Craig Wallace, a spokesperson for Australians Against Covid, speaks with the WSWS

The World Socialist Web Site recently spoke to Craig Wallace, a spokesperson for Australians Against Covid, an ad hoc group established after Australian governments last month ended all compulsory isolation periods for COVID-19 infected people and abolished pandemic leave payments.

Craig Wallace [Photo: @CraigWtweets]

The group, an alliance of medical experts and representatives of the disabled, unemployed and Long COVID sufferers, held its first online meeting within 24 hours of the “National Cabinet” announcing its decisions. Wallace, a Canberra-based former public servant and past president of People with Disability Australia, told the WSWS something of his activism for the disabled community.

“I’ve used a wheelchair since my early teens and am passionate about fighting for the rights of my community,” he explained. “I was really poor but fought my way out of the special segregated-schools system for the disabled, a system which unfortunately is now coming back into vogue.

“People think that the ACT [Australian Capital Territory] is a privileged jurisdiction but once you leave the national capital precinct—the parliament, mausoleums, and monuments—you see that Canberra has real social deprivation. The city is oriented towards managerial public servants, consultants and other blow-ins, and so the living costs are really high.

“I’m very wary about the rhetoric we’ve had in this country about welfare reform, and the narrative that disabled people don’t have lives worth living. We’ve seen these regressive ideas played out in the management of the pandemic.

“We’re constantly told that it’s only old people, the disabled, people with underlying health issues that die from COVID. This is eugenics. It’s what Hitler said, albeit in a new form. It’s morally injurious and needs to be opposed by any and every means possible.”

Richard Phillips: The WSWS described the National Cabinet’s decisions as a direct attack on the poor, the unemployed, the disabled, lower-paid workers. What were your immediate thoughts?

Craig Wallace: It was the last straw as far as I was concerned. It means that the disabled can no longer have any confidence that people they come into contact with, or assist them, will not be carrying COVID. Disabled people are going to be trapped in their homes, without support, without human contact, and very worried about all the health impacts that come with being locked down for an extended period of time. This could go on for years.

The threat of being infected is very serious for disabled people, and even if they survive any infection, it can mean extra disabilities—heart and neurological issues, and many other problems. This can be the difference between being able to live independently, and winding up in a nursing home. So, my reaction was outrage, anger and the feeling that the community needs to mobilise against this.

The National Cabinet decisions are being made, not on health grounds but on the basis of a political assessment of what governments think society will tolerate. These so-called assessments are happening where voices from the other side—the QAnon people and other extreme-right fringe groups—are allowed to dominate.

Governments are afraid of these people and they’re also afraid of what’s happening in the electorate and that people are “over” the COVID restrictions. The problem is that COVID isn’t “over” us. It is not the kind of disease that you can let just wander around the community. It’s too dangerous.

RP: Last month’s National Cabinet decisions follow its adoption of “let it rip” policies last December, which involved the systematic undermining of rudimentary COVID safety measures, and have seen a massive increase in deaths and infections.