Difficult times a test of our character

Opinion piece published in The Examiner, 24 March 2020 (available here).

Difficult times give us the opportunity to display our best selves. The coronavirus pandemic is an opportunity for us to shine. Let’s grasp it.

We have a choice. We either put our selfishness into overdrive or we consider the needs of others. The Biblical injunction of “Do unto others as you would have them to do to unto you” is not only a worthy saying, but a practical guide for social and individual life, especially in the current circumstances.

We can raid supermarket shelves and be self-centred. Or we can be civic minded like local MP Bridget Archer who is co-ordinating volunteer help for those doing it tough (contact 6334 7033 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Difficult as the coronavirus situation is, and the uncertainty of its consequences for all of us medically, socially and economically we can make things worse for everyone by foolishly panicking, abusing shop staff and ignoring the expert advice on hygiene and social distancing.

A few facts may help:

  • We produce more than enough food (for 75 million people in fact and more than enough toilet paper for that matter) to ensure we won’t go without – so no need for stockpiling;
  • Limits on purchases are only necessary because of the selfish few foolishly stockpiling – let’s only buy what we genuinely need;
  • The limits are not the fault of the workers in the shops – don’t let them bear the brunt of any frustration;
  • We enjoy excellent aged and health care systems – let’s assist them;
  • Let’s remember that whilst the coronavirus may have originated in a particular country it’s not the fault of the people within our community who may have originally come from that country – we’re all in this together irrespective of our ethnic origins;
  • Our democratic parliaments have risen to the occasion to deal with the arising issues in a considered, calibrated and caring manner with the best interests of the potentially most vulnerable in mind.

We all need to pull together, work together and support each other in these times so that after it’s all over (as it will be) our minds will be full of the acts of civic mindedness rather than punch-ups in shops and the trampling of a 13 year old girl (in Perth, WA) in the toilet roll aisle. How would we want our children and grandchildren to remember us? – The one lending a helping hand, or one filmed fighting for toilet paper – neither dignified today nor a worthy legacy.

We can all do our bit. We can remain patient with staff in shops and service sectors who need to tell us bad news. We can extend a helping hand and support to do the shopping or assist in other ways.

Some ideas:

  • Our banks giving interest rate/loan relief;
  • Councils giving rates and other fee relief;
  • Landlords giving give rent relief;
  • The State Government giving payroll tax relief;
  • The Federal government giving tax relief with business activity statements;
  • Employers striving to hold onto jobs and workers reciprocating to help keep their employer afloat;
  • Unemployed or displaced workers filling the void in agricultural sectors that are too reliant on overseas seasonal workers.

The potential list is endless. Whilst our governments are doing everything they reasonably can, we all have a role to play.

The current times also remind us that it is always wise and prudent to save for a “rainy” day. Not to put all our eggs in the one basket – especially economically. Over reliance on one cohort of customers may provide great short term yields but also risks over exposure with potentially dire consequences. Thirty years recession free may have given us too great a feeling of security. Yes, lessons need to, and will be, learned but in the meantime we need to work together co-operatively for our common good.

In the words of our longest serving Prime Minister, Robert Menzies:

“We believe that under the blessing of divine providence and given the good-will, mutual tolerance and understanding, energy and individual sense of purpose, there is no task which Australian cannot perform and no difficulty which she cannot overcome.”

We face a difficulty and we will overcome it.  

For coronavirus updates, please see https://www.health.gov.au.

About Eric

Eric Abetz has been a Liberal Senator for Tasmania since 1994 and has served in a range of Leadership, Ministerial and Shadow Ministerial roles.

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