As the nation buckles under unprecedented industry shutdowns to mitigate the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), News Corp commentator Andrew Bolt has seized the opportunity to declare everyone should just go back to work in the next fortnight.
I’m no epidemiologist, but his (paywalled) column does make one thing immensely clear: It’s a terrible time to be an Australian worker, but a truly wonderful moment to be a contrarian columnist.
In a new op-ed, published last night, Bolt argues the risks posed by the hibernation of daily life outweigh the threat of the virus, saying the tens of thousands of Australians currently out of work should be redeployed as quickly as possible.
Describing Australia’s juddering transition towards a nationwide shutdown as a “blunderbuss approach”, Bolt reckons that if we do not change course, a million workers will lose their paycheque and succumb to despair.
The economic toll of the COVID-19 epidemic is harrowing, but even the Coalition Government, which swore black and blue they would return the Federal Budget to surplus, is rolling out unprecedented stimulus measures to keep the economy ticking along. Of course, your economy can’t really be healthy if workers aren’t.
Regardless, Bolt said that putting so many workers out of a job may lead to a mental health crisis (the Government acknowledges those fears too, by the way, and yesterday revealed an extra $1.1 billion in funding for mental health and family violence intervention services).
But we can dip into Bolt’s back catalogue to see why his sudden concern for the mental health of at-risk Australians is a bit weird.
His concern would seem more sincere had he not spent a fair deal of column space dismissing the mental health concerns of vulnerable Australians during the 2017 same-sex marriage postal vote.
The guy then turned to Dr. Anthony Fauci, US President Donald Trump‘s go-to guy on the COVID-19 crisis. Citing a recent study co-authored by Dr. Fauci, Bolt reckons that COVID-19’s overall fatality rate may eventually mirror that of severe influenza.
The problem here is that Dr. Fauci himself believes that outcome to be pretty fucking bad, and that we shouldn’t rush to our return to normalcy — as suggested by Trump himself.
“You’ve got to be realistic, and you’ve got to understand that you don’t make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline,” Dr. Fauci told CNN last week.
Dr. Anthony Fauci: “You’ve got to be realistic and you’ve got to understand that you don’t make the timeline. The virus makes the timeline.” pic.twitter.com/7BNHb49j1C
— Dori Toribio (@DoriToribio) March 26, 2020
Then there’s my favourite element of the whole column, which is Bolt’s insistence that young workers should just get out there and take the hit:
They must stop trying to quarantine millions of healthy and younger Australians who are desperate to get back to work and are highly unlikely to die from this virus.
He also chucks in the Malthusian argument that older and immuno-compromised people are more susceptible to COVID-19, so who cares:
This virus now looks much less deadly than feared, and is highly selective, killing mostly the old – often people already close to death.
Compare and contrast with his opinion of medical terminations for a stress-test of his ‘pro-life’ credentials.
Bolt will never have to stand behind a plexiglass shield, scared shitless while bagging groceries. Bolt will not acknowledge the severe health impacts COVID-19 can have on young and otherwise healthy people.
And, for as long as working Australians are forced to shelter from a pandemic, Bolt will have a job asking why other people aren’t putting their lives on the line for the economy. God knows he won’t have to.Image: Dan Himbrechts / AAP Image