The Politics    Friday, April 9, 2021

Vaccine rollout a (p)fizzer

By Rachel Withers

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaking at a press conference today. Image via ABC News

Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaking at a press conference today. Image via ABC News

The government came with good news, but the rollout remains a shambles

The press conference following today’s national cabinet meeting began with some good news for those under 50 wondering if, when and with what they are going to be vaccinated against COVID-19, following last night’s timeline-destroying AstraZeneca advice. Prime Minister Scott Morrison opened by announcing that the government had secured an extra 20 million Pfizer doses, bringing the total number to 40 million, with the additional supply to arrive some time in the final quarter of 2021 (i.e. the quarter by which we were all supposed to have received a first shot). There is, understandably, some scepticism as to whether this will occur: “secure”, as we have recently learnt, has a very different meaning to “receive”, with Australia having so far received very few of our previously secured doses, including only one million of Pfizer. The prime minister was – perhaps wisely – unwilling to commit to a new timetable, but he did commit to new transparency measures, with data to be released daily and weekly from now on. While the Pfizer announcement comes as a small relief, it doesn’t change the fact that the rollout remains an absolute fizzer, with most Australians still months away from seeing any kind of shot.

The government was very proud of itself for having secured more Pfizer doses, but the easy acquisition merely raises more questions as to why it hadn’t done so sooner, having been accused for many months – by experts, the media and the Opposition – of not securing enough stock of different varieties, thereby putting most of its eggs in one dubious basket. As Guardian Australia reports, the extra doses were in fact already part of our contract, one of the fail-safe measures put in if we required more. There are further questions as to where the new doses are coming from, something Health Minister Greg Hunt was unwilling to divulge, saying only that the sources did not wish to be identified. “That is understandable,” he added, following a justification that was in no way understandable. 

The Morrison team was also – understandably – keen to reassure Australians over 50 that it was still okay for them to take the AstraZeneca vaccine, after last night’s poorly communicated announcement set people across the country panicking, leading some states to temporarily suspend the use of it altogether (in her post-cabinet press conference, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced that her state had resumed administering it to those over 50). Doctors have today condemned the rollout as a “farce”, with GP clinics being inundated with calls from confused patients, and many now expecting far longer consultation times to explain the risks and benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine, as the Royal Australasian College of Physicians calls for calm, reassuring people that “it is still far better to be protected from COVID-19 than not”.

Australians now have more of an idea of how authorities are going to vaccinate a large population who were last night told that the vast majority of our stock isn’t recommended for them, but the rollout remains a shambles, with no end in sight – all because the Morrison government was too arrogant to hedge its bets. The government that doesn’t want to have lockdowns and doesn’t want states closing their borders has all but guaranteed that both of those things will occur again, as we wait for something we should have already had on order. Today, the government expected praise for having “secured” 20 million doses, six months down the line. If only it had listened to the warnings six months ago.

Listen to The Politics Podcast, with Rachel Withers

“It will be a missed opportunity to not introduce a positive duty to take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate sexual harassment in the Sex Discrimination Act.”

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins is joined by business groups, workplace culture experts and Labor in saying the government’s response to the “[email protected]” report doesn’t go far enough.

“There is something amiss when the government suggests that we suddenly need to all start playing language police, implying that anyone who is guilty of using unapproved language somehow bears responsibility for the scourge of domestic violence or harassment or rape.”

Political editor James Morrow writes that “close attention” to the PM’s rhetoric on sexual harassment finds a regrettable focus on “language policing”, rather than, say, regrettably vague commitments to some of the recommended changes.

Scott Morrison’s vaccine shambles
The federal government promised that by the end of March four million Australians would be vaccinated against COVID-19 but as of this week we’ve barely hit a quarter of that target. Today, Paul Bongiorno on whether Scott Morrison is doing enough to vaccinate the country.


The number of Indigenous Australians who have died in police custody since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody – five in the space of a month this year alone. Days of action are being held around the country tomorrow to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the report’s release.

“The McKell Institute executive director of superannuation James Pawluk, speaking at the Senate Economics Legislation Committee public hearing on Thursday, warned the proposed ‘Your Future Your Super’ legislation could encourage the $3 trillion sector to invest in increasingly risky assets to ensure they don’t fall under proposed targets.”

Research firms and lobbyists warn that the proposed superannuation benchmarks could lead to risky investments, with unintended consequences for retirement accounts.

The list

“Niebuhr’s prayer invokes a trinity of virtues, each equal to the other: serenity, courage and wisdom. Naming it the “Serenity Prayer” – which Niebuhr never did – gives an undue and distorting emphasis to serenity. Of course it does. Niebuhr first wrote his prayer the year Hitler became chancellor, and the theologian was soon warning that American isolationism would help gift him Europe. Against the Nazis, serenity wasn’t a virtue. And nor is it today, against catastrophic climate change.”

“Our free-speech debate has been about a rugby union player’s right to vilify the LGBTI community without consequence. And it perfectly encapsulates the hypocrisy, shallowness and intellectual paucity that has come to define public discourse in this country. You don’t even have to cast judgement on the content of Israel Folau’s post (which claimed hell awaited homosexuals) or the punishment meted out by Rugby Australia (the termination of Folau’s contract) to grasp the obvious lack of depth on display from Australian politicians and sections of the media.”

“The documentary’s greatest significance is in its indictment of an entertainment industry and public culture that has celebrated transgressive sexual boundary-pushing as a marker of masculine genius. In many ways, Allen v. Farrow is a story about stories: what they are made of, how they are told, who is listened to and who is believed.”

Rachel Withers

Rachel Withers is the contributing editor of The Politics.


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