The Politics    Friday, July 9, 2021

Lies upon lies

By Rachel Withers

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Image via The Today Show

The only thing ramping up is the shamelessness of the PM’s falsehoods

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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“It’s a cheap headline … But I certainly haven’t seen in my personal experience the matters of which she complains.”

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The list

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“We have now entered the second decade of constitutional recognition. Six processes and nine reports in 10 years. And this ninth report seeks to decouple the first decade of work, which involved contributions from many Australians from all walks of life, from its considerations.”

“According to an investigation by the Victorian ombudsman, Deborah Glass, the government went against advice from public health officials, with Annaliese van Diemen later telling investigators that she was ‘not entirely’ comfortable with the process. She told the ombudsman it was not her advice that the towers needed to be locked down immediately, and that she clearly indicated she was provided less time than was needed to properly consider the human rights implications of the decision.”

Rachel Withers

Rachel Withers is the contributing editor of The Politics.


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