Officials outlaw The Good Samaritan

by PAUL COLLITS – OUR Lord was once asked by a Jewish lawyer, “who is my neighbour?” The context of the question was a disquisition on the two great commandments, and the answer was in the form of a parable, perhaps the most famous of the New Testament. 

My neighbour is anyone in need, basically. And the appropriate behaviour of one enjoined to “love thy neighbour” is to do whatever it takes to address the needs of the one in strife. 

Dozens of lives in Lismore were saved because heroes of independent mind and a sense of potentially fatal urgency, flipped the bird at bureaucrats with ridiculous rule-books.

The behaviour of the Good Samaritan was so over the top as to be considered surplus to requirements.

Not only did the Samaritan attend to the immediate medical needs of the victim attacked by the roadside, but saw to it that food and accommodation were provided by third parties.

EXCELLENCE

The Good Samaritan had organisational and project management skills par excellence.

The skill set you might welcome in an officer of the State Emergency Service. Except, as shown in the recent Lismore (and other) floods, both the skill set and the neighbourliness were manifestly lacking.

As wounded “neighbours” sat on roofs clinging on for dear life, the messages from the potential life-savers of the SES command to both flood victims and those offering to help included the following:

  • We cannot get to you, there is too much debris for our SES workers, we might come back later;
  • We only have two boats in flood-prone Lismore (but wait, more are coming);
  • You cannot volunteer to join the SES if you haven’t been vaccinated for COVID;
  • Our own workforce is depleted because we sacked our own unvaccinated workers;
  • We do not need your help, Australian Defence Force, we will be right; and
  • Go home, you volunteers, you will get in the way of our own efforts.

Perhaps the SES was afraid that it might be sued if it had given the okay to untrained volunteers to proceed to attempt flood rescues which subsequently led to deaths. If so, this would indicate a bizarre sense of priorities.

The just-revealed rejection of the ADF’s help ahead of the flood sets the tone for the whole episode: “Senior Sky News reporter Andrea Crothers says revelations the ADF’s offer to assist the SES in the NSW flood response was rejected twice will be “tough news” for those who risked their own lives to help save others.

“Today there is those revelations that the defence force had offered to help the SES three days before Lismore was swallowed by those flood waters,” Ms Crothers told Sky News host Chris Smith.

“Twice they offered that help, and twice it was knocked back.”

It is likely a very conservative claim that dozens of lives in Lismore were saved because heroes of independent mind and a sense of potentially fatal urgency, flipped the bird at bureaucrats with ridiculous rule-books.

LOVING

These Macquarie Street gauleiters were trying to stop people from loving their neighbours.

This interference went far beyond merely not encouraging acts of voluntary kindness. They were actively trying to stop them.

They were, it might well be argued, placing lives at risk through actions designed to ward off pesky Good Samaritans who might get in the way.

Any potential inquiry into the flood response must shine a powerful light on the SES and ask these awkward questions.

It is one thing to be insistent that you don’t need any help to do your job.  But you had better be damned sure that you do your job well.

This is one of the big lessons of the floods. The deterioration of our public life is plain for all to see.

It is revealed unintentionally every day in the cynical words of our politicians – don’t ever call them “leaders” – their mealy-mouthed excuses for non-action, their deceits, their sins of omission, their overweening interferences in our lives, their denial of our rights and freedoms, their propaganda, their cosy deals with one another.   

What we have also witnessed is the passing of a type of public service that once was an embedded feature of our political culture.

It was seen in the kind of men appointed to senior positions and the standards to which they were held.

Like Major General Alan Stretton, who oversaw the Darwin cyclone recovery process. For once, Gough chose wisely.

Here is a comment on the work of the Major General upon his passing in 2012: “Historian Peter Forrest says the Major General has left a lasting legacy.

COMMAND

“He of course will be always remembered in Darwin as the man who took command of the immediate post-cyclone phase, those first five or six days,” he said.

“I think he did a great job in focusing the mind of the nation on what Darwin’s situation really was.

“He was able to use all of his authority and connections to focus the entire resources of the nation onto Darwin’s situation and its needs and I think he was just about uniquely placed to do that.”

All quietly, calmly and without fuss. Stretton was named Australian of the Year in 1975.

This was called a career public service. Peopled by “civil” servants in both senses of the term.

Civil servants with a deeply felt sense of serving the public. Not by overpaid, self-promoting, politicised butt-coverers on short-term contracts who spend their lives on social media.

Photographing themselves “helping” flood victims. It was seen in the agreed acceptance of the place where the buck stopped, and the appropriate response (resignation) when bungles occurred. This was called ministerial responsibility.

The alignment of three ghastly modern trends in governance has helped to deliver the outcomes witnessed in Lismore during the floods.

The first is the overbearing regime of health and safety that pervades every nook and cranny of government.

