Yes, a couple of zeroes. Come on, NSW, be happy for us

Last night’s headline had a visceral impact. Opening my news app, I read A couple of zeroes … not a COVID-free state’: NSW not ready to open to Victoria.

It was as though Premier Gladys had physically slapped me in the face as a resident of inner-city Melbourne.

Melbourne diary


Penny Mulvey reports on life in lockdown, from inner-city Melbourne.

It seemed as if the NSW Premier was rejecting the efforts of every single Victorian …

Obviously, the borders will take a bit longer to open than the other welcomed changes which are finally being rolled out around our way. I mean Melburnians can’t travel into regional Victoria until 8 November. But to dismiss the two consecutive days of zero cases!

It seemed as if the NSW Premier was rejecting the efforts of every single Victorian over the past 16 weeks of hard lockdown. It felt personal! Unlike for many of my fellow Melburnians, the impact of Premier Dan’s announcement had not sunk in over the border, apparently.

We are a city of people that has gone from being social animals to bears in hibernation. We are not quite sure at the moment what it is like to even socialise in bigger numbers.

The cavalier way our combined efforts to bring Victoria’s COVID case numbers down had been dismissed, again reminded me of the power of our words.

However, closer investigation of the story behind THAT headline revealed it was not the Premier, but ‘one NSW minister – commenting on the condition of anonymity’ – who had made the ‘couple of zeros’ remark.

This minister clearly understood the impact of those words, if they were so keen to speak anonymously!

I had recently prepared a staff devotion called ‘The Power of Words’. The Bible is filled with cautionary tales of the power we yield with our words.

In his letter, James describes the tongue as ‘a world of evil among the parts of the body’; ‘a restless evil, full of deadly poison’.

We have moved from a proud nation with dotted divides to a continent with hard patrolled borders.

We have all experienced the harm inflicted by another’s tongue. We have also equally caused harm by our own words.

However, somehow in this new world in which we now inhabit, our politicians need to do better. Why do we pit one state against another?

Here in Victoria we have felt like pariahs. The other states do not want Victorians’ tainted blood within their borders.

How difficult will it be to repair the damage of a broken nation due to our own internal political squabbles? Many accusatory, damning words have been spoken and written over the past eight months.

We have moved from a proud nation with dotted divides to a continent with hard patrolled borders.

I fully understand the need to close state borders. Victoria’s rising case numbers in July were definitely a serious cause of concern. That is why we have been so diligent in following the lockdown rules, to get us to ‘a couple of zeros’. Those zeros are hugely important. It is that ‘good report’ that has gladdened the hearts of the 6.5 million people who reside in this state.

Yes, it might be a little longer before we can travel to other states to see our loved ones, for holidays or for work, but please be kind in how you express that. Sixteen weeks of a second lockdown has made us all a little fragile.

Penny Mulvey is Chief Communications Officer of Bible Society Australia.

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