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‘I did not come to Australia to be a slave of whimsical government’: This economist quit his job in protest of Victoria’s strict lockdown

Sanjeev Sabhlok resigned from his government role last week in protest of Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ strict lockdowns. Source: Twitter/Sanjeev Sabhlok

Sanjeev Sabhlok resigned from his government role last week in protest of Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ strict lockdowns.

Mr Sabhlok arrived from India in 2001 and worked for 15 years as an economist with the Victorian government before resigning last week. 


Highlights:

  • Sanjeev Sabhlok resigned from his government role in protest of lockdown
  • Mr Sabhlok worked as an economist in Victoria’s Treasury Department
  • The government asked him to take down his tweets, Mr Sabhlok claims

There has been intense criticism about the way Victorian Premier has handled the second wave of coronavirus in the state right from mismanagement of hotel quarantine and contact tracing, extending the state of emergency as well as alarming videos of police misconduct.

There have also been questions about the validity of the curfew imposed on Melbourne residents.  

Mr Sabhlok, in a scathing resignation letter, said he had resigned to protest against the ‘Police State’.

In a message to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, he said, “I did not come to Australia to be a slave of the whimsical government.”

In an exclusive interview with SBS Hindi, Mr Sabhlok said, “There comes a time in life when you need to take a stand based on your principles.”

“I did not come here [to Australia] to live in a socialist society. I came to live in a free society where there are good policies.”

Mr Sabhlok opines the government failed to implement great governance policies when it was time to deal with the crisis during the pandemic.

“I have been a strong proponent of Australian governance and policies. But when the time came to put these policies into practice, they threw the book out of the window,” he says.

Mr Sabhlok is upset the emergency powers were invoked based on a single-minded focus on the coronavirus outbreak numbers rather than encapsulating the economic impact of it on others.

“I raised these points within my department but I was unsuccessful.  So I put in my resignation,” he says.

Mr Sabhlok voiced his disagreement with the lockdown and his views on Twitter, following which he claims he was approached by the head of human relations at Treasury and asked to take down his tweets.

“I chose to resign,” he says.

Listen to Mr Sabhlok’s interview with SBS Hindi:

‘I did not come to Australia to be a slave of whimsical government’: This economist quit his job in protest of Victoria’s strict lockdown
00:00 00:00

On Wednesday, he penned a critical opinion piece for The Australian Financial Review titled Why I quit rather than be silenced: Vic Treasury insider describing in detail his objections to the steps taken by the Victorian government.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott shared this article on his Facebook page and called it 'a timely and potent contribution to a debate that has been stifled for far too long.'

Premier Daniel Andrews: 'He is entitled to his views'

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews
AAP

On Thursday, when Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews was asked about what Mr Sabhlok wrote for the AFR at his press conference, he said, “He’s entitled to his views, but you, your readers and all Victorians should be assured that we receive frank and fearless advice from the public service each and every day.”

Mr Andrews has defended his government’s decision in the face of severe criticism, saying the state government’s measures have had a ‘considerable success’.

Australia’s leading epidemiologist has praised Victorian government’s cautious approach and the roadmap out of lockdown which saw curfew extended till at least October 26 and Stage 4 restrictions lasting at least till the end of September.

Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, a UNSW professor and advisor to the World Health Organisation, described the state's lockdown exit plan as a "combination of conservative approach and compassion".

"The conservative part is pleasing because they are looking towards getting to less than five cases a day, and that is what I would call a safe place," Professor McLaws told SBS News.

Professor McLaws acknowledged the extended lockdown was 'too stringent' and a "shocking financial burden" for Victorians, but noted it was a better outcome than a potential third wave.

"This second wave has accounted for the majority of cases across the entire nation, for the entire pandemic," she said.

"You don't want a third wave."

Metropolitan Melbourne residents are subject to Stage 4 restrictions and must comply with a curfew between the hours of 9 pm and 5 am.

All Victorians must wear a face covering when they leave home, no matter where they live.  

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits. 

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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