Heather du Plessis-Allan: Aussie border closure is an overreaction but works for ScoMo

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Tue, 26 Jan 2021, 4:49PM

Heather du Plessis-Allan: Aussie border closure is an overreaction but works for ScoMo

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Tue, 26 Jan 2021, 4:49PM

Let’s call that Australian government decision over the border for what it is: an overreaction.

If few of us Kiwis outside of Northland are panicking, then you have to wonder why the Australian government is so panicked that it shut the border to New Zealand for 72 hours. 

There’s one case.  She doesn’t appear – at the moment at least – to have passed Covid on to anyone including her husband. And while she might have visited a number of places, very few are actual close contacts. 

What’s more, this doesn’t even meet the Australian government’s own criteria for closing borders.  Their criteria is that they stop travel from areas where there are hotspots, and a hotspot they themselves define as 10 cases a day in a town or city, and three cases a day in a rural area.  Again, this is one case. 

So, it begs the question, why the overreaction?   

And the answer of course has to be politics. This is most likely a bit of political theatre for Australian voters.   

Just like Kiwis, Australians are freaking out about the new, more contagious South African and UK strains and just like Jacinda Ardern knows voters are grateful for going hard, going early, ScoMo likely realises the same. 

And they probably figure it’s a great political look for them to be so tough on Covid, they’re even prepared to close the border to New Zealand, one of the most Covid-free places in the world. 

I don’t know if ScoMo is deliberately competing with Jacinda Ardern to be perceived as going earlier and faster, but it has to be a political possibility.  That might explain – at least in part - the border move.  It might also explain the Australians approving the vaccine yesterday, when New Zealand still at least a week away from being able to do it.  My understanding is that authorities in both countries were supposed to announce approval at roughly the same time. 

Regardless of whether it’s deliberate, the narrative is starting to bed in that Australia is faster.  So, Ardern’s government needs to wise up to that.  Because, ScoMo has the vaccine approved earlier than us, he has an earlier roll out date and he’s been taking our travellers for months without us getting any benefit from Australian travellers.  That impression might not affect only Australian voters, but Kiwi voters too. 

You get enough political theatre and it can become political truth.