Once a prison island . . .

The First Fleet Ships (Convicts) | Discovery of Australia | Seacraft Gallery

Convicts sent to Australia from England and Ireland were sentenced to either seven years of hard labour, fourteen years or life. None were allowed to return home. That was the punishment: to live out their lives on the opposite side of the world, far from civilization.

Those who escaped mostly assimilated into Aboriginal tribes beyond the frontier of settlement. Finding a berth for the perilous, eight-month return journey was almost impossible.

In one of history’s customary ironies, some convicts found life in the antipodal hellscape agreeable enough to send for their families, a policy encouraged due to the severe sex imbalance. Colonial women frequently suffered problems during labour because they were small from growing up in poverty while their unborn babies grew large from their mother’s new, protein-rich diet.

They were still poor but land was plentiful and mutton was cheap.

Few of the big, colonial-born subjects of the Empire returned to their ancestral homelands. They were allowed to but the tyranny of distance meant that few could even consider such a journey.

In later years, many Europeans would emigrate as free settlers in hope of a better life. Like the convicts, their farewells were mostly final as few saw their relatives in the old country again.

In 2021, we see a rebirth of this strange phenomenon of prison-island-as-haven.

Few countries were as strict with Covid as Australia. Only citizens and permanent residents (plus a few businessmen, sports stars etc.) are allowed into the country and all have to undergo a mandatory, two-week quarantine in an approved hotel for $3,000.

A tight cap on arrivals means that the price of flights from some places has skyrocketed, with only business class tickets likely to be honoured by airlines and all others bumped. The main bottlenecks seem to be the UK, India and the Philippines. For the record, I could probably get home now if I made a concerted effort but the total cost would be the same as my living expenses here for six months or so.

For two weeks, all flights were banned from India and citizens trying to get home from there were threatened with fines and imprisonment.

The greatest restriction was our traditional, convict one: no one was allowed to leave the country without permission. That’s one reason I’m less anxious to get home – I might have to stay there. I’ve heard reliable accounts of those with jobs waiting abroad who were nevertheless refused permission to go. One guy snuck back to Russia via New Zealand and faces prosecution if he ever returns.

You will have read that Australia is now a Covid success story, with the virus all but eliminated.

However, the country has hit a snag.

The original plan was to reopen the borders once most of the population was vaccinated.

However, first there were supply problems due to EU export bans, then there were distribution problems, and then AstraZeneca was declared only suitable for over-50s due to a small blood-clotting risk. This has had the effect of making all Australians wary of it and many older people are waiting with the young for Pfizer to arrive later this year. There are no other vaccines currently available.

The lack of urgency even among the elderly and infirm is a direct result of Australia’s Covid success: with so little of the virus around, why not wait for the best possible vaccine?

In addition, Australian states tend to lock down as soon as there’s the slightest quarantine outbreak. Why should the elderly take a risk with a vaccine when everyone will be forced to stay home if the virus starts spreading anyway?

If federal and state governments threatened to refrain from lockdowns henceforth or to open borders upon some iron-clad future date, say, July 1st, 2022, vaccination rates would rise dramatically.

But that would be politically difficult. From ABC News:

What’s dubbed “Fortress Australia” is objectively driven by the slowness of the vaccination rollout, which has [Prime Minister] Morrison under pressure, not least because it holds back the economy.

But politically, the shut gate suits Morrison, because polling and premiers’ electoral experience tell him the public strongly support closed borders.

This week’s Newspoll showed 73 per cent agreeing “international borders should remain largely closed until at least mid-2022, or the pandemic is under control globally”, and this included 78 per cent of Coalition [the governing parties’] voters.

Only 21 per cent agreed “international borders should open as soon as all Australians who want to be are vaccinated”.

The online debates are ferocious, with those for the Hermit Kingdom accusing Open Borders Fanatics of selfishly wanting to attend weddings and go on frivolous holidays abroad, while in the opposite direction fly complaints that those needing to travel may never see their families again.

