Dobbing in lockdown Canberra appears to be in full swing with the cops reporting more than 1700 “compliance complaints” from the public. To snitch or not to snitch, that is this week’s question. It’s another “Seven Days” with IAN MEIKLE.
“I NEVER thought dobbing and snitching was part of the Australian character,” bemoaned former Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
He recently copped a $500 fine for not wearing a face mask in Manly having been outed by a photo taken by an observant passer-by who unselfishly shared it with NSW police.
“I think as soon as we can leave this health police state mindset behind us, the better for everyone,” he harrumphed.
Maybe, but there are at least 2052 Canberrans who might disagree.
That’s the latest number to date of “compliance complaints” (ahem, snitching) the cops have received since the ACT’s “short, sharp” week of lockdown started on August 12.
They don’t tell us how many of the reports they followed up on, but they did say they have arrested 48 people for allegedly breaching the health directions and, similarly, issued 62 infringement notices.
So, what’s with lockdown snitching? Is covid turning us into a nation of dobbers?
Hugh Breakey, the deputy director of the Institute for Ethics, Governance & Law at Griffith University, told me on the “CityNews Sunday Roast” program (2CC, 9am-noon) there was clearly a place for reporting wrongdoing – it could halt bad behaviour, see wrongdoers punished, help set societal expectations and prevent harm. But it wasn’t always the right thing to do.
He said would-be dobbers needed to carefully think about exactly what behaviour they’re reporting on and what rule it breaks.
“There is no point calling authorities if the behaviour you’re dobbing on has a reasonable explanation,” he said.
“Perhaps what you assumed was a violation wasn’t ever one at all, because the person had a valid exemption (such as a medical reason for not wearing a mask).
“In a pandemic, rule breaking can have grave or even deadly consequences, especially for vulnerable populations.
“On this basis, repeated and flagrant violations are especially worth reporting.”
But Hugh said there’s a little bit of the “self-righteous busybody” in most of us. Dobbing can deliver a sense of authority and power.
“While it’s not easy to objectively survey your own motivations, it’s worth trying to make sure your heart’s in the right place,” he said.
NOT for a second to trivialise the reasons why the police want to identify this man, but he looks like half the male population at the moment.
They created a face-fit image in relation to a sexual-assault investigation.
But there’s not a lot to work with other than he was seen around the Ainslie shops’ public toilets at about 10am on September 14 and he looks like this.
READER (and letter writer) David Hunter, of Belconnen, inspired by the idea of moving the Kingston Railway Station to a more central commuting location, wrote to share an idea.
“The idea is a railway loop,” he says. “As the Barton Highway is being upgraded, why not add a railway track, making a loop from Goulburn, Queanbeyan, Canberra, Murrumbatemen, Yass, back to Goulburn. Most of it is already there.
“A regular local service would reduce road traffic, assist the future when we can’t afford to drive, and spread the population with the opportunity to access Canberra easily, quickly and efficiently.”
Given the grief of building even an economic argument for the light rail and the prospect of dealing with two governments, David, it’s going to be a slow train coming.
AND finally, a young man who occasionally wrote bright, insightful columns for “CityNews” is leaving town to get behind a microphone for the ABC in Broome.
His day job was as the breakfast program producer at 2CC, an uncompromising, hard slog of a job which he did with scarily good grace, humility and unflagging enthusiasm for, oh, more than seven . During that time he won three national awards as a producer and the unstinting admiration of his colleagues.
He couldn’t be better prepared by better people in the ways of broadcasting. Eddie Williams, it’s time to shine.
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Ian Meikle, editor