Melbourne‘s extended lockdowns have damaged Victoria’s international reputation and caused long-term economic damage to the state, a former premier says.
Labor Premier Daniel Andrews faces a possible voter backlash as he seeks a third consecutive four-year term in power on Saturday.
Melbourne’s 263 days in lockdown were the longest in the world and significantly more severe than Sydney’s 159 days, Canberra’s 114 days and Brisbane‘s 67 days.
The response to Covid was draconian with rubber bullets last year fired at anti-lockdown protesters in Melbourne while a pregnant woman was arrested in her Ballarat home in 2020 for posting a protest message on social media.
Former Victorian Liberal premier Jeff Kennett, who led the state from 1992 to 1999, said Melbourne’s lockdowns were so bad they stirred memories of communism from migrants who had fled dictatorial regimes – and had left a negative lasting impression overseas.
Melbourne’s extended lockdowns have damaged Victoria’s international reputation and caused long-term economic damage to the state, a former premier says (pictured is an anti-vax protester being arrested in Melbourne in September last year)
Days in lockdown
MELBOURNE: 263 days
SYDNEY: 159 days
CANBERRA: 159 days
BRISBANE: 67 days
ADELAIDE: 62 days
PERTH: 61 days
DARWIN: 57 days
HOBART: 55 days
‘I spoke to a Vietnamese guy the other day who recently arrived: he fled communism some years ago in Vietnam – it goes back a while – but he said the way we’re heading here is exactly what happened in Vietnam,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘Now that’s an exaggeration but I don’t think you can underestimate the international reputation of Australia for students and for those who want to come here and settle compared to New South Wales or Queensland or South Australia.’
Australia has a 48-year low jobless rate of just 3.4 per cent, which means Victoria could have a harder time attracting overseas doctors and international students.
‘Our reputation internationally is a real downer in terms of attracting people to the state,’ Mr Kennett said.
‘The reputation of Victoria for those thinking of coming to Australia is not good.
‘There’s a lot of people who potentially will come back to Australia but are concerned about our reputation of more lockdowns.’
Mr Kennett said: ‘There’s been nothing like Daniel Andrews anywhere in Australian politics,’ he said.
The lockdowns are set to leave a costly legacy with the conservative Institute of Public Affairs think tank calculating they cost the state $218billion – or $33,000 for every Victorian.
Daniel Wild, the IPA’s deputy executive director, said the economic damage was set to linger for many years.
Labor Premier Daniel Andrews faces a voter backlash as he seeks a third consecutive four-year term in power on Saturday
‘Victoria’s botched Covid response, including the world’s longest lockdown, has left us all with a massive economic hangover,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘By implementing the world’s longest lockdown, Victoria’s most productive industries, tradies and small businesses were forced to sit on their hands and, not surprisingly, our economy suffered greatly.’
The lockdowns were costly on the state’s finances with affected businesses last year entitled to up to $8,400 each as compensation.
Victoria’s gross government debt levels are also more than double revenue, with a 189.2 per cent debt-to-revenue ratio forecast for 2022-23.
The response to Covid was draconian with rubber bullets last year fired at anti-lockdown protesters in Melbourne while a pregnant woman (Zoe Buhler pictured) was even arrested in her Ballarat home in 2020 for posting a protest message on social media
Economic output for every individual
WESTERN AUSTRALIA: $146,423
NORTHERN TERRITORY: $124,533
AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY: $102,334
NEW SOUTH WALES: $86,143
SOUTH AUSTRALIA: $71,180
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics annual gross state product per capita, June 2022
Budget papers showed public service debt, which includes superannuation liabilities, climbing from $119.4billion in June 2022 to $196.8billion by June 2026.
Net debt – or what a government owes minus its assets – was expected to climb from $101.9billion in June 2022 to $167.5billion by June 2026.
‘Now you’re heading towards $200billion – that’s New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania put together,’ Mr Kennett said.
The IPA calculated net debt was likely to climb to $224billion should Labor be re-elected and proceed with its Suburban Rail Loop project, with rising interest rates set to rise five-fold by 2030.
Younger Victorians, in particular, would be repaying this debt for decades to come.
‘They are going to have to carry the burden that is going to be their legacy left to them by eight years of this government,’ Mr Kennett said.
Like Melbourne, Sydney was also afflicted with surging Covid cases in 2021 from the Delta strain, and it too spent months in lockdown.
While NSW is promising a surplus Budget by 2024, Victoria will continue to have Budget deficits beyond 2026 where the state government spends more than it receives in revenue.
Victoria’s Department of Treasury and Finance admitted the state would have a Budget deficit of $6.1billion in 2025-26 with $13.1billion expected for this 2022-23 financial year.
The lockdowns are also set to leave a cost legacy with the Institute of Public Affairs think tank calculating they cost $218billion – or $33,000 for every Victorian (pictured is a wheelchair crossing a tram track in July, 2020)
By comparison, NSW is expected to have an $11.3billion deficit in 2022-23 that would turn into a $601million surplus in 2024-25.
Despite being Australia’s second most populated state, Victoria is sixth among the state’s and territories when it comes to economic output.
Former Victorian Liberal premier Jeff Kennett, who led Victoria from 1992 to 1999, said Melbourne’s lockdowns were so bad they stirred memories of communism from migrants who had fled dictatorial regimes
Just two decades ago, Victoria’s economic output for every resident was above the national average.
But as of June 2022, Victoria’s gross state product per capita stood at $78,544, putting it well below the national average of $89,631.
Victoria was sixth on the Australian Bureau of Statistics league table, behind New South Wales on $86,143 and Queensland on $84,992.
Mining-rich Western Australia led the pack with per capita economic output of $146,423, ahead of the Australian Capital Territory on $102,334 by virtue of being a smaller jurisdiction with highly-paid public servants.
But only Tasmania ($67,511) and South Australia ($71,180) were behind Victoria.
Mr Wild said Victoria, on several measures, was Australia’s worst performing state.
‘On all critical financial indicators, Victoria is the nation’s worst performing state by a significant and growing margin, and it will be mainstream Victorians who pay the price,’ he said.
‘There are numerous health and financial harms caused as a consequence of lockdown measures, which have not yet been fully quantified, but will be a significant ongoing cost of Victoria’s botched pandemic response.’