Thursday, July 29, 2021

Today by Rachel Withers


The ghost of Christmas past
Morrison’s attempts at good tidings are little comfort to those who might be in lockdown until the end of the year

Image of Scott Morrison in a Santa hat

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has returned to making specific vaccine target pledges, telling media outlets this morning that he expects everyone who wants a COVID-19 jab to be vaccinated by Christmas, with lockdowns to become “a thing of the past”. It comes as NSW registered a new daily record of 239 cases and two more deaths, while analysts warn that the Sydney lockdown may last until Christmas without an increase in compliance. Morrison first began hammering the “Christmas” promise in yesterday’s announcement about alterations to the disaster payment, during which he mentioned the holiday several times. “I would expect by Christmas that we would be seeing a very different Australia to what we are seeing now,” he said. “That gets us a roadmap to Christmas.” And this morning Morrison’s good tidings continued. Asked on Today whether everyone who wanted a vaccine would be offered one by Christmas, the PM said he believed they would, adding that the government was making up “a lot of ground”. When it was put to him on ABC’s AM that he was sounding “pretty confident” about that deadline, Morrison softened his response, saying that it was “barring any unforeseen circumstances” (not as though we’ve had any of those lately). He repeated the claim on 3AW, but added that there was no guarantee Australia would reopen by then, with national cabinet due to meet tomorrow to look at the highly anticipated Doherty Institute modelling on reopening targets (though no agreement is expected to be reached at tomorrow’s meeting). The new pledge comes almost four months after Morrison abandoned a similar target, saying his government would no longer be setting such benchmarks for the rollout, though the vague “end of year” line has continued to be trotted out since then. But the ghost of a previous Christmas promise hangs over this new one: the federal government spent the end of 2020 promising to get all Australians who wanted it to be home by Christmas last year. It’s a target the Morrison government well and truly missed, with recent figures showing tens of thousands remain stranded overseas.

Morrison clearly needs a date to hang some hope on, and he’s again decided that Yuletide is it. The government has for some time been clinging to the idea that we will all have received one dose “by the end of the year”, even as the vaccine rollout went off the rails, but it’s in the past 24 hours that our Christian PM has begun referencing the holiday commemorating the birth of Christ. It’s not exactly a reassuring deadline, with Morrison having missed his last Christmas pledge by such a shocking margin. Some of the reasons Australians have been returning home at a slower rate than expected would appear to be beyond Morrison’s control, with states having put their collective foot down to halve hotel quarantine caps. But the failure to build purpose-built quarantine facilities is all on the PM. What’s more, it will be little comfort to those caught in Sydney’s very serious outbreak that things will be different by the end of the year – especially when they may not be out of lockdown until then anyway. That University of Sydney modelling found that only 60 per cent of Sydneysiders are fully adhering to social distancing and movement restrictions, suggesting that a month at 80 per cent compliance is required to control the current outbreak. That’s not to mention the fact that “Christmas” is usually used at this time of year to imply something is far away: “At this rate, we’ll be here till Christmas.”

And at this rate, where will we actually be by Christmas? Morrison insists that the rollout is currently “making up a lot of ground”, but it’s still devastatingly behind, with only 14.1 per cent of Australians fully vaccinated (that number, shockingly, is still less than 40 per cent for over-70s in NSW, as we learnt today). There should be enough supply, based on current delivery projections, for all Australians who want a vaccine to receive one by the end of the year. But it would require a massive step up in logistics – something that hasn’t exactly been this government’s strong suit. It’s fortunate the states will be heavily involved in the end-of-year “sprint”, since the federal government is truly terrible at vaccinating the cohorts it is responsible for: after failing to vaccinate residential aged-care workers in the first six weeks of the rollout, as planned, the government is now at risk of missing the mid September deadline it recently mandated for that cohort, with thousands likely to miss out

Morrison may have failed at getting all Aussies home by the end of 2020, but can he get them all vaccinated by the end of 2021? It might require a Christmas miracle, but then again he has always believed in those. Today was another record day for NSW case numbers, but it was also another record day for vaccinations, as every day seems to have been since those Pfizer doses finally started arriving in greater quantities. The vaccines, we have been told all year, are coming. But so is Christmas.


