‘Roll up your sleeves’ is the main message coming out of Canberra as the COVID skirmish continues. The last month has certainly seen the vaccine rollout speed up, with Australia now well ahead of the world average.
But while more and more Australians are lining up to get the jab, a tense political fight is now brewing between the Commonwealth and some State Governments. National Cabinet had previously agreed to ease restrictions once 70 per cent of those over 16 were fully vaccinated. However, at the time of writing, both the Queensland and Western Australian Governments are attempting to crabwalk away from this commitment, citing the New South Wales outbreak as reason to maintain measures such as border closures.
This has the potential to be a real source of tension between Canberra and the respective state governments. The Prime Minister has been at pains to insist that ‘zero-COVID’ is impossible and that once vaccinations reach the 70-80 per cent mark lockdowns begin to do more harm than good. While the Doherty Institute says that according to their modelling higher case numbers should not be a reason to pause reopening. But ultimately, each state Premier has the prerogative to determine when restrictions are eased, meaning some could be on a collision course with the PM.
There’s no doubt the Federal Government would like the country (mostly) reopened by the end of the year. A Christmas that allows people to travel freely interstate to visit family and go on holidays would put the nation in an overall happy mood. It would also go a long to dampen any criticisms over the vaccine rollout.
An election is due towards the middle of 2022. If a majority of the country is fully vaccinated within the coming months and restrictions are eased, it will pave the way for a smooth run-up to the election for the Prime Minister. However, if it is not smooth sailing on either a health or economic front it would more than open the door for the Opposition to sweep to victory at next year’s poll.
Written by Mitch Collier, Media and Communications Consultant