The recent case of COVID-19 in WA came as a shock to all and its reverberations will likely continue well into the state election on March 13th.
Of course, it’s too early to tell in what way. A lot of proverbial water has to pass under the proverbial bridge before we can be sure what’s going on at the moment, let alone what’s going to happen in the near future.
A week ago, with things looking all rosy, I thought that the Liberal Party’s only hope at stopping a seemingly unassailable Mark McGowan was to try and rehash ‘sharks’ as the wedge issue of this state election. Needless to say, this looks increasingly unlikely.
Instead, it seems as though the perennial issue of COVID-19, borders, and when to open them is here to stay, with recent events crystallising just how well WA has fared thus far.
I’m going to assume that the recently confirmed case of COVID-19 won’t spiral into more confirmed cases of community transmission. Secondly, I’ll assume that the police investigation that was today announced into WA hotel security won’t reveal any systemic failings that lead back to Mr. McGowan.
To be sure, these are two large assumptions to make.
However, given that we have zero confirmed community transmission at present, and given that WA had gone ten months without any community transmission whatsoever, I would argue that these two assumptions are relatively reasonable. At present, at least.
And in the event that these assumptions ring true and we don’t all enter a prolonged lockdown, it would seem likely that this week will only serve to heighten the lofty support that Mark McGowan has so far enjoyed.
During WA’s ten months of blissful freedom McGowan became something of a cult figure; this was achieved through a combination of well-considered policy and careful political manoeuvring.
McGowan initially earned support through policy, instating a ‘hard border’ to help keep WA safe.
However, after his success at effectively eliminating COVID-19 from the WA community, he was arguably able to remain popular through a handful of well-considered political manoeuvres.
If you’ll recall, McGowan engaged in a few prolonged and public disagreements with other state Premiers in what can only be described as a big, fat, unmissable political freebie.
It allowed McGowan to drum up false controversy between he and the other state Premiers, which was then covered and broadcast by WA news networks. This gave McGowan an extra channel through which to praise the success of the hard border and contrast WA’s success with other states.
It was an issue that almost everyone in WA was always going to support him on.
The cynic in me suggests that even the recent Fringe World video of a dancing Mark McGowan might have been more considered than it appeared. It certainly made him more endearing to yours truly, but unfortunately, they don’t do polls on that stuff.
Anyway, my point is that McGowan seems to be a shrewd political operator and his combination of political and legislative nous will likely strengthen his political support under these difficult circumstances.
You can see both McGowan’s political and policy awareness in his announcement of WA’s five-day lockdown.
The snap lockdown makes sense according to most public health professionals including the seemingly go-to guy for public health advice, Dr. Normal Swan.
However, the move has also been carefully branded by McGowan through visceral, concrete terms. Instead of eliminating the virus, McGowan has talked repeatedly about “crushing” the virus.
This charged language encourages preventative action, but it also frames McGowan as the leader of some sort of lofty crusade. Something grand, ambitious, and meaningful that we should all partake in.
There’s a lot that will happen between now and the state election but to this armchair critic it looks like McGowan’s popularity is sitting pretty.
Campbell thinks that Colin Barnett deserves another crack
Words by Campbell Williamson