“It took 15 years of campaigning by many to get the ALP to find a spine on [capital gains tax] and negative gearing, and commit to helping reduce house price inflation. This is a sad day for housing reform.”

National Shelter chief executive Adrian Pisarski says Labor has abandoned those on low incomes, and the party has now “re-joined the list of enemies of increasing home-ownership in favour of benefiting wealthy landlords”.

“I’d rather be on welfare here in Australia than anywhere else in the world.”

Minister for Emergency Management Bridget McKenzie defends the government’s disaster payments, which people on welfare are still unable to access if they haven’t lost any work.

Who are Australia’s anti-lockdown protestors?
Last weekend thousands of people marched across Australia to protest against lockdowns. The sheer size of the protests suggests that the anti-lockdown movement might be crossing over into the political mainstream. Today, Ariel Bogle on the different groups behind these marches.

50%

The amount by which Australian farm profits could fall over the next three decades without more climate change adaptation, according to modelling by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences.

“Australia’s biggest unions have joined with business groups to oppose the federal government’s new laws overhauling the management of critical infrastructure, saying the bill in its current form is poorly designed and will cost jobs.”

Unions, businesses and tech giants have criticised the government’s proposed laws, which would allow government agencies into the networks of critical infrastructure to fend off cyber attacks. The union movement is opposing the laws on the basis that workers could have their privacy invaded through background checks and other security measures.

The list
 

“In the art world, internet-adjacent art is only hazily defined. Is it a distinct movement, or just one of the many threads of contemporary art? … Is it art about the internet, or simply art made in its long shadow? One answer among the many possible answers to such questions is provided by the National Gallery of Victoria’s Camille Henrot: Is Today Tomorrow, an exhibition of work by the French-born, Berlin-based artist, the subtitle of which recalls a viral tweet by one of [Patricia] Lockwood’s characters, which reads, confoundingly, ‘Can a dog be twins?’ Both phrases are perfect expressions of the thin line between profundity and vacuity that both characterises this territory and provides it with meaning.”

“By Monday morning, Northern Territory Police and its association (the NTPA) had a version of events they hoped would explain why officers had to shoot and kill 19-year-old Kumanjayi Walker in his family’s home in Yuendumu … ‘This incident highlights the incredibly dangerous environment police work in, every day, to keep communities in the Northern Territory safe,’ said NTPA president Paul McCue in a statement. And there we have it. Yuendumu is a violent place. Police manage the risks inherent in their dangerous jobs. One of them was assaulted and reacted in self-defence. Case closed. Except it isn’t.”

“[Industry group Australian Wool Innovation] made the decision to focus on bolstering the commercial relationship with China as the world went into the first round of COVID-19 lockdowns. It paid off. Sales to China rose from 85 per cent of the total Australian wool clip to 90 per cent. The next largest market is Italy, which buys 5 per cent.”

Rachel Withers

Rachel Withers is the contributing editor of The Monthly Today.

@rachelrwithers

 

The Monthly Today

Scott Morrison is welcomed to the US Capitol, by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, September 22, 2021

Plus ça change

Morrison’s cackhandedness leaves him at the mercy of our allies, as French fury grows

Police watch protesters at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance, Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Aftershocks

Melbourne’s earthquake presages faultlines in the Coalition over ongoing lockdown protests

Strange bedfellows

The battlelines are blurring as Melbourne’s lockdown protests heat up

Nuclear fallout

The waves from Australia’s cancelled submarine contract keep building


From the front page

Scott Morrison is welcomed to the US Capitol, by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, September 22, 2021

Plus ça change

Morrison’s cackhandedness leaves him at the mercy of our allies, as French fury grows

Cover detail of Andrew O'Hagan’s ‘Mayflies’

There is a light

Andrew O’Hagan’s ‘Mayflies’ and what might endure from our irresponsible but spirited youth

Scott Morrison in the sheds after the NRL match between the Cronulla Sharks and the North Queensland Cowboys in Sydney, July 25, 2019

Birth of a larrikin

The disguised rise of Scott Morrison

Black Summer at Currowan

Lessons from Australia’s worst bushfires