Saturday 31st of July 2021





















The expert advice changes, not infrequently, during this pandemic. And that applies even when that “advice” comes in the form of a one-liner.

As criticism mounted over the slowness of the vaccine rollout, Scott Morrison and his ministers have been increasingly dogged by the PM’s claim, especially early on, that the vaccination rollout was “not a race”.

Despite it being very obvious it was indeed a race to get the job done, once the line was in the script, ministers parroted it or struggled with it.


And it has become a media favourite for “gotcha” questions, as we saw at the weekend.

On Sunday Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said on Sky, “It’s not a race – it has to be systematic, it has to be rolled out in a way that Australians obviously need to know that they have to get the jab, but we can’t have everyone getting it at the same time.”

Trade Minister Dan Tehan, over on the ABC, ranged widely to explain the nature of “races”.

“The Melbourne Cup’s a race, the Stawell Gift’s a race. When it comes to vaccines, what we’re trying to do is make sure we get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can.”

In question time on Tuesday, Labor asked whether Morrison still said vaccinating all Australians, including aged-care residents and workers, is “not a race”.

Morrison reached immediately for a human shield – an expert.

It was Brendan Murphy, the secretary of the health department, who first made the statement, the Prime Minister said. And his words – which he stood by – were based on Murphy’s “expert advice”.

Murphy, formerly chief medical officer, has become a well-known face during COVID-19 from all those news conference appearances with Morrison and Health Minister Greg Hunt.


Morrison said he “affirmed” Murphy’s remarks – “because all the way through this pandemic our government, the governments around the country […] have always been mindful of the expert advice informing the decisions we have taken”.

For good measure he tabled Murphy’s words.

By happenstance, Murphy was appearing before a Senate estimates hearing on Tuesday afternoon, so he was quickly interrogated by Labor about whether the PM had thrown him “under the bus”.

Murphy indicated his own language has now changed. (Not that it was his place to advise Morrison on language, he stressed; the PM “has his own advice on language”.)

“I think I did say it way back in January at a press conference, when there was this discussion about racing through the TGA [Therapeutic Goods Administration] approval process, and I think I did say it’s not a race at that time,” he said.

“It is a term that I did use, way back then.”

But “we’ve moved on”.

“It’s not a very helpful phrase now because we’re going. We’re in action, we’re fired up and we’re doing it as quickly as possible.”

The critics dispute strongly the extent of the firing up. And key details continue to be lacking, as was evident, to the government’s embarrassment, on Tuesday.

The Minister for Aged Care Services, Richard Colbeck could not say how many of the aged-care workforce have been vaccinated.

Because these workers are getting their jabs in various places – including their work sites, GPs, hubs – total figures are not available. Another complication is they don’t have to inform their employer whether they have been vaccinated.

Belatedly, the government is making arrangements for more extensive data to be quickly collected.

“We’re asking the aged-care providers who hold the data to report that information back to us,” Colbeck said. “We’ve asked them to report that alongside their flu vaccination data.”

On the latest figures, produced in Senate estimates after confusion, 39,874 doses have been administered to aged-care workers nationally – 10,608 in Victoria. Some 32,833 people have been fully vaccinated, 8027 of them in Victoria.

The aged-care workforce is about 366,000 nationally. Of these 235,764 work in residential aged care, and the rest in home care.

Whatever the number actually vaccinated, Colbeck said he was “comfortable” with the pace of the rollout.

Hunt, who every day bombards the media with numbers, had to admit he had been wrong in his figures about the aged-care facilities covered in the vaccination program.

He said on Monday that Australia-wide, six were still to get initial doses, On Tuesday he said he’d misread the advice and it was 20. “Nobody else’s fault but mine,” he said, offering a rare apology.

Tuesday night came an update saying only 14 facilities remained. All but one are scheduled to be done by June 8. None is in Victoria.

There were sighs of relief from federal and Victorian governments that the latest three COVID cases in Victoria had not involved aged-care workers or residents.

The state government has announced a drive to get workers in aged care and disability vaccinated over the next few days, with special lanes at hubs so they avoid the queues.

“This is very much a call to arms for those workers on the front line to come out,” the state Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, Luke Donnellan, said.

Very obviously a race.The Conversation



Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.


