Tag Archives: COVID-19

Morrison is a dangerous fanatic


Scott Morrison is dangerous because he is driven by a fantastically flawed personality, mixed with a deranged political ideology, with the added bonus of crazy end-of-times religious lunacy.

In Australia we presume the good faith of our political leaders. It has held to be true for over a century, but Morrison has picked up certain traits from his role models overseas, which are foreign to us.

The predominant trait I speak of is shamelessness, and an ability to instantly forget anything politically adverse; to instantly move on, in the naïve belief that we have no memories.

We have always looked at the authoritarian leaders of other countries as a strange breed, which would struggle in the Australian environment.

We characterise the victims of such leaders as strangely passive, helpless in the face of ruthless ambition, and though we pity their fate, we know it could never happen here.

We have deluded ourselves into believing that we are a nation of freedom-loving, individualistic larrikins, unable to be cowed into submission.

The perfect storm is here, and we should be on our guard. We should have noticed the changes to the political environment brought on by the never-ending pandemic, where in Australia we arguably gave up many of our rights, in the cause of public health.

There was a pay-off, which included a very low death rate, and pandemic financial support. Many of us thought that Morrison had grown into the role of leader. Of course Genghis Khan would have looked good when compared to some of the overseas leaders in power back in 2020. Trump, Bolsonaro and Johnson were so hopeless that they made even Morrison look good.

It is impossible to detect a precise moment when Morrison abandoned Australians, and any semblance of answering to ‘the people’. He lives in a parallel universe, where he is, in his own mind, on a mission from his god, to lead Australia until the ‘end times’.

We can all see the results. The death toll throughout the chaos of the Omicron variant was suddenly unimportant. Morrison and his faceless minions in cabinet pushed the fiction that hospitalisations were more important than deaths, which is like something out of George Orwell’s 1984. Reminder to all: When death occurs, the health system is irrelevant. Untimely deaths are the absolute failure of public health.

We then had the farce of debating whether people who died did so from Covid-19, or with it. Ageing white men are familiar with the analogy – it relates to prostate cancer. The only problem is that Covid-19 is a novel, preventable way to die, and semantics merely indicates an empathy failure. This government minimises it, or parses the cause of death.

That was a pivotal moment in Australia, when we discovered that the Morrison Government had decided the pursuit of economic recovery was more important than the public’s health.

Shamefully, the premiers followed suit. They enabled his sociopathic path out of the pandemic. Morrison threw the dice, betting that the election would be held before the results of his negligence became evident. The mainstream media was complicit.

Many Australians believed them when they said it was now no more dangerous than the seasonal flu. Well, look around you. Over a half million active cases. If you read figures better than words, that is 500,000 + active cases, with a death count of over 6,000 and rising.

Recent elections in Hungary have shown us how a persistent and underhanded campaign can undermine democracy. Viktor Orban has allies in almost complete control of the media. He has a security apparatus which is reminiscent of Putin’s in Russia.

In Australia we have the shameful and sycophantic Murdoch Media, 7 West Media, and 9 Entertainment Media. Social media such as twitter, and the ‘ratbag independent media’ are the only outlets which dare to criticise Morrison and his government.

There is a groundswell of raw visceral loathing for Scott Morrison, but no-one dares to write him off yet. That is because he was able to pull off the 2019 ‘miracle win’.

This time around, his numbers are even worse than in 2019, many of his troops are accused of vile behaviour, many from his own party are either deserting the ship, or are voicing their resentment against his “egotism and bullying nature”.

He has just announced another round of appointments, to mates of the government, for six years, no less, to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), a sore point from 2019. But can it be seen as hubris, to do it so boldly, again, on the eve of an election campaign his party is expected to lose?

It seems every day we are privy to more shameful and embarrassing failures of public administration by this government. The latest is an expose which refers to three parliamentarians having been investigated, by the Australian Federal Police, for meeting in the Parliament House Prayer Room, with sex-workers, for sexual purposes.

The questions raised by this episode includes the time, the place, the age of the sex-workers, their safety, the slackness of the security, the national security aspects, the possibility of blackmail, the moral dimension of using taxpayers’ funds, or at best the tax-payers’ funds used to pay them for having sex at work.

This appears to have occurred in our national showpiece, the new(ish) and grandiose Parliament House. If true, it points to the moral bankruptcy of the current government, and the steady decline of standards since Mr Morrison became Prime Minister.

Mr Morrison is expected to call the election inside a week. Expect lots of rorting, no accountability, and no peace.

Are we in election mode yet?


Locally …

Australia is heading into an election. The Prime Minister has contracted the coronavirus, with some of his cabinet designated as close contacts. Unbelievably, Barnaby Joyce, as Deputy Prime Minister, is nominally in charge of the country.

Scott Morrison has been running an undeclared election campaign since ? (we’re not sure when it started). It has involved a lot of dressing up, a few industrial accidents, and a lot of owlish looking at maps. Several old map-shots have been re-purposed and used again. The best is from 2019 where he was photographed looking at a map of Kangaroo Island. The pic has been cropped to remove the map’s title, so that we can’t see it’s an old shot. Ah, such is a marketer’s life.

His attempt to pull off another miraculous election victory this time around seems to be on a knife’s edge. He does have a large ‘slush fund’ of “decisions taken but not announced” with which to buy votes. With this government there is no certainty they will lose. They might discover that Anthony Albanese is a long-time Russian sleeper agent. Perhaps his father was Chinese. Who knows what a fevered imagination can concoct.

He certainly shouldn’t rely on his ‘troops’. It can seem cruel to judge a book by its cover, but we can only comment on what we see.

