Older Australians rate politicians' pandemic performances

If the pandemic was a movie, our politicians are the ‘stars’. Or at least they should be.

One thing is for sure, we’ve certainly seen a lot of performances. There’s been drama (think stand-offs between the states and federal government), mystery (one state’s lockdown guidelines, vaccine efficacy doubts), suspense (waiting for daily announcements and restrictions to be lifted) and, in the case of some politicians, comedy (you can fill in the blank here).

All the makings of a blockbuster, really.

However, according to older Australians, all but a couple are unlikely to win an Oscar for their performance. In fact, most wouldn’t even get a nomination.

YourLifeChoices members were asked to rate Australian politicians’ performances, starting with the nation’s leader, Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

A resounding 54 per cent gave the PM one star for his handling of the pandemic and he received an overall rating of 2.22 stars out of five.

It’s a tough score for Mr Morrison, but one that may come as no surprise. A recent Newspoll also took a stick to Mr Morrison’s performance as the nation’s leader. And the demographic that really gave him a hiding? The party’s most reliable demographic, the over-65s.

Newspoll aggregates for the July quarter show, on primary votes, 58 per cent of over-65s support the Coalition. This rose to 65 per cent on two-party preferred terms. Retirees also supported the Coalition, 52 per cent on primary votes and 61 per cent on two party preferred.

September saw the Coalition start to slide, or freefall, depending on how much stock you put into 51 per cent of over-65s backing the Coalition on primary votes and 59 on two-party preferred. Retiree support also shrank, with 49 per cent backing the Coalition on primary terms and 59 on two-party preferred.

Support for the Coalition has fallen from 65 to 59 per cent among its most reliable demographic. That’s a considerable drop, says Spectator, well outside the margin of error territory.

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A Newspoll conducted by The Australian paints an even grimmer picture for the PM.

It showed support for the Coalition falling to its lowest levels since 2018, with the Coalition retaining 35 per cent of the primary vote and Labor with 38 per cent.

A saving grace for the PM is that he has remained the preferred leader despite overall support for the Coalition now below the Labor Party.

The PM copped some scathing criticism from YourLifeChoices members.

“Mr Morrison twiddled his thumbs while Rome (Australia) burned. This person cannot decide, only react,” wrote one member.

“Thank you for treating senior Australians like second class citizens,” wrote another. “We vote.”

He did, however, have a few fans.

“Keep up the good work and ignore the doomsayers,” wrote one member.

“Very difficult situation … can’t please everyone! We all knew COVID would spread no matter what action was taken,” added another. “Doing a very good job.”

The YourLifeChoices Politicians’ Pandemic Performance Poll also revealed that two other ministers who have been front and centre during the pandemic performed as poorly as the PM. The trio comprised the three lowest ratings in the poll.

Federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg was the most favoured of the three with 2.28 out of five stars and health minister Greg Hunt was the poorest performer of all rated politicians, with 2.17 stars.

Politician’s nameRating% of one-star ratings
Josh Frydenberg (federal treasurer)2.28/5.0046%
Scott Morrison (Prime Minister)2.22/5.0054%
Greg Hunt (federal health minister)2.17/5.0050%
Overall ranking of federal government2.19/5.0045%

Source: YourLifeChoices Politicians’ Pandemic Performance Poll n.560

The treasurer has had a rollercoaster year, enjoying the praise of opening the purses to provide public support for embattled Aussies and businesses, but then having to close them again, possibly sooner than many say was necessary.

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Mr Frydenberg, like Mr Hunt, did not shy away from repeated criticism of his home state and used pandemic support payments to challenge all states to reopen during outbreaks.

Mr Hunt made no friends during this pandemic. The minister is primarily responsible for Australia’s slow (some say bungled) vaccine rollout, monumental federal aged care facility failures and pandemic health policy. He has been taken to task by the media and former ministers, with one (among many) calling for him to resign.

“Across the decades, ministers have been kept on track by the knowledge that grave errors on their watch will result in their removal,” wrote former PM Kevin Rudd for the SMH.

“This principle lies at the heart of accountable government.”

YourLifeChoices members were invited to send a message to the federal government.

“Sick and tired of the government caring more for the economy than Australian lives,” wrote one member.

“Too many stuff-ups from the word go,” wrote another. “No leadership from the top. Words and no action.”

“Letting the states and territories get away with what they are doing to their respective citizens is nothing short of criminal,” wrote another.

“Put politics aside and just do what’s right for all Australians no matter who they vote for,” and “Very poor vaccine rollout – need to work together with all states and stop the politicising and division”, along with comments about creating divisiveness and lack of leadership, were the common themes of most member responses.

Again, though, there were lines of praise among the barbs.

“I feel the government has done a marvellous job in the handling the pandemic,” wrote one satisfied member.

“This pandemic is a new threat and like anything new is very hard to navigate. I don’t like the criticism being directed as everybody is doing the best for the protection of the nation. We all have to learn.”

State and territory leaders fared better in scores and comments, though the three most in the hotseat – or in states with the most outbreaks – ended nearer the bottom of the ladder.

The minister with the hardest borders – Mark McGowan – won the most favour, rating a solid 3.38 stars, while embattled now former premier Gladys Berejiklian was the worst-rated state leader with 2.34 stars.