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South Australia’s top health official left many bewildered after doling out bizarre advice to football fans, instructing them to “duck” if the ball flies into the stands. She later clarified the comment after a wave of mockery.

The state’s chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier made the strange recommendation during a press conference on Wednesday, when she also announced that an Australian Football League team from Melbourne would be permitted to enter South Australia for an upcoming match, despite ongoing Covid-19 restrictions.

“We’re looking at the ball… I have noticed occasionally the ball gets kicked into the crowd, we are working through the details of what that will mean,” Spurrier said confidently, after she was asked about the potential of exposure for ground-level spectators at the Adelaide Oval stadium.

If you are at Adelaide Oval and the ball comes towards you, my advice to you is to duck and just do not touch that ball.


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advice ain't cheap...


A global consulting firm was paid $660,000 by the Health Department as part of the federal government's COVID-19 vaccine strategy, but a departmental official has revealed that it did not provide "specific advice".

Key points:
  • In August 2020, the Health Department signed a $660,000 contract with McKinsey Pacific Rim for vaccine strategy advice
  • The only document provided by the department was an eight-page summary of global vaccine development based on publicly available information, prepared by McKinsey
  • This year, McKinsey Pacific Rim has received a $3.8m contract to provide vaccine rollout support services and a $2.2m contract for vaccine manufacturing advice

The only document the department could produce from the four-week consulting contract was an eight-page summary of publicly available vaccine data.

The pace of Australia's vaccine rollout has been a political focal point in recent days after the latest COVID-19 outbreak swept through Melbourne, plunging the city into its fourth lockdown.

The government's pandemic decision-making — ranging from which vaccines were secured, to how the vaccination program rolled out — has also been under heavy scrutiny.

The federal government has engaged consultants and contractors to assist in preparing and delivering COVID-19 vaccines, announcing partnerships with firms such as DHL, Linfox, PwC and Accenture to provide services and advice on a range of vaccine and distribution issues.


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vague and rattled...


Scott Morrison made an intriguing and uncharacteristic verbal stumble at his news conference announcing additional financial assistance for Melbourne workers this week.

After saying the payments would apply when the Commonwealth chief medical officer had declared a particular geographic area a hot spot, Morrison was asked for the official definition used in these cases.

“I will refer you to the official definition of the Commonwealth hot spot, the number of cases average over a number of days – I think it’s 10 per average (sic) day over three days off the top of my head,” said the Prime Minister.


For the record, the definition for metropolitan postcodes is a rolling three-day average of 10 locally acquired cases per day, equating more than 30 cases over those three consecutive days.

Given the Victorian government had extended its lockdown for greater metro Melbourne for a further seven days and was asking for particular financial assistance for workers, you’d expect Morrison to be across this detail.

Also, because the trigger for the Commonwealth rolling out what’s a new payment was this very precise definition, it’s more than passing strange for someone like Morrison not to have this level of granularity at hand. He is a renowned control freak, with paranoid tendencies.

Maybe it was because he’d been outfoxed by Victorian Acting Premier James Merlino who has found the workaround for dealing with this Commonwealth government.

 Victoria plays hardball


Merlino has played hardball all week, hitting with swift, carefully aimed jabs on the negligently slow vaccination program and the head-in-the-sand attitude to dedicated quarantine facilities.

Instead of falling for the sucker play where work is done quietly before the Commonwealth takes preemptive credit for an idea originating at a state level, Merlino would get out ahead of Morrison and make the Prime Minister respond.

Just how rattled Morrison was became clear in the hours after his news conference with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud.


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scott the nag...


