The Victorian Premier’s Powers

In last week’s sermon, I noted that Australian’s have had, globally speaking, relatively low rates of infections and high rates of restrictions. I restated John Anderson’s observation that Australians appear to be comfortable with “big government”.

Now in Victoria, we see new legislation that gives the Victorian Premier extraordinary powers to declare a pandemic and enforce restrictions. Why is this happening in Victoria? How is NSW politics different?

Victorian politics is more influenced by the thinking of Rousseau (a French political philosopher, 1712 – 1788). In this approach, only two groups matter. The individual – whose freedoms and voice needs to be protected at all costs (hence why Victorians protest more); and The State, whose task it is to listen to individuals, and protect the majority of individuals from extreme outliers.

This explains Daniel Andrew’s position. He believes anti-vaxers are a danger to the majority, and it is his task as the state leader to restrict their capacity to spread harm. And yet at the same, he tends to be pro-individual freedom.

NSW is more influenced by English political philosophy, rather than French (also known as Continental) political philosophy. English political philosophy imagines there are three important groups in society. Namely individuals, the state, and groups of like-minded people who choose to associate together. This third group are voluntary associations practicing their freedom of association.

So when NSW premiers make a decision, they tend to consult the leaders of associations more so than Victorian premiers do. Churches are a classic example of an association based around shared values, which individuals are free to join. But there are many. Footy clubs are not golf clubs, which are not Probus. Each is a unique association, based on specific interests.

Individual rights should not simply trump association rights. Freedom of association rights is very important for a healthy society. I am thankful for their place in our state.

Rev David Rietveld

Senior Minister

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