So our Prime Minister is caught up in a whirlwind of performance art. He does go missing whenever there is a crisis, and he is keen to dodge responsibility. This week he commented on the New South Wales floods by prefacing his remarks with the line that the NSW government would have the “lead” on the response. He gave up that one without a fight, didn’t he?

Our Treasurer has wasted a lot of our taxes on supporting his mates at the big end of town. He has attempted to remove consumer protections against the finance sector, and worst of all, he seemingly cannot count. He is also against any more “free stuff” for the free-loading public.

Our Defence Minister has managed to put us in a position where we have no practically usable naval ships, no submarines and lots of imaginary tanks. We recently bought 127 tanks and armoured vehicles, but it is fair to ask why, as we are surrounded by several wide oceans. Tanks are usually deployed against an enemy who is invading our territory. They are due by 2025, but expect delays, probably measured in years.

Mr Dutton also has an unhealthy obsession with our largest trading partner. He continually attacks China with every breath. His latest, out of left field brain-wave was to start a GoFundMe page to support Australians through the floods, as long as they are restricted to Queensland.

He wants to be Prime Minister one day. He should read up on the taxation system. It is like a giant GoFundMe page, and people pay into it even when they don’t want to. The taxation system includes Queensland, both in collections, but also disbursements.

We have an Emergency Minister who is reluctant to spend the disaster relief fund, an Environment Minister who actively undermines the country’s actions against climate change, and who continues to incidentally facilitate extinctions.

Our Emissions Reduction Minister wants us to use gas and coal to achieve our net zero goals, and he is convinced that selling fossil fuels into the distant future will assist greatly.

No collection of the lost would be complete without the Aged Care Minister, who prefers the cricket. He is unaware if the Aged Care residents have seen any improvement in their meals since the for-profits were allocated an extra $460 million to improve nutrition.

His boss, our Health Minister, has seemingly begun packing up his office. We have no protections, no policies in place, and we have suffered 1540 recent deaths. That is 1540. A number which would be a cause of national shame, except for the fact that the government seems packed with soul-less apparatchiks. There have also been 135,861 Covid infections in the past week, but the figure is known to be low (ie incorrect), because of the haphazard nature of our testing regime.

There are really no words to describe how the Liberal Party has lowered the standard of Australian life. Their names are enough: Howard, Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison. Even dyed in the wool Libs are abandoning them. You can’t blame them.



1

The Morrison Government has just given up


When you live in Australia these days you immediately become aware of the total lack of competent leadership, and the endless self-promotion of the Prime Minister. Talk of his personal photographer, tales of photo-shopping his image to show more hair on that head, and less fat in the face. His staff rolling out red carpets for when he leaves an aircraft. The man is a walking joke.

Watch a press conference from Morrison, and wait for the inevitable fact checking which follows; it always shows lies, half-truths, evasions, blame shifting. Of course if you have any brains, you know it’s happening before the fact-checkers verify it. He cannot help himself. Watch for the first difficult question, and watch him scamper away.

At the moment, in early January 2022, the country has descended into chaos. And yet you have the spectacle of the Prime Minister, and his boy treasurer asserting the recovery is on track. A walk through Ivanhoe shopping centre last Saturday showed more than half the shopfronts empty, and for lease. If that is a recovery, I will eat my baseball cap.

Every state except Western Australia, going from handfuls of cases, to thousands, every day. Hospitals filling up, staff becoming ill, or just plain overworked to exhaustion. Supermarket shelves are emptying, shops can’t get stock, or staff.

In Melbourne we have an informal, self-imposed lockdown. That is because we have been here before, and the Commonwealth Government is more interested in semantics, defining, and re-defining the meaning of words we all understand. Testing, isolation, quarantine, case numbers are all in the firing line. They are trying out the meaning of the word “death”, by planting the notion of “dying with covid” as somehow different from “dying of covid”.

Economists and health professionals are united in pushing for free Rapid Antigen Tests, (RAT) as being in the national interest, both from a health perspective, but economically as well. That is because if you suspect you have symptoms you can self-test and isolate at home. That way you don’t infect everyone you meet on the way to work, or at work. Simple really.

To say he wants to protect the private companies who would sell the test kits is false, and stupid. Harvey Norman and Chemist Warehouse are doing ok already, they don’t need a leg up from a person who has never worked in the private sector, and couldn’t organise a trip to the toilet on his own.

Of course switching over to RATs was suggested by epidemiologists as far back as February 2021, and again by the AMA in September 2021. But the gambler in the Lodge didn’t want to spend the money, which was of course a false economy, as so much of his penny-pinching (with our money) is.

Morrison denies being unprepared, even as our case numbers approach 100,000 a day, notwithstanding the lack of testing. So using Trump’s logic, his first act is to suspend testing, by not supporting the testing regime in the states. He exhibits a mixture of blind arrogance, and a total lack of planning.

He tells us not to look at the case numbers, look at hospitalisations. All right, look at hospitalisations. Going through the roof. So Morrison and his willing accomplice Perrottet have managed to upend our entire covid response, and to throw public health care back on to individuals.

That is not why we elect governments, and it is not the reason we pay these clowns. Part of modern governments’ remit is to keep their people safe. It is difficult to comprehend, but there is no responsible adult available to help. Greg Hunt is a cipher, toeing the party line, until he retires. It will be interesting to see who employs him post-parliament.

The medical officials have also been side-lined by the clowns, and the country is going to the dogs. In this free for all, the states are as guilty as the feds. All we can hope for is that the states step up, and take over. They are showing signs of panic, so maybe the ‘let it rip’ philosophy is going to change.

The latest diversion from our dire straits is a tennis player. Even then, Morrison cannot tell the tale without lies, half-truths, and blaming. The federal government issues visas, not the Victorian Government. Not Tennis Australia, but like he did with Christine Holgate, throw a tantrum, stand up for the ‘little man’ and throw someone under the public outrage bus. If he thinks this will save his bacon in Victoria come election day, think again. Most of us cannot stand the sight of you, and the quicker we can consign you back to obscurity, the better.

