Different approaches to the virus in Australian and New Zealand

Different approaches to the virus in Australian and New Zealand, by Nick Cater.

NZ and Australia have adopted radically different strategies to beat COVID-19.


Ardern’s sledgehammer is the tool many have been urging Scott Morrison to adopt. …

It is two weeks since Jacinda Ardern closed New Zealand for non-essential business, claiming that a hard, early lockdown was the surest way to defeat the coronavirus. On Friday the country’s Chief Medical Officer signed an order that classed sexual intimacy as non-essential. Gardening or home decorating is out, since hardware stores and garden centres are closed to the public, if not yet to tradesmen. Home delivery of takeaway food has been stopped.

“The lockdown is the best way to stop the virus and it is also the best thing for our economy by making the pain as short as possible,” the NZ Prime Minister declared on Sunday. …


The Australian Prime Minister has resisted, preferring social-distancing laws that mini­mise restrictions on economic activity. …

“Now, if you ask me who is an essential worker?” he told a press conference the day before the NZ lockdown came into force. “Someone who has a job. Everyone who has a job in this economy is an essential worker. And that means they will need to continue to be able to send their children to school.”

Different philosophies:

The different paths chosen by Ardern and Morrison reflect their philosophies. Arden puts her faith in the paternalistic state. The grown-ups command and the economy obeys.

Morrison, on the other hand, has chosen the liberal approach with its inclination to make incremental steps towards a goal rather than heroic leaps into the unknown. If there were ever a time for the liberal approach, it is now. The COVID-19 pandemic presents a wicked policy challenge riddled with variables, imperfect information and no determinable end point.

Except that time is of the essence, which complicates things further. Western governments were too slow to react initially, always one step behind the virus and the Chinese. If they’d been paying attention (like this blog), they would have closed the borders a month earlier and avoided almost the entire problem. The pain we feel is because our ruling class was too complacent and incompetent.

The media are part of that class. Which is perhaps why they will not ask the obvious  question, except in the US: why were we so slow? Who is responsible?

hat-tip Stephen Neil