Last week, I suggested that Scott Morrison’s plan to quarantine people on Christmas Island made sense. The internet backlash was severe.
It was, I thought, one of the more innocuous tweets I’ve floated in years. It was about the coronavirus. I didn’t make any of the obvious distasteful jokes about it having to do with a bad reaction to Mexican beer.
I merely tweeted: ‘Am I missing something? I thought putting coronavirus suspects on Christmas Island made sense.’
And the heavens fell. Did they ever. First up, because I used the word ‘suspects’.
‘How dare you accuse Australians trapped in China of being criminal suspects?’ Well, no. I used the English language correctly. People in that area were ‘suspected’ of contracting a virus which days later the World Health Organisation described as an international health emergency.
One tweeter wrote: ‘Suspects’. Surely you could’ve used a more sensitive word. Have they committed a crime… or is it just in your eyes, it’s a crime?’ To that I would say: Go, grab a dictionary.
But then those obscene words ‘Christmas Island’ were added to the mix and the plan to move vulnerable Aussie tourists or China residents to the obvious island outpost became a scandalous Morrison Government conspiracy. And, within a blink, it was all part of a Peter Dutton dastardly plan.
Potato head had to be involved. It was, they argued, a shallow Morrison ploy to justify the millions spent on Christmas Island. A conservative copout.
To me, honestly, the Christmas Island solution made sense. It still does. Get Aussies out of China and move them to a safe, isolated, quarantine centre. Keep them there for two weeks and, when cleared, let them come to the mainland. Hardly a radical proposal. And it was voluntary. Of 600 stranded, people at risk, nobody was being dragooned.
To me, honestly, the Christmas Island solution made sense. It still does. Get Aussies out of China and move them to a safe, isolated, quarantine centre.
You wouldn’t have thought so, if you relied on Twitter reports. It suddenly festered (like a spreading virus) into a left-wing, right-wing battle of political blame game football.
Conveniently ignore the urgent, genuine, international, humanitarian/health issues here. It’s all politics, apparently. My 14-word tweet prompted twitter troll accusations that I was encouraging death camps and even genocide. It was all a dastardly, foul, plot by the Morrison government to infect that Sri Lankan family already being held in detention on Christmas Island while awaiting their High Court ruling.
A tweet: ‘Biloela family could get infected! Locals could get infected! How/why do you think it is a good idea?’
There were also fanciful proposals about putting the 600 people into mainland hospitals. How you would instantly find beds is one issue, but why would you commandeer precious hospital beds for two weeks for people who have not been diagnosed as sick?
Even Therese Rein, the wife of former prime minister Kevin Rudd, got involved in the Twitter war. She tweeted: ‘You could clear a hotel next to a major hospital though (or several major hospitals). And feed people. And staff that. And keep people in isolation comfortably and safely. Without traumatising the children. And have expert and excellent medical care right next door.’
The fact is that coronavirus has infected about 10,000 people and travelled to almost every continent in the world in just one month. The rapid spread is really scary. It has been faster than SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) which took nine months to infect 8000 people worldwide. And 200 people are dead from coronavirus.
In the midst of all this, another word entered the debate: Xenophobia. Some of the anti-Chinese bile that hit social media, around the world, has been truly putrid. Sadly, not surprising.
(I will concede that the Chinese government’s habitual censoring, protective behaviour raised legitimate questions about what did they know and when did they know it and did they hide vital virus information from the international community? But some of the anti-Asian stuff was atrocious).
And the fear was international. A friend in Germany told me that her neighbour, a Chinese mother, had been told not to send her two children back to kindergarten until her husband had a medical clearance because he had ‘just been to Beijing’.
In Italy, the European country with the highest annual number of Chinese tourists, the news of two confirmed coronavirus cases, prompted calls for people to avoid Chinese restaurants and shops.
Conveniently ignore the urgent, genuine, international, humanitarian/health issues here. It’s all politics, apparently. My 14-word tweet prompted twitter troll accusations that I was encouraging death camps and even genocide.
One thing that always gets me when controversial issues like this arise, is the personal social media vitriol that stems from the pens of people who, usually, use pseudonyms and don’t put their own name to their insults.
My tweet genuinely, sincerely, said: ‘Am I missing something? I thought putting coronavirus suspects on Christmas Island made sense.’
The responses: ‘If it helps… in recent years you’ve been missing a rational functioning brain’. Another one said my ‘remaining brain cell’ had been eaten by Christmas Island crabs.
Really intelligent debate.