There is a joke among some here in Melbourne about the initials DPRV which stand for ‘Democratic People’s Republic of Victoria’. This is because in the last few years, the state got a reputation of being the most ‘lefty woke’ state in Australia (look at the #DPRV hashtag on twitter). Personally I don’t think so. Victorians are able to vote in conservative governments like anyone else. Although I do think they would like more someone like Malcolm Turnbull than Eric Abetz.
And the State Government, that it’s currently under enormous pressure because of the COVID-19 outbreak, is no beacon of Democratic Socialism. In fact it is precisely because it is not, and has followed the practice of all governments in Australia whether Labor or Liberal to save money by using private contractors, rather than doing the job themselves that got them in this predicament.
The role of government
I have limited my exposure to social media. But I go to Facebook to interact with my relatives overseas and the book club I belong to. So inevitably I see posts of people who are talking about the Victoria COVID crisis and came to this one by Gerry Beaton:
“So all the anti worker, right wing shock jocks and Murdoch journos are pointing their collective fingers in every direction proportioning blame for the Covid spread in Melbourne. They all miss the the mark by miles. It wouldn’t matter who was in power in Spring St. O’Brien and his mob (name any of the galahs if you can) are blaming Andrews and rightly so as the determination to use as cheap as possible quarantine security companies is the real issue. the Liberal Party would have done the same. The real culprit is the neoliberal agenda of both parties that has caused so much damage to the world’s population and climate. The need to get rid of the capitalist system that has developed this economic system that enriches a tiny number of bourgeois and leave millions in poverty is imperative.”
I think eliminating the capitalist system in Victoria is a bit of a far stretch. But the point here is that the Victorian government to save money trusted private enterprise to do a vital job. And we have found that these companies’ practices where sloppy to put it mildly.
Since the late 70’s the predominant narrative has been that surplus=good and deficit=bad. The concept of debt being a bad thing is easy for politicians to convey because in household budgets we try to limit debt as much as possible and this is an easy transferable concept to voters.
I have read that equating households to governments is nonsense, but being seen as bad economic managers is poison for Labor considering polling consistently shows people believe that the Liberal Party to be a better economic manager than Labor, despite evidence to the contrary.
Reclaiming the role
The issue here is that we don’t need to overthrow capitalism or being a revolutionary socialist to reclaim a role of government that looks after its people and looks at society and not just at the economy.
The paradigm has shifted so much to the neoliberal area that now governments doing things like solely building roads, distributing resources like electricity and water or running public transport is seen like some extreme socialist practice.
But this is bread and butter Social Democracy. Something that helped resurrect Europe after the Second World War.
So, what’s this thing about Vietnam?
I wouldn’t consider Vietnam a Social Democracy by any stretch of the imagination. For instance out of 180 it ranks 175 in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index, which is pretty awful. In the latest Amnesty International Report Vietnam also fares badly. Amnesty saw a surge in the number of prisoners of conscience. A crackdown on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.
But its COVID-19 management is a worldwide success. Vietnam has reported no community transmission cases for 3 months
Apart from going early, hundreds of thousands of people, including international travelers and those who had close contact with people who tested positive, were placed in quarantine centers run by the government, which greatly reduced transmission at both the household and community levels. [source].
In the previous post I stated that Victoria should re-open the quarantine station at Queenscliff. , while I was not serious about Queenscliff, as it is now an historic site, it shows that if the government took the responsibility of quarantine, rather than giving it to private enterprise it is likely it wouldn’t be in the predicament it found itself in. We do it for animals and plants. Why not people?