Warring State Premiers Leave National Cabinet in Shreds
By Alexandra Marshall
The biggest criticism regarding Australia’s handling of the Spanish Flu between 1918 – 1920 was the disjointed and rebellious behaviour of the states. National Cabinet was set up as an attempt to unify the states in their approach to Covid.
It has failed.
The behaviour of state premiers during the Covid pandemic indicates that Australia is destined to repeat history.
Not only is the legality of National Cabinet under scrutiny – with a recent ruling insisting that its contents cannot hide behind Federal cabinet confidentiality – but its members are warring in the press.
Premiers blame each other for the Covid situation and retaliate by engaging in an arms race of health orders which grow more extreme by the day.
There is no indication that the premiers intend to follow the Federal roadmap laid out in Operation Covid Shield. Much of the document, which was tabled on August 3 of this year, has been rendered obsolete.
Premier Daniel Andrews has placed the state into a 9pm-5am curfew, in addition to the extended lockdown.
The Premier has received a lot of criticism for his cruel decision to close children’s playgrounds. He was quoted using ‘low compliance’ – not Covid cases – as justification for the health orders.
“We are strengthening the lockdown as well from 11:59pm tonight. There will be a curfew on advice from the Chief Health Officer from 9pm to 5am each and every day. That comes into effect from tonight. I am asking people to curfew from 9pm,” said Daniel Andrews.
The premier also commented on the situation in New South Wales, making assumptions that are not necessarily agreed on.
“They [Sydney] are not reopening any time soon. They are locked in until they get pretty much the whole place vaccinated. That will take months.”
By far the most widely mocked of Daniel Andrews’ new health orders, is the direction involving the drinking of beer.
“There will be no removal of masks to consume alcohol outdoors.”
Returning Olympians from the Tokyo Games have been forced into double quarantine by the South Australian government.
Premier Steven Marshall has been suspicious of the quarantine process in NSW after an 81-year-old South Australian man caught Covid while undertaking mandatory quarantine in NSW, prompting the premier to require double quarantine procedures.
Public sentiment in South Australia appears to agree with the decision, as angry residents insist that if they have to suffer, so do returning sporting stars.
“I know people are hopeful that we’ll keep moving in a positive direction, but the reality is the risk we are facing from New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT is so significant that we don’t believe this is the right time to make any changes,” said Police Commissioner Grant Stevens.
South Australia have closed their borders with parts of the Northern Territory.
New South Wales
In 2020, the rest of the states were complaining about Victoria and its out-of-control Aged Care outbreak (which is still responsible for the majority of Covid deaths), but in 2021 New South Wales is the problem state.
Sydney has been in some form of lockdown for over seven weeks with no end in sight until Christmas.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian had previously insisted that the state was not going to open until it reached a Covid-Zero scenario. This has changed in recent days after it became obvious that the Delta variant was not responding to lockdown measures.
Police Commissioner Mick Fuller has been handed extraordinary powers. Most residents are under stay-at-home orders, with the health directions extended to regional NSW even though most of the state has reported zero cases.
Public protests are prohibited, singles must register their friends online, and ADF patrol the areas of concern in Western Sydney.
Despite this, police still managed to cause controversy when it was announced that they would not be issuing warnings or cautions in relation to public health order violations. It is expected that this will result in a steep increase for Covid related fines which range from $3,000 – $5,000 for individuals.
“When people knowingly do the wrong thing and pretend they didn’t know, that’s not acceptable. So I’m a bit tired of hearing people saying they don’t know what they’re supposed to do,” said Berejiklian – despite that reality that health orders can change daily.
Fuller was heckled at a press conference last week over the measures.
The state famous for housing a premier that gave herself a travel exemption to attend the Tokyo Games while simultaneously petitioning the prime minister to halve the international travel permits for regular systems, has announced a Vaccine Passport.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, on the advice of Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young, announced that in addition to the borders being closed to NSW, those who have a travel permit for essential work must also display proof of at least one vaccination.
This means that the state will now exclude unvaccinated essential workers from travel, regardless of whether they have a negative Covid test.
“Most of these people would already have been vaccinated. I suspect there won’t be many, but just in case they are, I have put that deadline in that by Friday, they must be vaccinated. Otherwise, they cannot, although they’re essential – cross the border,” said Young.
At the beginning of July, Palaszczuk brought the state out of lockdown and allowed an NRL match to go ahead at a capacity stadium. At the time, Young agreed that there was no strong evidence to suggest 50,000 people gathered in one place would be risky.
The announcement of a 1000 bed, purpose-built quarantine facility suggests that the restrictions aren’t going anywhere.
The most isolated of all the states already has a reputation for being the most heavily policed in terms of Covid regulations.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Premier Mark McGowan sparked scorn when he suggested that Covid patients should wear police ankle bracelets – usually reserved for criminals under house arrest.
Last week, he announced the country’s first Vaccine Passports to control the travel of people from New South Wales.
Despite previously saying that Australian citizens would not be discriminated against during the pandemic, Scott Morrison supported McGowan’s policy.
McGowan has remained defiant against the global Covid response, insisting that Western Australia will pursue a Covid-Zero future even if it means keeping the state locked off from the rest of the world. He was the first premier to declare that vaccination uptake will be irrelevant to lifting lockdowns.
“We’ve been through nearly two years of all the criticism and carping and undermining, and what’s Western Australia achieved? The freest most successful society in the world, the strongest economy in Australia and probably the world. And yet for some reason, probably because there’s a fanatical desire by some people in NSW to protect the NSW government, we are under attack,” said McGowan.
McGowan did not make it clear how it was possible to be ‘the freest state’ while its citizens were unable to leave or enter.
Tasmania has remained relatively quiet throughout the pandemic. Premier Peter Gutwein announced that he would run a six-week Covid ‘blitz’ while the borders were closed in the hope of increasing vaccination numbers.
Quarantine has not been much of a challenge for Tasmania, as no one is swimming across Bass Strait.