Moderna COVID-19 vaccine
(Image: Aimee Dilger/SOPA/Sipa)

A SHOT IN THE ARM

US-based pharmaceutical giant Moderna has revealed overnight that it has struck an agreement with the Morrison government to supply 25 million doses of their COVID-19 vaccine. This includes 10 million doses of its two-dose vaccine this year, along with “15 million doses of Moderna’s updated variant booster vaccine candidate to be delivered in 2022”. There are also discussions about manufacturing the drug onshore.

The Sydney Morning Herald explains Moderna’s announcement does not explain when the 10 million doses will arrive, only that the company will submit an application for regulatory approval to the Therapeutic Goods Administration “shortly”.

News of the mRNA-based vaccine, which clinical trials suggest carries an efficacy against COVID-19 of roughly 94.1%, follows multiple delays in Australia’s rollout, complaints the government put all its eggs in AstraZeneca’s basket, and the Victorian government’s $50 million pledge to kickstart onshore production of mRNA vaccines.

Yesterday, Scott Morrison walked away from a budget night prediction that everyone in Australia will be fully vaccinated by the end of 2021, with Guardian Australia explaining that although Josh Frydenberg told reporters of a budget assumption that everyone will receive two doses by year’s end, Morrison has conceded to ABC’s 7.30 this is not government policy but an aspiration. Frydenberg also admitted to the ABC the budget offers no new funding for quarantine facilities (although it does include $464 million to expand that vital human misery machine, immigration detention).

Elsewhere, The Age reports that testing has confirmed a Victorian man caught COVID-19 in hotel quarantine in Adelaide, while the AFL is assisting contact tracers by contacting all ticket-holders from last Friday night’s Richmond vs Geelong game after the Wollert man’s exposure history revealed he rode two Craigieburn-line train services used by spectators. The man’s three household contacts have tested negative and remain in isolation.

And the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet has accepted a proposal to begin accepting international students within months, using a quarantine system The Australian ($) notes operates without Commonwealth support and is likely to be paid for by the university sector.

PS: In another frank admission to 7.30, Morrison said that, after announcing in late March that his office would look into “claims his staffers spread disparaging information about Brittany Higgins’ partner to journalists”, the matter “is still being addressed by my chief of staff”. An inquiry into which of his staff members knew of Higgins’ rape allegations has also resumed.

CUTTING REMARKS

In more fallout from the budget, Josh Frydenberg has used a National Press club address to draw election battlelines with Labor over his $130 billion phase three tax cuts. The Australian ($) reports the treasurer argued that a failure to support the plan would leave middle-income earners hundreds of dollars a year worse off. For context, The Australia Institute found in 2019 that almost a third of the plan’s benefits would go to the top 10% of income earners, with more than half going to the top 20%.

Low-income earners are also not particularly well served by the budget, with JobSeeker still stuck at around $44 a day and The New Daily explaining that $191.6 million will be “saved” by shifting the start date of payments from the day of application to when claimants submit new self-managed job plans, projected to take roughly two days.

For Labor’s part, Anthony Albanese spent yesterday arguing the budget does nothing to lift wages in real terms, a point echoed by the public sector union, which notes the Coalition is still tying public service pay rises to the private sector Wage Price Index.

Shadow social services minister Linda Burney has also labelled a plan to force migrants to wait four years for family and carers payments as “unusual” and “harsh”, while Albanese’s budget reply speech today will include a pledge for government loans for young entrepreneurs finishing university.

For what the budget means for the public service, check out The Mandarin’s webinar today at 1pm AEST with managing editor Chris Johnson, former NSW parliamentary budget officer Stephen Bartos, economist and CEO of Lateral Economics Nicholas Gruen, and senior economist at the Committee for Economic Development of Australia Gabriela D’Souza.

AROUND THE WORLD

And in global COVID-19 news:

  • A report by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response — which was set up by the World Health Organization to examine the global COVID-19 response — has found “weak links at every point in the chain” and global political leadership was “absent”, and recommended reforms for the WHO and national preparedness plans to avoid another “toxic cocktail”
  • A separate report by the International Federation of Journalists, based on an original survey of 54 journalist unions across 50 different countries and territories, finds that when the pandemic began to spread in 2020 China stepped up its global media infrastructure to seed positive narratives about the country in national media, mobilise disinformation, and attempt to discredit Western media online
  • India’s death toll continues to rise, hitting a record 4205 deaths in the 24 hours to Wednesday, with no obvious end in sight.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

To the citizens of Gaza:

The IDF is striking Hamas weapons stores hidden inside civilian buildings in Gaza.