Norman Swan raised the issue of ‘acceptable number of deaths’ today. We accept 1000 road deaths a year, 1000 flu deaths. What will we consider an acceptable number of deaths a year from covid? And if you can provide a number, are you prepared to lose your grandmother, or a sibling who is immuno-compromised? An old friend with a dodgy ticker?

Considering the success we enjoyed over the last couple of pandemic years, we must demand a return to intelligent public health measures, and stop the steady creep down the path of allowing our vulnerable to die, because of the ideological preferences of narrow, unfit for public service, religious zealots and neoliberals.

The Aussie Pandemic Diaries


Date: October 6, 2021

Another week of cynicism, lies, prevarication and obfuscation. We should have a unique page in the thesaurus for the many ways we can label public discourse in Australian public life.

Today Dan Tehan arrived in Paris. Yes, slow talking Dan, who is our Trade Minister. He is going to try and arrange for someone in France to talk to him. His loner status was caused by the Prime Minister’s recent attempt at international diplomacy.

You might remember how the Prime Minister tore up a long-standing, large ($90 Billion) contract for submarines. If he worked for a corporation rather than a country, he’d be sacked on the spot. The damages will be substantial, as will the damage to our reputation for fair dealing. But then I cannot think of a corporation which would consider employing him.

He replaced the contract with the French with (drumroll) zero, zilch, nothing. A photo opportunity in Washington. But there was a result. The French are not taking our calls. They do sit on the Security Council of the United Nations, but who needs the French when you’ve got Boris on your team?

Remember the PM’s first foray into international affairs? He attempted to move our embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He was slavishly following Donald Trump’s lead. Remember how the Islamic world turned on him, (and us, by association) for his sheer naivety, and his stupidity. Who else would have joined with Trump, that well known career diplomat?

I have a theory that he heard the name “Jerusalem”, from those “end of world” lectures at that weird church he belongs to, and he thought “how good is Jerusalem?”

Angus Taylor has had a bad week. Firstly an American advisor to Joe Biden on climate change, asked whether he was an idiot, or an ideologue? Tough question, when you have listened to his nonsense about gas-led recoveries, and the end of the weekend. Then Ford announced they are releasing electric versions of the F150 ute. Thank God the weekend is safe.

This week Twiggy Forrest described Carbon Capture and Storage as useless. It doesn’t work. All Angus’ eggs are in that basket. What to do? Send some dodgy figures to a newspaper, Angus. Hopefully your goose is cooked, come election time.

New South Wales lost its Premier. There was a’moaning and a’groaning about what a great Premier she had been. Strangely forgotten was the reason for the loss of her career. She was being actively investigated for corrupt conduct. Or having bad taste in men? Possibly both.

With no hint of shame, several news organisations suggested that the Federal Liberals would use this event to further delay a National Integrity Commission, because it had ‘caught out’ a Liberal Premier, and such a result was regrettable, and a reason NOT to have a Federal watchdog. Very like abolishing the police, because they keep catching criminals.

Her replacement was a staunch and rigid Catholic, who looks to have close to zero life experience, but he likes straight marriage, lots of kids, and presumably doesn’t mind people like George Pell. He is against abortion in all cases. He has also something of a chequered career as Treasurer, but he is white, straight, male and religious. What could go wrong?

He wants to open up the economy, like Scott Morrison does, when they hit the bare minimum of vaccinations, no matter the number of cases. We will remember if they cause unnecessary deaths, and the thinking electorate is already stocking up on baseball bats.

Morrison has also just accused the Queensland Premier of attempting to extort money from the Commonwealth, because she fears an overload on their hospital system, and she wants to be prepared for the rush of cases when we do inevitably open up.

Now his chronic inability to actually deliver a reasonable sentence, has him accusing a Labor Premier of a criminal offence, for trying to cushion what will be an outburst of new infections, once those borders come down.

If nothing else, his statement was tone deaf, stupid, defamatory, demeaning, meaningless. She wasn’t trying to buy herself a condo in the Gold Coast, she was asking for health funding in the midst of a pandemic which has seen the deaths of nearly five million people. Classy, Scotty. Even your mates from the Gas Industry would call that a step too far.

Finally, will he, or won’t he, go to Glasgow? Too chicken to go, too chicken to not go. Decisions, decisions. Man up, Scott.

I can’t wait for another week to pass. Reminder! I am not making this up.

Too little, too late, for everything


When a politician rises to the top of his profession we expect that he or she has always wanted the job, and that he or she has meticulously planned every step along the way. I would argue that Morrison is aware of his limitations, but he rose to the top despite not having a plan. He believes in his own luck, because he really believes that God has a stake in the game. Why not throw your hat in the ring, if you believe in divine providence?

Scott Morrison seems never to have planned for anything. He wasn’t ready for the Prime Ministership. He just put his hand up when it became clear that Malcolm Turnbull lacked the political skills to protect his position, and that Peter Dutton was unacceptable, not only to the Liberals who were voting for a new leader, but for the Australian electorate at large. So his run was fortuitous, and landed him the top job, with no preparation, and no relatable skills with which to sell himself to us.

Some of the antipathy toward Dutton has dissipated. That will be attributable to his change of portfolios, and also to the nature of the Ministry of Defence. His role at Home Affairs was too powerful to trust him with, and Defence is the sort of portfolio where most of us are happy to see someone who can focus, and stay relatively quiet, and in the case of Dutton, stay out of our private lives and communications. It is after all, the portfolio which directs our armed forces, and most citizens are content to allow our defence chiefs to potter about, and to not smash the china (pun intended). So unless the U.S. wants another war, we’re close to being safe. Australia does not elect to go to war by itself.

