Editorial: has it really come to this?

By Chris Johnson

September 15, 2020

Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

That Queensland’s chief health officer has received a single death threat for doing her job is outrageous. That she has received multiple such threats is a national disgrace.

Dr Jeannette Young is a public servant of the highest order. It is clear to any observer – educated or not – that she is working tirelessly in the face of a pandemic the likes of which we haven’t seen before. That is, working tirelessly to keep the community safe.

The mere fact she has tried to personally address every one of the hundred or so applications for quarantine exemptions received every day shows her commitment to the task at hand.

As she has stated herself, there is no handbook for this. Mistakes will be made. They have been made, and by people further up the food chain than her.

But there is no doubting that the work being done by Dr Young and her team – and by the whole state government for that matter – is in the public interest.

The nation has watched in horror as Victoria became swamped in a new round of the coronavirus. Only good management (following some very bad management decisions) and strict restrictions have finally seen the curve start to flatten in that state.

Queensland is trying its best to avoid being swamped in the same way.

But none of this plays into the argument against any threat of violence against a public servant.

It doesn’t matter the competence, the decisions, or the attitude of any public servant in question – anonymous deaths threats are as abhorrent as they are cowardly. The fact they are made against a woman in this instance just adds to the pathetic character of the perpetrators.

This is not America, where making and dealing with such threats are a way of life for many. And it is not a totalitarian regime where public servants deal with fear as some sort of occupational hazard.

This is Australia and death threats against public servants is not only un-Australian, it is reprehensible behaviour.

Conspiracy theorists and pandemic deniers can’t be reasoned with. It’s no use trying. But threatening behaviour is a whole different level of disgusting low.

Queensland police are known for their no-nonsense approach. Dr Young should feel safe in their protection. The gutless threat makers should feel less comfortable.

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