You cannot do anything for fear someone might get hurt, whether it be physically or psychologically.

The second is the all-encompassing legal liability model that dictates everything governments and bureaucrats do. The fear of being sued governs all.

CORPORATISATION

The third, which is upstream from the first two, is the corporatisation of everything. Overlay all this with a soupcon of mad COVID fascism, and you have all but sealed the fate of volunteerism.

The impact of this unholy trinity of developments has been far-reaching and negative.

Including on the mindsets of decision-makers and the folks on the ground.

At Wyong Creek (just north of Sydney) SES workers must have felt humiliated to have to admit that unvaccinated volunteers were not welcome at the site of the floodwaters.

Not their decision, as Avi Yemini explains: “After a week of torrential rain and floods, the Wyong SES put out a call to the community through its Facebook page asking for volunteers to help fill sandbags for desperate residents.

“What’s being referred to as a ‘one in a thousand-year’ weather event has meant all hands on deck are called on to pitch in.

“Well, not quite.

“Adding to the grief for local SES operators was a decision by the NSW State government and SES leadership to only allow fully vaccinated members of the community to roll up their sleeves and fill the sandbags.”

The impact of the new corporatisation on volunteering must be immense, to take one example.

Now charities are run by paid CEOs who boss around the volunteers and enforce head office corporate edicts on everything to do with the “business”.

(I was recently considering working as a volunteer in a Christian bookshop. I very quickly lost all desire to be involved when presented with a shopping list of legal requirements, all, alas, involving hideously complex online forms and associated processes. Police checks. Working with children checks. And all the rest. Multi-page forms. All to spend a day a fortnight in a bookshop that would be lucky to see three customers in a day.)

KickStart Queensland notes that the problem over volunteers isn’t confined to NSW. No jab, no volunteer job, thanks to Anna Stasi up north.

SUFFERED

God only knows what unnecessary hardship or losses have been suffered by flood-stranded Queenslanders as a result of this contemptible policy by the Qld government.

It’s not as though the State is so overflowing with SES volunteers, that they can afford to pick and choose like this.

More than 20 SES branches have closed in recent years in Qld and thousands of volunteers have quit.

Figures revealed during the 2019 budget estimates showed that 19 SES groups have closed across Queensland since November 2015, including eight in Mackay.

And what about the Rural Fire Service?

Will they be adopting the same suicidal policy when the next bush fire disaster rolls around?

If they do, the consequences for the whole State could be catastrophic.

This madness has to stop before it costs lives – if it hasn’t done so already!

The question that some are asking is, can the Rural Fire Service be far behind? Indeed, the ABC recently reported, no doubt with great glee, that 80 per cent of RFS volunteers surveyed supported compulsory vaccinations.

Not only is RFS not behind. It is in front. Just wait for the next serious bushfire, thanks to Dominic “I don’t want to see a two tiered society” Perrottet’s vaccine mandates.

This brings us to another worrying development.

This is the degree to which sympathy for these vile statutes relating to volunteers is (apparently) supported in the community.

There are, indeed, those who would say, “good on the SES for its sensible stand”.

I have spoken to people who, while claiming to understand the frustration (a very, very mild word, indeed) of Lismorians and others who were told to wait in the queue for rescue and post-flood support because we want our own massively depleted organisation to “own” the rescue effort and to keep all the Good Samaritans out, nevertheless also “understand” the position of the risk-averse SES.

What of the top-heavy governance of the flood recovery “effort”? 

There now seem to be more disaster recovery caesars than you can poke a stick at.

RULE

And the first rule is – get the word “resilient” into everyone’s title. There is the inimitable Shane Stone, purveyor of unsolicited advice on where we should choose to live.

We have the minister for gun club grants, Bridget McKenzie. Sadly, (with apologies to Smacka Fizgibbon and Barry Humphries), the ministerial adventures of Bridget McKenzie continue. She herself is certainly politically “resilient”.

Then we have Team NSW. The size of the team is a bit of a disaster in itself. There is the Premier, who alternates between bluster and cliché on the one hand, and genuine humility and empathy, on the other.

There is Steph Cooke. A disastrous minister for disasters. At least she is staying in Australia during the disaster from which she is helping us to recover. Her predecessor (David Elliott) bolted to London during the bushfires.

There is not one, but two disaster recovery “supremos”. Shane Fitzsimmons, “commissioner of resilience”. And a top cop, Mal Lanyon, working under Shane.

Then, of course, we have the boss of the SES, Carlene York. Inevitably, an ex-copper. Appointed in 2019.  And not sacked in 2022. Sitting atop an organisation so embarrassing that any reasonable assessment of its contribution to the Lismore floods would conclude it was nothing short of cringeworthy.

The less said about her, the better.

The 2022 face of big government. A motley crew, to be sure, whose sheer size – with all the opportunities for mis-communication, inconsistency, confused messaging and turf wars – is as much of a worry as its manifest incompetence.

