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They Profiled Citizens According to Their Degree of Compliance

They Profiled Citizens According to Their Degree of Compliance

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There has been an unexpected validation of the title of Our Enemy, the Government (Brownstone, 2023). In a stunning indictment of the state of governance in the Australian state of Victoria, an unidentified senior bureaucrat classified citizens according to their compliance with the government’s Covid diktats. This is the state whose capital Melbourne suffered through the world’s longest lockdown (267 days!).

Yet, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Victoria had the worst overall Covid mortality outcome between March 2020 and the end of September 2023, with a standardised death rate of 16.1 per 100,000 people compared to the national average of 12.4. New South Wales was the second worst with a rate of 13.5 and Western Australia the best with 7.7 deaths per 100,000 people. But rather than concern about mismanagement of the pandemic, peoples’ compliance score was of more interest to the government than investigating the scientific validity, factual basis, collateral harms, and the net cost-benefit equation of their Covid interventions.

The Australian reported on 12 December that those most critical of and strongly opposed to the volley of pandemic-triggered restrictions on individual and commercial activities and personal freedoms, who had the critical faculty and temerity to believe that the threat of Covid was exaggerated, ‘tyrannical government is the enemy,’ prioritised individual over collective rights, didn’t accept the authority of the government to ‘tell them what to do,’ believed the restrictions to be ‘illegitimate’ and to be followed only under coercion, and were all too likely to embrace ‘fantastical conspiracy theories.’

Unfortunately, Premier Dan Andrews’ shadowy political intelligence and strategy from QDOS Research conceded, this small share of the total population still covered a ‘lot of people.’ The report was sent to the government on 6 April 2022. It was only recently released to the Australian under a Freedom of Information request.

At the opposite end of the five-band spectrum (Figure 1) were the most compliant people who trusted the authorities to act in the best interests of the community, were inclined to ‘strongly support and follow restrictions’ as the right thing to do for the family and the community, didn’t want to catch Covid or pass it on, and did not consider the restrictions to be ‘overly onerous.’

Thus the government was using taxpayer money to commission research from a private consultancy into grading people according to their Covid compliance score, in order to devise a strategy to persuade them into following government directives and obey government orders. Addressed chiefly as a public health matter, the primary concern would have been the health and safety of the people. Instead the primary motivation was clearly political control and moulding public opinion for partisan advantage.

Unfortunately, once collective welfare is allowed to override individual rights, the government acquires unlimited unchecked power. Whole societies ended up with every aspect of their lives micromanaged by bureaucrats and technocrats with no philosophical grounding in public health ethics. Several governments will have been delighted at the success of the trial run in demonstrating just how weak and narrow the pushback was. Even now, it would be a check on future abuse and thus a deterrent if the name of the top bureaucrat(s) were to be published.

The optimists in us might hope that the next time, the noncompliant group 5 will be substantially bigger and stronger, even though most of them are likely to have fled Victoria as soon as they could. The pessimists will feel vindicated by a new poll in the UK showing support for the reintroduction of mandatory facemasks in public transport, if required on health grounds, by 41-46 percent of people depending on age (those above 40 being the most supportive), one-third of people backing closures of nightclubs, and one-fifth being prepared to support confinement in homes again except for essential activities. If this is how people feel now absent any sense of a health emergency, they would appear to be ripe for serial repeats of the restrictions of 2020–22 if accompanied by fear-mongering by the medical-public health-industrial complex. 

Carbon Insights: Foreshadowing a Social Credit System?

Meanwhile a friend alerted me to a sneaky item from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. The CBA, originally government owned but privatised in 1996, is one of Australia’s big four banks. It operates something called the ‘Carbon Insights’ program. The site helpfully says:

We’re helping our customers understand their environmental impact by providing insights through a personalised carbon footprint based on spending transactions and tips that promote sustainable living.

The website explains that customers’ carbon footprint is measured by considering the spending transactions made on their personal CommBank accounts, including transactions, credit cards and digital payments, against averaged industry carbon emissions data for the fashion and transport sectors. Meaning collecting my data for any fashion products and travel tickets purchased by credit cards, payment for which is linked to my CBA account.

Understanding individuals’ carbon footprint is the first step in learning about how to become more environmentally conscious. The feature records information on how customers’ emissions are associated with personal spending habits and additional insights on the relevant categories that contribute to a personalised footprint output.

This sounds suspiciously like the necessary first step in designing and then implementing a social credit system, the end point of which will be to reward and punish based on government defined social good. We agreed that, as far as we could recall, that none of us had been asked to consent to this. So next I followed their advice on learning how they handle personal information by checking out their Privacy Policy here. There is nothing about carbon footprint or the Carbon Insights program here.

Puzzled as well as worried, as I have a neuralgic aversion to being tracked online, I read the details again, this time slowly and more deliberately, I registered the sentence: ‘The Carbon Insights feature is now available in the CommBank app’. Since, despite what seems like weekly enticements I have refused to download the app, I breathed a sigh of relief.

Even so, to use the environmental activists’ language, another dispiriting sign that we may be very close to the tipping point for entry into the brave new world. 



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Author

  • Ramesh Thakur

    Ramesh Thakur, a Brownstone Institute Senior Scholar, is a former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General, and emeritus professor in the Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.

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