A telling incident in Western democracies about borders
Western Australia has hard borders at the moment, and no coronavirus — other than a few cases getting caught in the mandatory quarantine. That’s 2.5 million people who are almost living a normal life. This is not to boast (we wish you could be here), but to point out how politically popular closed borders are in the current pandemic. The Premier is wildly popular, polling close to 90%. To all the people who said “states can’t close borders” the message is that it’s bonkers not to close borders. When the Commonwealth government joined the bizarre High Court push to force them open, the pushback was ferocious. A poll today showed that West Australians are fed up. The West Australian collected 245,000 signatories to a petition supporting the border closure.
Not only do 96% say the borders should stay shut, but when asked, a whopping 34% of Western Australians said the state should secede. How fast did it come to that?
Never, have I seen such vitriol towards the Commonwealth from WA. …the Commonwealth’s decision to effectively join hands with Palmer in the Federal and High courts risked making Morrison and the Federal Liberals public enemy No.1 here in WA. It beggars belief that the Morrison Government would ever let it get to this point, that the Federal Government would ever be part of any legal action to force WA to open its borders.
— Joe Spagnolo, Columnist, The West Australian (Paywalled)
Presumably that anger will be lower now that the Commonwealth has pulled out of one of the most stupid cases they were ever involved in.
WAxit: Exclusive new survey results show one in three West Australians wish to secede from the nation
The West Australian
Exclusive polling conducted by The West Australian showed 34 per cent of the 837 people surveyed this week support the move for WA to become a separate nation.
Close to three quarters of West Australians said that since the COVID-19 pandemic the Federal Government has put the needs of the eastern states ahead of West Australians. More than 35 per cent of those canvassed by Painted Dog Research strongly agreed with the statement that Canberra is too focused on the needs of the eastern states which has been to the detriment of WA.
Only last week Scott Morrison was saying he was sure WA would lose in the High Court and he had some mealy mouth words about doing it to protect us. But faced with a Liberal Party wipe out coming in WA elections, and the growing debacle of “open borders” on the East Coast, where infections are spreading, he finally backed down. The question is, what was he thinking in the first place?
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Commonwealth will no longer participate in Clive Palmer’s court fight to open WA border
In a stunning development, the Prime Minister informed Premier Mark McGowan by letter that the Commonwealth would not continue to participate in Mr Palmer’s court fight to force WA to open up its interstate border.
“Having taken into account the changed state of the pandemic that has worsened since these matters were first brought to the High Court, the high level of concern regarding public health in the Western Australian community, and our desire to work with you cooperatively on a constitutionally sustainable way forward, I consider, on balance, that we must set aside the normal convention in these circumstances and not continue the Commonwealth’s participation in this case.”
For the record, every other state attorney general sided with WA (bar NSW which stayed neutral).
To understand what a huge backdown this was — consider that only a few days ago Morrison was using weasel words, strawmen and intimating he might withhold the Australian defense force:
Thursday July 30th, The West Australian.
Scott Morrison has warned the McGowan Government’s stance on WA’s border has opened it up to being put in a “weakened state” against the coronavirus.
He said WA needed to abide by the Constitution if it wanted to make the most of national resources like Australian Defence Force personnel.
“It is the Commonwealth Government, in response to the request from the WA Premier is providing ADF resources to bolster their (WA’s) hotel quarantine,” he said. “The Constitution doesn’t provide for unilateral decisions to close borders, without there being a proper basis of advice. That’s our state of mind.”
Mr Morrison said the WA Government needed to open its border up to States like South Australia where “incidence of cases is lower than it is in Western Australia”.
Every single case in WA is an incoming traveller in hotel Quarantine — doesn’t Scott Morrison know anything?
Let’s hope the debacles in NSW and Victoria haven’t send cases across the borders to spread in all the other states.
WA represents a peak case of border anger. It is more isolated, and has fewer divided families split across state lines. It’s not dependent on tourism dollars the way Queensland or Florida or Spain would be. It’s also easier to block the border when there aren’t twin towns straddling the line as there are on Vic-NSW-Qld borders. To put this is perspective, WA has an 1,874 km state line, but only two sealed roads across it. There are a few dirt tracks, but nothing a spotter plane couldn’t cover.
Meanwhile forty percent of the WA economy is made up of mining and gas extraction and that’s making a fortune at the moment as competitors are forced to close mining due to the virus.
For baffled foreign baffled readers, Clive Palmer was the theoretical-billionaire-coal-miner and politician who suddenly befriended Al Gore in 2014. He helped create the legal back-door for an Emissions Trading Scheme when Tony Abbott axed the Carbon tax. Supposedly Palmer got knocked back when he asked to cross the border into WA, and enraged, he took his battle to the High Court, saying that closing borders was unconstitutional. But it now turns out Palmer didn’t even put in a serious application to enter WA. The three applications by his pilot were so dodgy, claiming Carlo Fingergi was a female, and with fake entries for his wife, the officials dismissed them as a hoax. McGowan has asked Palmer to listen to the people and dump the case.
Why did Scott Morrison push to help Palmer? Paul Murray, columnist in The West Australian thinks it probably has something to do with Palmer spending $60m on the last Federal Election, mostly against the Labor Party.
“No one had ever spent that much to influence an Australian election but political pundits remain unsure of its real effect.”
“While Palmer’s United Australia Party was singularly unsuccessful at the election, its preferences went 65.14 per cent to the Coalition, in contrast to just 54 per cent as the Palmer United Party in 2013 when he also favoured Coalition candidates in every seat.”
One of the reasons Western Australia isn’t opening borders to SA, the NT, Tas or QLD is only because it can’t be sure the others will maintain their walls. No one wants to outsource border management.
ADDENDUM: As a last sorry note to the saga, McGowan now unnecessarily claims he knocked back Palmer because he was going to come to support hydroxychoroquine “which was dangerous”. If so, McGowan’s kicking an own-goal. Palmer has bought millions of hydroxycholoroquine doses and donated them to a national stockpile. To disallow Palmer for this reason is a free speech failure on a grand scale (what was he thinking?) and also scientifically pathetic, because there are many studies showing HCQ is almost certainly useful, especially if used early and in combination with zinc. There are also thousands of doctors who want to use it and swear by it.
“He’s accepted the Donald Trump view of hydroxychloroquine, which no-one with a medical degree, as far as I’m aware, accepts.”