I am pretty sure that none of this lot will be made Australian of the Year in 2023 for their services to flood recovery.

FORMS

Just imagine if the poor old Good Samaritan had to deal with this lot. Imagine all the forms he would have had to fill in.

COVID health checks. Social distancing. Working with children checks. Police checks. Digital ID passes.

Now, coping with all that would, indeed, be a test of charity. Perhaps he would have come universally to be known as The Masked Samaritan.

In effect, what has happened is that the government has outlawed the Good Samaritan.

Perhaps another of Christ’s famous quotations – “render unto Caesar” – should be recast, in the age of health and safety, legal formalism and corporatisation, as “render unto multiple, unelected NSW State bureaucrats and senior officers of the SES”.PC

Paul Collits

NSW SES rejects ADF help – repeatedly…

MAIN PHOTOGRAPH:  Dominic Perrottet. (courtesy ABC News)

5 thoughts on “Officials outlaw The Good Samaritan

  1. It is of course understandable that flood victims are angry, frustrated and generally depressed by the events they had no control over and now have to force themselves to cope with.

    The fact remains that in this land of droughts, flooding rains, cyclones, bushfires natural disasters are going to take place in the future, nothing to do with climate emergencies, climate change over very long periods is natural Earth Cycles, weather events are shorter term experiences and even the BoM cannot often predict into the short term future to forecast a warning.

    The bad behaviour of some Australians is intolerable and especially when they target volunteers trying to help them and others who are from government services also doing their best to provide assistance.

    It is a fact that people are not forced to buy properties in flood zones but many choose to buy because of lower real estate values, but they cannot later blame others and the government when they experience problems. I certainly support commentators who criticise authorities that approve building and construction in danger zones but the buyers needed to research the location and past disasters, if any.

    And as for insurance, the risk should not become a taxpayer’s expense when the property owner chooses not to be insured or cannot obtain affordable insurance but still purchased their property accepting the risks.

  2. “Military personnel helping flood-affected communities have been verbally abused by some residents, and in one case a soldier was allegedly spat on, in behaviour described as “regrettable” by the Australian Defence Force.

    Key points:

    An SES commander says a soldier in uniform was spat on by a member of the public in Lismore
    Members of the Defence Force have been assisting flood-affected communities in the Northern Rivers
    There has been heavy criticism over the time it took the military to respond to the flooded areas
    The head of the NSW State Emergency Service’s Northern Command, Steve Patterson, told the ABC he was frustrated at so-called social media influencers and members of the public who had unfairly criticised soldiers in uniform.

    Chief Superintendent Patterson, who also previously served in the ADF, said many of the local military reserve personnel working under him had also lost property during the floods.

    “A Defence member that I’ve been working with quite closely right throughout the flood, who was in Lismore in uniform, was spat upon by a member of the public,” he said.

    “That’s just behaviour that is almost beyond my understanding at any point, but let alone when these members have been out there working so hard.””

    ABC News extract

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  3. Thank you Paul for putting all this into words. This is so true what has been happening. Only for the Good Samaritans, Lismore would have had more deaths than Qld’s 13. But no one is commenting on how many deaths in Lismore lately?
    A friend said someone offered to help SES and they wouldn’t let him because he was unvaccinated even though the smell from the flood waters and the bacteria etc in them would be 1000 times worse than the corona. Now that a real disaster has occurred from Qld down to Sydney all the corona baloney looks miniscule. An enquiry needs to be done on our so-called leaders ruining the country beforehand and now their non-alerts and inaction to a real disaster. There’s no excuse – we are in a La Nina year, the ground was saturated before the rain event and with another 200-300ml of rain should have put the area under a ‘red alert’ especially with the floods in Qld occurring first. The authorities had went through all this after the 2017 flood – when a catchment area has some 200-300ml of rain they are to send alerts to whoever (SES) to get the residences and businesses of Lismore ready for a flood ie evacuating.
    But where I live north of Lismore on a hill received 825ml plus rain in 2 days and 2 nights. The weatherman said they thought the rain event would move on but it didn’t, it stayed for 48 hours, just constant showers of rain, so I believe this guy is correct in what he says caused the weather event to stay around and increase https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlPnT-iEakQ
    But we will probably have all those zero carbon emissions people trying to tell us that burning fossil fuels has caused the catastrophic weather events to increase in frequency and duration. I hope they get to watch such videos above as anyone would think our so-called leaders made another disaster to destroy us in their attempts to stop peaceful Freedom protests in Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra.

  4. This is a sign of the Godlessness that now exists in Australia. Where people who prefess to hold Christian values now fear being cancelled for proclaiming nothing more than what the vast majorirty believes in and lives by.

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    1. The ‘vast majority’ needs to get off its collective arse then and become vocal. Our main problem is silence.

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