Cruel Covid regulations killed my love of the law

Cruel Covid regulations killed my love of the law. By Janet Albrechtsen.

I have a confession. I am increasingly contemptuous of the law, and even more insolent towards those who make laws and those who enforce them. …

I confess this as a lawyer who has always loved the law, the rule of the law, and the democratic legitimacy that underpins laws. Listening to Johnny Rotten didn’t turn the teenage me into an ­anarchist, but Covid has turned my adult respect for the law into contempt.

Not the virus itself, of course. The wreckers are the leaders — meaning most politicians in this country — who used disproportionate powers to manage the virus for far too long.

The early days of Covid, when we didn’t know what we were dealing with, demanded quick and tough measures. My scorn for authority grew as the vulnerable — the very old — were not protected enough while every other group bore the brunt of many restrictions that made little sense.

Some will jump in with the obvious retort to my scorn for authority. There lies the road to anarchy, they will say. I would respond that sometimes you need to throw the tea into the harbour if you want greater freedom over your life, instead of wicked, senseless meddling from unelected powers.

There’s that word again:

My first line of defence for disrespecting many of the cruel and silly Covid laws rests on one fundamental premise: the democratic legitimacy of laws was dead, buried, cremated during Covid. At the state and federal levels, the country was run by unelected bureaucrats.

It took until early October this year for a politician to say the bleeding obvious. “We’re the elected officials,” said newly installed NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet when explaining why he was opening the state, despite some health officials pushing for a longer lockdown.

Further damaging the legitimacy of law, restrictions were often enforced in a ham-fisted and arbitrary way. They still are. This week, when Rebel Wilson ­arrived in Australia for an awards night, she was not required to isolate for 72 hours, unlike everyone else. Special treatment for someone who reads a script to make a living. Just like those footy players, and their wives and girlfriends, who could cross the closed Queensland border. …

A woman from regional Victoria needed to care for her animals. She worried about having her flock put down “because the department had asked for further information it said she did not provide”.

“I cannot fathom the cruelty of this process and their decision. Surrendering our animals has broken my heart, my spirit and my faith in our state government and the humanity of the people that make such decisions,” she told the ombudsman.

Consider the hundreds, thousands, of people with similar stories who didn’t contact the ombudsman. …

Lines have been crossed:

A legitimately elected government does not always guarantee the legitimacy of law. There is still a point when some of us will push back against laws that are cruel.

For example, in April last year — when Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews banned two people in a loving relationship, who lived apart, from seeing each other ­because “that’s not care” — I would have broken the law if I lived in Victoria. …

People will disagree about where to draw the line when it comes to obeying laws that are morally wrong. But to suggest there is not a line, that all laws must be obeyed, ignores the messy, complicated, magnificent history of freedom.


hat-tip Stephen Neil