Politicians love to tell us they understand how difficult their COVID-19 rules and restrictions can be. But now Scott Morrison has shown us that in reality, they don’t. Not really. Because when push comes to shove, they can find ways around those rules.
The Prime Minister’s trip home to Sydney over the Father’s Day weekend is totally understandable. He had been away from his family for seven weeks. As leader of the country he carries an enormous burden day in, day out. No doubt he works extremely hard.
But that’s true of many ordinary Australians. They haven’t been able to see their loved ones either. On Sunday, people were filmed trying to hug each other across a plastic barricade on the border of NSW and Queensland.
It was the same day billionaire British businessman Lord Alan Sugar flew into Sydney for the second time during the pandemic, tweeting a video from hotel quarantine at the Sheraton. “Nice view from the 21st floor,” he wrote.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews was lambasted for an Instagram post clinking glasses with his family on Saturday night over “an early Father’s Day steak and chips”. Not exploiting any exemptions, sure, but a bit tone-deaf from a leader who constantly assures us he comprehends the sacrifices Victorians have had to make in the name of combating COVID-19.
Only last week, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was under fire for allowing a plane load of NRL officials and players’ relatives to enter her state while barring residents from coming home, due to an apparently overwhelmed quarantine system. Asked about that state of affairs, Morrison said he shared people’s frustration.
And so it has gone throughout the past 18 months. Ordinary people are separated by shut borders and rigid rules, while the elite and the wealthy navigate a complex web of exemptions to go about their business almost as usual (sometimes aided by a government jet).
To be fair, Morrison does not control state borders. The premiers have to answer for that – and boy do they have a lot to answer for. But the PM’s national cabinet and national plan permit these border closures. And it is his government that has blocked Australians from leaving their country for one-and-a-half years.