Tag Archives: Greg Hunt

Bring out your dead


We are a polite lot in Australia. We do not like to rock the boat. The recent Omicron death toll here has effectively doubled the number of deaths we suffered in 2020 & 2021. We continue to listen to Scott Morrison and his team of incompetents, when they can be forced to appear in public; rolling out their excuses, and their selective, but non-specific comparisons with overseas countries. We live on an island, we care how WE are doing. We are now doing very badly, and it is still summer here. Imagine what winter will be like.

We have learned to decipher the weasel words, and to find the callous, and orchestrated, indifference behind them. When people die, and you could have prevented the deaths, then you might have a case to answer. It is more than a political problem – it is a question of humanity.

Of course Richard Colbeck’s decision to go to the cricket, for THREE DAYS, while Omicron was marching unimpeded through Aged Care facilities, is breathtaking, and insensitive. But he is merely a pawn. Last year he was already hopeless, and then they put Greg Hunt in to ‘oversee’ his work in the sector.

That was merely a cosmetic change, however, and an unsuccessful one, because if anything the sector struggled more, and learned absolutely nothing from mistakes of the past. This time around Morrison has defended him, by saying he has listened, and he would take it on the chin, and move on. That is not a response, it is empty and meaningless.

How do the aged care residents who have died move on? How do their grieving families move on? As Prime Minister, did Morrison not know his Minister for Sport was off to the cricket? Did Greg Hunt, his immediate boss, not know? Surely the team discussed his appearance before a Senate committee, to discuss his department’s response to the Omicron wave. If not, why not? Of 55 recent senate hearings into aged care, Colbeck has attended 2.

Morrison has never understood that he is responsible for every problem, he is expected to fix every problem, because he has the resources and the people to fix them. We gave the Prime Minister great powers for that reason. With great power come great responsibilities.

Of course Morrison does not have the personality or the sense of destiny to take control. He dithers, he deflects, he searches desperately for ways to elude responsibility. He has now become so predictable in his public appearances that we listen for the “we” instead of the “I” when it comes to accepting the Commonwealth’s major task, which can be condensed into three words: Keep Australians safe.

Attending the cricket is trivial however, when we look at the way the Prime Minister hi-jacked the pandemic response and opened up the country before it was ready. The incompetence and the hypocrisy of a fundamentalist Christian telling us all to throw off the shackles, and take back our lives is stunning. A man whose every aspect of life is controlled by his religion, telling us to live free, so the economy would kick back into life, and get him re-elected.

It was a gamble. Now he cries that Omicron was a surprise. No it wasn’t. It was decimating Europe and the U.S. and we were insulated from its damage. Until he opened the borders, we were safe, but grumbling. Now we are in mourning.

Morrison has proved himself to be a spectacularly poor planner. In the early days of the pandemic, he sometimes over-delivered. Much of his response was ‘reputation-repair’ after the Hawaii debacle, but it worked. Deaths were kept to a minimum, health advice was followed, and we felt that our government was putting people ahead of the economy.

Of course the lessons he learned in the first year and a half have been forgotten. Economists have almost universally supported leaving the Jobseeker payment where it was, because the poor spend their cash immediately. Not on paying down the mortgage, not buying a speed-boat. No, they buy food, and they pay their bills. But Morrison knew better. He reduced it back to starvation levels, and threw out the safeguards.

Morrison and Hunt told us to look at numbers in hospitals, not case numbers. Then, because they thought it was like a cold, they reduced support for testing. They did not buy Rapid Antigen Tests, although they were the only way for us to test ourselves. And so the inevitable happened. The sick were heading off to work, for two reasons.

First, they did not know if they were infected, or infectious, and second, the payments had either stopped, or been reduced, so people had no choice but to present for work. As more became ill, the supply chains collapsed. As the booster shots were certified and deemed essential, we didn’t have enough, in the right places.

The vulnerable groups remained the same that they had been in the first waves. Indigenous communities, those covered by the NDIS, the regions, the economically disadvantaged were all exposed, again. They continue to bear the burden of infections, hospitalisations, lack of testing, lack of boosters.

Amidst the rising infection rates, Morrison and Frydenberg were taking the time to boast about the economy. Stunning. Take a walk along any shopping strip, and see the shuttered shops. Take a look at supermarkets, look at the empty shelves. Ironically, as Morrison lifted restrictions, many self-imposed them. Someone had to do it, because the government went missing.

Morrison’s triumphal progress to another term is looking pretty sick, because he became tangled up in stupid plans to “push through”. This was part of his re-branding as a freedom fighter. And we are paying the price.

Their characterisation of the deaths in Aged Care this year has sunk to levels of infamy not seen in Australia before. They now regularly insert the false narrative that most (60%) of the elderly Australians dying of neglect in Aged Care facilities were ‘at death’s door already, so no harm done’ is the implication.

No, their deaths are not able to be dismissed. That is why we call the facilities “nursing homes”. Not dying homes. People who have lived lives, paid taxes, brought up children, built this country, so the spivs in the Morrison Government can write off their deaths as incidental.

1519 people have died in Australia with or from the coronavirus so far this year. I can’t put a date on that figure, because it is going up at around 80 – 100 each day. The Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer expects more variants, a flu season, and winter to present many more deaths in 2022.

Now would be a good time to quote our retiring Minister for Health: Greg Hunt, “Aged-care facilities have been required to implement infection control training and it is encouraging that despite the increase in cases, there has not been the same level of increase in illness or loss of life, with most facilities indicating that the cases have been more mild at this stage.”

It might be time to retire the lot of them, and see if there is a way to prosecute those who failed us.

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.