GIR Colloquium Series | COVID-19 and the Pathologies of Australia’s Regulatory State
GIR Colloquium Series 2022
COVID-19 and the Pathologies of Australia’s Regulatory State
Shahar Hameiri (University of Queensland) and Tom Chodor (Monash University) via Zoom
Location: 341 Social Sciences Building (if you are on campus) or via Zoom: https://uni-sydney.zoom.us/j/82664426432
The COVID-19 pandemic has elicited a wide range of national responses with an even wider range of outcomes in terms of infections and mortalities. Australia is a rare success story, keeping deaths comparatively low, and infections too, until the Omicron wave. But what explains Australia’s success? Typical explanations emphasise leaders’ choices. We agree. We argue, however, that the options available to leaders and whether these are implemented effectively is shaped by the legacy of state transformation. Decades of reforms have hollowed out state capacity, and confused lines of control and accountability, leaving Australia unprepared for the pandemic. Leaders thus abandoned plans and turned to ad hoc, simple to implement emergency measures – border closures and lockdowns. These averted large-scale outbreaks and deaths, but with diminishing returns after the Delta variant took hold. Conversely, Australia’s regulatory state has struggled to deliver more sophisticated policy responses, notwithstanding leaders’ apparent commitment, including an effective quarantine system, crucial for border controls, and vaccination program, essential for exiting the quagmire of lockdowns and closed borders, leading to a partial return to top-down governing. The Australian experience shows that to avoid a public health catastrophe or more damaging lockdowns when the next pandemic strikes, states must re-learn to govern.
Shahar Hameiri is Professor of International Politics and Director of Research in the School of Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland. His work mainly examines security and development issues in Asia and the Pacific. His latest book, co-authored with Lee Jones, is Fractured China: How State Transformation is Shaping China’s Rise (Cambridge University Press, 2021). His earlier co-authored books include Governing Borderless Threats: Non-Traditional Security and the Politics of State Transformation (2015) and International Intervention and Local Politics (2017), both published by Cambridge University Press. He is also co-editor, with Toby Carroll and Lee Jones, of The Political Economy of Southeast Asia: Politics and Markets Under Hyperglobalisation (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020). He tweets @ShaharHameiri. (Pictured above on left)
Tom Chodor is a Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the School of Social Sciences, Monash University. His research focuses on the global governance of the global political economy, and the role of non-state actors in contributing to and contesting global policy agendas. He has published articles in Review of International Political Economy, Journal of Common Market Studies, Globalizations and Global Governance, and is the author of Neoliberal Hegemony and The Pink Tide in Latin America: Breaking Up With TINA? (Palgrave 2015), and co-author of Unravelling the Crime-Development Nexus (Rowman & Littlefield 2022). (Pictured above on right)