Why We Would Survive World War Z: An Australian Government Study in Pandemics

Spoilers for the book, but not the movie, of World War Z: An Oral History of The Zombie War, ahead.

Here’s an odd thought: Australia’s government has a perfect contingency plan for a zombie plague outbreak overseas. It developed it, and even tested it, in 2006.

Almost a decade ago, various government departments worked together on developing a response to a global influenza pandemic. It is published on the Department of Health and Aging’s web site. The most surprising bit is that they actually role-played some of the scenarios out, in a series of exercises called Operation Cumpston, which is also described on the abovementioned page. A Brisbane author and professional storyteller named Steve Darlington was their Patient Zero, I believe.

Their findings were basically that although the Australian economy would take a terrible blow from the global depression which would follow a pandemic, we could hold things together. If necessary the border could be sealed, and because Australia is a net food and energy exporter, we could basically keep most of our population alive and in a modern, technologically advanced lifestyle, through the initial shocks and out the other side. Readers may be wondering how we’d stop the zombies if we can’t stop irregular maritime arrivals – in the document the answer is that during a pandemic, the navy could be on the highest possible level of alertness, and required to mercilessly kill anyone attempting to sail to Australia.

So, in the novel, Australia would be a Safe Zone, unless the plague gestates for a long enough time to pass through our inbound screening system. I’m surprised at how similar the novel’s method of dealing with the plague (which is not the same as the movie’s) and the Australian government’s method of dealing with the plague are. For example, if the sealing of the border did occur, that’s sentencing millions of Indonesians who depend on our grain exports to survive, to death. That sounds very similar to the book’s solution, to me.

I’ve not heard the full cast recording, but have been told it’s a truly excellent audiobook, so I’ll be adding it to my list.