My favourite journalist Richard Quest asked former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd what else beyond geographic isolation played a part in New Zealand and Australia’s relative success in flattening the curve:
I think you’re right Richard, being an island helps. Either as a small island or, as the New Zealanders call us, the big island.
But the bottom line is, there’s been a great creative dynamic between the New Zealand Government and the Australian Government. By which I mean this: the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Adern, quite early on, adopted an official policy of virus elimination. Now that set in motion a series of quite radical measures in terms of border closures—including with Australia—as well as early lockdown. And the creative tension then across the Tasman Sea between us was the Australian government fairly rapidly followed suit. And so as a consequence, I think, both countries have benefited from those sorts of actions.
He’s being diplomatic here, but he makes a point. Australia’s current Prime Minister Scott Morrison, fresh from bungling the worst bushfires in the country’s history, was so bereft of ideas and motivation he had to be dragged into action by New Zealand. We’re as fortunate and privileged to have Ms. Adern by following her example.
And the other thing about Australia in particular, where I am, is that the government has benefited from: 1) a high level of bipartisanship, between Opposition and Government, but 2) critically, within our Federation, those governments responsible for actually implementing—let’s call it socialisation, lockdown, and school management on the ground—are the Australian State Governments. And by and large the State Governments lead by their Premiers have put their own politics to one side and done a pretty good job of it.
But one caveat about Australia and New Zealand: will there be a delayed Southern Hemisphere effect? We don’t know that. As the weather cools down here in the Southern Hemisphere as we get towards May and June [when its winter down here].
It’s easy to be cynical about these things, and we’ve had our fair share of brain farts and utterly counterproductive policies and decisions by the folks in charge. But from the perspective of the rest of the world, we’ve done extraordinarily well. So far.