Last Updated on November 21, 2022
Police in Australia received more than one million reports on COVID rule breakers during the pandemic. Australia enacted some of the world’s most stringent COVID measures, including mandatory vaccination for employment in some municipalities and strict lockdowns over low case numbers in pursuit of “zero COVID” policies. Several citizens were happy to rat their neighbors out for perceived violations, however, according to a new study.
In 2019, the country’s program for receiving anonymous tips on criminal activity, Crime Stoppers, received 313,000 tip-offs nationally. In 2020, that number jumped to 416,000 after strict lockdown and other pandemic-related restrictions were enacted in March of that year.
By the end of 2021, Australian police had received 584,000 complaints.
Notable examples include a tip-off in June 2021 about former Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who was spotted without a mask at a gas station. A month later, police received more than 6,000 tips about a massive anti-lockdown protest planned in Sydney. Australian police responded to that rally with overwhelming force, deploying tear gas and using nightsticks to subdue peaceful protesters.
“What we see, looking at the Crime Stoppers data, is that when the government creates a state of emergency, it really starts to be enthusiastically policed, including by regular people,” Associate Professor Catherine Bond of the University of New South Wales said in a statement.
Bond went on to say that while most people detest the idea of “snitching,” or “dobbing,” hundreds of thousands of Australian citizens were happy to inform on their neighbors in the name of stopping the pandemic. “We think we’re doing the right thing and are taking the moral high ground,” Bond said of their motivations.
Bond’s research paper titled, “Dobbing: Australia’s Favourite Emergency Pastime,” argued that the groundwork for the situation that played out during the pandemic was laid during World War II. During the war, executive officials were given tremendous powers in the name of national security.
One such example during World War I was the War Precautions Act, which gave the governor-general of the time the authority to create regulations for “securing public safety.”
Australia does not have an equivalent of a Bill of Rights enshrined within its constitution, giving the nation limited protection against such laws.
Clinical Psychiatrist Tanveer Ahmed believes that snitching is now thoroughly ingrained in the Australian public’s psyche. “We are certainly not the egalitarian, relaxed, carefree, easy-going culture that we see ourselves as. In fact, we can be quite picky and rules obsessed. We are more obsessed with safety than freedom,” Ahmed told The Epoch Times.
“We are one of the most safety-obsessed countries in the world, along with New Zealand and, to some extent Canada, although we are probably worse,” he added. “We can be quite harsh on our fellow people and can get quite selfish.”
Australia imposed some of the world’s most stringent COVID-19 lockdown policies, which included a requirement that citizens needed to quarantine upon entering their own country. In some municipalities, citizens were forced into “quarantine camps” and could be criminally charged if they refused.