The bushfires of 2019-2020 were our first exposure to Morrison, and he showed us what he was like from the outset. It was all about him, and what he would deliver to those who needed help. The Defence Force was his to deploy, the payment of volunteer fire fighters was his decision, the excuses were picked up from the side of the road (definitely NOT climate change related; arsonists lit most of the fires; the fuel load was high, which could be conveniently used to divert blame to the states.

With responsibility comes reward. It was not a huge leap for him to choose a holiday in Hawaii. He felt he deserved it, and as befits a small time thinker, he would take the reward before he had earned it. He then tried to hide it, which provided further proof that he was not up to the job.

Morrison on holiday

He must have felt that he could leave the country to its own devices, and that no-one would enquire as to his whereabouts. Leaders of modern nations have responsibilities, and obligations, to a wide range of stakeholders. Citizens, Ministers, other Governments, both inside Australia and internationally, need to know that there is somebody in charge. In emergencies they need to be ‘on the ground’.

It is beyond understanding that he would absent himself from his duties during an existential crisis for the whole of the East Coast. Secondly he put his staff members in an unenviable position, in that they were expected to join in on the deception. This attitude of protecting their boss at the expense of the rest of the nation, has fuelled distrust of the Prime Minister’s Office ever since.

We now wonder why he visited his family in Sydney for Fathers’ Day, when so many others of us had been stopped from seeing our families. We have all heard tales of children being kept apart from their parents, of cancer patients not permitted to access treatment if they live on the wrong side of the border, even of dying parents left to die alone. That did not bother Morrison. He has risen further than he expected, and the privileges of rank are there to be used. He earned them. I am sure he reminds himself often that it is his due.

The explanation lies in the particular nature of this accidental Prime Minister, and his choices and work history. He has always managed to be appointed to plum jobs because of his connections. Those jobs have been mainly middle to upper management, as a sort of Regional Manager. He appears to last a couple of years, and to then move on, leaving behind conflict and, as often as not, there are legal or accountability issues. Reports into his corporate behaviour seem to go missing, and there is always a patron willing to put him forward for the next gig.

He fell into parliament, after a smear campaign against his pre-selection opponent. That campaign was later proved to be false, but the damage was done. An amusing sideshow has been the career of Craig Kelly. Destined for the electoral scrap-heap, he was saved by a direct intervention by Morrison. Morrison over-rode the Liberal Party’s decision to dis-endorse Kelly at the 2019 election. He saved him, only to lose him to the cross bench, and then, more odiously, to Clive Palmer.

His record over the pandemic has been similarly mercurial. Pro-lockdown, anti-lockdown, pro-income support, anti-income support. Won’t build quarantine stations, yes he will. Will buy vaccines, but he wants the cheap ones. Totally transparent, as when he told us all to not accept the AstraZeneca vaccine, and then in favour of it, to almost every age. It is definitely not a race, it is a race. Now it is a race which can be won by starting slowly, but then powering home. In other words, he is making it up. The worst part is that he changes his mind according to reactions to his last pronouncement, rather than for the country’s good.

Our decent Prime Ministers have a larger calling. Their remit appears to have been to work for the good of Australia, whereas Scott Morrison’s motivation appears to be getting his pay, taking his holidays when he is ready, see the family when he wants to, and win the next election.

Scott Morrison needs to reflect on why he seems to be so unpopular, and why his every action is endlessly dissected. It is because he doesn’t hide his disdain for the common people, and the people are discovering that fact. He also appears to be fairly keen on Scott Morrison.

How can we trust Morrison’s word, or his motives, on anything?


Scott Morrison has now been Prime Minister for over three years. That means he has spent more time in the job than Turnbull, Whitlam, Rudd, or Abbott did. In those three years he has built a reputation as a man whose word cannot be trusted, and as a man who has given both his Ministers, and his back-benchers, a free pass, no matter what they are caught out doing, or saying. All they need to do is to vote with the Government.

Some say a one seat majority can do that to a Government, but the scandals and the behavioural issues during Morrison’s ascendancy have plumbed new depths. Morrison himself has been implicated in many of them, but even when his hands have been demonstrably ‘clean’, the behaviour he walks past has only served to highlight his elastic ethics, and a seemingly wilful blindness regarding community expectations.

If it wasn’t so tragic, it would be amusing to track the disappointment of those who confuse the crude hucksterism of the Hillsong Church with Christianity. Practising Christians need to stop bleating about his disavowal of Christian principles, and wake up to the fact that the so-called “new churches” are just another dodgy import from the U.S., like the gym equipment advertised on afternoon television.

Many of us have expected this most overtly ‘Christian’ of our leaders, to call Enough!, as new rorts supersede older rorts, as racist dog-whistling continues apace, and Ministers asking for ‘favours’ from other Ministers continues to undermine the very character of our democracy.

Mr Taylor, for example, has had little luck lowering carbon emissions, possibly because he is so busy asking for favours from his colleagues. Sometimes he receives favours even when he has not asked for them, as in the case of the water buyback scheme. It is a most accommodating Ministry.

The changing landscape of newspapers in particular, and the broader media generally, has shaken up the quality of reporting, and the idea of holding power to account, has been almost universally degraded. In the case of the Murdoch media, standards are so low that one might as well watch a game show, as expect objectivity.

Consider the rabid response to the ABC’s Four Corners episode this week. A report, using sourced opinion from Fox News insiders, criticised what is known throughout the thinking universe, as Fox News’ correct calling of Arizona for Biden, and then the shameful sacking of a loyal employee for doing his job, demonstrates their passion for objective news. You cannot then publish over forty articles attacking the show, and to then deny a campaign of vilification.

