Tuesday 20 July 2021
What do the 1993 comedy movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray and 2014 scifi movie Edge of Tomorrow starring Tom Cruise have in common with Covid-19?
We are all waking up every morning reliving the same day over and over again.
Regrettably, the pandemic is in the real world and the former are in the fantasy world of Hollywood. But just as the movies twist and turn as the narrative unfolds, so too does the virus twist and turn into new strains, and despite our best efforts, it comes back over and over again.
The recent Delta strain is causing untold damage as Australia’s two largest cities of 10 million people in Sydney and Melbourne are forced into further lockdowns, another ‘groundhog day’. The carnage is not just to the health and economic well-being of the nation, but politically it’s taking its toll on the Federal Government, as seen in a further slide in opinion polls. Newscorp poll out yesterday shows the ALP ahead 53-47 with the Prime Minister’s personal ratings also taking a hit. This is a dangerous trend accruing in the winter recess which is normally an advantageous time for the government to get its messaging out without the distraction of Parliament.
The confusing messaging and the stop-start rollout of the vaccine is causing the greatest damage to the government, compounded by recent lockdowns. Ironically, all the goodwill gained by the Commonwealth from last year’s massive fiscal stimulus in response to border closures is now being eroded by the Delta variant and the politicisation of National Cabinet.
National Cabinet was initially set up with genuine bipartisan support from the Premiers and Chief Ministers. A noble aim to collectively deal with the pandemic response has now turned into a rod for the Prime Minister's back. The blame game is alive and well on the vaccine roll-out, inconsistency on border closures, lockdowns, and quarantine quarrels. It’s all starting to unravel for the government with an election due by May 2022.
All Governments since federation, apart from war times, are run by the executive of the ruling party, the Prime Minister and the Federal Cabinet of the day. Cabinet historically comprises between 16 and 21 elected members of Parliament.
However, in the last 18 months some are suggesting that Federal Cabinet and the PM’s powers have been usurped by the state-based National Cabinet. Regrettably, many State Premiers and the Chief Ministers have retreated to partisan positions and are weaponised the continuing Covid crisis ‘groundhog day’ against the Commonwealth. Consequently, the Federal Government is unable to set the agenda or get its narrative out as political shrapnel from the Labor states rain down on the PM.
To cap this off, even the decision-making process in Federal government is being truncated to a couple of committees, namely the National Security Committee (NSC) and the Expenditure Review Committee (ERC). Having one hand tied behind your back due to the National Cabinet structure and the other hand dominated by two powerful internal committees, NSC and ERC, does not bode well for tactile political responses or good governance.
Thankfully, Queensland has escaped the Delta variant, allowing all the national sporting codes to slip into Queensland and continue play in the Sunshine State.
One ray of hope for the nation was the Wallabies’ victory over the French in the third and final rugby Test played in Brisbane last Saturday, and a just-in-time visit by the Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to Tokyo to hopefully secure the 2032 Olympics for Brisbane.
No groundhog day here!