Breaking News
Ad-Free Version. Upgrade your experience. Save up to 40% More details

Australian divisions over coronavirus put pressure on PM

CoronavirusMar 23, 2020 07:25AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Pedestrians wear protective face masks amidst fears of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Sydney 2/2

By Kirsty Needham

SYDNEY (Reuters) - On the burning question of whether Australian schools should close as coronavirus cases increase, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was adamant: "Children should go to school."

Morrison emerged from a special meeting of state and territory leaders on Sunday evening to urge parents to keep children in class, even as non-essential services including restaurants and cinemas shut.

"There is no change in the medical expert advice," he said.

Yet before school gates opened on Monday, Gladys Berejiklian, premier of the most populous state, New South Wales (NSW), was urging parents to keep children at home.

Public confidence in Morrison's leadership was dented by the recent bushfire crisis, according to polls, as state leaders, including Berejiklian, emerged as stronger public voices.

A new rift between Morrison and state leaders over the coronavirus epidemic raises the specter of political volatility in a country that had seen five prime ministers in five years when he took power in 2018.

NSW has the highest number of coronavirus cases, with 669 of Australia's tally of more than 1,600. A third of students had already stopped attending classes, Berejiklian said, as she urged children to stay away.

"For practical reasons in NSW, we will be encouraging parents to keep their children at home," Berejiklian told reporters.

A National Cabinet made up of the prime minister, state and territory leaders was formed to forge a united response to the coronavirus, after a summer in which the bushfires saw blame flying between layers of government.

Yet as the number of coronavirus cases climbs, a united public voice is failing to hold.

Decisions in the National Cabinet must be implemented through state regulation. On Monday, as a sense of urgency grew, some states appeared to go their own way.


Victoria, the second largest state, will end the school term early, on Tuesday, while in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), geographical home of the federal parliament, schools would become "pupil-free" from Tuesday, its authorities said.

"The decision the ACT Government has made is consistent with NSW and Victoria and won't change. I don't know why the PM suggested otherwise," ACT deputy chief minister Yvette Berry wrote on Twitter after Morrison's Sunday news conference.

Teachers in the northern state of Queensland said they would strike on Wednesday if their state government did not close schools.

States have one by one declared border restrictions to deter interstate travelers. People entering Tasmania, Queensland, the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia must undertake 14 days self isolation.

The public has watched another war of words break out between layers of government over cruise ships carrying ill passengers.

Border Force commissioner Michael Outram told Sky News it was the decision of NSW Health to allow 2,700 passengers to disembark the vessel Ruby Princess in Sydney last week, of which 48 have since tested positive for the coronavirus.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard blamed the "massive inflow of ships" to Sydney after the Morrison government imposed a 30-day ban on cruise ships docking.

Outram said a similar vessel at port in Victoria was not allowed to disembark until passengers had been tested and results were known.

Western Australia, meanwhile, banned the MSC Magnifica from disembarking as 250 out of its 1,700 passengers fell ill, with state premier Mark McGowan saying he didn't want "what happened in Sydney to happen here".

Public confidence in Morrison appears to be wilting, if the queues for toilet paper and groceries are anything to go by. Monday brought more sobering scenes with queues outside social services offices, of people laid off work since the coronavirus crisis blew up, registering for welfare.

Australian divisions over coronavirus put pressure on PM

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind: 

  • Enrich the conversation
  • Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed.
  • Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically.
  •  Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and links within a comment will be removed
  • Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user.
  • Don’t Monopolize the Conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also believe strongly in giving everyone a chance to air their thoughts. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Post also to:
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.
Continue with Google
Sign up with Email