During the past 10 years, Australia’s foreign policy has become dominated by the notion that we benefit from a “rules-based international order”. This has allowed a myth to grow that our relative economic prosperity is thanks to this international order, and the compliance of others to these rules.
But these rules have never helped Australia economically to any large degree. The trade rules in the initial Global Agreement on Tariffs and Trade made no progress on helping Australia’s agricultural exports to access overseas markets.
As we face the most concerning coronavirus outbreak of cases since the Melbourne outbreak, we should remember that Australia has managed Covid well, not perfectly.
Because of that we should remain calm during this spike.
Only 50 countries have had fewer deaths per one million people than Australia. Most of those countries are isolated nations in the Pacific Islands or sub-Saharan Africa. There is no doubt that Australia’s island status has helped us but we had still relatively been a well connected place to the world pre coronavirus.
Only 30 countries have had fewer cases per million than Australia.
No Australian has died from coronavirus this year - although that is likely to change with the latest outbreak. Two Australian deaths have been linked to coronavirus vaccinations.
This shows the wisdom of Australia taking time with our approval processes for vaccines. Without the risk of coronavirus here there was no reason for us to rush the vaccine rollout.
There has been much criticism of the vaccine rollout but the fundamental reason that other countries have higher vaccination rates is because they also have had higher infection rates. When the virus is spreading there is more incentive for people to get the jab, as we have seen with increasing vaccination rates in
Melbourne and Sydney after their recent outbreaks.
I would much prefer to live in a country that has fewer deaths from coronavirus and a slower vaccination rollout, compared to the reverse.
Our vaccine rollout is speeding up. Over the past month 2.3 million Australians have received their first jab. That is more than received a jab in the first two months of the rollout. Over the past week we passed the world average for the share of population that has received at least one dose. It is true we remain at
only about half of the rate of European countries but again those countries have had no choice but to get the shot.
Of the 30 countries that have the lowest rates of Covid, Australia has the seventh highest in vaccination rates. Of all of the countries above us only China is a large country, and you would question China’s data.
The other countries above us in this category include Bhutan, Singapore, Mauritius, Hong Kong and Tonga. None of these countries have the logistical issue of distributing a vaccine over a large landscape. All of them are smaller than Tasmania.
New Zealand is a more comparable country to compare Australia to. A quarter of Australia’s population has had one vaccine dose whereas just 14 per cent of Kiwis have.
The next complaint is that our hotel quarantine system is rubbish. But more than 99 per cent of arrivals have passed through system with no issue and we continue to make improvements to it. The decision this week not to house domestic arrivals with international ones is welcome.
The latest Queensland and NT outbreak started when the Queensland government put a man from Bendigo (where there were no
coronavirus cases) into overnight quarantine with international arrivals (where there were cases).
It would be better if we had more outdoor quarantine facilities and the Australian government is building one at the Melbourne airport
and we have offered to do the same at the Brisbane airport.
The Queensland government’s insistence on a facility at Toowoomba defies all logic. The Australian government has said repeatedly that we don’t think it is a good idea to quarantine people in a regional centre a long way from tertiary hospitals.
Instead of blaming each other, we just need to knuckle down and deal with the latest outbreak. Less blame, and more action, less panic and more calm resolve is what is needed.