Although Hamas wants to put you in harm’s way, we urge you to stay away from Hamas’ weapons sites and get to safety.

Our goal is only to strike terror.

Israel Defense Forces

Amid quote-unquote “clashes” initiated by Israel’s attempted evictions of Palestinians, violence against protesters, and a raid of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the IDF thoughtfully warns of a forthcoming bombardment via Twitter. 56 Palestinians have thus far been been killed, including 14 children, along with six Israelis.

CRIKEY RECAP

Taxpayers are footing the bill for a $5b French company to fight, er, our own government

“Since when are Australian taxpayers expected to pay for a government contractor’s own cover-up? That’s what’s happening in a legal battle between independent Senator Rex Patrick and the company behind the government’s disastrous $90 billion contract to build Australia’s new submarine fleet, Naval Group.

“Defence revealed last week that it was paying Naval Group’s legal fees in a fight over how much the contract is actually worth.

“This means the government has paid a multinational company, with an annual turnover of more than $5 billion, to hire lawyers to prevent information being released … under the government’s own freedom of information (FOI) rules.”


My country, the world’s new hermit kingdom

“Buried in Australia’s federal budget papers this week was a prediction that devastated the million Australians, like me, who live abroad and the millions more at home who love them: the national borders are likely to remain closed until at least mid-2022.

“Australia slammed its doors as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and it has kept them more firmly shut than any nation save, perhaps, North Korea. Plenty if not most nations have restricted nonessential travel since the start of the pandemic. But very few have forbidden their own citizens from leaving, not even China, and certainly none — except for Australia — that are democracies.”


High tax, big spend: there’s no home for neoliberals in this new era of mega-government

“Who is now the party of small government in Australia? Where do the remaining neoliberals in politics go for a political home? There’s been a sea change in Australian politics, one thoroughly unconducive to advocates of the core tenets of economic orthodoxy over recent decades — fiscal constraint, small government, the automatic belief that private is superior to public.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Court bid to oust Porter barrister from acting in defamation fight

Tasmanian Liberals have won majority government, ABC’s Antony Green says

NSW and South Australian back Alan Tudge in curriculum war ($)

Perth Children’s Hospital review of death of seven-year-old Aishwarya Aswath handed down

Extra judges and magistrates to be recruited in $210 million plan to slash court backlog ($)

ABC demands users hand over personal information to access their iview platform ($)

An Australian destroyer arrived in San Diego with 2 dead endangered whales stuck to its hull

Boris Johnson served with court judgment over £535 unpaid debt

Republican Liz Cheney ejected from leadership role over criticism of Donald Trump

THE COMMENTARIAT

We must raise the age of criminal responsibility, here is why — Dr Tracy Westerman (IndigenousX): “Raising the age of criminal responsibility will only succeed if we address existing arguments against making this change. The fact Australia is out of step with international human rights standards has failed to serve as a motivator. Australia has a long history of ignoring how its domestic policy compares against international human rights standards, particularly when it comes to locking up black kids.”

Budget 2021: Josh Frydenberg’s spending spree may come back to haunt him ($) — Niki Savva (The Australian):Josh Frydenberg has to be a contender to win the gong as world’s greatest treasurer, now awarded by British magazine The Banker, thanks to his steerage of the Australian economy through perilous times by ensuring the recession was not as deep as originally feared, nor unemployment as high as forecast. Attached to that award would be several less flattering subtitles: the first treasurer in 100 years to preside over a pandemic with the highest debt and deficit ever created; the biggest spending treasurer in Australian history ushering in the new roaring ’20s; the first Liberal treasurer to deliver Labor’s budget with barely a hint of a blush or an apology.”

Budget package doesn’t guarantee aged-care residents will get better care Stephen Duckett and Anika Stobart (The Conversation): “The big investment in aged care announced in last night’s federal budget — an extra $17.7 billion over five years — is a welcome response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. But even an investment of this scale does not meet the level of ambition set by the royal commission. The government has committed $6.5 billion for more home-care packages (about $2.5 billion more for home care per year when fully implemented), and $7.1 billion for residential-care staffing and services (about $2.4 billion more for residential care per year when fully implemented). But the government has failed to outline a clear vision of what older Australians should expect of their aged-care system.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

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WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

  • Liberal senator Andrew Bragg will launch his new book, Buraadja: The Liberal Case for National Reconciliation.

Australia

  • The UK government’s UN High-Level Climate Champion Nigel Topping and executive director of Telstra Energy Ben Burge will discuss “Accelerating Australia’s Race To Zero” in an Australia Institute webinar.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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