After the Australian Government's botched effort to vaccinate the country, business leaders have turned to former PM Kevin Rudd for help, writes Dr Jennifer Wilson.
IF YOU NEEDED further confirmation of the wilfully ignorant incompetence of the Federal Government led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, it appeared on Sunday in the form of an article written by the ABC’s Laura Tingle. The article graphically describes the Government’s arrogant early dealings with Pfizer that have resulted in a vaccine shortage at the worst possible time, when the COVID-19 Delta variant is taking hold in NSW.
‘The bringing forward of millions of Pfizer vaccine doses last week followed a back channels intervention eight days earlier by a high-powered network which included a senior business figure despairing of the Government's failure to secure enough vaccine supplies, and a former prime minister.’
It appears that some Australian business leaders became so concerned about the lack of Pfizer vaccine and so convinced of Morrison’s unwillingness and inability to address this lack with sufficient urgency, that they approached former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and asked him to intervene.
In the Morrison Government’s 2020 negotiations with Pfizer for some 40 million doses, things clearly went badly awry. Pfizer executives were left astonished by Australia’s “rude, dismissive and penny-pinching attitude” to the company’s offers of priority access to its vaccine.
Subsequent attempts by a senior business executive in June 2021 to bring forward supply expected in October were rebuffed by company executives openly contemptuous of the Australian Government:
Senior Pfizer executives told the businessman that if Australia was to make a more serious effort, after its treatment at the hands of relatively junior bureaucrats, it would have to come from much higher up, expressing their astonishment that Prime Minister Scott Morrison had not directly spoken to the Pfizer chairman and chief executive Albert Bourla, as former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had done on multiple occasions.
Kevin Rudd stepped up to fill the diplomatic vacuum. He did this in his private capacity and not as a government representative. He was able to conduct a civilised discussion with Albert Bourla, who undertook to see what could be done about delivering the vaccine to Australia sooner than October.
Mr Rudd also “floated the possibility” of Australia having access to the Pfizer booster which is still under development and due in 2022.
All this information is conveyed to Morrison in a civilly informative note from Rudd, obtained by the ABC and included in Tingle’s article.
It is difficult to imagine a greater humiliation for Morrison, leader of the party of business, than being sidelined by business leaders in favour of Mr Rudd. As we like to observe on social media, you could not make this up.
It also returns us to the oft-asked question — what is the point of Mr Morrison?
What is the point of a prime minister whom nobody trusts to ensure vaccine supply for citizens in the midst of a global pandemic, not even the powerful business interests he claims to represent?
What is the point of a prime minister who is not putting the electorate’s wellbeing first, when failing to fulfil this fundamental obligation of government will likely result in widespread illness and death?
You may also have noticed over the last couple of weeks that the new spokesman on COVID-19 matters for the Federal Government wears a military uniform. It is not the Health Minister, Greg Hunt, who is out and about announcing the latest advertising campaign that urges everyone to “book” their vaccinations. (They say “book your vaccination” because they can’t say “get your vaccination” owing to the Pfizer debacle referred to above that has left us perilously short). It is Lieutenant General John Frewen who is now running cover for the Prime Minister and Minister Hunt. Hunt and Morrison can refer all tricky and embarrassing questions to him.
If only they were as adept at protecting the electorate as they are at protecting themselves.
So with Mr Rudd sorting out the vaccine situation and Lieutenant General Frewen dealing with the public, what is Scott Morrison doing to justify the enormous salary we pay him?
To where does he go when he disappears for days at a time and what does he do?
Or, as we often say on social media, “why even is he?”
Kevin Rudd has masterfully eviscerated Morrison.
In a marvellous final stab to the heart, perhaps designed to highlight his spheres of influence and Morrison’s abject lack of the same, Rudd ends his letter:
‘As Dr Bourla lives in New York, we also agreed to catch up when I return there later this year.’
Obviously, nobody from Pfizer, let alone Dr Bourla, is in the least interested in catching up with Morrison in any capacity and frankly, who could blame them?
It could also be something of a relief that we will see more of the Lieutenant General and less of Morrison and Hunt, except for the fact that we are paying these men to do jobs they increasingly outsource. Not that they knowingly outsourced to Mr Rudd, they simply underperformed so dramatically that non-government actors felt obliged to step in.
Well may we ask, why even are they?
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