Team Hermit Kingdom have not so far explained what circumstances would make it safe to open borders. Some say ‘when the global situation is safe’, but that will be never because the vaccinations are no panacea and Covid is probably here to stay.

Accustomed to near-perfect safety and a death rate that is extraordinary low, some would prefer to remain locked up in Glorious Isolation forever.

I mean that: forever. They don’t realize it but that is what they want.

This has sparked a debate between those with much of their family overseas – about 30% of the population – and the rest.

It would be easy to make this racial and some have tried, but it is not. The largest foreign-born group is from Britain and there are many others with family in Italy and Greece.

And then there are the expats like me who wish to visit family in Australia but we don’t count.

I watch this debate with consternation but growing acceptance.

If I go to Japan as intended, costs and time taken up by quarantine at both ends mean I may not see my family for years.

In any case, the Japan option could turn out to be impossible as their borders show no sign of reopening soon.

If I go back to Australia, I may be stuck there for years even if travel restrictions are lifted elsewhere.

It’s a retvrn to tradition. The tyranny of distance, long eliminated by cheap air travel, has unexpectedly returned. Once again, only the extremely rich and privileged can travel back and forth. For the rest of us, the momentous decision to come or go may be permanent.

Our island always was a gilded cage.

16 comments

  1. luisman · May 31

    Reblogged this on Nicht-Linke Blogs.

    Like

  2. luisman · May 31

    After what you’ve done to yourself with your last job, you deserve a long vacation. Enjoy it as much as you can. Although you can’t afford it forever, you can afford it for a few years.

    The issue with this isolation strategy, like AUS, NZ, JP and TW (and some smaller island nations) did and continue somewhat to do, is, reopening may be near impossible. There needed to be a highly effective vaccine (may take another 7-8 years, if ever) or a highly effective drug, in order to justify reopening liberal international travel – otherwise the advantages of isolation and suppresion will be eliminated (together with the politicians who pushed it). I think quite effective drugs will become available sooner than any usefull vaccine. And at some point the world has to decide if it is worthwhile shutting down everything so that over 80 years old people don’t die of the Wuflu 6 months earlier than they’d die from any other health issue.

    Many US states have decided already to reopen (or never closed) without any mandates. May the rest of the world use this as an example.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. dickycone · May 31

    “This week’s Newspoll showed 73 per cent agreeing “international borders should remain largely closed until at least mid-2022,”

    “Only 21 per cent agreed ‘international borders should open as soon as all Australians who want to be are vaccinated’.”

    “Accustomed to near-perfect safety and a death rate that is extraordinary low, some would prefer to remain locked up in Glorious Isolation forever.

    I suppose there was no option for “this whole pandemic is fake and gay.” I feel for you Nik. It’s surreal that a whole continent of allegedly high IQ Anglo-Saxons would cower before the sniffles like this. Like I’ve said before, I live in one of the bluest, most woke parts of the US and even here everyone but the maybe 30% or so who are devout Branch Covidian goodwhites stopped worrying much about the virus long ago.

    The part about the vaccine doubt among Aussies was interesting and maybe shows that there’s some hope for your countrymen. I imagine there are intense efforts to shame those who aren’t getting it, like there are here.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. ray · May 31

    Started as a prison, ends as a prison. Poetic justice.

    I left the U.S. for good reasons, and have no wish to return. However, should that become necessary, I must now include in my calculations the probability that the U.S. soon will require vax passports for entry and exit. As I have no intention of submitting to their voodoo medicine, I thus would be placing myself in a permanent type of cage. A big cage, but a cage.

    Many other nations, perhaps all, will demand the jab, even for domestic travel. At that point, you effectively have a Prison Planet.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. PrinzEugen · June 1

    Here in Romania COVID is almost officially over and we haven’t even vaccinated more that 1/4 of the whole population. Our secret: due to lots of vaccine skeptics, particularly among the elderly, young and mobile people got early access to vaccination. I myself got my 2nd dose of the Pfizer vaccine almost a month ago. The result: 265 cases per day on Saturday, corresponding to tests done on Friday (we only do serious testing during the weekdays in this country). This in a country of 18 million people or so.

