So this is what it looks like, when it all starts to fall apart.
The political consensus behind Victoria’s tough COVID-19 social distancing rules lies shattered by the hand grenades lobbed by opposition frontbencher Tim Smith at Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton via Twitter on Friday night.
Smith’s position is crystal clear: he thinks at least some of Sutton’s "independent" medical advice is dictated to him by Premier Daniel Andrews.
The Kew MP won’t accept a word the health officer says unless it's accompanied by the scientific background work that underpins the advice.
Sutton’s position is not hard to understand either; it's that Smith and his colleagues wouldn’t be questioning the need for a hard line on social distancing if they were amid the carnage the virus is wreaking on New York, London or Madrid.
The intervention by Smith and his friends on Friday and Saturday leaves Liberal leader Michael O'Brien looking awkward in his attempts to be the responsible opposition in a time of crisis.
You could dismiss Smith’s outburst as a cry of impotent anguish from an opposition that was not in a strong position going into this emergency and who have been comprehensively sidelined as Andrews moved into his well-oiled crisis management mode.
But this is still a democracy, despite everything, and Smith has the right to criticise Sutton and whoever else he likes. He has a duty to speak up if he really believes it’s the Premier, and not the science, who is really driving the big calls.
A number of state Liberals are quietly frustrated that their party is not taking it up to Andrews and Labor as the Premier wields the extraordinary powers granted to him by the public health emergency laws.
Now, with former Liberal Leader Matthew Guy and frontbencher Ryan Smith joining Tim Smith on the socials to have a crack at Sutton, they’re not quiet about it anymore.
But it’s risky. We often forget this, because we sneer so much at politics and politicians, but MPs are leaders in their communities. Respected. Listened to.
So before granting permission for people who don’t like this government or Andrews to start dismissing the social distancing rules as just more Labor "bullshit" Smith needs to be seriously sure he knows what he’s talking about.
Because there's a choice. We lock down and shut down or we take our chances with the virus.
And that's not bullshit.
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