‘Extraordinary’ State Authority Must End as Australians Learn to Live With COVID-19: Treasurer

By Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu
October 13, 2021 Updated: October 14, 2021

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the “extraordinary” powers given to state premiers during COVID-19 should slowly diminish as the economy bounces back and life returns to normal.

“The pandemic’s been pretty unusual in the sense it’s elevated the role of premiers to a prominence, I suspect, they haven’t had for decades,” Frydenberg told The Australian Financial Review.

“It’s been a bit confusing for the public because they normally look to the federal government to make the big decisions that affect their lives; whether it’s tax policy, or national security policy, or borders.”

Many state premiers and chief health officers, who have emergency powers under the Biosecurity Security Act 2015 to impose public health orders, have also been very willing to announce snap lockdowns in response to single-digit cases.

“Suddenly, you’ve got a state premier who tells you whether you can have a picnic with friends, whether you can go to a funeral of loved ones, or whether you can travel more than 10 kilometres from your home,” Frydenberg said.

“That’s an extraordinary level of power states have received by virtue of the public health orders. I’m hoping we get back to the old ways after this pandemic … when that authority ebbs away because it won’t be needed.”

Frydenberg hoped a return to normal would come about as Australians learn to live with the virus.

Epoch Times Photo
A person takes in the work of artist Richard Bell at the MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art Australia) in Sydney, Australia, on Oct. 12, 2021. (Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

The comments by Frydenberg come after Australian workers against mandatory vaccinations last week mounted a nationwide strike in dozens of cities across the country as deadlines loom for workers across various sectors to be vaccinated.

Efforts among Australians to resist lockdowns and vaccine mandates continue among organizations such as National Education United and Reignite Democracy Australia.

Telegram groups have also become a hub for Australians to coordinate and share their efforts and resources, including by sending letters, signing petitions, launching lawsuits, and organizing peaceful demonstrations.

Meanwhile, Australia is committed to a national roadmap to reopening, where restrictions are lifted at 70 and 80 percent vaccination thresholds in each state.

However, extended lockdowns in Australia’s two most populous states have dented the national economy, with Treasury forecasting a contraction of “potentially 3 percent or more.”

“Delta has been a game-changer,” Frydenberg told the Citi Australia and New Zealand Investment Conference. “That being said, there is now light at the end of the tunnel.”

Frydenberg also said the strong vaccination rates throughout the country had put the economy in a strong position ahead of the new year.

“I am confident that the Australian economy will bounce back strongly,” he said. “Labour market strength, household consumption, and the housing market will be strong throughout the rest of the year.”

Mimi Nguyen Ly contributed to this report.

Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu