Queensland – beautiful one year, closed for business the next.
This could be the new slogan that defines what some call the Sunshine State if Queensland’s Labor Party Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk stands by her statements of last Wednesday.
Addressing the Queensland parliament on Wednesday, Palaszczuk said: “You open this state and you let the virus in here and every child under 12 is vulnerable.” Since there is currently no vaccine for Covid-19 suitable for children under 12, this would mean that Australia’s third-largest state, measured by population, could have its international and national borders closed for the foreseeable future.
Palaszczuk’s statement came the very day that Victorian Labor Party Premier Daniel Andrews conceded that there is no feasible way of eliminating the Delta version of Covid-19.
Andrews has announced a slight easing of what is Victoria’s sixth lockdown and acknowledged that the only way out of the current restrictions is by means of widespread vaccinations.
With the exception of NSW under the Liberal Party Premier Gladys Berejiklian, the Australian states and territories have been slow to focus on the importance of vaccinations to end the pandemic stagnation which is adversely affecting many Australians.
At the national level in Britain and Australia, the focus on vaccinations as the only way to suppress Covid-19 has been led by Sajid Javid and Josh Frydenberg respectively. The former is Britain’s relatively new Health Secretary, the latter is Australia’s 14th longest-serving treasurer.
What both have in common is that they had successful careers in business before entering politics and have a sound understanding of the need to repair the damage caused by the virus to the economies of both nations. Following the Conservative Party victory in the December 2019 general election under the leadership of Boris Johnson, Javid was chancellor of the exchequer (the equivalent of an Australian treasurer).
However, after a falling out with Johnson’s erratic (then) adviser Dominic Cummings, Javid went to the backbench in February last year. He returned to Johnson’s cabinet as Health Secretary following the resignation of Matt Hancock, in late June this year.
Javid had not been long in this position before he started campaigning to provide a road map for Britain to move out of lockdown. Addressing the House of Commons on July 5, Javid declared “we are vaccinating our way out of this pandemic – and out of our restrictions”.
And so Britain set out on a course to meet its Freedom Day, which came into effect on July 19 when the remaining restrictions were lifted – despite an increase in cases fuelled by the Delta variant of Covid-19. Around this time Javid, although having received two AstraZeneca vaccinations, went down with Covid-19. His symptoms were mild.
In view of the Delta and other variants of Covid-19, it would be foolish to predict any future impact of the virus in Britain or anywhere else.
But, right now, Britain is relatively open – as was evident during the Wimbledon tennis cham-pionships and the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in recent times. The crowds for both events were required to show evidence of vaccination or undergo a Covid-19 test, a perfectly reasonable requirement despite the objection of some libertarians in our midst.
In Australia, it is the federal Treasurer who has taken the lead, with the support of Scott Morrison, in arguing the case that Australia needs to open up as soon as possible – for economic and personal reasons.
Frydenberg’s campaign began with his interview with the ABC’s 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales on Thursday, August 19. The following day, he did 11 television and radio interviews. Frydenberg’s campaign continues apace. On Thursday he did a dozen interviews before lunch.
One of Frydenberg’s encounters was with ABC Radio National Breakfast presenter Fran Kelly on Thursday. Earlier that morning Kelly had conducted a soft interview with opposition Treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers. Chalmers essentially engaged in an attack on the Morrison government.
But the interview contained news – in that federal Labor’s Treasury spokesman refrained from endorsing Palaszczuk’s suggestion that Queensland could not open up until children under 12 were vaccinated. Which could be “around the twelfth of never”, in the words of the 1958 song.
Frydenberg handles combative interjecting journalists very well, since he invariably remains calm.
Kelly gave the impression that she supported the caution shown by the Queensland and Western Australia Labor governments about the proposal that national borders be opened when Australia reaches a 70 to 80 per cent vaccination rate for those eligible to receive a vaccine.
She suggested that Palaszczuk was “voicing the concerns of a lot of parents” that no vaccine has been approved for children under 12 years old.
When Frydenberg said “we should be taking the advice of a medical expert” on this issue, Kelly interjected: “But should we not be listening to parents too?”
Whereupon the Treasurer responded: “Hang on, I’m a parent and I care deeply about my children and other people’s children.”
Frydenberg later expressed deep concern about “the mental health issues that are caused by these lockdowns and restrictions and people being apart”.
The Queensland government and some of its officials have been far from helpful in combating Covid-19.
Queensland’s chief health officer Jeannette Young said she did not want “an 18-year old dying from clotting illness who, if they got Covid-19, probably wouldn’t die”. The reference was to AstraZeneca.
Palaszczuk herself incorrectly stated in a tweet on June 30 that “even the UK government won’t allow their under-40s to get the AstraZeneca vaccine”. Clearly both women favoured Pfizer over AstraZeneca for vaccinations.
But Britain is as open as it is today due to AstraZeneca.
On Wednesday, Andrews tweeted that AstraZeneca was a safe and effective vaccine. He added: “It is the vaccine that is available now. And that means – for the vast majority of people – it is the best vaccine right now.”
Among the state and territory leaders, Berejiklian has led the campaign that Australians should be focused on vaccinations. She has now been joined by Andrews.
What the remaining administrators need is a treasurer like Javid or Frydenberg to lead change in their own jurisdictions.