In what could be an ominous portent for Jacinda Ardern, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews is copping a shellacking for his bungled handling of COVID-19. Australia’s wokest state has previously stood firmly behind its Dear Leader, even in the face of mounting political scandals – but COVID-19 may be the game-changer.
Like Ardern, Andrews bet on a hard-lockdown strategy. While Victorians grumbled about being fined and hectored by police (Victoria issued more fines than any other state), they obediently succumbed – on the tacit understanding that it was “necessary”.
But the sight of tens of thousands of left-wing protesters flouting restrictions without any repercussion, and a subsequent spike in infection numbers, seems to have finally snapped even Victorians’ patience.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has suffered a sharp drop in support for his handling of the coronavirus, with federal authorities fearing the state could become the source for a second wave outbreak of the disease.
The government insists that the new infections aren’t linked to the protests, but Victorians will remember that the Andrews government also lied and tried to cover up Victoria’s single biggest infection cluster – which was coincidentally linked to a generous Labor party donor.
Other premiers are faring markedly differently.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk stocks have risen after having committed to reopening the Queensland border within weeks, with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, South Australian Premier Steven Marshall and Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein enjoying increased support.
The Tasmanian Liberal leader has now replaced West Australian Labor Premier Mark McGowan as the country’s most popular premier.
In fact, other premiers are quickly moving to immunise themselves from catching Dan Cooties. South Australia is keeping its borders closed, while Queensland is opening its borders to everywhere but Victoria (it will be interesting to see how they manage that in practise). NSW is demanding that Victoria impose quarantines on infection hotspots.
For the moment, Tasmania’s borders are scheduled to reopen on 24 July. It remains to be seen how the unfolding situation in Victoria affects that plan.
While 72 per cent of Victorians still believed Mr Andrews was doing reasonably well, this represented a 13-point downward turn since April.
In what would appear to be a blunt message to the Premier, the number of people who believed he was doing “very badly” almost tripled while those claiming he was doing “very well” plunged from 52 per cent to 31 per cent.
Talk of a “second wave” is also still grossly premature – at best, the new infections are a blip in an otherwise steady downturn. But, as Ardern is also discovering, the harder the lockdowns the higher the expectations of voters that the virus will be controlled – and the greater their anger at the prospect of a return to lockdown.
This was the big gamble that Ardern particularly took, in boasting, first about “hard and early” and then about supposedly “eliminating” the virus. Imposing such hardship on voters raised expectations concomitantly higher. Even the slightest resurgence of infections was inevitably going to invite a hammer-blow of a backlash.
Daniel Andrews is learning this lesson the hard way. After a horror-week of incompetence and unprecedented media grilling, it will be interesting to see how Ardern fares.
Especially with the only opinion poll that matters looming in just a few months.
If you enjoyed this BFD article please consider sharing it with your friends.