When Marketing Popped a Trans-Tasman Bubble Stunt
Posted on October 19, 2020
Friday, October 16, dawned as a day of political tumult in Australia. Sky News Australia political editor Andrew Clennell had been pushing for the resignation of New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian over an alleged visa and land corruption scandal, whose boyfriend and disgraced State minister was about to give a final day of testimony before an ICAC probe—while Sky’s Peta Credlin, a former chief of staff to a disgraced prime minister and now tagged as a Liberal Party hopeful, bayed for the blood of Victorian premier Daniel Andrews over alleged cover-ups in a failed Covid-19 hotel quarantine program that had sparked Australia’s Covid-19 Wave 2.
Underneath all, simmered a curious news story of surprise to most Australians.
For within a few hours’ time, a planeload of New Zealanders would be landing at Sydney’s International Airport heralding the start of a “Trans-Tasman Travel Bubble”, part of a plan that welcomed Kiwis into The Lucky Country while Aussies were still banned from their Land of the Long White Cloud.
Every news service, including Rupert Murdoch’s Sky, confirmed that this bubble would drive tourism into NSW and the Northern Territory only as a first step towards the rebirth of a post-Covid Australian tourism industry.
It surprised Australians, because only a day earlier they’d been told by the Federal government that their national borders would remain closed at least until well into 2021. Covid-19 of course, remained uncured and Australia was rare having escaped its global devastation relatively unscathed.
That first plane landed around noon. Eight hours later the first stories hit the Internet of 17 New Zealanders debarking domestic flights at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport in Victoria.
Panic ensued. Who were they? Why were they there? Were they in detention as widely reported? Were they being deported to NSW too?
As it turned out, Australians received their answers from Victoria’s Daniel Andrews at his Covid-19 press conference the next day.
Not only had Kiwis landed. Without having any authorities forewarned to greet them, they’d “quickly left the airport” for all points across the State. And the Victorian government still had no word from Australian Border Force about who these people were—let alone where they might be found.
Tempers grew when Victorians soon learned it wasn’t just 17 people their police were seeking.
Fifty-five had entered the State and only roughly half had since been located and told of their Victorian Covid lockdown obligations. It turned out that some names given by Border Force weren’t in Victoria at all.
Not a good sign from the gatekeepers in the Global War on Terror.
At this time, Victorians and Melburnians were just coming to the end of a strenuous months-long lockdown period.
And while locals were staying home albeit for four “essential reasons”, and wearing masks when out, they now perceived a bunch of foreigners among them assumed to have no inkling what their Covid safety responsibilities were.
Then came the kicker.
On Sunday Victoria learned it wasn’t in this mess alone. Western Australia—that had its borders firmly closed—found 25 Kiwis on its doorstep. All were quickly stashed in hotel quarantines where they’d soon receive hefty room and boarding bills.
Then this afternoon, we heard that Kiwis had turned up in Tasmania and South Australia too, the latter of which were now under hotel lock and key.
What we have here is a lesson in politics of the least nuanced kind.
For since Australia’s Covid-19 outbreak in February, its Conservative Federal government had been running a quasi-Trump policy stressing that Covid-19 was a risk requiring acquiescence for the good of the national economy.
Having then delegated its pandemic response to each State and Territory it didn’t like it when across the political spectrum, all pursued Covid-suppression strategies instead.
What a clever way then, to finally force these rebellious cads into toeing a national line. “Let’s just thrust tourists at them”. What a smart way too, to divert pressure from NSW and Federal corruption crises currently under way.
Actually, all it did was turn people off, particularly those in the country’s second-most populous State—on the cusp of celebrating their Covid-freedom; of hope; and of the return of retail, jobs and prosperity just two weeks hence.
So, today the Victorian premier hit back particularly against one Federal government minister for his continued vitriol against the State—Treasurer Josh Frydenberg—with the riposte:
He’s not a leader, just a Liberal.
Within hours it started trending with its own Twitter hashtag, becoming a catch cry against any Liberal Party politician who from now on wished to play politics with lives.
Was this an example of a well-thought out piece of marketing brawn, or just an inspired piece of fast thinking rhetoric?
It’s unclear right now, but while the controversy over the Trans-Tasman Bubble froths in four of Australia’s seven States, one thing remains certain:
If the Federal government thought it was building itself a bait and trap to capture political consensus, look again. It’s now fallen into a political abyss.
All eyes are now on the US Presidential Election in two weeks’ time. If Trump loses, the entire edifice of political hubris like this, will completely collapse.
© 2020 Adam Parker.
Picture Credits: © 2020 ABC News Online.