Years after the bushfires of 2019-2020 the bushfire relief is still being parcelled out, mainly to coalition seats. Some of the victims of the bushfires are still waiting to have their land cleared, but bad luck if you live in a Labor seat. Car parks, sport grounds, buying land, or water, from donors, stacking the AAT with drones, keeping Christian Porter in the Ministry, accepting George Christensen’s and Andrew Laming’s support-they all speak of incompetence and a lack of moral fibre.

After the utter shambles of Robodebt, the Morrison Government has the hide to start it up again. This time they are sending out debt notices to people who were overpaid during the pandemic last year. Many of the debts are very small, but when you try living on less than $300 per week, repaying debt with the threat of legal action is not only dispiriting, it is cruel.

It also exposes the awful double standards of this rabble of a Government. Firstly they pursue the poor for unproven debts. Their next step is to be found to have acted illegally, and ordered to repay all the debts recovered. As a kind of grace note, they then terrorise the same demographic (the poor), to repay any over-payments, caused by their own indifferent drafting, and hopeless messaging, regarding those pandemic payments.

Treasurer Frydenberg is seen by some as a future Prime Minister. This must be seen as a distinct possibility, because John Howard, Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison have all succeeded to the job, and we all know the level of their capabilities. So it is clear that ability is not a pre-requisite for success. It makes Bill Hayden’s comments on drover’s dogs winning elections somehow relevant.

Frydenberg managed to waste $25 billion of taxpayers’ money on JobKeeper last year. He overlooked inserting a claw-back provision, which is a standard measure by which the ATO claws back money over-paid to corporations.

Close to $9 billion was paid to firms whose turnover not only failed to decline as forecast, but actually increased. So the young, inexperienced Treasurer of Australia has lost $25 billion of our money, and doesn’t have a way of getting it back. His leader, Scott Morrison, thinks asking for its return would be to engage in the politics of envy.

Do you trust him to open up the country, safely?

So, would you put him in charge of opening up the country, in the midst of the Delta variant, which is now running rampant through Sydney? Firstly he wanted the country opened up, then he wanted to follow medical advice and close it down; then he wanted to ‘hurry up’ the medical advice, then he wanted to lock down, then he wanted the states to accept full responsibility for everything, then he wanted to give us hope as we waited for the dawn. Lately he has been cherry-picking medical experts, searching for the opinion du jour, which might suit his latest shift.

The vaccination of all Australians was not a race, then it was still not a race, but it was more important to finish well than to start well. Amidst all the tap-dancing around the truth, and the weird word choices he makes, ask yourself why he chose AstraZeneca as opposed to Pfizer. And if he is so concerned about costs, why pay PWC $11 million to not deliver them? Did the Government have a claw-back provision if it was unable, or unwilling, to provide vaccines on time?

I have seen some estimates of the relative costs of the two, with AstraZeneca costing around $6 a dose, while Pfizer can command $22 a dose. Could it be that our leader chose the cheap one, with the attendant problems with vaccinating the country? The problems are immense. No talk of reaching milestones will remove the necessity of vaccinating special needs groups, and workers in crucial industries.

Groups like the aged and the disabled need vaccination, but their carers and nurses do, too. Aboriginal communities need to be vaccinated, because many have underlying health issues. Children are noticeably being infected by this variant, so can he include them when calculating vaccination rates?

Considering his Government’s almost total lack of competence, I would not put him in charge of getting the morning tea. I certainly trust Daniel Andrews way more than I do the twits in Canberra.

It’s the vaccine rollout, stupid


Bill Clinton certainly had a feel for what ‘worked’ in getting himself elected, and then re-elected. He knew that the electorate had one major concern, and all the other matters were just background noise. Cue Scott Morrison and his Government. The vaccine rollout, period. Fix that, and you are home. No more lockdowns, no more businesses going broke, no more daily press conferences, obsessively watching numbers of infections.

How hard could it be?

Step 1. Buy the product. It had never been done before, but the scientists really came through. A handful of vaccines, produced in record time. Years ahead of expectations. Most of the testing was already done, and Australia is a wealthy nation, and the people were up for spending whatever it cost. There was even talk of sharing it around, with our nearest neighbours in the Pacific and New Guinea, and even Indonesia should be assisted.

But then Australia acted like a classic beginner. Firstly, we relied on a Government which classically outsources every function of governing that it can. We engaged with one supplier, AstraZeneca. Then we rejected, or passed on, a limited offer from Pfizer. Next we backed the University of Queensland effort, which proved unsuccessful.

When the first shipment arrived from Pfizer we had the cringe-worthy spectacle of the Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, stating “the eagle has landed”, in relation to 142,000 doses. Much was made of the work being done in the background, but it was obvious from the beginning that the less-fancied AstraZenaca would be the workhorse of the rollout.

The original target was that all Australians would be vaccinated by October. Then the target moved to the end of 2021, then we abandoned all targets. Last week the Prime Minister spoke of horizons, which can mean what you want them to mean. As can his messaging, which he changes regularly, in response to the news cycle.

CSL was then licensed to produce the AstraZeneca vaccine, but the AstraZeneca vaccine had some teething problems. It was found that it caused an extremely rare blood clotting disorder. At this date only two persons in Australia have died as a result of the disorder, so the benefits of using the vaccine far outweighed the risk.

For a Government often accused of excessive secrecy, it is not clear why they highlighted the risk of the rare disorder, with late night televised announcements causing an instant spike in vaccine hesitancy. The Pfizer quickly became the vaccine of choice, and we were then told that the bulk of the Pfizer vaccine would not arrive until October.

