Sunday 20th of June 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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