(Image: Mitchell Squire/Private Media)

Ever since NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian undermined the national reopening plan by letting the Delta variant escape across Sydney, (then New South Wales, then Victoria, the ACT and, as a wee gift to our Kiwi cousins, New Zealand), Scott Morrison has had few good options to try to recover his position. It's been gold standard political sabotage from the NSW government towards its federal friends.

There are two issues: the immediate threat to the reopening plan from states taking the view that they'll be damned if they reopen borders to NSW while it's one giant petri dish of COVID, and the longer-term issue of how Morrison shifts the politics of the pandemic away from territory that helps Labor. It's been in that zone since the prime minister repeated "it's not a race" over and over while the vaccination rollout fell apart.

Morrison's position on sticking to the vaccination-driven reopening schedule even if NSW is racking up hundreds of cases a day -- a position that took several days to emerge -- is that it makes no difference. One way or another, with exponential growth we will hit a huge number of cases very quickly once we start reopening, whether we start from zero or from 840.