The next step in this incredible journey was when the Government advised us that the vaccine could only be safely used by those over 60. The very next night Scott Morrison seemed to advise that anyone under 60 could go and speak to their GP, and get the jab if they were prepared to take the risk.

In another twist to this sorry tale, we appear to hold more AstraZeneca vaccine than we can use, and very limited Pfizer. So we have all our eggs in the one basket, at least until October. Three long months from now.

Somewhere along this tortuous timeline the Prime Minister, who seems to have a fetish for uniforms, appointed a Lieutenant-General, John Frewen, to handle the logistics of the rollout. If we were serious about logistics, we would recruit the CEO of a transport company. He seems to be a handy fall-guy, should the rollout continue to founder.

In a desperate scramble to remedy this sorry mess we have apparently secured some alternative supplies, but they do not arrive until sometime soon, we hope. So that explains the much repeated refrain, “this is not a race”. If it was, we have already lost.

Step 2. Distribution of the vaccine. For good reasons the Government divided the population into categories, or phases, of urgency. Aged Care residents were placed into Phase 1a, as were workers in the industry. Four months into the rollout only one third of the workers have been vaccinated. General Frewen discovered yesterday that, with the benefit of hindsight, they should have been vaccinated at their work-places.

There is no need for hindsight. Blind Freddie could tell the General that if you have a team of nurses visiting a nursing home, it is beyond simple to vaccinate the workers at the same time. Like they have been doing for years, with the flu vaccine.

But the Government, in its wisdom, decided it was too risky to expose the workers to the after-effects of the shot, on the same day they vaccinated the elderly residents. But it was not at all risky to allow unvaccinated staff to provide care, to the same vulnerable residents.

Anyway, most of the workers missed out. Now we have to rely on them taking time off work, to go and have their Phase 1a first shot, and then we needed legislation to cover them for lost wages. We will probably then need them to find their own second doses, with the ensuing running around.

I am not making this up. The next step in the failed rollout is to have the Treasurer ask the business community for help. Like they do with their annual flu vaccinations. It took the treasurer 18 months to discover that businesses routinely facilitate such health measures, for reasons of business efficiency. It means your staff don’t have to take time off work to get the shot, and the business doesn’t have to fund their time off if they catch the flu.

Sometimes the tried and trusted way is the best. The main problem with this rollout is the shortage of supply. So the General spoke of conducting scenario testing, which I presume means war-gaming. Instead, why not try picking up the telephone and buying some more vaccines, from wherever you can. The people of Sydney will thank you, and so will the rest of us. It might even save us from engaging with the Premiers every morning, on the TV.

Catastrophes need drastic remedies and lots of cash


Australia has been through four natural disasters this year; the drought, the bushfires, the pandemic and the global climate catastrophe . Each of them has provided us with varying degrees of physical exposure, but if you were not directly and personally exposed to any of them, your mental health was probably affected.

Big government is an idea which allows governments the capacity to respond to natural phenomena such as economic depressions, recessions, wars, cyclones, fires, floods and pandemics. It utilises elements of Keynes’ theory that governments have a role to play when markets are not enough, such as times when catastrophes occur. It generally means government investment replaces private investment, if the market is unable, or unwilling, to invest. 

Notable examples of governmental intervention are Roosevelt’s New Deal, which helped to end the Great Depression, and the Marshall Plan, which re-constructed Europe after World War 11. The rebuilding of Darwin after Cyclone Tracy is a notable local example.   

At times like this we are often sustained by our families and friends, by our communities, and even by the kindness of strangers. But there is a level of assistance that we are unable to provide for ourselves. That is provided by the mechanisms and the solidity of our governments. 

We often speak disparagingly of our being over-governed. We complain about paying taxes, about regulations, about the nanny state. In Australia we have so many layers of officialdom it can feel stifling. But during such times as these, that infrastructure can be comforting. It is why we all quietly blubber when we see the kids singing “We are Australian”. 

We survived the bushfires 

The bushfires of 2019 were devastating and terrifying. Although it impacted mostly in regional areas we all had some form of connection. It might have been through a visit to Mallacoota, or Broadford’s near-miss in 2009, or as a survivor of the Ash Wednesday fires … You might be a volunteer firefighter, or your niece is. We were all affected, because Australians are way too familiar with bushfires. 

We would not have come through so well if not for all of our governments acting on our behalf. Of course there were stuff-ups and mistakes, some of which are still causing people to be living in tents seven months later, but the governments responded, with the defence force, with firefighters, with evacuations and food drops. Our kindergartens and shire halls were available, and there was shelter provided. Our citizens are resourceful, but we can’t have a navy ship waiting off the coast, or supply helicopters. The hospitals were open and staffed, and no-one was counting the cost. We as a society would accept nothing less.

The drought is breaking (maybe) 

2019 was very dry. By July, a climatologist at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology stated that the drought was now officially the worst on record in the Murray–Darling Basin, and “had now exceeded the Federation Drought, the WWII drought and the Millennium drought in terms of its severity through the MDB”. Drought in Australia

This year (2020) much of the drought stricken country has had, or expects, above average rainfall for the winter months. This is wonderful news. It will not immediately rescue those whose incomes have been slashed, or those whose mental health has suffered. It will not comfort those whose loved ones have taken their own lives, because of the stress and the perceived hopelessness of their situation. Many farmers have had to sell or shoot stock, or go into more debt to buy feed, or lost the opportunity to sow crops because of the intense drought. 

During the worst of it the public has participated in charity drives to buy and send hay for livestock. Many have donated funds to struggling rural families. Food parcels have been delivered to farmers who have thus far lived proudly independent lives. All of us know where our food comes from, and many of us want to be a part of any push to help.

Thankfully we also have a Government which has had the wherewithal to assist. These were trying times, and once again federal and state governments stepped into the breach. Of course the situation is only going to repeat, as climate change continues its inexorable march. 

