OPINION: You will have heard about the theory of the carrot and the stick.
It is a classic technique of motivation. The theory is if you dangle a carrot in front of a donkey, it is so pleased to see reward rather than feeling the pain of being belted with a stick, it does what is required want more readily.
After 100 days of tough lockdown he did ease some restrictions.
He had heard we donkeys braying, and knew if he didn’t do something he faced a stampede of law breaking. He knew he was on the verge of a social mutiny.
But there wasn’t much ground given, and as is the way with this premier there was a lecture, a belly full of bluster, and sleight of hand.
Nowhere was there an explanation of how the continued restrictions were justified by health advice.
Instead there was the continuing campaign of fear – do this or we are back on the brink of disaster.
He may well be right about that. And certainly what Victorians have done over the past 100 days or so has had significant success. More than 700 cases of COVID-19 a day has become one or two. Deaths are almost rare.
But that doesn’t negate the need for an explanation, a justification of the continuing removal of liberty as case numbers drop.
For example, for some bizarre reason children in Years 8—10 cannot be trusted to return to school for another week. But all other year levels are already there. Why? Nobody knows.
Painfully, business remains on hold, which is devastating to industries already withering. Arguably, their position worsened yesterday, and still with no solid explanation.
Some may still rebel tomorrow and break the law.
What easing there was certainly was welcome, although it was aimed mostly at the social world rather than the corporate one.
From midnight tonight Victorians can leave home for more than two hours a day.
They can leave their five kilometre zone and travel within a 25 kilometre restriction.
Outdoor gatherings can now be 10 people from two households, you can play golf or tennis but don’t expect to enter the clubrooms.
Some pet grooming is allowed, and mercifully, some hairdressing but with restrictions.
There are various other changes but, here comes the carrot.
On November 1, in two weeks, if everybody does the right thing and bows before Daniel twice a day, Victorians will be able to leave home freely, hospitality venues will re-open with limits, and retail outlets will re-open, also with COVID safe policies.
But in the fashion of the sleazy salesman, the Premier says, “wait… there’s more”.
If the figures are good, if people follow these new rules, and if the premier gets out of bed on the right side that morning, there’s a chance some of the easing planned for two weeks could be brought forward. That will be decided next Sunday.
Retail could for example be opened a few days earlier than the November 1 deadline he set today, perhaps around October 28.
But here’s the sleight of hand: this is the date that was set weeks ago in his original “road map”, before he plucked November 1 from the ether. So retail has been put on hold and could be stuck with November 1, worse off than was first planned.
The Business Council of Australia saw the stick wrapped in the carrot and said Victoria remained closed for business.
“There is no sound reason to continue the restrictions on business especially with case numbers clearly on a downward trajectory,” chief executive Jennifer Westacott said.
“For business it is now a day to day proposition, not a week to week one, whether they remain viable or close their doors for ever.”
As usual, the Premier’s press conference went for at least two hours.
As usual he confused facing questions with answering them
Increasingly, and again today, he showed every sign of being rattled.
Josh Frydenberg, Greg Hunt and Alan Tudge have clearly got inside his head.
Mr Andrews told us again he is not interested in politics, only fighting the virus. And then spent much settling political scores.
Of course he’s entitled to do that but it really is entertaining only to him and some of the watching press.
In the real world Victorians remain unsettled by living with underlying fear.
They remain frustrated and deeply stressed about being locked in their own homes.
They watch with horror as their savings and their business and their jobs and their futures disappear.
And they wonder what the place has come to when dozens of police turn up to guard the door of a hairdressing salon so nobody can enter.
All this they do against a background of numbers often better than NSW, where life in one form goes on.
God willing our numbers stay low, there are no more deaths, and our fragile contact tracing suppresses out breaks as they happen.
But Victorians, stretched to snapping by the events since March, know there is a long way to go.
They need help, understanding and encouragement. They need, where safe, to get back to work.
And they need a leader who understands that even with the carrot and stick strategy coercion is not motivation.
Neil Mitchell hosts the 8.30am – midday program on radio 3AW.