"Madness in Melbourne" was the title of a column on the American Institute for Economic Research website on August 4. Jeffrey A Tucker praised Melbourne's bridges, architecture, natural beauty, even the police.
Then he got to the Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, who "had imposed a vicious police state without precedent in his country's history". He lists 23 points that make it so.
A week later Tucker focused on "Authoritarianism in Auckland".
He described New Zealand as looking and feeling like a paradise. Then followed with "sadly, thanks to brutal and deeply incompetent political leadership, that paradise is lost, lost to the superstitions of the Covid faith that power, police and adoring news coverage, can scare a pathogen to go away and stay away".
The Andrews Government in Victoria is the most authoritarian in Australasia, by some measure. I previously wrote that the most important aspect of increasing power assumption was the determined end and withdrawal of that emergency political extension. We still don't know.
The difference between a good and not so good government is willingness versus reluctance to surrender what was designed to be a short-term solution. By now, any aware New Zealander would know what has taken place in Andrews' state: emergency additional powers for six more months. He wanted 12.
The result of parliament approving that extension became immediately apparent.
Zoe Buhler, a young, pregnant mother in Ballarat, had her house "invaded" by a number of police personnel. They came with a warrant, arrested her, handcuffed her, confiscated all the media devices, including her partner's phone, through which he was live-streaming the event. All in the presence of her children. Her offence was a Facebook post, encouraging an anti-lockdown march.
In another incident, police battered down the door of a townhouse and arrested a man. Up until the moment of entry, he was talking to them from his first-floor balcony while filming the conversation. He also was reported as a Facebook protester. This in contrast to a free pass given to 10,000 Black Lives Matter protestors in June.
There is much commentary by journalists, lawyers and medicos. Particularly under question is the effectiveness and value of lockdowns. One very strongly framed warning which includes "as in Victoria yesterday, so it may be in any other State tomorrow" is contributed by retired Federal Circuit Court Judge Stuart Lindsay.
Professor Johan Giesecke, one of the world's leading epidemiologists and adviser to the Swedish Government, argues that lockdown is the wrong policy. He is far from alone and that support is strengthening.
It is the authoritarian attitude, creeping to next-level, that is a big concern for many.
Victoria's Assistant Police Commissioner, Luke Cornelius, concluded a speech with threatening tone and language. His words were "we will get you". I've not witnessed anything like it before, and the New Zealand police are, or appear to be, in a transformative mood, albeit not in Victoria's category. Yet.
The police commentary on the speed ticketing buffer threshold is extraordinary. To publicly state that there has never been a buffer is a falsehood, or a lie. Various media have quoted the police from past commentary. Every holiday weekend there is an announcement, on the buffer reduction.
For a senior police official, actually two, to claim that there has never been such a thing, makes one wonder in which direction the force is travelling. Is it possible they're being influenced by the extended powers of the Victorian police? Or maybe it's plain and simple extortion? Dare I suggest population control? If Auckland Transport can do it, #ustoo! Inch by inch.
Whatever the reason, it's dishonest and there will be a number of side effects. Revenue will accelerate, traffic congestion will compound and the strugglers will do it tougher. Whatever happened to "driving to the conditions"? No upside?
All the above I wrote on September 10, but that was then and this is now September 14.
In the intervening days things have progressed. "Inch by inch" became metre by metre in Victoria. The state that signed up to China's Belt and Road initiative seems determined to adopt more police state tactics; Xi Jinping must be looking on with approval.
Under the watch of Chairman Daniel, police expressions of authority have grown violent. Literally ripping a woman from her car, violently. Clearing the Queen Victoria Markets in the CBD with riot squad tactics. And more, all on video.
Tucker concluded his "Melbourne madness" column with "lockdowns are not science: they are brutality. I cry for the once-great city of Melbourne this day. May there be justice. And may its future political leadership be granted some modicum of decency and wisdom". I flicked Tucker a note "may the electorate be granted some wisdom". He confirmed.
We have an election upon us. If the answer is more government, then it's an idiot question.