Daily Telegraph editorial: The Premier of near and far
“No matter where you live in greater metropolitan Sydney, you should have a mask with you,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Saturday.
“Even if you’re just exercising with your household,” the Premier added, “you might change your mind to pick up a coffee or pick up something, or be in an outdoor market, you have to wear a mask.”
The Premier’s casual mention of picking up a coffee – and the need to be masked in such a purchasing circumstance – turned out to be significant.
Yesterday The Daily Telegraph spotted Berejiklian collecting a coffee at her local cafe – and no mask was put in place until the Premier belatedly noticed a photographer.
The Daily Telegraph does not suggest that the Premier breached her own health orders.
But due to the ambiguity and imprecision in the drafting of the orders, it is impossible to say if those orders would have been breached even if Berejiklian was closer to the cafe.
That’s because the order only requires that masks be worn when an individual is “near” a cafe or similar outlet.
What is “near” though? How is it to be defined?
If left to multiple police officers to decide, then it is entirely likely they will come to multiple conclusions. The task of policing this order is thus made more difficult for authorities, too.
The vagueness problem is evident as well in the government’s inability or unwillingness to define what constitutes essential work.
There is also the matter of the Premier’s comments during her announcement last week that Sydney’s lockdown would be extended.
“It’s important for all of us to stay at home unless we absolutely have to leave the house,” the Premier said on Wednesday.
While most people will accept that a state Premier has responsibilities that clearly require her to leave her house more often than your average citizen, many will also be of the view that buying a coffee is not in the essential category.
Except that now it clearly is. Anyone wanting to wander down the road to buy a decent flat white has obvious cause to do so, based on the Premier’s own precedent.
When fines are at stake, precision matters. The government needs to work on its words.
The Daily Telegraph, printed and published by the proprietor, Nationwide News Pty Ltd A.C.N. 008438828 of 2 Holt St, Surry Hills NSW 2010, at 26-52 Hume Highway, Chullora. Responsibility for election comment is taken by the Editor, Ben English.
Originally published as Daily Telegraph editorial: The Premier of near and far
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