COVID-19, militaristic language and government powers

Associate Professor Stuart Ralph spoke with Crikey about the inappropriate use of military rhetoric in government messaging throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the COVID-19 pandemic was declared a public health emergency early last year, federal and state governments were granted heightened powers, enabling allocation of extra funding as well as increased police and military powers. Members of the Australian defence force were deployed to assist with COVID-19 outbreaks in Victoria and NSW and at the same time, government messaging began using military rhetoric invoking notions of war.

A/Prof Stuart Ralph, Department of Biochemistry and Pharmacology, spoke with Crikey about the unsuitability of military language used throughout the pandemic, especially now that government rhetoric has shifted to living with the virus.

According to A/Prof Ralph,

You either need to say we beat COVID-19, which doesn’t really seem like it’s true, or we lost, and that’s obviously not suitable either… It shows how unsuitable militaristic language is, because in a military conflict there’s going to be a winner or loser, and that’s not really the appropriate way of dealing with infectious diseases.

A/Prof Ralph explains that for marginalised communities with a distrust of governments, ongoing use of military rhetoric, war metaphors and even direct involvement of military personnel in public health messaging may have undermined the effectiveness of public health orders.

Read more in Crikey