OPINION

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Pulling your weight
I watched the PM’s press conference address yesterday: it wasn’t a good sell, focussing in the main on his personal advisory group, that consisting largely of executives from the fossil fuel industry. The address had all the energy and inspiration of a laundry list, with no sign of a long term answer or that any thought had been given to the most pressing question facing all of us: what are we to do when the vaccine has been produced and widely administered, and when Covid-19 infections are under control. Will we continue to be engaged in a struggle for individual and national survival, and under what terms?
Or will we be able to find the energy and the resources to consciously consider afresh what kind of country we want to live in, and under what terms: will we lapse back into short-termism and expediency, allowing ‘the market’ to decide? What might we expect of government in the way of leadership and policy determination? In conversations about how life is now, a common theme is mild amazement at how many things we previously thought important and devoted time and resources to accomplishing, like driving about, now seem unnecessary. Life will change permanently, for medical and financial reasons: it has already begun to do so.
Friends recently had a significant birthday, and they booked into a popular North Hobart venue to celebrate. When they got there, on time, their table wasn’t ready; they were offered an alternative, one with evidence of a recent tomato sauce spill. They looked at one another, and got up and walked out. There has been a lot of often monumentally stupid talk about ‘rights’ recently, including the deliberate flouting of rules imposed to inhibit the spread of the virus, breaching quarantine and rejecting face masks. We have clearly failed to establish that one of the corollaries of enjoying the benefits of society is a willingness to comply with the safeguards that society chooses to impose for the safety of its members. An exchange of ‘freedoms’, in fact.
One such exchange involves your custom, your willingness to pay for goods and services. Those who seek your custom undertake to provide ‘goods’, a clean and safe environment, free from unwanted close contact. Where it is thought necessary, we regulate our behaviours in order to achieve a desired result. I am no friend to overweening regulation, but when I am taking a corner on the Channel Highway I do not want any oncoming vehicles to be heading towards me on my side: your right to do that ceases when your bumper bar encounters mine, or as someone recently put it, your right to punch me in the face ceases at the tip of my nose. So if I come into your hostelry for a meal, your right is to provide it at a decent standard, my right is to choose and pay for it. Your right not to wear a face mask ceases at the limits of your excreted droplets. We could have a fist fight about this, or we can mutually agree. I have, of course, looked at your egregious selfies, but with incredulity, rather than admiration.
My friends’ right to a clean and safe environment in which to eat their dinner was denied them: in return they denied the restaurant their custom. The actions of one denied the rights of the other: rights are not existential, they are mutual. The government has thought it necessary to regulate your rights as a guest and a provider of services. In the interests of inhibiting the spread of the virus, workplaces, which include those in hospitality, are now required as of June 15 to meet minimum standards, adopt Covid-19 Workplace Guidelines, and a Safety Plan, including the recording of personal contact details for tracing purposes if the wotsit hits the fan.
It is in the interests of any business and its potential customers to display stickers and posters regarding its compliance with the Guidelines. You can find all the details at WorkSafe Tasmania. This is not regulatory bloody-mindedness, it is simple commonsense, exercised for our mutual benefit. You will expect society to take you in and look after you or your dear ones if you or they are unlucky enough to contract the virus.
Just do your share: it’s not a lot to ask, is it?
Oh! And about the failed-to-instal dongle. Thank you for asking. I took it back to where I bought it, and after a little bit of debate tinged with sarcasm on both sides, I was given a total refund: my thanks to the company for this. My brickbats for the poor and misleading advice at point of sale.
John Fleming II

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