Maybe a majority of Victorians once supported Premier Daniel Andrews and his management of COVID-19 – not any more.
Victorians are now divided exactly down the middle. Any sense of community unity and “we’re all in this together” has long since disappeared.
Victorians have witnessed first-hand what arbitrary and naked power looks like. They’ve seen how a government that rewards its friends and punishes its enemies operates. In Melbourne, if your job was mowing lawns and you belonged to a trade union the government allowed you to work. If, however, you did exactly the same job but were self-employed you weren’t allowed to work.
When Kevin Rudd attempted to introduce his mining tax there was a lot of discussion about “country sovereign risk”. After what’s happened in Victoria “state sovereign risk” is now a real issue. The Victorian government’s contempt for the private sector is demonstrated by the fact Andrews has said he hasn’t even read the letter from the chief executives of seven of the country’s largest employers urging the state to be reopened.
Earlier this month the Institute of Public Affairs commissioned an opinion poll of 1000 Victorians. When asked to respond to the statement “Daniel Andrews has mismanaged the government’s response to COVID-19 and should resign”, 41 per cent agreed, 41 per cent disagreed, and the rest were undecided. Responding to the statement “Daniel Andrews does not understand the impact of his restrictions on ordinary Victorians”, 42 per cent agreed, 42 per cent disagreed, with the rest undecided.
Clearly the Andrews government still has support, but it’s not overwhelming. The mystery to Andrews’ polling numbers is not why are they now starting to turn, but why they had been so strong for so long. The much-discussed Melbourne version of “Stockholm syndrome” might be one explanation. Another might be that, quite understandably, Victorians have not wanted to admit to themselves they’ve been duped.
In April, Andrews spoke about the need to impose lockdowns to “flatten the curve” of infection to avoid a “pandemic peak” and have Victoria’s hospitals overwhelmed, and the number of intensive care unit beds in the state was increased from about 450 to 4500. He said, “Everything we do now gives us vital time to prepare our health system for what is to come.”
Deep generational divide
According to the federal Department of Health, two days ago 10 Victorians were in hospital with COVID-19, and none of them were in intensive care. In fact in the entire country, 16 people were in hospital because of the virus, with one of those being in intensive care in New South Wales.
The response of Victorians to the statement “The lockdowns were necessary and justified early on, but now they have gone too far” reveals a deep generational divide: 48 per cent of respondents agreed, 35 per cent disagreed, and 17 per cent didn’t have a view.
But across the age groups of 25-34, 35-44 and 45-54, those who agreed with the statement were a clear majority. A result that closely corresponds to what we know about the economic and mental health effects of the lockdown. Fifty-seven per cent of those aged between 25 and 34 thought the lockdowns had now gone too far, while only 26 per cent disagreed. In comparison, for those aged between 55 and 64, only 38 per cent agreed and 46 per cent disagreed.
When he was re-elected Premier in November 2018, Andrews declared he led “the most progressive government” in “the most progressive state in the nation”.
The numbers released this week by federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on unemployment in Victoria provide a devastating commentary on the success or otherwise of “progressivism”. Victoria’s effective unemployment rate is 14 per cent, compared with 7.5 per cent in New South Wales and the national average of 9.4 per cent. Victorians are 26 per cent of the country’s population, but 40 per cent of the country’s effectively unemployed.
When Frydenberg called on the Andrews government to reopen Victoria he wasn’t “playing politics” – he was speaking for every Victorian who doesn’t enjoy the luxury of a taxpayer-funded guaranteed income.
Maybe Victoria is an advertisement for “progressivism” like Venezuela is an advertisement for “socialism”.