This week, the PM shunned the media and took to social media to defend his Government’s bungled vaccine rollout. Managing editor Michelle Pini reports.
WHERE DO YOU GO when you’re just having a go at being PM but people refuse to stop asking you probing questions?
If you’re Scotty from Marketing and spin and deflection are no longer working, you take to social media, of course. Sure, you might’ve previously labelled social media the “key degrader of respect in our country” — such as the degrading treatment of women by Liberal chief upskirter Andrew Laming, presumably.
But desperate times and all that — plus, the beauty of Facebook is that you don’t have to answer any questions and you can even delete stuff you’d prefer to ignore.
And so, this week, shunning more conventional methods of communication, such as media conferences, the "key degrader" was the PM’s preferred platform to share information, or lack of it, on his Government’s bungled vaccine rollout.
After passing the buck for the handling of the pandemic onto the states early on, Morrison still managed to take all the glory for and make much political mileage from Australia’s coronavirus response.
However, some of us remember a time when Morrison was courting herd immunity, telling the kiddies it was safe to go back to school and laughing at the medical advice as he downed beers at the footy. He also invited huge ships carrying the plague to dock and their passengers to disembark without question, and then blamed the states. And he allowed ignorant members of his Government, like Craig Kelly, to spread dangerous misinformation about the pandemic without consequence.
But, ever quick to seize a political opportunity, the Prime Minister did soon grasp that the majority of voters wanted tough precautionary measures with respect to the coronavirus and so he left it to the premiers to make some.
And, an absence of prime ministerial leadership notwithstanding, Australia still managed to find itself in an enviable position when it comes to the pandemic, by world standards. Of course, this was due to a combination of decisive action from the premiers, plus our geographic isolation. But by this time, a grateful Australian public was just happy in the knowledge that we probably weren’t all going to die to bother with which leaders were actually responsible for our good fortune.
Unfortunately for Morrison, he wasn’t content to leave it there. And among all the wins for which he claimed sole credit, the PM got carried away and trumpeted to the world that Australia was “at the front of the queue” with respect to the vaccine and that he had secured enough doses to ensure we would all be vaccinated faster than you could say “AstraZeneca”!
Meanwhile, Health Minister Greg Hunt got similarly excited with his Government’s premature claims of prowess, such that he attached a Liberal Party logo to the Australian Government vaccine rollout announcement, in advance of the actual rollout. Kind of like the promised bushfire relief package, which is yet to be delivered. Or the 2019 budget that was back in the black! Except not till sometime in the future. Maybe.
Unfortunately for Morrison, Hunt and the Coalition gang, in the words of Opposition health spokesperson Mark Butler:
"We're nowhere near the front of the queue, we can't even see the front of the queue from where we currently are."
Indeed, the Morrison Government has now reneged on its prior rollout targets, with targets of any kind joining the fabled “back in the black” budget predictions.
As well, the AstraZeneca vaccine – according to the Government – could kill you. But not to worry, because they now plan only to give it to old people, since they were presumably going to die anyway. Except for the over-50 PM, who jumped the queue ahead of frontline workers and vulnerable Australians to receive both doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
As well, neither the AstraZeneca nor Pfizer vaccines have arrived on schedule. Ever one to let someone else take the sting for any stuff-ups (and there have been many), the PM has pointed his finger at the states for not administering doses and at the European Union for not supplying them, despite his demands — a strategy which the state premiers and the EU have proven to be false.
Now, while other nations are getting on with life, we may well become the unvaccinated lepers of the international community. It will also take at least another six months before Australians can contemplate a future free of lockdowns and border closures, let alone the flow-on economic costs. And this is only if the Government’s latest claim of 20 million contracted doses being “secured” actually eventuates.
Finally, the Prime Minister turned again to the states, charging them with the task of trying to salvage the unholy mess of his Government's creation. The National Cabinet will now meet twice a week — presumably until the vaccine actually rolls out.
Maintaining the PM's "not-our-fault!" defence, Trade Minister Dan Tehan appeared on ABC News Breakfast where Michael Rowland voiced the obvious with this question:
"People should be left in no doubt, shouldn't they, that this mess, this delayed vaccine rollout, is squarely on the Morrison Government?"
The only factual claim this Government has made on the vaccine, it seems, is attaching the Liberal Party logo to the botched vaccine rollout, at least ensuring no one forgets who is responsible for this particular debacle.
This editorial was originally published as part of the Independent Australia weekly newsletter. These editorials are usually only available to subscribers and may be read online in the IA members-only area.
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