Unique strategy to convince thousands of Australians to get vaccinated.

The Australian government has disguised the COVID-19 vaccination booking service as a sports gambling App in an effort to trick reluctant citizens into registering for the jab.

The world-first initiative is being hailed as a creative strategy to fool hesitant citizens into registering for the COVID-19 vaccine, at a time when almost half the nation is in some form of lockdown or even under curfew.

The App is called OddBetter and was developed in order to tap into the enormous popularity of sports gambling in the country.

“Refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is a huge gamble, and OddBetter is a brilliant, creative solution to a complicated problem,” announced the Minister for Health Greg Hunt.

“The world-first initiative will encourage reluctant Australians to get vaccinated, which will in turn allow the country to open up and to return to some form of normal. Sports betting is a popular activity in Australia and this App taps into Australia’s love of sport and our love of a punt.”

The App has the appearance and functionality of a conventional sports betting App. It offers betting choices on a wide range of results in a wide range of sports. It differs from legitimate gambling Apps in that every time a user places a bet, they have actually sent their personal details to the government health system and automatically registered their name for a vaccination for either Pfizer, Astra-Zeneca or Moderna.

“Users will not be charged any money at any stage of this process,” stressed Hunt. “They will be required to register a credit card in order to use the App, like any sports gambling service, but this will be used only to cross reference other personal details and to confirm the user’s identity. Once an identity is confirmed, health authorities will also know if the person has or hasn’t been vaccinated.”

The minister then explained that punters using Odd Better will ‘win’ or ‘lose’ money inside the App, but that this ‘OddBetter currency’ is not real and will not add or subtract from their bank balance in the real word.

“It’s like electronic Monopoly money.”

Of course, finding a way to make people register for a jab is only part of the process.

“Once registered, we still need people to actually turn up and get the vaccination. So, the App has been designed to shut out any user who does not honour their appointment. They will then be advised to show proof of vaccination in order to resume using the App. Also, punters who have already been vaccinated will not receive an appointment notification.”

The minister was asked what had been done to prevent users from simply turning to another gambling site once they are shut out of OddBetter for not being vaccinated.

“Two things. One, we will offer the impossibly good odds on every bet, as well as more options on more sports than any other gambling company – we can do so because our service is not real. Secondly, we know that Aussie punters have an insatiable appetite for gambling – which is why there are at least 70 online gambling sites in the country.”

Hunt was also asked whether announcing the App publicly and writing a press release would expose it’s inauthenticity and thus render it redundant, to which he replied:

“Most anti-vaxxers and vaccine-hesitant people don’t read – they just take all their health advice from social media influencers, or people like George Christensen, Clive Palmer or Craig Kelly.”

Image: Daniel Schludi

Defenders of free speech are destroying free speech.

The very people who decry the loss of free speech in modern society are destroying the ability of people to speak freely. Extremist views stifle reasoned discussions on important social issues and this prevents problems from being properly addressed or solved.

Extreme commentators at both ends of the political spectrum complain that their opinions and right to free speech are being quelled in modern society, while their own words stigmatise anyone who attempts to raise legitimate questions regarding a contentious issue.

Free speech crusaders throw around phrases such as ‘political correctness’ and ‘cancel culture’ and complain that they’re “…not allowed to say anything anymore.” They claim that the ‘thought police’ are denying them their right to express a personal opinion. In most cases, however, those opinions are blatantly racist and are often disguised as humour and casual racism which is borne of ignorance, and is deeply hurtful.

It was never right to be racist, it was just more accepted.

Immigration

Immigration is a perfect example of the death of free speech at the hands of extreme commentators. Extremists have hijacked the issue, and anyone else who attempts to publicly discuss the topic runs the risk of being branded as a racist or a bigot.

Donald Trump used racism. He famously promised to stop Muslims from entering the United States and to build a wall to stop Latinos entering the country, and these views contributed greatly to his election victory in 2016. He expressed the views that many extremists held in the United States, and he discussed immigration as a threat to the USA, to white Americans and to American values and their way of life.

Extremists have equated immigration with racism and xenophobia.

It is consequently difficult for anyone to raise the issue of immigration in the United States and other countries. Anyone who questions current immigration policies, for whatever reason, will be labelled a racist or a bigot. But mature, intelligent and measured discussions about immigration need to take place. Leaders and citizens need to ask how many people can safely live in a particular area. People need to ask if a landmass has enough resources to support a certain number of people, taking into consideration birth and death rates, existing infrastructure, employment opportunities and other factors which determine the success of immigration policies. These discussions are made difficult or impossible due to the hijacking of the issue by ignorant extremists.

Donald Trump is also famous for shutting down discussions with people who opposed his views. There is no better example of killing free speech.

LGBTQI+

The LGBTQI+ community also bear the brunt of intolerance and hateful speech. Issues such as gender fluidity, trans culture and same-sex marriage draw endless commentary from free speech crusaders, and prevent issues from being discussed.

Same-sex marriage is a contentious issue. Every country which has raised the prospect of legalising same-sex marriage, including those which succeeded, endured a divisive debate on the issue, and the defenders of free speech once again destroyed free speech.

Two prominent Australians weighed into the debate in Australia. Tennis legend Margaret Court and footballer Israel Folau exercised their right to free speech but consequently tarnished the debate. Court and Folau opposed same-sex marriage, and declared this publicly. This in itself was not a problem. However, they supported their views with statements claiming that all gay people will go to hell, that same-sex attraction is the work of the devil and that same-sex marriage is a dangerous threat to the social fabric and the family unit.

Anyone else who expressed opposition to same-sex marriage was accused of sharing the views of Court and Folau. Anyone should be allowed to express an opposition to same-sex marriage, but that is difficult to do when the likes of Court and Folau dominate the topic.

Trans athletes also provoke strong debate. Should people who are born male be allowed to play sport with and against females – if they identify as female, or if they have physically transitioned to female? This is a complex debate including issues of fairness and safety, and any decision must be made after a mature, evidence-based and open discussion. This discussion is impossible to conduct when some people label trans people as the devil’s work, an abomination, a disgrace and subhuman. When such hateful views are expressed freely, reasonable people cannot express their views on the topic, for fear of being associated with the bigots.

Gender-neutral language also divides the population. Gender fluid people prefer to use the words ‘they’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’ and ‘them’ instead ‘him’ and ‘her’. A problem arises because they and them are plural pronouns, but they’re being used in a singular context – to refer to one person.

Linguists will point out that this is grammatically incorrect and confusing, while bigots will claim that is is outrageous, unnecessary…and worse. As a result, can anyone oppose the use of ‘they’ and ‘them’ to refer to individuals, without being labelled homophobic or transphobic?

Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the threat to free speech at the hands of those who claim to defend it. Anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists abound online and express views contrary to expert medical advice. Extreme bloggers and social media influencers, celebrities and even elected politicians are expressing wild and unfounded theories about the pandemic, while defending their views as free speech. In reality, they are putting human lives at risk.

Free speech is a foundation of democracy and an open society. It must be defended. It must also be conducted with evidence, acceptance of opposing views and reason.

Image: Christian Bruehner