As Victorians we want the rules to apply to everyone – not everyone except horse owners | Sophie Black | Opinion

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We had one day. One day to enjoy that tiny number. One. One case of coronavirus in this state.

Sunday’s set of announcements didn’t have a whole lot of new freedoms, but it was a start. After all, hair is important. Sure, they came with a reminder that we were not to get together on Grand Final day, the first in history to be situated outside Melbourne – our bloody Grand Final to be held in front of a sacrilegiously sweaty Queensland crowd that wouldn’t possibly appreciate it the way we do – but we understood. Now is not the time, as our premier likes to say, to squander all this good work.

So we looked up which attractions fell within our newly permitted 25kms and contemplated a trip to … a new park. We planned to travel there on Friday’s Grand Final public holiday (the aforementioned Grand Final that we can’t attend or celebrate together).

But then the government released another set of numbers. Racing minister Martin Pakula’s set of numbers, specifically the announcement that up to 500 racehorse owners and connections would be allowed to attend Moonee Valley for the running of the Manikato Stakes and the Cox Plate.

And there it seems the Victorian public hit their limit. There it seems the Victorian public collectively agreed, “yeah, nah”.

We’d only just started to feel like we were turning the corner. Dr Norman Swan called us “world best”. We started patting ourselves on the back, because our prime minister surely won’t. A bit of emotional self-care, along with our new hair cuts.

We started feeling a mix of – what? Pride? Heroism? Just relief? We shared the infographic comparing our numbers with France and the UK, all in the 700s in July, numbers that we never, ever want to revisit again, numbers that have ballooned to the thousands over there compared with our hard earned – unfathomably hard – but beautiful, possibly to be revised down, ONE.

But this horse thing really took the shine off. Not just because it suggested double standards, and not just because it seemed to not be the best way to say thank-you for all our sacrifice (businesses tanking/not seeing parents since March/not leaving the house for more than an hour/risking lives to treat patients/not touching another human for eight months). It was, as they say, not a good look.

So we’re angry. And we’re entitled to that anger. Because we’re very aware of the hard work we’ve put in, and as the rest of Australia will learn in the years to come, we’ll never stop indignantly demanding gratitude for effectively acting as the nation’s human shield.

But that’s not to say that we want these talking points co-opted by the opposition, or indeed the federal government, who most of the time behave like the opposition when they talk about our state, which they seem to have mentally excised. We don’t need Nationals senator Matt Canavan talking about the Victorian government’s “own goal”.

This is us feeling angry, yes, but we’re also bewildered and confused, and we don’t need the white noise. Our brains are not up for confusion right now. In fact, our brains are shot. Our brains are still figuring out whether 25kms will get us to our mum’s house.

We’ve been here before. We “came out” of lockdown number 1 for three unnerving weeks that felt perilous even at the time because we could see those numbers rising again, they weren’t doing what they were supposed to do. We know all too well how wrong it can go, and how quickly. We’re not dancing in the streets yet (with no more than 10 people).

We understand that lockdown 2 happened for a variety of reasons: bureaucratic stuff-ups made in haste, a health department hollowed out over decades, a casualised workforce, a neglected aged care system, some fairly telling blind spots when it came to communication, and possibly a fair whack of bad, super-spreading, luck. But the majority of us see a government who is hard-working and made hard choices that weren’t politically palatable. And most of us have still, despite everything, respected that.

Sure, out of the corner of our eye we clocked that the inquiry was reopening, that the ever-reassuring Brett Sutton was being questioned over emails that weren’t initially submitted. Most of us held it at arm’s length. We set it to the side, like some unpalatable homework. We’ll reserve judgement, we have to, because if we indulge in anger and recrimination, we won’t be able to get on with the job of getting on with it.

But the horse thing made that harder. It might seem silly, but it matters.

So yes, Pakula walked back on this, a mere five hours later. And the fact that he did suggests that this wasn’t a whole of government strategy, or a calculated PR move. But that means it goes into the fuckups column, and so this is Victoria’s way of firmly yet politely asking that that’s the last of them.

We are still in this, and we don’t know who’s coming out of it. We don’t know who will lose their business, who already has, who will live with long-term health consequences, who will wrestle for years with the grief of not only losing loved ones but being unable to hug them goodbye. We know that some of these rules are arbitrary, or inconsistent, or more about optics. We know that all of this is tenuous. We will never forget how tenuous.

So we want consistency, we want clear directives, we want lines so we know when not to cross them. And we want them to apply to everyone, not everyone except horse owners.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
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