This morning, the prime minister – who yesterday misled Australia about what had been previously promised regarding the vaccine rollout – came armed with more lies. Scott Morrison finally returned to doing media interviews, visiting 2GB, Today, Sunrise and ABC’s AM, to spruik a “ramp-up” in Pfizer supply, first reported on the front page of The Australian as a “game-changing deal” to triple our access, under which Australia will be receiving one million doses per week from July 19. “That is quite a ramp-up,” Morrison told 2GB, noting that the number of doses would increase to 2.8 million this month and 4.5 million by August. “I commend Minister Hunt and Professor Murphy and Lieutenant-General Frewen for the great job they’ve been doing there to get those supplies brought forward,” he told Today, adding that Pfizer had now “confirmed those supplies”. But it very quickly emerged that this “flood of Pfizer” (as The Australian’s front page put it) was nothing new, with Sky News host Laura Jayes noting that Greg Hunt has long been promising 1 million doses per week from July 19, with the government’s own “Allocations Horizons” document, released in June, banking on 1 million per week in August. That was before Pfizer released a statement, first reported by AM journalist Rachel Mealey, refuting the PM’s claims and noting that the number of doses contracted had not changed. The company also stressed that the delivery was part of its normal schedule, making Morrison’s mistruth clear. Both yesterday’s and today’s number-based lies are easily disprovable with a quick google, or by looking at the many documents the government itself has released. The only thing ramping up here is the shamelessness of Morrison’s lies. But will he ever be held accountable for any of it?

Questions are being asked, of course, about the latest number-fudging, as sections of the media quickly clarified that the announcement was not news(though not before many covered The Australian’s “exclusive” as newsworthy this morning). Following Pfizer’s statement indicating there had been no change to the delivery schedule, Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley called on the PM to clarify his claims, adding that there had been no mention of an acceleration at a meeting of state and federal health ministers on Thursday night, while Labor leader Anthony Albanese called for Morrison to “stop spinning and start delivering”. But Morrison’s deception here – in which he has re-announced the already-planned delivery figures – goes further than spin. The prime minister, with some help from his friends in the media, is claiming his government is responsible for this ramp-up – through a “deal” that has been “clinched” – when all it is really responsible for is a massively delayed vaccine rollout. When asked about the dubious novelty of this latest announcement, a spokesperson for the PM said the change he had pointed to was merely that the supply numbers for the month of August were higher than anticipated. But that’s not how it came across, with Morrison happily lapping up the praise from figures like Ray Hadley, and suggesting that the “work has paid off”.

In the scheme of the prime minister’s many lies, today’s appears to be on the more benign end of the spectrum. Morrison is spruiking a long-expected Pfizer boost that (one presumes) is actually coming, in order to cover his failings and toot his own horn, and to put the stressed-out nation at ease. But what’s especially shocking about this one, along with yesterday’s lie about there never being any suggestion that we would be widely vaccinated by now, is the insulting ease with which it can be disproven. Both falsehoods were unpicked within minutes on Twitter, using the government’s own previous statements, though sadly these corrections took longer to make it into the mainstream media. (Some journalists were still treating the “ramp-up” as a new achievement in this afternoon’s press conference, with one asking the PM whether the federal government had to pay more to bring those doses forward.) When asked about Labor’s criticism of his deceiving claims, Morrison called it “very disappointing” and accused Labor of “hoping for the worst” in the middle of a pandemic, before further doubling down on the lie. “They are wrong,” he said. “We’ve been able to bring forward these important doses out of our contracted program, which means they’re available now, in July. It’s real.”

It’s often hard to know what is real with this PM, who lies with impunity, with the help of a national broadsheet that is willing to actively mislead the public to let their preferred prime minister off the hook (not to mention a press pack that seems, for the most part, unwilling or unable to press him on his lies). The term “gaslighting” gets thrown around a lot these days, arguably too much, but Scott Morrison is doing just that, telling locked-down Australians that there is no way we could have been vaccinated enough by now to make a difference, even as we can see the graph showing where the rollout was meant to be up to by now, even as we watch other parts of the world open up. He now has the gall to imply that he is coming to the rescue with more vaccines, even though they were already coming, and even though – according to him – they wouldn’t have helped anyway.


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The slide accelerates...


The competence a politician has and displays is the Bitcoin of the modern business.

If you’re competent enough and present as such, with the typical confidence high-achieving pols have in abundance, your selling price is on the escalator.

Just like the roller coaster ride Bitcoin traders know so well, when a political leader falters in competence and starts looking to be out of his or her depth your value takes a dive.


Right now Scott Morrison is like Bitcoin. He spent 2020 on the rise – hitting unprecedented highs over time – but then slumped in the early months of 2021.

After a low in February, Bitcoin bounced around in a mild recovery phase before again hitting February-like lows in the past week.

