ProtégéThe Divided States of Australia

August 27, 2021

Whether or not we want to admit it, COVID-19, and our national response to it, has become a political football that divides Australians and pits us against each other in ways that we have not seen since Federation.

It did not happen overnight, and we could see all the media pundits and politicians on both sides of the aisle dragging the nation towards a divided existence.

Runaway and power-hungry Premiers and Chief Ministers are changing the rules, seemingly on a whim, leaving families and business stranded on short notice. This State vs State game of brinkmanship is leading Australians back to the pre-Federation days of seeing each-other as separate colonies on the same continent. It was, Queenslanders against New South Welshmen and Victorians against South Australians. With the juvinile sniping between State Premiers now, it increasingly feels that way again today, rather than Australians working together in a shared national spirit.

It is now a significantly charged political statement to say that you are getting vaccinated, which vaccination you are choosing or how easy or difficult it is to get vaccinated. Saying that you support lockdown measures or oppose them too has become a highly charged and political statement.

So how did we end up here? How do we get out of this rut? How do we reunite Australians under our shared flag and a National struggle? What can be done to break the almost sectarian level of divisiveness between States?

It will take the Prime Minister of Australia and the Federal Government bearing the great responsibility and considerable risk of commanding a strong National response to the National crisis that we face.

We need one voice, dictating one plan, with one person responsible.

National Cabinet has been nothing more than a blame sharing exercise between State Premiers and the Federal Government. They now play ‘Hot Potato’ with responsibility and do not make their decisions individually as heads of their Government, as they are elected to do. Instead, now the National Cabinet does.

We need a united voice and a united pathway to lead us out of this crisis.

Thankfully, the Federal Government has already outlined this plan:

This is where we are now. The measures include:

    • Accelerating vaccination rates.
    • Early, stringent & short lockdowns if outbreaks occur.
    • Inbound commercial passenger arrivals being temporarily reduced.
    • The trialling of new quarantine options & creation of a digital vaccination certificate.

(No state has to increase restrictions beyond their current settings unless there is an outbreak)

70 per cent of adults aged 16+ being fully vaccinated.
Minimising serious illness & deaths associated with COVID-19 with low-level restrictions. Measures may include:

    • Continuing to increase vaccination rates.
    • Easing of restrictions for vaccinated residents.
    • Low-level general restrictions & effective tracking & tracing of cases.
    • Lockdowns less likely, but possible.
    • Increasing inbound travellers arrivals, especially for vaccinated residents.

80 per cent of adults aged 16+ being fully vaccinated.
Living with the virus, minimising serious illness & deaths associated with COVID-19. Measures may include:

    • Maintaining high vaccination rates.
    • Baseline community restrictions only.
    • Highly targeted lockdowns only in specific circumstances.
    • Lifting inbound & outbound travel restrictions for vaccinated Australians.
    • Students, work & humanitarian visa holders returning with higher caps.

Managing COVID-19 as an infectious disease like any other in the community. Measures may include:

    • Opening of international borders.
    • Quarantine only for high-risk travellers.
    • No lockdowns.
    • Vaccine boosters as necessary.

The Premiers and Chief Ministers have already agreed to this National Plan; the Prime Minister only needs to take the reins, lead the country through this process, and end this COVID-19 nightmare.

People are dismayed by these lockdowns; they are angry, frustrated and upset that we are still at square one over a year after the pandemic began. Their frustration comes from our leaders lack of action on implementing measures that would give Australia the capacity to live with the virus. We have a National Plan, a National Government, and a National Leader.

It is time for the Federal Government to step up and take control, and it is time for the Liberal Party of Australia to live up to the promise that it has made to all Australians:

The Government needs to secure Australia’s recovery and build for the future.

by Blake Keating

Blake is the President of the Australian Liberal Students' Federation. Blake is also the President of UoN Liberal Students.