“Every federal budget and update since 2002-03, when the millennium drought was just starting to affect parts of the country, has been forced to set aside money for drought relief.” The cost of drought – and it’s just going to grow  This obviates the need for governments which do not allow markets to determine outcomes. Farmers, like their families, and the communities which service them, operate as crucial elements of our society; we prefer to stand as one. 

The pandemic rolls on

As Victoria teeters on the edge of a second wave, Australia is having to look seriously at a  second, perhaps total, lockdown. As we concentrate on the physical health of the nation, some are demanding a re-opening of the economy. As if the idiocy of the Trump response is not enough, we are debating if we can afford to continue the stimulus packages in place. It is not a matter of choice. We do not allow people to starve in a country brim full of food. We do not have people thrown out into the winter streets, when we have thousands of empty houses.

We have constructed a society which has withstood the worst that nature can bring, and we have stood united. We do not treat the national accounts like a grocery list, striking out what we think might be a luxury. We look after our own, and if the Government needs to go into debt, we should be fine with that.  

The continuing saga of climate change stupidity

Climate change underlies the bushfires and the drought’s severity. It continues to be an open wound in our society. If there is an issue which has unified our young people, this is it. It is also the Morrison Government’s most notable failure. This week, in the midst of the pandemic, we hear that Craig Kelly is ‘investigating’ whether the Bureau of Meteorology is fudging temperature data for nefarious, presumably ‘green’, propaganda purposes. 

Angus Taylor continues to assert that black is indeed white, and our renewables industry battles manfully, while facing the headwinds of Taylor’s bluster. 

Scott Morrison has managed to overturn his disdain for science by largely following medical scientists’ advice on the Covid-19 pandemic. We can only hope that he decides to put Australia’s needs before his own, by changing his course on climate change. Choosing his personnel better would send a message that he believes in a society which wants to pull together. He needs to lead.

We need to stick together

The continuing argument between the left and right in politics seems to be one which boils down to whether or not we believe in the power of big government to cushion the blows of nature, and to maintain our social fabric, in the face of steep odds. 

It is a moot point, as Morrison, through the power he holds, will eventually decide which way we jump. He needs to step away from his ideological straight jacket, and study some history. Great leaders, such as Clement Attlee of the U.K. and our own John Curtin, consciously set out to build inclusive societies in their respective countries, after the damage done by World War 11. 

We have been agreeably surprised with Morrison’s seeming acceptance of Keynes’ roadmap for recovery. Let us hope it continues. It is the only credible way forward. As the Nobel laureate Robert Lucas, an opponent of Keynes, admitted in 2008: “I guess everyone is a Keynesian in a foxhole.”

Morrison needs to finish one job at least


Scott Morrison has, in many ways, been ‘saved’ by the coronavirus. At the end of February and heading into March, his public standing was at rock-bottom. Scotty from Marketing was jeered at every time he went out in public, and journalists were daily questioning his honesty, and his competence.

What went wrong for Morrison?

He had abandoned Australia during the bush-fires while he went on holiday. He eventually came back, and proceeded to further damage his reputation with badly managed photo opportunities, and his attempts to relate to victims of the bush-fires were ill-timed and clumsy. He exhibited a complete inability to read people.

Even his physical bulk was seen as intrusive, and his casual, friendly manner was widely distrusted, because it looked phony. Every day was a desperate attempt to make up lost ground, and it felt like it. I found myself wincing when I saw him on television.

The ‘sports rorts’ affair followed on from the bush-fires. It began slowly, but it had quickly gotten out of hand, with almost daily revelations of, if not outright corruption, then a flexible reading of the guidelines. It displayed a cynical disregard for honesty, and accountability. And don’t forget this was at the very last moment before, and possibly after, the government moved into ‘caretaker mode’.

It seemed he might have won the election by buying it. And it’s not as if the recipients of his largesse were struggling sports clubs. They were more often than not well-endowed clubs, in the heart of prosperous areas, represented almost exclusively by Coalition members of Parliament. This exposed his contempt for rural and regional Australians. The unkindest cut of all was that he used a National Party minister as a stooge.

At the exact time that this was unfolding, Angus Taylor was running his own side-show. Every day in Question Time he ducked and weaved, and blustered about “vile smears” and “bizarre vendettas” against him.

He had been caught out, implying Sydney City Council were hypocrites. He accused them of wasting buckets of money, flying around the world needlessly, while trying to cut greenhouse emissions. His accusation had mysteriously made its way to the Daily Telegraph. The problem was that it was demonstrably not true.

The tragedy was that he either made up the whole story, or somebody had duped him. He had transformed $6,000 into $15.9 million ($1.7m on international travel and $14.2m on domestic travel”). So he is not great with numbers, either. No wonder he thinks our greenhouse emissions are going down – he can’t count.

Morrison should be open and transparent

So Scott Morrison spent most of his time before the virus either ducking questions about what he knew about the sports rorts affair, or why he had not sacked his Energy Minister. Excellent questions. But from the moment the virus struck, Morrison reverted to an old trick. He had used a similar technique during the bush-fires, where if he was questioned about anything other than the bush-fire emergency, he accused the questioner of bringing up politics.

That is a strange response from someone who is in the public eye for one reason, and one reason only. He is not famous for his wit, or his skill with a whip, or because he hypnotises chickens. He lives and breathes politics, and that is why we even know his name. Anyway, the virus provided him with timely cover.

I have written elsewhere about his response to the Covid-19 response, see here https://askbucko.com/2020/04/15/morrison-handles-the-crisis/ I think it has been more than adequate, as it should have been. That is why we entrusted him with the job. Protect Australians when they are in danger. He only did what the majority of world leaders did, although he acted more quickly than many others, to his credit.

