Victoria's recent COVID-19 results are a real accomplishment, writes John Wren.
Monday was a revelation. Last week, the mainstream media built up the story that Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews would announce a major lifting of restrictions on Sunday. This was based on the premise that Andrews had said “if the numbers and science support it, we will be able to make major announcements”.
However late last week, despite the overall numbers looking excellent, a dangerous cluster had emerged in Melbourne’s northern suburbs (sparked by an infected nurse from Box Hill Hospital). This led Andrews to announce a short pause while they awaited over a thousand test results.
This short delay sparked outrage from all the usual sources. Right-wing shock jock Neil Mitchell from 3AW led the charge with an emotive piece of misinformed claptrap.
On Monday, the test results were back and Victoria had achieved the holy grail of zero new cases and zero deaths. As promised Andrews called his daily presser that afternoon. He made the announcement that Melbourne’s lockdown would be significantly easing from Tuesday at midnight.
Andrews was clearly emotional and those viewers felt that too. We Victorians had achieved what many thought impossible. Nowhere else in the world had the virus curve been squashed so completely from such high commencement numbers. Andrews maintained his poise.
It’s been a few years since Australians have heard a genuine prime minister so many didn’t recognise it at first. Like all great leaders, Andrews did not take the credit for our feat, but rightly gave it to every Victorian who has pitched in, stayed home, got tested, followed the rules. Make no mistake, this was a team effort – a victory for collective action by the people, for the people.
Andrews, of course, has had his detractors – they range from Prime Minister Scott Morrison and shamefully many Federal Liberal MPs from Melbourne, Josh Frydenberg, Greg Hunt and Alan Tudge being the main culprits. These three, in particular, have clearly been used by Morrison as his proxies to attack Andrews while giving the semblance of bipartisanship.
As Andrews himself stated, they are from Victoria, but not for Victoria.
We also saw the State Liberal Opposition make fools of themselves relentlessly. They chose to play politics in the middle of a public health emergency. Most Victorian voters saw right through this. A poll released this week had devastating numbers for Michael O’Brien, the increasingly irrelevant Opposition Leader. The only thing protecting him from a leadership challenge is the likely challenger, Tim Smith, is even more unpopular.
The Murdoch media too played its part throughout to undermine Andrews and thus the hard work and sacrifices being made by all Victorians.
Now Daniel Andrews moves into the next phase of his leadership – overseeing the Victorian economic recovery. This is not an easy task, but one thing he can now rely on is he has the absolute backing of most Victorians. Andrews’ political opponents have consistently underestimated him but as a result of the shared lockdown trauma, Victorians and Melbournians in particular, now have each other’s backs.
It’s been well known for hundreds of years that groups who go through a shared ordeal together emerge from that ordeal closely bonded. It is the reason that in military training cadets go through weeks or months of physical and mental challenges. It forges bonds that are near impossible to break. These bonds then come to the fore in battle. Think also of the lifelong bonds forged by returned soldiers.
We also see it in civilian life: university graduates often stay friends with their co-graduates for decades based on their shared ordeal of years of intense study. Premiership-winning football teams are another example. In my own case, I once worked for dysfunctional company reporting to a psychopath – my colleagues and I who shared the ordeal remain close business contacts and friends 20 years later.
As a result of this shared ordeal, Victorians are now tightly focused on working together to recover our economy and lifestyles. We have done the hard yards to date and we will back each other and our "captain", Daniel Andrews in the process. So disgusted are many Victorians with Morrison and his corrupt Federal Liberal Party that the refrain on social media is now common – we are Victorians first and Australians second.
We will prevail because the collective is always stronger than the individual.
Victorians have very long memories, and when a federal election is called expect the Federal Liberals to be devastated in Victoria. Not only have Morrison’s local MPs exposed themselves but the two core areas that were federal responsibilities – quarantine and aged care – are where the virus emerged from and where it wreaked its greatest devastation on Victorians.
Even now, it's said that Australia’s aged care sector is not properly prepared for another onslaught of the virus – and this sheets directly home to Morrison and his Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck. How Colbeck remains in the Cabinet is a mystery.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg unleashed a torrent of abuse on Andrews in the Federal Parliament. It was in response to a simple motion from Labor Leader Anthony Albanese that was to praise the Victorian people for both their fortitude and results. His outburst contained many inaccuracies (for example, that children had missed out of 6 months of schooling), but where he crossed the line was his statement that he had “a friend of a friend” who committed suicide due to lockdown.
The politicisation of suicide is beyond the pale, but even so, it doesn’t stack up. Statistics do not support the premise that there has been an increase in suicides in Victoria and who is to say it was the lockdown the pushed this individual over the edge?
Frydenberg's opportunism has not been lost on Victorians. Such is the antipathy towards Frydenberg that he may lose his once-safe seat next election. If he has any sense he may stay in Canberra.
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