why we can’t even discuss them sensibly

Even with good faith from participants — which is in short supply — Australia can’t have a proper debate about freedom in a time of pandemic because we have no language or structure around human rights.

(Image: Mitchell Squire/Private Media)

The incoherence and ignorance around basic rights in a pandemic not only demonstrate Australia’s inability to rationally discuss rights issues but come with major political ramifications, with far-right politicians both within and outside the government threatening to block or refuse to support legislation over vaccine mandates.

That’s in addition to the growing violence and extremism of some sections of what used to be the anti-lockdown movement but which, in the face of a steady return to normality, has become a generic “freedom” movement, albeit with eccentric ideas about how freedom and rights interact.

The vaccine mandate issue is straightforward. It’s entirely ethical to mandate vaccinations for social environments. No one is compelled to be vaccinated; the compulsion lies in preventing the unvaccinated from increasing the risk of harm to others by mixing with them. Indeed, there’s an argument for compelling vaccination itself, given the costs the unvaccinated inflict on society through additional health system costs, but this can be addressed through other means, such as charging them the full cost of their treatment.

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