That does not change the facts. He was facing an escalating problem concerning his own, and his Government’s honesty. He leads a Government made up of opportunists and narrow idealogues, and even now he keeps most of the Ministry hidden. He obviously learnt a valuable lesson during the last election campaign. Be the front man, and if you must use your ministers, keep it to a minimum. And instead of pursuing political advantage in every television appearance, share the praise, and the thank yous, around. The Premiers have certainly grown in stature, and built on their reputations, following the disastrous summer.

Remember it is a health emergency

Lately Morrison has been pushing the opening of the schools. He believes this will unlock the economy. So his emphasis is shifting, from a health crisis, to an economic catastrophe. With the shift in emphasis, his tone is hardening. He is speaking of limiting support for those who have lost their jobs, and he refuses to expand the eligibility criteria for welfare payments.

At times like this he can sound like the bursar at a local church, disappointed with the takings from the collection plate. Welfare at times like this can mean food on the table, and a heater on for a cold night. Or heaven forbid, a roof over your head. These things keep people alive, and we need to provide them, to all who need them.

Winter is coming, and thousands are still living in tents, because of the other calamity in this country – a bush-fire season like no other, three months ago. So don’t pull out the old story about what we can afford. We can afford whatever it takes.

So let us see if you can walk and chew gum at the same time. Do your job. You have more than one. Get the admin done. Release the money that still hasn’t reached the bush-fire victims. Allow the Premiers to continue doing their terrific jobs. And treat Australians, all of them, as if they are all equally worthy of our care and support.

Ignore those who whisper about herd immunity, or possible years of economic recovery. Ignore the economic dries in your party. Listen to experts, and the people. Many are angry and frustrated about the lock-down, but no-one wants to follow the United States down their deranged path.

Sweden chose ‘herd immunity’ – Australia didn’t


Sweden chose the wrong strategy

Considering how almost universally admired the Nordic countries are, Sweden has broken ranks with its neighbours, in the manner in which it has responded to the pandemic. The country has dealt with the Covid-19 virus very badly, and the proof that this is so, is its current death rate. It is close to the world’s worst.

According to the World Health Organisation, “a well-functioning healthcare system requires a steady financing mechanism, a properly-trained and adequately-paid workforce, well-maintained facilities, and access to reliable information to base decisions on.” Based on those criteria, Sweden has a modern, well-equipped, and funded, health system. It is at least the equal of Australia’s.

How does Sweden’s approach differ from ours?

It is very simple. Sweden did not lock-down. It relied on the opinion of one health bureaucrat, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, of the National Institute of Public Health, to formulate its response. It also relied on the innate good sense of its citizens, to voluntarily apply social distancing. Initially Mr Tegnall believed that it would not spread from China. Later on, he believed that contact tracing of individual cases coming from abroad, would be an effective method of stopping the contagion.

The Government, led by Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, continued to follow his advice; it was more comfortable in those early days, and chose not to legislate for social distancing. Later, at the end of March, as the pandemic claimed more lives, it limited gatherings, from 500 down to 50, and then legislated penalties for non-compliance. It also shut down visits to aged care facilities, because there were infections at close to half of them.

It looks very like Boris Johnson’s early mis-steps in the U.K., except that they corrected their direction even more belatedly than the British. One crucial difference is that they do not seem shy about mentioning ‘herd immunity’. The Swedish Government is now claiming that it is approaching that point. At what cost? Well, that would be 1540 deaths, and counting. The death rate per million citizens is 151. Australia’s is 3.

Those bearing the burden for that herd immunity are the elderly. Swedes are at last awake to this fact, and they are not happy. The Swedish Government has listened, and is desperately playing catch-up.

Why discuss Sweden?

I mention Sweden because there is a rising impatience with the lock-down, here. We are all tired of isolation, and grumpy that we are not seeing our families and friends, or football matches even. Many business leaders are calling for selective re-opening of sectors of the economy. Many believe that we have over-reacted to the Covid-19 pandemic, and I fear that their voices will become louder. I fear that our politicians will listen to those voices, and lose their resolve.

It is hard to trust politicians in this country. They have failed us so spectacularly over the last decade or so, that it is difficult to believe that they have our best interests in mind. Already the Murdoch press is railing at the shut-down, and the spectre of government debt is looming. Business leaders are warning of financial Armageddon, the IPA is warning that we have lost our basic freedoms, and the forces of the right are gathering steam.

I want the Government to stay the course, because this virus is so effective, and so infectious, and we are so close to victory. The Swedish example is proof that social distancing is the best way to defeat the virus, and that allowing life to go on as if nothing is happening is totally disastrous. Not to mention cavalier, in treating the lives of ANY citizens as expendable.

Scott Morrison has been something of a revelation lately. But there are elements within his own party, and within the loud right, who would undo the good work done so far. We need to continue our locked down lives, at least until we have evidence that we have neutralised the virus. Black humour in times of crisis is fine, but the U.S. is losing 3000 lives a day; on Sweden’s worst day they lost 170 out of a small population. These are not just numbers, but real people, lost forever to their families, and their communities.

This is too serious to leave to the cynics and the profit takers. The fear of a second wave is no laughing matter, as Singapore can attest; and we have barely felt the first wave. I believe in our own scientists, and our medical people, and I am prepared to back our current strategy. Our lives depend on it.

UPDATED April 22, 2020

Nearly 1800 people have now died in Sweden, making it the 14th worst affected country globally.

The death rate is 156.45 per million compared to 62.84 in Denmark, 28.41 in Norway and 17.69 in Finland, all of which have much more severe lockdowns. Its death toll is roughly three times the combined total of its Scandinavian neighbours. Australia’s death rate remains at about 3.

We have to stay the course!