Ever since Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a vaccine agreement that wasn’t, and that Australia would be first in line for vaccination1, we have had announcement after announcement regarding vaccines, leading some wags to state that Australia is leading the world: in vaccination announcements.
One of these announcements was that 4 million Australians would have received their first of two doses of vaccine by the end of March. Well, the end of March has now passed and how many doses have been administered? Only 597,000. That is just over 3.4 million doses (82%) short of Morrison’s target. When it was clear that 4 million by the end of March was not going to happen, Morrison made another announcement, of a revised target of 4 million doses by the end of April. Australia is already falling behind the number of weekly doses required to reach this target. The government has also quietly crab-walked away from its ‘promise’ that all adult Australians would be vaccinated by October2. Health Minister Greg Hunt has now said that all Australians will receive at least their first doses of a vaccine by the end of October3.
Given that Morrison has been the one making all the announcements about vaccines and vaccination ‘plans’ and ‘targets’, one could have expected him to accept some of the blame for this ‘balls-up’ as cartoonist John Kudelka so accurately predicted it would be1. If you thought Morrison would do so, you do not understand him at all. He is quite happy to have Liberal apologists state that he ‘led’ us through the pandemic, despite him turning up to the initial national cabinet meetings with no plans, not even for things which are a federal responsibility4, and despite his constant sniping against measures taken by Labor (not Liberal) states. So, now that the vaccination rollout has been a ‘balls-up’, Morrison has of course blamed the states.
National Party deputy leader, David Littleproud said “If the federal government hasn’t done their job, we deserve an uppercut. But let me say the states have been sitting on their hands, they’ve been too complacent. We are going to help the states but they have to admit they have a problem because they have done three fifths of bugger all and they are holding this nation back.” Queensland’s deputy premier, Stephen Miles responded to littleproud’s rant with “Federal government ministers have once again lined up to attack Queensland over our Covid response”. “They attacked our borders and they attacked our lockdowns. Now they’re attacking our vaccine progress, something [for which] THEY’RE responsible. This morning David Littleproud said that the federal government should get an uppercut if the vaccine rollout wasn’t up to scratch. Well, he should give himself an uppercut”3. Miles also labelled Littleproud as “2021’s April fool”5.
The federal government is supposedly responsible for acquiring and delivering the vaccines to the states and territories, which are then responsible for administering them. Morrison has blamed the states for the delays, saying states and territories have had the vaccine delivery schedule for the past 12 weeks. One wonders if this delivery schedule is like their vaccination ‘timetable’. However, NSW Health Minister, Brad Hazzard said they had not been given enough warning about vaccine deliveries nor the number of doses being delivered. He said: “We were under the impression from the advice we received from the federal government that we would receive just over 13,000 vaccines. “What they actually gave us, with no forward announcement, was 45,000 and then a few days later there is a press report saying we haven’t distributed them all. Well, you get 45,000 items dumped on your front door at night and told ‘Now you should have it out by the next morning’. No one would be able to do that”3.
In response to Miles, Littleproud said “I won’t be lectured to by a man who was sacked as health minister and a government that was derelict in their duty of protecting their frontline health workers by not having them fully vaccinated before they treated COVID patients”6. Littleproud seems to forget that Miles was promoted to deputy premier, and that health workers have been treating Covid patients while unvaccinated for well over a year, in part because despite Morrison saying we would be first in line for vaccines we are lagging most of the developed world. The UK has already at least partly vaccinated almost half its population, with 31 million people having received at least one dose of a vaccine7.
Federal health minister, Greg Hunt, sought to calm tensions with the states, publicly commending them on their performance in the vaccine rollout and refusing to buy into the criticism aired by Littleproud. Maybe he has realised that the opprobrium heaped on the Victorian government’s response to the second Covid wave by the Liberal Party (both state and federal) has done significant damage to their electoral prospects in Victoria. Hunt, instead trumpeted a record day for vaccinations, with 72,000 administered on Wednesday (March 31), and said the government would reach its target of first doses being delivered by October3. You can bet your bottom dollar that whenever targets slip, as they most likely will, Morrison will be blaming someone else, but however delayed the vaccine rollout is, when all Australians have been vaccinated, Morrison will be basking in the glory of others’ efforts; as he always does.