ANALYSIS

Can the national Covid plan work, for Christmas sake?

Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Parliament House. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Parliament House. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Scott Morrison made a telling concession on Tuesday as he tries to keep Australia's national Covid plan - the path out of the pandemic - on track.

"Ultimately everything is a state matter," the Prime Minister told reporters.

That's an "over to you" moment reminding us all that Australia is a federation and another reminder of how state power and responsibility has grown considerably during the pandemic, at the expense of the Commonwealth.

But Mr Morrison reminds that the national plan was a national agreement to see "Australians coming together".

"And that is exactly what I will be expecting all of us to be doing," he said.

PM courtyard mic drop.

Earlier, Mr Morrison was revving his troops for the next election by demanding discipline.

"The same focus that we required three years ago, we will require now," he told the government party room. "And the fact that we lived this once gives us confidence that we will live it again."

"So it's important we stick to the plan."

Ahh, the plan. It is important that the public knows there is a plan, but the message appears more directed at state and territory leaders - they are being told to stick to it. Or perhaps, grow up.

"It's not a fight or debate," the Prime Minister told the party room. "It's a sensible adult conversation."

"Everyone is starting from a different place and we need to acknowledge that in the way that we communicate."

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Under the national plan, COVID-19 restrictions start easing once Australia (aged 16 years and over) hits vaccination targets of 70 and then 80 per cent.

But the scale of Australia's unending third wave, particularly in NSW, is putting it all in doubt.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr says 70 per cent was "not safe".

"Eighty is the more realistic step. So, 70 will be a gentle step forward, 80 would be a more significant one," he told reporters.

WA Premier Mark McGowan says hundreds of lives and the mining industry would be in peril if the West opens up at 70 per cent.

Faced with 76 new local cases on Tuesday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is flagging a modest easing of lockdown restrictions in his state, which has been locked down longer than any other.

"If we cannot achieve zero despite our best efforts, how many cases can we tolerate?" Daniel Andrews asked.

"It will need to be a low number. It cannot be in hundreds because it won't be in the hundreds for long, it will race away from us."

But NSW is trying to get through its national emergency. Cases are now topping 1000 daily and the Premier needs to dangle freedom carrots - 80 per cent double dose vaccination to look at international travel - to the population.

"How wonderful would it be to welcome back all Aussies who want to be reunited with their families by Christmas?" Gladys Berejiklian posed.

Will an 80 per cent vaccination target for ending "lockouts" cut it for states such as WA and QLD? That finer detail is not worked out and it is not looking promising.

The Prime Minister insists lockdowns can't go on forever and insists that, the past the 80 per cent threshold, they do more harm than good.

"So, Western Australia's done well to now, don't get me wrong, but to go well in the future, you've got to move forward," he told 6PR radio.

As the Prime Minister reminds government members, an election is nigh so they need to get ready. The Coalition needs to hang onto its seats in Covid free states of WA and Queensland as securing others to form majority government because of boundary changes.

Despite threats to pull financial support from states that don't open up under the plan, it's hard to believe the Prime Minister would pick a fight with Queensland, WA or any other state where he needs to win seats in the lead up to the next election.

This story Family Christmas and 'adult conversations': getting the national Covid plan to stick first appeared on The Canberra Times.