State governments have taken on more visible power throughout the pandemic than ever before. In July, an Australian Institute survey revealed 42% of participants believed states were handling COVID better than the federal government – just 16% believed the opposite.
Three days out from wrapping up our second COVID year, in the nostalgic tradition of the likes of Spotify, let’s take a look back at how state policies compared in 2021:
ACT – under Chief Minister Andrew Barr
The ACT had their longest lockdown ever this year – a nine-week one which began in mid-August. Chief Minister Andrew Barr has demonstrated a very fast response time over 2021 – the August lockdown was a snap one called as soon as a young club-goer had been confirmed COVID-positive.
Barr went on to criticise then-NSW Premier Berejiklian for insufficiently tough restrictions, saying the decisions she was making affected not just her own state but for the whole of Australia’s east coast. The top song of ACT’s 2021 was their sweet early release of over 95% fully-vaccinated, a figure which came out in early November – significantly ahead of other states.
NSW – under Premier Gladys Berejiklian/Dominic Perrottet
Under ex-Premier Berejiklian, NSW endured a flop of a lockdown lasting over 100 days. Berejiklian was denounced for being too slow to order the lockdown and too soft in executing it. Even after people were confined to their homes, retail remained open. She was also criticised for Western Sydney’s disproportionate restrictions, including a targeted police patrol to ensure compliance.
Alas, Gladys ‘swan-songed’ on October 1st and was replaced by current Premier Dominic Perrottet, who has since presided over the worst outbreak in Australia’s history. Perrottet has consistently removed restrictions and vaccine discrimination throughout December, despite being warned by medical professionals that such decisions were ‘bizarre’. Turning Omicron over to ‘personal responsibility’, NSW’s cases have now soared to 6,394 on Christmas.
Northern Territory – under Chief Minister Michael Gunner
The Northern Territory under Chief Minister Gunner exercised a rigorous approach to tackling COVID in 2021. Check-ins have remained mandatory at all NT businesses and venues up to this day, and the territory has implemented localised lockdowns and mask mandates to tackle emerging hotspots.
One of NT’s unsung heroes has been ‘exclusion zones’ – areas with double-dose rates of under 80% for over-5-year-olds have movement in and out restricted. Many exclusion zones are comprised of Indigenous communities, whose vaccination rates have been falling behind the nation’s average.
Gunner has made the protection of Indigenous Australians a major aspect of his COVID policy, doubling down on comments that anyone opposing the territory’s strict vaccine mandates was an anti-vaxxer: “I think you’ll see our vaccine mandate is absolutely crucial to protecting life, particularly Aboriginal life”.
Queensland – under Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk
Under Premier Palaszczuk’s leadership, Queensland has exercised a highly cautious approach to managing COVID through 2021. Like Chief Minister Barr, Palaszczuk sent the state into a snap lockdown at the first sight of Delta presence at the end of July. But it was these quick responses that allowed Queenslanders to emerge from their lockdown earlier than New South Welshmen or Victorians.
In line with Palaszczuk’s precautionary approach, the Queensland-NSW border has been subject to strict and prolonged closures. Many Queenslanders rely on crucial interstate tourism for employment, and protests erupted in the border region in late August, after the state recorded a 6.6% increase in unemployment and underemployment. The border with NSW only reopened two weeks ago.
Tune in tomorrow for Part II covering SA, Tasmania, Victoria and WA.
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