Victorians deserve their freedom back

Opinion Piece

Date : 16 October 2021

Author: The Hon Josh Frydenberg MP

Victoria’s short sharp seven-day lockdown is now into its 73rd day.

Melbourne has gone from the world’s most liveable city to the world’s most locked-down city.

It’s an unenviable title, and a window into the hardship and sacrifice Victorians have experienced since March last year.

Through it all, the Morrison Government has been there to support Victorians, with more than $45 billion in direct economic support provided to households and small businesses to get them through.

Most recently, more than $3 billion of COVID Disaster Payments of up to $750 a week for hours of work lost, have flowed to more than 700,000 Victorians.

We have also jointly announced, with the Victorian Government, more than $6.7 billion in support for businesses across the state who have experienced the effects of the lockdowns since 28 July this year.

The damage done by lockdowns is clear.

Our cafes are quiet; our laneways are empty; and our stadiums, normally filled with cheering fans, are deserted.

Melbourne is famous for its cultural vitality; its music, museums, and its warm hospitality.

But COVID has hit and hit us hard.

Incredibly and regrettably, Melbourne has spent 256 days in lockdown.

In comparison, Adelaide and Darwin a little over 50 days, Brisbane and Perth just over 60.

The lockdowns have seen kids in Melbourne out of school for over 220 days – this is more than a full school year.

It is fifty-five times as many days out of the classroom as kids in Darwin, sixteen times that of Adelaide, eleven times that of Perth, five times that of Brisbane, three times that of Canberra, and more than double that experienced by students in Sydney.

So many days out of the classroom is not only detrimental to the educational development of our children, but their personal development too.

As Melbourne University’s Professor Russell, a paediatrician and Child and Adolescent Health Expert, has said: “we cannot just keep doing this, locking them down all the time. It may seem a little thing and that children are resilient, well, they’re not. It is very anxiety provoking. It is the most disadvantaged children and families that are worst affected.”

Our small businesses, too, have been severely impacted. Their doors have been closed for the better part of 18 months.

While jobs were created last month in Qld, WA and Tasmania, more than 120,000 jobs were lost in Victoria in September alone.

With vaccination rates rapidly rising around the country, state lockdowns must come to an end.

We must open up our economy safely, in accordance with the national plan agreed at National Cabinet.

NSW is the first out of the blocks, bringing forward its opening, having passed the 70 per cent double vaccination rate.

Sydneysiders are now free to go to the gym or a swim, a movie or a meal and even, heaven forbid, have visitors in their home.

Not to mention all students in NSW will be back in school one week from Monday. In stark contrast, Victoria is running behind.

At 70 per cent full vaccination rates, Victoria will lose the curfew, but still won’t be able to move more than 25 kilometers from their home.

What is more, all students in Melbourne won’t return to their normal schooling until two weeks after NSW.

After all that Victorians have endured over the last year and a half, there is no time to lose.

The great state of Victoria must be allowed to shift gears and get back into the fast lane.

The rest of the world has opened up and is not turning back and neither should we.

There will be more COVID cases but the vaccines are our defence. We must learn to live with COVID as elimination is not an option.

Victorians who have given up so much, are rightly asking the question; why are the people of NSW granted more freedoms at 70 and 80 percent vaccination rates than they are?

Victorians, like those in NSW, have done the right thing and got the jab, and in return, they deserve their lives and their freedoms back.

Josh Frydenberg is the Federal Treasurer

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