It is a shame the federal government doesn’t have fixed terms. Right now, we are getting all manner of political spin regarding lockdowns and vaccination rates and it’s hard to disentangle it from the next federal election.
From the end of June to the end of July around 250,000 jobs in greater Sydney were lost – nearly 9% of all jobs in Australia’s largest city.
That loss is actually worse than what occurred in April last year when the pandemic first hit our shores. This was not something we were contemplating then – and certainly not in a situation where the vaccine was being rolled out.
The job loss in Sydney was more than double the next biggest fall. Jobs in Melbourne fell by 1.6%, 1.2% in Brisbane and 3% in Adelaide.
Jobs in Perth during this period, however, remained steady, which is why you are not going to see much perspiration from the Western Australian premier, Mark McGowan, when Morrison questions the actions of his government – whether explicitly or in Morrison’s usual “Well, I wasn’t specifically referring to anybody” manner – over the opening of borders.
Prior to the vaccine rollout, an end-of-year election seemed likely. Back then Morrison would have been anticipating a victory much like McGowan achieved in March.
But a few late-night panicked press conferences later, plus more lockdowns and angst as Australia’s vaccination rollout lags behind the rest of the OECD, and hopes of cruising to an election off the back of his handling of Covid are gone.
Morrison’s line has now become “Why wouldn’t people want to open up the country when we hit 70 and 80 per cent?”. And there has been some commentary that his position is politically smart.
But really, the poll conducted for Nine newspapers this week by Resolve Strategic is hardly definitive. Sure, 62% answered yes, but the question they were asked was pretty convoluted: “Some state and territory leaders have suggested they might apply different rules at different times, such as using less severe restrictions once their populations reach 50 per cent vaccination or easing restrictions at 70 and 80 per cent if case numbers are still high. Do you think that each state and territory should stick to the national plan of 70 and 80 per cent or do you think they should have the freedom to decide on their own goals?”
At that point I’m inclined to answer yes just to stop the questioner from talking.
As Katharine Murphy has noted, Morrison is setting up a target the state premiers could fail to adhere to. But the actual advice in the Doherty Institute report states that “the combination of 70% vaccine coverage and ongoing low PHSM [public health & social measures] would likely be sufficient for control, if optimal TTIQ [test, trace, isolate and quarantine] can be maintained.”
Those italics are pretty crucial – especially given we have reached a point in New South Wales where they are no longer reporting the number of linked/unlinked cases or their isolation status in the daily 11am briefing because the track and trace system is so overwhelmed the numbers cannot be meaningfully reported in time.
In July, Sydney lost 9% of jobs, but in the last week of July there were 1,352 cases of Covid in NSW; now it’s recording more than 6,000 in a week – a 348% jump. And on Thursday hospitalisations went up 10% in just one day.
So yes, the 70% vaccination rate is important and so is getting people back to work, but while cases and hospitalisations keep rising, the Coalition will be in no hurry for an election.