How Scott Morrison's name is being used on social media (Image: Private Media)

Scott Morrison’s failings as a national leader are once again on display, just as they were earlier in the year. And his response is the same: treat everything as a political problem that can be addressed with announcements and spin.

The outbreaks across the country at the moment — the one that has locked down Sydney, and the one that has locked down the Northern Territory and sent other states into border closures or precautionary lockdowns — are the direct result of the failings of Morrison’s government.

Failure to get even a substantial minority of Australians vaccinated months into the rollout, failure to vaccinate staff in aged care and residential disability care — the one area where the Health Department had full responsibility — and failure to establish an alternative to hotel quarantine nearly a year after being warned of the weaknesses of relying on tourist facilities to accomplish medical goals.

Worse, Morrison is starting to be called on it — by the NSW government, by normally loyal media allies.

Thus the mild but unmistakable whiff of panic emanating from the Lodge where Morrison remains isolated following his not-quite-triumphant G7+ trip. It’s an apt symbol for a prime minister who appears unwilling to, and perhaps is unable to, provide any leadership. His response, instead, has been announcements.

Thus Sunday night’s sudden reversal on AstraZeneca, the vaccine that Morrison, in the face of warnings at the time, bet the house on last year. He encouraged people under 60 to get it, subject to medical advice, without consulting with the states or medical authorities, and in the face of his own expert medical advice.

A characteristic of Morrison in panic mode is that he doesn’t focus too much on the long-term impacts of what he’s doing to fix the short-term political problem. Anything that comes to hand will do to get him through the answer to a difficult question, to the end of the press conference, to the end of the parliamentary week.

Thus it was yesterday: the queue of state medical authorities, health ministers and health groups lining up to say they didn’t agree on AZ was damaging — not merely to Morrison but to the credibility of the vaccination program. Should you get AZ if you’re under 60 or not? “Go see your GP” is the answer from Morrison, who has extended the vaccine indemnity scheme for GPs. And what happens when a young person, encouraged by Morrison to get AZ, gets blood clots, as the numbers say will inevitably happen?

Meanwhile the disaster of the aged care rollout continues, with national cabinet belatedly mandating vaccinations for all aged care workers. Remember when they were all going to be vaccinated by the end of March? The possibility of one of the current outbreaks getting into a nursing home is still a plausible nightmare scenario that will represent a colossal failure by the government.

Health secretary Brendan Murphy, who has already worn the blame for the disastrous “not a race” rhetoric from Morrison, is now the target of leaking to government-aligned media outlets. Murphy will be a handy scapegoat for a rollout gone wrong, but who wears the blame for the stolid refusal of Morrison to consider expanding the Commonwealth’s quarantine facilities until last month?

The announcements are designed to give the appearance of action when, in fact, Morrison is doing nothing. There is no acceleration of the arrival of non-AZ vaccines. There is no mechanism for ensuring all aged care workers have access to vaccination. There is no movement to take pressure off hotel quarantine facilities.

Morrison seems to float above the governing process — a prime onlooker not a prime minister — with plenty of commentary to offer on events but sadly divorced from the mechanics of government and unable to do anything, stirred into movement only when imperiled by the political consequences of his failures, and then merely to announce, declare, enunciate and outline his achievements and how lucky we are to be under his benign oversight.

Tony Abbott used to goad Malcolm Turnbull by accusing him of being in office but not in power. Scott Morrison at the moment seems to be absent from both, leaving the governing of Australia to premiers who have some acquaintance with how to actually get things done. It’s an awful lot of power to hand to a group of men and women unlikely to surrender it easily.