Pandemic performance ladder

Politician’s nameRating% of one star ratings
Mark McGowan (WA Premier)3.38/5.0021%
Michael Gunner (NT Chief Minister)3.35/5.008%
Peter Gutwein (Tas Premier)3.32/5.009%
Steven Marshall (SA Premier)3.22/5.0010%
Andrew Barr (ACT Chief Minister)3.20/5.0010%
Daniel Andrews (Vic Premier)3.17/5.0021%
Annastacia Palaszczuk (Qld Premier)2.98/5.0026%
Gladys Berejiklian (NSW former premier)2.34/5.0043%

Source: YourLifeChoices Politicians’ Pandemic Performance Poll n.560

For better or worse, YourLifeChoices members weren’t shy about sharing their opinions of their home state or territory leaders. Most of the attention went to the big three: Victoria, NSW and Queensland, but the other leaders received mostly fair praise for their work.

Here’s a sample.

Mark McGowan:
We live in the state COVID-free because we had the leadership others could only wish for.

Mark McGowan has done the right thing in keeping us safe – including closing the border to people of other states who may come here. Keep it up Mark!

Thank you so much for keeping us safe in spite of the vicious criticism by an inept federal government and NSW! We greatly appreciate & value the freedoms that we have in WA.

Mark Mc Gowan has folded under pressure from the east to allow the AFL final in Perth and will be held responsible if COVID breaks out here as a result.

Annastacia Palaszczuk:
Our Premier and chief health officer have been outstanding in their hard-line approach with the health interests of Queenslanders at heart. All the southern criticism of damage to businesses by this approach has seemed to have peeled away.

Queensland so far keeping on top, doing very well with information of the public and encouragement.

I’m a Queenslander and congratulate the premier on her handling of the pandemic.

Onya, Palaszczuk! You’re protecting Queenslanders as well as anyone could. So glad we have you in charge here!!

I applaud Anastasia on doing a terrific job. Despite getting such little help and lots of hindrance from the federals she has held her ground and done an awesome job.

Gladys Berejiklian
Glady’s has done a great job in the circumstances, which has been a learning curve for everyone. Pity people can’t or won’t do the right thing by others.

NSW has been consistent in its approach and performed excellently despite media errors in reporting and trying to trip up the state reps at every turn

Stop pandering to big business and do your job. Should have shut the whole of Sydney down. Stopped people leaving and going to regional NSW.

Gladys is fantastic. An all-rounder concerned for the people’s lives and their pockets. Also doing her best for business as far as I can see. Not easy but 10 out of 10 for Gladys.

Too concerned with keeping the state open to take the necessary steps in a timely manner. Too late to lock down, too sloppy in lockdown rules and management.

Out of control, not looking at the damage they are doing mentally, especially to the elderly and children, the whole thing has turned political (Labour seats suffering while Liberal seats have freedom) and lack of democratic ruling, no checks being carried out on what they are doing, parliament not sitting.

Gladys has proven twice before she can manage the pandemic, however, not her own ambitious politicians! Unfortunately, she’s only managed to hold off ‘right-wing’ unjustifiable profit-focused influence twice – Scomo’s bullying, incompetent behaviour means he bears the guilt for this last Delta outbreak.

Steven Marshall
SA really does have the gold standard as proven by the results, Excellent communication, science based policies, sensitively presented, inviting cooperation and collaboration rather than revolt. it works!

Reasonably handled the pandemic well under the circumstances.

In South Australia the premier has done a good job by taking advice from the experts.

Great job. Please don’t open up too soon to pander to your boss. I like being COVID-free here in SA.

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Andrew Barr
I live in the ACT, and I am disappointed in the severe lockdown by Andrew Barr, I feel we needed to lock down but we should have been able to with CBR code and masks have more shops available.

Your daily talk is given in a very professional and concise manner and very helpful thank you.

I think the ACT government is doing a fabulous job. I haven’t agreed with a range of things Mr Barr has done previously, but in this he has been top notch.

Chief Minister Barr has done a fantastic job keeping us safe despite being surrounded by NSW where the premier was reluctant to lockdown the state.

Daniel Andrews
Victoria’s handling of the pandemic has been first rate. A few hiccups were to be expected. The next couple of months will be telling.

The hotel quarantine was handled terribly. Dan Andrews has withheld all the modelling. He addresses us in a very demeaning way, as though we are naughty little children.

Victoria, a massive thank you to Daniel Andrews and all his team for all you have done to keep Victorians safe, we wouldn’t be where we are without you.

Victoria made mistakes at the beginning, but quickly became the lead state. And that was not thanks to the federal government. Strong leadership. Those who are leading our response to the pandemic should be capable of such leadership.

I am in regional Victoria and not happy with the lockdowns that are imposed on us.

The arrogance and ignorance of the Andrews government, and its ignoring of the harm being done to small business is breathtaking.

Strong, decisive action, badly needed when other states and the federal government’s actions endanger us all.

Peter Gutwein
The Tasmanian state government has been brilliant in its handling of the pandemic and closing of borders to COVID-affected states. The hope is, however, that our already stretched hospital system is able to cope when Delta arrives and that the state government waits until 90 per cent fully vaccinated levels for 12+.

Michael Gunner
Professional, honest, transparent and caring.

The poll suggest older Australians expected stronger leadership, more accountability and honesty from their leaders, but were left lacking by all but a few.

How do you think our leaders performed? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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