IN recent days, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and the leader of Victoria's Labor state government, Daniel Andrews, have repeatedly stated their intention to act independently of Canberra on COVID-19, should they find the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, is not moving fast enough for their liking.
Such threats would not raise an eyebrow normally, but these are not normal times.
Through the Council of Australian Governments, or COAG, the states and territories have a coronavirus agreement signed with Canberra, and the responsible ministers and their advisers are in regular contact, so the right hand should know what left hand is doing.
WORLD CORONAVIRUS DASHBOARD, courtesy of Johns Hopkins University. Manoeuvre with mouse, touchscreeen etc
At a time when Australians - collectively, and as individuals - are being asked, or told, to make considerable sacrifices in the name of keeping the country as healthy as possible, there is no room for political disagreement at the top of the ladder.
The reactions of NSW and Victoria would be easier to understand if our situation was like that of the US, where President Donald Trump is predicting things will be over in time for Easter, just a fortnight away.
Even as a self-described germophobe, President Trump seems unable to grasp the urgency of America's case total of 70,000 and rapidly rising, the world's third highest: hence the state governors and policy advisers openly defying him.
Such a babel of voices can only sow confusion in the public mind, and all of our leaders must remember this. They have a forum in COAG to resolve their disputes, and to manage this crisis with one voice.
The message can still be modulated for individual states, or regions, but threatening to "go it alone" is not the way to win public confidence.
One thing the NSW government should be thanked for is its decision to break case numbers into local government areas - of importance for us when the Hunter New England Local Health District spans some 130,000 square kilometres, or four times the area of the Hunter region itself.
While these new numbers accurately reflect the situation in our proximity, we cannot be complacent.
There is no "textbook" way through this crisis, but strong and consistent leadership is crucial in co-opting the public, to help keep case numbers relatively low.
We do not want the Spanish and Italian experience - where about a tenth of the casualties are doctors and nurses -repeated here.
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