(Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

Throughout his time in politics, Scott Morrison has made an art form of exploiting fear for political gain. His surprise election victory last year was achieved in the basis of relentless fear campaigns -- mostly entirely fictional -- about Labor policies, and represented a recent high point of a fear-based political business model, one unseen since Paul Keating brilliantly exploited concerns about John Hewson's GST and other policies in 1993.

Now fear is his political enemy, not an ally, and the stakes are much higher than who gets to govern for three years. His broad task is to calm rampant community fear and emerging panic about the virus and its economic impacts. And the pointy end of that task has emerged around schools.

Morrison and state and territory leaders are absolutely right to keep schools open for as long as possible. The costs of school closures will be colossal in terms of impacts on health workforces. Health workforces are three-quarters female, and unless Australian men dramatically and uncharacteristically step up on the domestic front, school closures will disproportionately affect women.