(Image: AAP/James Ross)

One man’s essential service is another man’s EBITDA

The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially challenging for governments around the globe because it requires two very different steps. Some leaders have risen to the challenge (Ardern, Merkel, Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan), whereas others have unsurprisingly failed (Bolsonaro, Boris, Trump).

In Australia we have seen governments handle the lockdown reasonably well. The problem is, leaders who see their popularity rise seem to find it difficult to switch course. The unwillingness of South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland to open their borders up domestically (despite relying significantly on tourism) is one such example.

Dan Andrews’ Victoria appears to be the poster child of letting popularity guide decision-making. Victoria has belatedly re-allowed outdoor activities like golf and fishing last week, while some school children will have to wait until June 9 to get back to the classroom. By contrast, shopping malls remained open, and the source of Australia’s largest home-grown outbreak, Cedar Meats, was allowed to operate for a month after its first case was detected in early April.