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Australia Scott Morrison steps down as ‘prime minister for NSW’

16:03  26 july  2021
16:03  26 july  2021 Source:   crikey.com.au

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The pandemic has a habit of making Scott Morrison’s pronouncements age poorly. “It’s not a race” is already turning out to be one of the great political albatrosses of our time.

a man wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: Gladys Berejiklian Scott Morrison NSW COVID-19 © Provided by Crikey Gladys Berejiklian Scott Morrison NSW COVID-19

The prime minister’s repeated praise for how his home state of New South Wales handled the pandemic now looks similarly awkward, with Sydney’s lockdown set to continue possibly well into spring.

But as cases spiked in Sydney over recent days, Morrison’s tone changed. Accused for so long of displaying favouritism for NSW, the prime minister is now increasingly at odds with Gladys Berejiklian, refusing the state government’s requests for more Pfizer vaccine doses and a return of the JobKeeper wage subsidy.

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Beneath the gold standard

Last year, Morrison started calling NSW the “gold standard,” a reference to the state’s test-and-trace strategy which successfully managed sizeable outbreaks while avoiding lockdowns. And it was a trope he returned to just hours before Sydney started going into lockdown.

“My fellow Sydneysiders can feel very confident that if anyone can get on top of this without shutting the city down it is the NSW government,” Morrison told Sky News.

“NSW, I have no doubt, has the gold standard contact tracing system, not just in Australia, but in the world.”

That phrase always evoked ripples of anger south of the border, where it became viewed as shorthand for the Morrison government’s perceived indifference toward Victoria’s struggle, and blatant favouring of a Liberal-run state.

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Accusations of favouritism peaked two weeks ago, when the Victorian government wrongly accused the Commonwealth of providing NSW more income support during lockdown than their state received. Morrison couldn’t wear off being tagged as “the prime minister for NSW”.

But the relationship between the state government and Canberra has always been more complicated than the constant praise might suggest. Throughout the last few months, long before Sydney’s Delta outbreak, there’s been tension bubbling away, largely around the vaccine rollout.

Back in March, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said he was “extremely angry” at the Commonwealth about the distribution of vaccines. In April, Berejiklian was calling on the federal government to display more urgency around the rollout and increase supply. Throughout the outbreak in Sydney, the premier has barely restrained her frustration at the state’s inability to provide more vaccines. Privately, state Liberals sound a lot like federal Labor in their assessment of the rollout.

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The prime minister for NSW no more

Friday’s national cabinet meeting was a hammer-blow to any sense of national togetherness. It also signalled the end of any dregs of pro-NSW bias from the feds. Berejiklian’s request for extra doses of Pfizer to be reallocated from other states toward western Sydney was flatly rejected, even though the state government believes it could hasten the city’s return to some kind of normal. Instead, Morrison believes lockdowns, not vaccines, are Sydney’s way out.

“There is not an alternative to the lockdown in NSW for bringing this under control,” he said yesterday.

Just days earlier, Morrison had tried to talk up the need for more people to get vaccinated, blaming the Australian Technical Advisory Committee on Immunisation for causing uncertainty around the AstraZeneca vaccine. Now, he wants Sydney to strap-in for a long lockdown.

Meanwhile, NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet’s pleas for JobKeeper to be reinstated have so far been ignored, with the Morrison government arguing the current form of emergency income support is sufficient.

Both boosting vaccine supply, and ensuring people are paid to stay at home would be critical in stopping an outbreak that has now become entrenched in essential workplaces, where the virus is resistant to any further shock-and-awe tightening of restrictions.

Morrison has rejected both. Once the favoured state, Morrison now refuses to give NSW what it needs.

The post Scott Morrison steps down as ‘prime minister for NSW’ appeared first on Crikey.

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This is interesting!