The promise of the West Australian borders opening on February 5, now taken away with no indication of a new opening date, is devastating news for business and families in WA.
West Australians have done everything that has been asked of them and yet the goal posts continue to be moved.
This U-turn from the government, and particularly from Premier Mark McGowan, will put a significant dent in the insane popularity that this man has been experiencing. If only there was a viable opposition to be able to capitalise from this flip-flop decision, but we won’t see that for at least another eight years after its decimation in the March 2021 election.
The only opposition to this government has been the mainstream media, and finally the state’s daily newspaper — a big supporter of the government’s approach to dealing with the pandemic — is starting to get tired of the “Keeping you safe” rhetoric. The headline on today’s The West Australian sums up the feeling for many: “658 Days and he’s still not ready”. The free run that this Premier has been given in the media will from now be checked.
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While there will be social media outcry from those looking forward to seeing distant family and friends, there will also be a high percentage of people that are incredibly happy with this decision; those that don’t depend on being able to engage others outside of the state or internationally. Many West Aussies are enjoying living under government control and having their liberties withdrawn for the sake of not letting the pandemic through. The fear is real for elderly and vulnerable people within the community, and it has been politically communicated to them.
West Australians might not have experienced the level of imposition and lockdown that others in Australia have experienced over the last two years. We have lived close to normal in this bubble and being one of the most isolated cities in the world has its advantages. It is not lost on us that giving up certain liberties has given us those liberties that have been taken from other Australians. But we are tired of being scared and told by our government here they are doing it to “Keep us safe”.
The real toll of the continuation WA hard border is separated families and loved ones, depleted workforces, skill shortages, a rise in mental health issues, and loss of confidence in business and leadership.
The toll that the state government and again, Premier Mark McGowan, will have to assess in coming weeks is the reputational damage that this decision will have caused locally, interstate, and internationally.