As Sydney prepares for Freedom Day on Monday and case numbers continue to increase in locked-down Melbourne, it’s worth looking back at the naysayers who told us NSW should follow the Victoria model.
Chief among them are celebrity media power couple Lisa Wilkinson of Channel 10’s The Project and her husband Peter FitzSimons of the Sydney Morning Herald, along with Karl Stefanovic and ABC’s Fran Kelly.
While Daniel Andrews’ Victoria now holds the record of being the most locked-down state in the world due to Covid-19, Gladys Berejiklian’s parting gift to NSW as she stepped down from being the premier is a state about to taste freedom.
Lisa Wilkinson (pictured) said then NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian was ‘doing nothing’ about Covid
Today show host Karl Stefanovic (pictured, right) said Gladys Berejiklian had ‘botched’ the NSW Covid response
If Ms Berejiklian had listened to some in the media rather than medical advice, Sydney and NSW might be in the same boat as Melbourne and Victoria.
Wilkinson took many jabs at Ms Berejiklian over winter for not cracking down even harder on Sydneysiders.
‘Gladys Berejiklian makes no restrictions, she’s doing nothing, the soft lockdown continues … She’s stuffed this … the lockdown was not hard enough and people wanted a hard lockdown,’ she said on The Project.
Presumably the ‘people’ on whose behalf she spoke were her huge house neighbours on Sydney’s leafy lower north shore.
She certainly was not speaking for the tradies and battlers of western Sydney just trying to earn a living without being stigmatised by their post code.
When the state’s pubs reopen on Monday they will operate under the four person per sqm rule (pictured, NYE revellers in Sydney last year)
Gladys Berejiklian was slammed by many in the media for her handling of Covid-19 while premier of NSW
Wilkinson continued her rant, having a go at Ms Berejiklian’s daily 11am televised media statements.
‘I think I speak on behalf of just about everybody that is watching these press conferences … they are almost unwatchable,’ she said.
Those daily press conferences had far higher viewership figures than The Project.
‘If Gladys Berejiklian isn’t up to the job, then she needs to step aside,’ Wilkinson said. She eventually got her wish, but it had nothing to do with the former premier’s handling of Covid-19.
Wilkinson did find time to praise another premier though – Daniel Andrews.
‘Victoria proves every time that the minute you get an outbreak there, you stamp on it, and you get back to normal life again,’ she gushed on August 5 as the state went into its sixth lockdown.
NSW recorded 587 new Covid cases on Wednesday, while Victoria recorded 1,638. NSW will celebrate freedom day on Monday while Victoria remains in that sixth lockdown.
It was even worse in Victoria on Tuesday as it recorded 1763 new Covid-19 cases, the highest daily number for any state since the pandemic began.
Wilkinson has not, as yet, called for Mr Andrews’ resignation.
Married media commentators Lisa Wilkinson (pictured, left) and Peter FitzSimons (right) both compared blasted the NSW government’s response to Covid-19
It seems that great minds think alike in the Wilkinson/FitzSimons household; on July 18 in his column Peter FitzSimons wrote: ‘while it is obvious to everyone with an ounce of sense that, as demonstrated by Victoria, lockdowns are effective, the Berejiklian version has been anything but’.
Wilkinson and her husband were far from alone in the rarified air of highly-paid media critics calling for lockdown in NSW to clone the failing Victorian version.
Newly-appointed NSW premier Dominic Perrottet broke the long-awaited news the state had reached its vaccination target on social media
Last month, Karl Stefanovic of Channel Nine’s Today program unleashed on Ms Berejiklian and what he called her ‘botched’ handling of NSW’s Covid-19 outbreak.
Speaking to Perth’s Mix94.5 radio jocks Pete, Matt and Kymba, Stefanovic didn’t hold back with his distaste for the then NSW state premier.
‘Our premier has just completely and absolutely botched it,’ he said as the radio hosts erupted into laughter.
‘Gladys, it’s a basket case! You’ve stuffed it up!’.
Stefanovic then praised Western Australian leader Mark McGowan who has divided opinion with his radical border stance and Covid-zero strategy.
‘I think he (Mr McGowan) has done a brilliant job and you guys have a relatively normal life, it says everything.’
The Today host said it was ‘very depressing’ being stuck in NSW’s ‘Covid vortex’.
Fran Kelly, who presents a breakfast program on ABC’s Radio National, also called for a harder lockdown.
ABC Radio National presenter Fran Kelly (pictured) said most people in Sydney wanted a harder lockdown
Asked by ABC’s Insiders host David Speers in July if Sydney should have locked down quicker, Kelly replied ‘I think most people in Sydney think it should have’.
‘The extent of it, the construction industry, and all the tradies has really shocked people, I think, and added a little element of panic to the initial assessing of this new information.
‘People have been really frustrated in Sydney that this lockdown hasn’t gone harder earlier.’
Kelly went on to claim a majority of people in Sydney thought the initial moderate restrictions as ‘mock down’ and ‘lockdown lite’.
Visitors to Sydney’s iconic Coogee beach exercise during the Covid lockdown. The lockdown is about to ease condiderably
On Monday October 11, NSW will see the reopening of pubs, restaurants, cafes, hairdressers and retail stores.
Double-jabbed Sydneysiders will no longer have to follow the 5km radius rule and will be able to travel outside their local government area as long as they remain within greater Sydney.
With capacity limits in place, the fully vaccinated will be allowed to abandon lockdown restrictions that millions have endured since June 26.
New NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Thursday that ‘as we hit the key 70 per cent and 80 per cent vaccination targets in coming days, we need to ensure that our focus remains on keeping people safe and continuing to strive for above 90 per cent vaccination rates.
‘Alongside this, we must have a sharp focus on how we support businesses and ensure people return to work and give the NSW economy the best chance of bouncing back.
‘As we head into December and over the summer period as businesses open… we’re going to have a very bright summer.’
Melburnians and other Victorians will be looking on with envy as those to the north-east of them see friends in the flesh for the first time in months and wonder whether to get their hair cut or go to a cafe for their first taste of freedom.