Why Freedom is not free at all

I was raised to believe that through the sacrifice of my forefathers I lived in a country that embraced freedoms for the individual. Freedom to believe what you want, express what you want, to move and live where you want, to have the freedom to build a career or business you choose. Most importantly as much as possible to live your life free from government interference.

I was raised to believe that we were Australians first and while interstate rivalries existed they were a distant second to the bonds created by Aussie larrikinism and mateship that were tested and triumphed in places such Gallipoli, the Western Front, Tobruk and the Kokoda trail, through the military and in helping each other through natural disasters such as floods, fires and cyclones.

As I moved into adulthood this was reinforced as I was the person in charge of my life and making the decisions that would impact my life. It didn’t matter what others thought, it didn’t matter what my government thought, I chose to live the life I wanted. It’s what made and has continued to make our country great.

I remember as I grew up my Dad used to always say to me “Freedom is never free”. Dad and Mum lived through the great depression and World War Two where Dad fought with the RAAF in New Guinea. He saw and lived through things we could only dream of, so I always took what he was saying for granted and never gave it much thought. He also contended we needed another War and what I didn’t understand then but do now, was Dad was referring to the bonds created amongst Australians when times and situations test us to our limits.

Over the past sixteen months, his words have resonated more and more with every lockdown, with every restriction, with every new extension of State of Emergency powers and with every time I witness our police force use over the top policing tactics to bully and intimidate only the protesters that the Andrews government doesn’t like. In those sixteen months, I never thought the TOTAL respect I held for Victoria police would plummet so dramatically that I now consider many of them nothing more than bully-boy thugs in uniform who draw stark comparisons with some of the world’s worst police state enforcers.

What other conclusion can you draw when you see the stark difference in how they treat BLM, extinction rebellion and Australia Day protesters compared to those who protest against lockdowns and compulsory vaccinations?

The problem with standing by and allowing politicians and governments to remove or reduce your freedoms and even worse introduce draconian laws that give them more power over your lives, it becomes extremely difficult, if not impossible, to reign them back in. It’s easy to sit back and accept what you see and read on television, social media or in the papers if it doesn’t impact you. Last week though I received just a taste of these new draconian laws implemented with the justification of public health measures due to covid-19.

I was flying to Perth with one of my basketball teams to play a team the next day in Perth. On the morning of the flight, the news was emerging about the fresh outbreak of covid-19 cases in the North-Western suburbs of Melbourne. With fresh restrictions being introduced it was surprising to me that West Australian Premier Mark McGowan hadn’t already closed his borders to Victorians. So naturally, we were concerned before the flight that borders to other states, especially the one to Western Australia, would shut before we took off.

Once we were on the plane any concerns I had evaporated, we were on the plane and surely once you were in the air they couldn’t enforce any border closures or restrictions upon you, could they?

I was soon to find out that answer.

After a four hour flight, we landed to an announcement that was made by the flight crew that a Western Australian police sergeant was going to address us. We listened as the sergeant broadcast across the plane’s PA system that the West Australian government had changed their border status with Victoria while we were in mid-flight. We now had to wait as authorities needed to provide temperature checks for each passenger and interview them to advise them of the new border restrictions. It took us some time to be allowed off the plane where we were then confronted by at least twenty police officers along with what I can only assume were a few health authorities.

When I finally meet a police officer behind a protective screen, I was effectively ordered on what I could and couldn’t do, as was everybody else on the plane. We now needed to self-quarantine, get a covid-19 test as soon as possible and then stay in self-quarantine until we received the test results back. The problem for us was that we had landed at 7:00 pm got through this police line at around 8:00 pm, but were due to play the next day at 1:00 pm.

Despite changing border rules while we were in mid-flight the WA authorities hadn’t organised any testing arrangements at the airport once we had landed, instead they advised us of potential testing sites. After calling all of these sites we were advised they couldn’t test us that night and we would need to go to a testing site the next morning. This effectively made it impossible for us to play the game the next day.

From all of this, we had two choices, to stay in a hotel in self-isolation the next day until our flight left the next day at 11:00 pm or exchange our tickets for the red-eye flight home at 11:30 pm. We chose the latter. So despite having ten athletes who are among the communities fittest and healthiest, all of whom had not come from a hotspot area, we didn’t end up setting a foot outside the Perth airport terminal where we spent the next three hours waiting for our flight home.

The whole process was surreal and to say we were made to feel like criminals, even leapers upon arrival was an understatement. My faith in my fellow Australians was restored by the staff at the shops and restaurants within the airport as they were friendly and sympathetic to our cause. In the end, we had spent the day on a plane or at airport terminals to go nowhere within Perth itself.

How is this the free Australia I was brought up to believe in?

I know so many others have been through far worse than what we experienced, but the situation we faced and having to endure the experience just reinforced the reality to me that so many others have had to endure and continue to do so. Why can NSW get it so right, yet every other state get it so wrong?

To make matters worse, upon our return we wake up to the news that Victoria is once again going into lock-down and all of a sudden the barbs from friends and relatives from interstate begin once more. You know the ones, how Victorians voted Andrews back in so we deserve it, how Melbourne is all of a sudden the slum city of Australia, keep yourselves your side of the border etc. Since when did Australians have such little empathy for each other? Why do we reward and vote for politicians that divide us instead of uniting us?

The empathy from many of this current crop of Australians is sad to see. To think we are descendants of men & women who survived the horrors of Japanese prisoner of war camps, whose only defence against abuse & starvation was their famed Aussie mateship.

It would be nice for Australians to read up on the likes of Sir Weary Dunlop. I am sure he didn't discriminate against the sick & dying in the living hell that was Changi by checking what State they originated from. Magnificent forefathers like him would be rolling in their graves at some of our current attitudes towards each other. Yet there are those in our political & elite class that would denigrate Men like Dunlop as a white male representative of our colonial past.

That's the type of Australia our politicians on all sides have delivered us into. A divided mob of finger-pointers with a glad it’s them & not me attitude. Instead of a nation, we have become a collection of selfish & inward-looking tribes.

It's not the Australia I grew up in, where you always had your mate's back & it’s why I loathe every politician who has contributed to the evolution of this current attitude. In doing so they have removed from us one of the most important freedoms of all, the freedom to believe in each other, our country and what it can achieve. They have divided us so much we look for the faults in each more than we look for the best in each of us. We now have the vaccinated versus the unvaccinated, the climate deniers versus the climate change proponents, the BLM group versus the colonialists, white versus black, nationalists versus globalists, monarchists versus republicans, heterosexuals versus members of the LGBT.

Is there any issue our politicians don’t divide us on? I legitimately hate the vast bulk of our politicians.

The one thing that gives me hope though is that I see through the young people I coach in basketball that there are still strong roots to that Aussie mateship & larrikin spirit. We should be doing all we can to encourage & mentor it into this and our next generations.

If like me and you are amongst the sons & daughters of the greatest generation that ever lived, it's the least can do for their future and that of this country. After all, they demonstrated to all of us that through the trials of World War Two that freedom isn’t free at all and is something worth fighting for with everything you have. Many of them believed in this so much they paid the ultimate price for that belief.

It’s time, probably past time, we started to fight for our freedoms and the return of the ones our politicians have taken away from us.