'Health dictatorship': Tony Abbott rails against Victoria's coronavirus response

Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott has accused leaders of failing to ask "uncomfortable questions" about the number of coronavirus we should be comfortable living with to avoid economic catastrophe.

Tony Abbott has railed against lengthy coronavirus lockdowns, describing Victoria's response as a "health dictatorship", and suggested more politicians should have considered whether the economic toll of the pandemic was worth saving lives.

In a keynote speech at London's Policy Exchange think tank late on Tuesday, the former Australian Prime Minister, who is tipped to become joint president of Britain's relaunched Board of Trade, accused leaders of being unable to ask uncomfortable questions about "the level of deaths we might have to live with". 

"Governments have approached the pandemic like trauma doctors instead of thinking like health economists," he said.

“In this climate of fear, it was hard for governments to ask ‘how much is a life worth?’ because every life is precious, and every death is sad, but that has never stopped families sometimes electing to make elderly relatives as comfortable as possible while nature takes its course.”

The phrase "health dictatorship", which Mr Abbott used to describe Melbourne's Stage 4 lockdown restrictions, is often seen at right-wing rallies against social distancing restrictions and is used by "QAnon" conspiracy theorists. 

"Because this is what happens when, for much more than a mere moment, we let fear of falling sick stop us from being fully alive," he continued. 

"Now that each one of us has had six months to consider this pandemic and to make our own judgments about it, surely it is time to relax the rules so that individuals can take more personal responsibility and make more of their own decisions about the risks that they are prepared to run?"

He also warned that lockdown measures could be kept up "indefinitely" in the absence of a vaccine - and said they can produce not just a "stop-start economy, but a stop-start life".

Mr Abbott declined to comment on reports that he has been appointed joint president of Britain's relaunched Board of Trade. "Obviously I can't comment on any position which is not yet official," he said.

"But certainly I think that it's in Britain's interest and it's in Australia's interests that this particular free trade deal be done as quickly as possible."

British Government officials have said that no decisions have yet been made.

Additional reporting: Reuters

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 https://sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

Published 1 September 2020 at 9:36pm, updated 2 September 2020 at 8:13am
Source: AAP -SBS