    Meanwhile, the UK is having outbreaks of the India variant because it stubbornly insists on vaccinating pensioners staying at home instead of high-schoolers and young adults spreading the disease around. To stop transmission of the disease and rescue the economy you have to vaccinate those spreading it, not those most vulnerable to it (who are not even that particularly likely to catch it in the first place).

    Like

    • overgrownhobbit · June 1

      It is not a vaccine. Vile human beings like Dr. Fauci (who poisoned the U.S. blood supply with HIV virus but decided he needed to up his game for the new century) are calling it that, and useful idiots are repeating the word.
      It is a form of genetic therapy that tells your own cells to build SARS2Covid19 “spike” proteins (highly toxic) in order to prime your immune system to NOT go into full cytokine storm so that a mild coronachan infection does not turn into the fully blown Wuhan Gurgling Death. It does not prevent you from catching OR transmitting our fave viral tsundere.
      If you are under 30 and not obese or immunocompromised, your safest bet is to get out and about and catch all the rhino- and corona-esque viruses out there. Get plenty of sunshine, take vitamin D supplements, and, if you experience cold symptoms, protect yourself with zinc lozenges. Every 3-day sniffles you get is upping your defenses against novel corona and rhino virus infections.
      The previous iterations of pseudo-vaxxes currently on offer have killed children and animals using them long term. They require that you keep getting (dangerous) booster shots or the wild form of the virus becomes increasingly lethal.
      If you are young and fit, steer clear. Do NOT let anyone emotionally blackmail you into getting this novel therapy shot to “save grandma”. In the words of my own dear aged mother “I do not want to destroy my children and my grandchildren’s future for a few extra years of life”.
      God speed, Romania.

      Liked by 3 people

  6. Wolf · June 1

    “no one was allowed to leave the country without permission.”

    Other than the Soviet Union and various penal colonies, I wonder what other historical examples there are of states forbidding regular people to *leave*.

    What is the rationale ozzies are giving for this policy?

    Like

    • Eritrea forbids its citizens from leaving until they have been fully demobilized from indefinite national service, which many never are. Even foreigners who are not diplomats need to get an exit permit, though it’s mostly a formality for raising revenue.
      In Australia, the strict cap on arrivals due to available quarantine places means that around 30,000 people are trying to get home at any one time. If more leave for short trips, more will try to return, that figure will balloon and it will be even harder to get a flight home.

      Like

      • Wolf · June 2

        I see. You’d think hotels would push to raise the quarantine capacity.
        That’s funny about Eritrea.

        Like

        • They do, but the public would be against it due to occasional outbreaks. Most people want the borders sealed completely, no one allowed in.

          Like

  7. muunyayo · June 1

    Reblogged this on Muunyayo .

    Like

  8. AnonForThis · June 1

    I can’t fukn believe it: https://www.zerohedge.com/covid-19/australian-court-upholds-draconian-ban-international-travel
    They plan to appeal to the High Court.
    Like you I’ve (only) got an Australian passport. Not that its worth anything anymore. I don’t need to go back, but they should have made some effort to let all the citizens who want to go back in.
    I can’t say that I still call Australia Home.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hesse Kassel · June 2

    Can anyone give advice on the situation regarding Philippines?

    I am in Australia, but I hope to travel to Philippines in July using the compassionate and compelling reason defence. I have 2 young children. Does anyone know if this is going to be enough to get permission?

    What is it like in Manila? I hear that the restrictions there are kind of brutal. Am I making a mistake by going there?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know about the Oz side but there are restrictions on foreigners entering the Philippines. I think you need to be a resident or spouse and have been vaccinated. Check on this because the rules are constantly changing.
      Manila’s brutal at the best of times. I think they’re on middle-band restrictions but in the big smoke they actually enforce everything. Better in other provinces on softer restrictions but travel can be tricky and you might need addiditional tests or quarantine.
      Anything else, Luisman?

      Like

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