A recent poll by the Lowy Institute has found Australians are largely satisfied with the performance of their government in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Almost all Australian adults (95%) were of the view their federal government handled COVID-19 well. This was a 22-point jump in the share of Australians who felt their government did “very well” in managing the COVID-19 situation.
Given Australia has less than 1,000 fatalities since the pandemic began and hardly any active cases presently, this is no surprise.
Six out of 10 people surveyed said their government has done “about the right amount” in repatriating Australians, when asked how their government has fared in bringing home Australians stranded in other countries amid the border closures and lockdowns. Australia’s policy in this respect has come in for a fair degree of criticism for being too stringent, and this is evident in the survey too, with 33% believing their government hasn’t done enough or could have done more.
Australia is not alone in shutting its borders to contain the pandemic – most countries have done so at some point or other. Australians were divided on their views regarding special exemptions granted to some Australians to leave Australia. “Only Australians granted special exemptions should be allowed to leave” thought 41%, while 40% felt that “Australians who have been vaccinated should be free to leave”. Meanwhile, less than 2 of 10 people think “all Australians should be free to leave”.
Survey respondents were also asked about their perceptions of how a few other governments have managed the pandemic so far. While two in three Australians believe Taiwan has handled the pandemic “fairly well” or “very well”, the corresponding numbers for China, the UK, India and the US stood at 45%, 19%, 27% and just 7% respectively.
Given India has seen a dramatic second wave since the survey was conducted, and the scale of India’s healthcare system’s shortcomings has been rapidly exposed in the past month and a half, one could safely argue the numbers for India are flattering. The low number for the US is hardly surprising too, given its botched response to the pandemic, particularly in the early months last year.
The Australian government has been actively engaging in vaccine diplomacy in the region. It has pledged over $800 million in vaccine aid to the Pacific Islands and Southeast Asian countries. More than 8 of 10 people (83%) were in favour of Australia helping its neighbouring Pacific Island countries to buy vaccines.
Meanwhile, this opinion looks a little divided for Southeast Asian countries. Six of 10 people (60%) were in favour of their government providing vaccine aid to Southeast Asia, while 38% (nearly 4 out of 10 people) were against it.