continues.

When you lockdown the people of Sydney and Melbourne, thousands of businesses suffer in every other state – yet they’re not the recipient of any government funding available to businesses in the locked down states. It’s all too convenient.

TALL, SUBERVIENT POPPIES

Victoria was only just in a full blown lockdown just over a month ago. We all abided by the rules, giving up our freedoms, our exercise, our happiness at the dreariest time of year in the hopes of avoiding another prolonged lockdown.

But it didn’t stop it. Because you can’t stop a virus or human nature. When those three revivalists arrived in Victoria, the Andrews government was off the hook. This lockdown hasn’t led to the usual blue faced anger of past restrictions. Most of us have given up fighting. When the lockdown for midnight Thursday was announced late in the day, it didn’t surprise me. People don’t need warning anymore. We’ve come to expect it.

And that’s the most dangerous thing. Anyone under 40 woke up yesterday in Sydney or Melbourne and could have thought this – I’m under 40 so can’t get the jab, despite so many young people being infected in Sydney. I can’t leave the country even if I wanted to. And there’s no way to send a message until there’s an election. It’s a health response for senior voters.

Former Labor powerbroker Graham Richardson wrote this week: “Australians demonstrate that the “tall poppy syndrome” is alive and well by constantly rubbishing politicians — that is, until they are in their company when many become obsequious and subservient.”

Perhaps the downside to these lockdowns is we have given up fighting for fairness and now find ourselves subservient to wide-ranging rules. I wonder what the long term impacts of that will be. It reminds me of what happened to travel and privacy after September 11. Bureaucrats rarely like to hand back power.

Anytime anyone questions the logic, the mob shout back “what about the health advice!?”

Well, my doctor says I shouldn’t drink. But I’ll raise my glass to that.

Ticker Views

China launches world’s fastest train | ticker VIEWS

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China reveals the world’s fastest ground vehicle in the world, travelling speeds of 600kph

Travelling innovation is speeding up and China is at the forefront with the Maglev bullet train making its debut in Chinas, Qingdao.

The Maglev Bullet train

The Maglev bullet can reach a maximum speed of 600 kph. In comparison, a plane flies at around 800 kph. The China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation developed the world’s fastest train.

Maglev represents “magnetic levitation”, referring to its floating appearance above the tracks. The Maglev simply glides above the tracks using its electromagnetic forces.

Speed isn’t the train’s only stand-out feature, it also emits low levels of noise, pollution and requires less upkeep.

A win for China

High-speed rail is at the top of China’s priority list. The aim of the train is to create transport between major areas within hours.

The aim is to connect cities with reduced travel times and expenses. China is the world’s most populous country and this will fill a significant demand in the travel sector.

China has one Maglev line in commercial use. It connects Shanghai’s Pudong Airport with the city, in about seven minutes.

However, before these trains can be rolled out for widespread use and travel, more Maglev tracks will need to be installed.

China’s newest train is expected to be ready for widespread commercial use within the next decade. 

Others on the market

Advances in train technology have taken off in recent years. Japan has a bullet train that can reach speeds of 400kph.

In the United States, a train track near Orlando International Airport is underway for a train that will reach speeds of up to 200 kph.

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Sport

The Greek Freak triumphs all | ticker VIEWS

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In a world of NBA Super teams, one man won against all odds.

Ever since LeBron James took his talents to South Beach in 2010, N.B.A. super teams have become the new norm. A super team refers to the best players in the league teaming up to secure a championship.

All that changed in recent days with the Milwaukee Bucks winning the championship. Giannis Antetokounmpo put together one of the greatest performances in NBA finals history, to secure a 4-2 victory over the Phoenix Suns.

Antetokounmpo also ranks as the first NBA Finals MVP to have also won the league’s Most Improved Player Award.

Giannis score 50 points and 14 rebounds in game 6.

He called out other players for winning the “easy way” in recent times.

“It’s easy to go somewhere and win a championship with somebody else … this is the hard way to do and we did it.”

ANTETOKOUNPMO SAID AFTER THE WIN.

James Harden, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving all left their respective teams to chase glory. Giannis stayed.

The comments may have not necessarily been a dig at his opponents, but it sure came off that way.

The two-time M.V.P. could’ve signed with a team that already had another superstar, in place to give himself the best chance to win a championship. 

Instead, he stuck around in a small market and prevailed to win the Finals M.V.P. and lead the Bucks to their first championship in 50 years.

Antetokounmpo was the 15th pick in the 2013 NBA out of Greece, where he played at Filathlitikos.

Him and his brothers are of Nigerian decent, with a strong basketball background.

The Greek superstar was true to his word and now has the highest form of glory to show for it.

The NBA could be entering a new era, with the new Finals MVP and the centre of it.

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Climate

Europe floods, while the US burns | ticker VIEWS

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Europe is seeing disastrous floods, while parts of the United States are seeing record-breaking heatwaves

The severity of extreme floods and heatwavs is leading experts to blame climate change.

Catastrophic floods are ravaging parts of Europe, including Germany and Belgium. The areas have seen over two months’ worth of rain in two days.

The flood death toll now sits at 188 people with German Chancellor Angela Merkel describing the floods as “terrifying”.

“Climate change means we’ll have more events, more powerful, more often. “

Scott hamilton

Record heatwaves in US & Northern Ireland

A record-breaking heatwave is gripping the western parts of California. It’s causing 70 devastating wildfires to ravage across California and Oregon.

The wildfires are caused by an unprecedented heatwave, that scientists say was driven by human-caused climate change.

“There is a clear human fingerprint on this particular extreme heatwave in the Pacific Northwest, and in general on extreme heatwaves everywhere in the modern era we’re living though.”

Daniel swain, ucla climate scientist

Northern Ireland has also recorded its highest temperatures of 31.2 degrees Celcius, in Ballywatticock, County Down.

For context, the previous highest temperature of 30.8 degrees Celcius was recorded in 1983.

“Just another sign we are facing dangerous climate change”

Scott Hamilton

In other news this week:

The EU Green Deal

The European Union Green Deal is deemed the ‘fit for 55’ package. Its aim is to enable the European Union to deliver its commitments to cut emissions by 55% by 2030.

Its aim is to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent in the world.

It will set the EU on a path to reach its climate targets by 2030 in a fair, cost-effective, and competitive way.

China introduces carbon trading

China is putting in a carbon trading scheme, in a bid to cut back on its emissions. It will cover approximately 2,200 power companies, with a step in the right direction.

The scheme will put pressure on Chinese emitters to use less coal and switch to cleaner energy sources. However, this will hurt Australian exports in the future and demand cleaner alternatives from Australia.

Australian Environment Minister duty of care

Environment Minister Sussan Ley will appeal a declaration by the Federal Court that she owes a duty of care to protect children from the effects of climate change.

The eight schoolchildren who are fighting the case to the federal court are concerned about the decision to appeal, with one saying the government was now fighting for the right to cause them harm.

Watch this weeks full episode of tickerCLIMATE here: https://tickernews.co/ticker-climate/

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