“The world is opening up, Australia will open up … Opening up as one country and in accordance with the plan will not only give people hope but provide a springboard for our economic recovery.”
But in the clearest signal yet that Western Australia was prepared to walk away from the road map, Premier Mark McGowan said on Saturday his state needed higher vaccination levels to reopen and flagged waiting “a few more months” to reach them.
Last week The Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age revealed that updated Doherty Institute modelling showed NSW would still be able to begin opening up once the vaccination targets were met – even if there were hundreds of new daily cases in the community, rather than the 30 on which the original modelling was based.
That prompted some states, including Western Australia and Queensland, to express concern about opening up and allowing COVID into the community.
Mr McGowan said on Saturday that Western Australia wanted to remain COVID-free “for as long as we can”.
“Our vaccination levels at 70 per cent, for instance, still means that 30 per cent of the adult population are unvaccinated, and then, when you add kids on, that’s about another 20 per cent,” he said.
“So were we to deliberately import the virus at that point in time, hundreds of people would die, it would result in huge economic dislocation and for what? If we wait a few more months, we get our vaccination levels up to a higher level, we can avoid all of that.”
Each week of lockdown in NSW and Victoria costs the economy an estimated $2 billion, while the federal government is spending hundreds of millions more on financial support every week. Mr Frydenberg has previously said the federal government could withdraw that support from states which refuse to open up.
Mr Oliver said that “in a purely economic sense, a recession doesn’t mean much”, but it could impact confidence, which in turn impacts the speed of the recovery.
“The ‘recession’ concept is less meaningful than usual as it’s not a normal cyclical recession and the economy should recover more quickly than would occur after a normal recession, as reopening will unleash pent-up demand – even if this is a bit constrained compared to last year as we have to learn to “live with COVID”.
Mr Aird said that regardless of whether Australia officially went into recession or not, “a huge number of people are stood down, the economy is going through a huge shock”.
“Try telling someone in Victoria or NSW we aren’t in recession … however, we are almost certain to rebound in quarter four as things open up.”
Mr Frydenberg, who is from Melbourne and was last year a vocal critic of Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ extended second wave lockdown, defended himself from public criticism that he had not spoken out against NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s lockdown this year in the same way.
“My concern has always been first and foremost for the Victorian people, that is why I spoke up vigorously in their defence last year and that is why from day one of this pandemic I have ensured Victoria has received an unprecedented amount of economic support,” he said.
“I have a good working relationship with my Victorian counterpart Tim Pallas and in the latest Victorians lockdown alone we have joined together to provide more than $2 billion in economic support.”
Relations between the federal Liberal government and the state Labor government have eased somewhat since then, with Mr Andrews and Mr Pallas and other senior state ministers have noting a shift.
Mr Andrews recently noted that “the federal Treasurer has taken a different tone and a different approach this year and I think Victorians are grateful for that”.
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