Morrison will be the first Prime Minister to serve a full term and seek a second since John Howard in 1998.
But it will face the polls at a different time in the pandemic cycle, when the psychological costs of lockdowns and restrictions escalate as the immunization rollout is marred by unresolved questions about security and supply.
“We are prisoners of our own success,” Morrison proclaimed.
Labor pollster Kos Samaras is monitoring the national mood through the polls and focus groups he runs for clients of his company RedBridge.
“Everyone in the world has been traumatized to the bone and we have in this country, especially Victoria, a level of trauma that as a researcher that I have never seen before, you cannot. not continue to inflict blockages on people, ”Samaras said.
“Tolerance for the lockdown is very low, support for Fortress Australia is starting to unravel and the fatigue we are now seeing is enormous.”
Before the National Cabinet even gave up on its zero COVID goal, it was Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews who, upon returning from an injury-induced political sabbatical, said lockdowns would not be needed once that anyone who wanted a vaccine would have had access to one.
“We wouldn’t have a lockdown to protect people who weren’t ready to protect themselves,” he said.
Former Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten says he has noticed a change in the mood of the community in his Maribyrnong electorate in Melbourne.
“People are just flat out, there’s this frustrated resignation,” he says. “We’ve been in this endless loop, it’s like one of those Escher paintings with the stairs to nowhere, there has to be an end, it can’t go on forever. People need hope.
Samaras says this desire has been dominant in his groups for some time, but more prevalent among those under 50, warning of a generational divide where young voters fear politicians will give up their side of the elimination contract. .
“They’ve been told throughout 2020: hang on, keep your borders closed and when the vaccines arrive, it’s the light at the end of your tunnel,” he says.
Samaras and Shorten both lifted the clip of Dame Sarah Gilbert, the Oxford scientist who created the AstraZeneca vaccine, receiving a standing ovation from huge, socially unrelated crowds at Wimbledon as a “penny drop moment” .
“Everyone knows Britain had a bad time with COVID, but here we watch Nick Kyrgios and Ash Barty play at Wimbledon and go there – crowded, what? The penny has fallen, ”says Shorten.
“We’ve been in this endless loop, it’s like one of those Escher paintings with the stairs to nowhere.”
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has long seen this day coming. He argues that the country has been “far too quick to count the costs of staying free but far too slow to count the costs of foreclosure.”
“Something must have gone wrong for Australia to continue closing just as others are finally starting to open,” Abbott said..
Abbott is one of the few to have braved this subject publicly in the past and again this week.
“Yes, we have to preserve life, but not at any cost, because facing the risk and accepting the challenges is part of any decent life,” he says.
Virgin Australia boss Jayne Hrdlicka knows full well that Australia did not want to hold this debate out loud. In May, she was castigated when she said the international border would eventually have to reopen, even though some people were at risk of dying, albeit at levels far below flu.
In 2019, there were 169,301 deaths, an average of 3,255 per week and 72 of them were people reported with the flu.
Morrison said he would not tolerate a UK-like death rate of around 100 per week. In Great Britain, this ratio is 0.25 deaths per million; in Australia, that would mean seven deaths per week.
Backbench MP and former Cabinet Minister Matthew Canavan said no number should be considered acceptable. “I doubt we’re doing this with the flu, we’re still trying to save lives,” he says.
“But I accept that we cannot make a perfect enemy of the good, so I cannot put a number or a number in it except to say that I doubt that we are coming to a situation where there is no no deaths from coronavirus – unlikely. “
Simon Longstaff of the Center for Ethics, an independent think tank based in Sydney, believes the community is quietly considering the inevitability of COVID to become a permanent feature of life.
“The community is a lot smarter and more subtle in its thinking than most people realize,” Longstaff said.
“The community knows that people will die of the flu every year and it’s not that they say ‘I’m indifferent’, but they say that it is despite us putting in place universal access to the influenza vaccine, having the best respiratory doctors that we can, have good hospitals and so forth.
“But they accept this because they know that all of these steps have been taken.”
“Until we get to this [high] level of vaccination, I think it is reasonable to continue to say no, we cannot tolerate community transmission of cases, ”agrees ethicist Peter Singer.
All roads outside of Fortress Australia – and Scott Morrison’s political future – hinge on how quickly jabs get into people’s arms. In particular, the roadmap presented on Friday did not set a target for the number of people to be vaccinated before the reopening of international borders.
“The best way forward would be to set a date by which all those who wish should have been vaccinated and declare that all restrictions will end then,” Abbott said.
Vaccine deadlines were also promoted by ABC’s Norman Swan, who tweeted in May: “We should set a fixed date for opening internationally. It will focus everyone. Watch the queues for the vaccine.
Jason Falinksi, a moderate Liberal and backbench MP, agrees.
“When we get to a certain point in Australia, maybe 60, maybe 70 percent, it will be up to the government to say in the next six to seven weeks that we’re going to reopen the borders,” he said.
This would give everyone time to get vaccinated if they were worried about contracting COVID-19 and getting sick, Falinksi says.
The World Health Organization previously identified 80% as the threshold vaccination rate to make a real difference in the transmission of COVID.
Getting there is a huge challenge for Australia, with just 7 percent of the adult population fully vaccinated – due to the government’s slowness in securing supplies, the see-saw debate over AstraZeneca’s safety and rates. high reluctance from the community.
“It’s actually not surprising, it’s an unintended consequence of a very good job,” says Margaret Harris, Australian and public health doctor, World Health Organization.
Dr Harris compares Australia’s complacency to the rest of Europe’s failure to learn from what was happening in Italy in February last year, as it was not yet happening inside from their own borders.
“Understanding the reality of what this virus looks like is helpful in helping people make that decision,” she says. “Getting your population vaccinated at this point should be an essential part of the strategy. “
Dr Harris says judging the exit point is much more difficult for countries that relied on closed borders as their primary defense against the virus.
“Locking up the population and blocking the rest of the world is a lot easier to get in than it is to get out, because it’s very difficult for the authorities to choose when to relax and how to relax,” says Dr Harris. .
The WHO has never advocated closing borders, but as Australia’s elimination strategy has shown, it works. But at a real cost.
Shorten describes the country as “balkanized”.
“State borders are back, checkpoints are in place, Melbourne seems deserted, Western Australia has gone its own way,” he said. “COVID has been the dye they use in MRI scans to highlight fault lines. “
The last time Morrison tried to suggest the community live with COVID, he encountered a wall of interstate border closures that polls suggest the community strongly supported.
Subsequently, he moved to a position of saying there was “no rush” to reopen the borders and arguing at the G7 that Australia’s internal freedoms were “the envy of the world”.
It ended on Friday. Now, Morrison’s challenge is to clarify the path forward to reopen with specific goals and provide the leadership that a weary audience needs during deployment.
It also remains to be seen how prime ministers – who have agreed to national plans in the past only to go out and do their own thing – transform from zero COVID warriors to handling the virus in a vaccinated population.
“You cannot continue to traumatize the voting public without someone coming to collect this bill,” warns Samaras.
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