Morrison’s numbers have been tracking Bitcoin – not exactly (there’s sharper sentiment behind the billions of dollars in Bitcoin World) but scarily enough to give the Prime Minister and his colleagues some nervy nights.

The slide accelerates

Of course, Bitcoin could rebound in a heartbeat, while it might take Morrison a little while longer to rebuild his faltering standing.

As everyone has noted, three polls published between Monday and Wednesday showed Morrison’s personal rating on a deep slide, the Coalition in an election-losing place in both primary and preferred voting.

The only saving number for Morrison was as preferred prime minister, where Morrison continued to outpace Anthony Albanese by just under 20 percent.

You don’t need to be a rocket surgeon to realise what went so very wrong for the guy they call Scotty from Marketing.

By his own admission, his big job for 2021 was getting the COVID vaccine program right – getting enough supplies into the community and into arms.


It’s been a failure by any metric. Even Mr Marketing Guy admits the program is “about” two months behind where it should be.

Actually, any realistic metric would put it “about” three and half months behind (and that’s generous). The public see this and have marked Morrison down.

It comes back to the hierarchy of needs – and protecting and saving lives is top of that pyramid in any psychological textbook, ahead of economic and physical safety (which run a close, equal second).

After the hell also known as 2020, people regard protecting lives as the highest priority in a world where the virus continues to run rampant, infections are spiralling and health systems are stretched.

Again none of this should surprise. The history of viral pandemics tells us first waves are followed by usually more serious second waves – made worse by apathy, complacency and the initial “we’re all in this together” vibe being replaced by a “dog eats dog” mood.

Enter the marketing guy with his typical snappy slogan. This time it was “it’s not a race”, which he first used to answer questions about the slow process in official approvals for vaccines.

Trailing the field

In typical style, Morrison adopted it as an excuse to apply whenever it was needed. “It’s not a race” became the new hedge to hide behind whenever anything wasn’t going to plan.

Morrison, who claims cognitive brilliance, should have known the further he and his vaccine program (or any other aspect of the pandemic response) fell behind, the more and more it would look like the race it actually was.

Now the crowd at Flemington is watching the horse they were told to bet on, and it’s trailing the field and looking suspiciously sore in the hind leg.

The other “C” word Morrison needs to worry about is character. It’s harder to conjure than competence – you can try hard to have the traits and attributes people expect and respect in politicians, but faked authenticity is quite transparent.

Morrison’s character took a pummeling in February and March, when he had to take two attempts to present a genuine response to a government staffer being allegedly raped in the ministerial wing – and then losing two metaphorical toes when he misfired while mopping up.

Now his character is back on the public’s radar and it is not a good look for him.

Talk on the streets of capital cities and regional centres, reports from MPs up and down the east coast and general anecdotal feedback all suggest a general frustration bleeding into an anger that heats from red to white.

A good form guide to Morrison’s world of pain is in The Guardian’s Essential Report, published this week.

Measuring the Prime Minister’s “leader attributes”, Essential found Morrison had gone backwards in every category.

Compared with mid-March, Morrison is more out of touch with ordinary people, more prone to avoiding responsibility, less in control of his team, less trustworthy, less honest than most politicians and less visionary.

The Barnaby factor

As bad as this set of results is, the worst number for Marketing Guy is whether he is good in a crisis. He is now regarded as having this attribute by 49 percent of voters, the first time he’s been under 50 percent since January, 2020 – just after the summer of fires, climate change and sports rorts.

At the height of his approval for handling the pandemic – in May last year – Morrison had two in three voters giving him a tick for being good in a crisis. Most political manuals reckon this is a good attribute to have if you happen to be in a crisis.

A side note to these poll results is the possible explanation for why people are marking Morrison down on being in control of his team. The answer may well be found in two words: Barnaby Joyce.

According to a number of MPs who have been out in various urban and regional communities since Parliament has been on its winter break, Joyce’s return to the Nationals’ leadership has not been the boost the Tamworth politician’s backers used as a major selling point.

A recycled Barnaby is seen as damaged goods and not the safe pair of hands possessed by the man he replaced, Michael MacCormack.

If ever there was a rebuttal to the trite maxim that all publicity is good publicity, it’s Barnaby Joyce.

His return is just adding to the world of pain Morrison is waking to each and every day.


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