Friday, June 18, 2021

Today by Rachel Withers

Supply and demands
State leaders feel the strain over the federal government’s latest vaccine mishap

Image of Health Minister Greg Hunt. Image via ABC News

Health Minister Greg Hunt. Image via ABC News

Premiers have taken aim at the federal government over the latest vaccine rollout setback, with even Liberal leaders keen to clarify that the worsening supply issue is a Commonwealth stuff-up. Victoria’s Labor government used today’s press conference – at which the state’s single new primary-contact case was discussed – to launch the most searing attack so far. “This is a race, and as a nation we’re falling behind,” said Acting Premier James Merlino, before going on to criticise everything from a lack of clarity around second-dose supply to the lack of a public health campaign, even going so far as to suggest that the federal government had not developed a campaign because it didn’t have confidence in being able to match demand. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian was keen to distance herself from the latest supply issues, albeit without overtly criticising her federal colleagues, while announcing a single “fleeting contact” case and the introduction of masks on Sydney public transport. “The GP network needs more doses and is craving more doses,” she said. “I can’t control the doses of vaccine we get, and I can’t control the vaccines we get. That is another government’s responsibility.” Monday’s national cabinet meeting should be interesting – the one following the previous change to AstraZeneca advice certainly was, with Guardian Australia reporting state leaders raised concerns about allowing those aged 50-plus to receive it. Questions are now being raised over whether this was why Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk received the Pfizer instead of AstraZeneca vaccine, with the 51-year-old premier sticking by her dog bite/Olympics story.

Meanwhile the federal health minister, Greg Hunt, thanked the states and territories for adapting their vaccination programs to yesterday’s advice (like they had a choice). He also announced a new Medicare subsidy for over-50s for vaccine consultations with GPs, aimed at counteracting some of the panic created by yesterday’s announcement, as reports emerged of some people cancelling their second appointments despite being told it was safe to go ahead, and GPs fearing the advice may have been a “fatal blow” to public confidence. Standing beside Hunt, Chief Nursing Officer Alison McMillan attempted to reiterate the importance of getting vaccinated, pointing out that the risks for over-60s of dying from COVID-19 are much higher than from any AstraZeneca-related clots. But where, oh where, is that public health campaign? The federal government today announced it will grant $1.2 million to multicultural organisations to deliver targeted vaccine information to their communities, with research finding hesitancy remains higher among people who speak a language other than English. But there remains no major national ad campaign like the one experts have been calling for.

Merlino may have a point about the federal government not wanting to increase demand while supply is so limited, especially when demand for Australia’s limited Pfizer doses has just gone up by approximately 2.1 million people, or 4.2 million doses – perhaps even more, depending how many over-60s now also demand Pfizer. (UNSW infectious diseases expert Mary-Louise McLaws is today calling for millennials to be prioritised.) But while state governments are demanding more supply from the federal government, and the federal government is demanding more from Pfizer (Hunt claims he has asked the pharmaceutical company to speed up delivery), it’s not likely that supply is going to increase significantly for some time. General John Frewen – who this morning briefed the newly returned prime minister, remotely – acknowledged there would be “a likely temporary reduction in daily vaccination rates” in the “short term”, due to the limited amount of Pfizer available, and promised it would pick back up again soon. That dip should do wonders for Australia’s already internationally embarrassing vaccination rate – at the current weekly rate, Australia won’t hit the WHO target of 60 per cent coverage until around October 2023, according to Nine’s vaccine tracker. Better hope that end-of-year sprint is a fast one.

“This is theft. It’s a dark part of Australia’s history. And a half-century since it ended, governments have failed to do anything about it.”

Nyunggai Warren Mundine calls for stolen Indigenous wages to be repaid, as workers in the Northern Territory launch the latest class action against the government for lost income.

“This shows we need many more than 500 ABC staff to be sent to Parramatta.”

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke uses an ABC article about Australia Day, written by two Indigenous women, based on the national Australia Talks survey, to argue that the ABC isn’t representative enough.

Australia backs coal as the G7 pledge climate action
As the leaders of the world’s wealthiest democracies gathered to discuss climate change, the Australian government chose to reiterate its commitment to fossil fuels. Today, Rachel Withers on how the Coalition is increasingly out of step with both the international community and voters at home.

The amount by which the Australian population grew in 2020 – a total of 136,000 people – with migration contributing just 3250. It’s the lowest rate in over a century.

“A Liberal-led committee has told the Morrison government its plan to change the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) so it can fund a broader range of technologies including some using fossil fuels could be illegal.”

The standing committee for the scrutiny of delegated legislation has warned that the government’s attempts to change ARENA’s remit without legislation could be disallowed in the Senate.

The list

“This week, the Pentagon briefed the House Intelligence Committee on UFOs – or unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) in the newly revised jargon. An unclassified report will be made public soon, possibly next week, and it will crown a sort of renaissance of public interest in alien visitation. This renaissance is attributable, in part, to preemptive leaks of the report, and an influential New York Times story, splashed on its front page in December 2017, about a ‘shadowy’ military inquiry into what two of its navy pilots had described in 2004 as an inexplicable encounter with a physics-defying object.”

“Her unforgiving eye, and pen, often drew accusations of malice but Malcolm was unfazed. Fearlessness was one of the hallmarks of New Journalism. Malcolm might not ride with the Hell’s Angels or ingest Gonzo substances but she stuck her neck out with almost every book. Didion was expert at creating an aura of danger in her writing, but in real life it was Malcolm who took the hits.”

“The career pivot isn’t a new concept, but in the middle of a pandemic, changing careers in an insecure job market hurts. For many Australians that choice has become inescapable as their work dried up. For some it has become a LinkedIn buzz phrase that softens a worker’s redundancy announcement or hides a more crushing truth: that a vocational aspiration has become unreachable. For others the pandemic has led to epiphanies that couldn’t be ignored. Either way, the career pivot carries a hidden emotional toll, along a road that remains uncertain.”

Rachel Withers

Rachel Withers is the contributing editor of The Monthly Today.



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