Flat White

The risk to ScoMo from Melbourne’s latest Covid flap

26 May 2021

5:38 PM

26 May 2021

5:38 PM

There are two very clear takeouts from Melbourne’s latest coronavirus crisis.

The first is that Acting Premier James Merlino is not Daniel Andrews. He’s taking a far more measured approach; warning that a tight lockdown might be needed, but avoiding it.

So far there has been no repeat of the February flap and the crash lockdown then. Merlino is minimising the impacts out the outbreak on businesses — including, importantly, hospitality — and keeping children in schools.

The second is that it poses a clear danger to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

The latest Melbourne outbreak stems from yet another hotel quarantine failure; a man who tested negative for the virus when released from hotel quarantine in South Australia, but positive when he returned home to the Melbourne burbs.

Hotel quarantine simply comes with too many risks, yet despite this politicking has prevented the National Cabinet from developing an alternative.

Both the Premiers and the Morrison Government are to blame here, but immigration is a federal responsibility.

One would have thought sheer political expediency — the government’s sole motivation — would have seen it move on this front months ago and establish facilities for Australians returning home in all the mainland capitals similar to those in the Northern Territory. It hasn’t; a failure in health terms and a chink in its political armour.

Polling such as yesterday’s Essential Report makes this clear.

Gladys Berejeklian noted this morning that the latest Victorian outbreak could have happened anywhere.

“We are still in very initial stages of getting our population vaccinated, and that is why it is really essential — when you look around the world, look at what is happening in Victoria — that could happen in any state in Australia,” she said.

That, of course, leads to the other danger for Morrison; the speed of the vaccine rollout on top of the failure of hotel quarantine.

Here, we are seeing the outcomes of our debased federation, of the massive federal health bureaucracy that does not run a single hospital.

Yet voters expect Canberra to take the lead on something that is so obviously a national concern and, according to Essential, are rattled by what they see.

I’m very much aware of often writing in these pages about the dangers of taking one poll in isolation, instead urging readers to look at polls over a period of time and pick on the trend lines. I’m also very much aware I’ve provided two polls today that simply only offer single snapshots of a moment in time.

Here’s one that doesn’t. It goes back to August — and underlines everything just said above.


Look at that second to bottom line. Currently, the number of people saying Morrison Government coronavirus response is “good” is the lowest it’s been across that timeframe.

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