PHARM IT OUT
In just the latest tweaking of the national rollout, The Australian ($) reports that a nationwide pharmacy vaccination program will be expanded from 49 approved sites in regional Queensland to cover 207 sites in all states and territories save Tasmania and the ACT.
Separately, Anthony Albanese has demanded the Morrison government step in to meet its new goal of vaccinating 200,000 aged care workers by September, The Sydney Morning Herald reports, after its bungled in-house vaccination scheme saw nearly 90% of the workforce without a single jab by June. The Labor leader also characterised a new $11 million program designed to support employees to get vaccinated off-site as insufficient and more buck-passing to individuals and the states.
Independent Senator Rex Patrick has called for a royal commission into Australia’s pandemic response, namely how a rich country with relatively few cases throughout 2020 has managed to come last in the vaccine race among OECD nations.
The news comes as young Australians begin to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, even as some doctors across Australia refuse to go against the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation’s preference for Pfizer for those under 60. As Guardian Australia explains, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners was left “scrambling” by Scott Morrison’s late night announcement, both the Australian Medical Association and Annastacia Palaszczuk would only reaffirm ATAGI’s advice, and Mark McGowan and Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley similarly said that opening up eligibility for AstraZeneca was not a national cabinet decision.
PS: For an excellent account of what, exactly, may have just happened with the AstraZeneca changes, check out The Monthly questioning whether an exhausted Morrison accidentally opened up AstraZeneca eligibility in the post-national cabinet press conference.
PPS: In what could end up being good news for a population yo-yoing between the two drugs, an Oxford University study released on Monday found mixing and matching Pfizer and AstraZeneca generates a “robust” immune response.
COVID-19 STATE WRAP
In NSW, according to the SMH, more than 5000 close contacts are now in quarantine, with 19 new cases identified yesterday, while the NSW state government announced a new small business package that includes takeaway vouchers, grants between $5000 and $10,000 for small businesses, and payroll tax deferral for all employers.
The Northern Territory recorded two new cases in Palmerston and requested the Australian Defence Force’s help to maintain border checkpoints after more hotspots were declared in Western Australia and Queensland.
Large parts of Queensland have entered a three-day lockdown as of 6pm yesterday, joining regions in New South Wales, Western Australia, and the Northern Territory, after an unvaccinated hospital worker infected with the Delta variant travelled from Brisbane to north Queensland sites such as Magnetic Island and Townsville.
As ABC reports, both Annastacia Palaszczuk and the newly-returned Dan Andrews have called for a reduction in international arrivals following Australia’s recent series of hotel quarantine leaks.
PS: In a much more serious outbreak up in Indonesia, the Red Cross has reported the country is close to “catastrophe” as the Delta variant leads to reports of more than 20,000 cases a days and an oxygen shortage.
RORT AND SOLD
In the latest from the latest Morrison government rort, Guardian Australia reports that Labor has slammed findings by the auditor-general that Alan Tudge and Michael McCormack’s National Commuter Car Park Fund was not only redirected towards Coalition and marginal electorates but, in some instances, went to projects that were never and could never be built.
For example, Labor MP Josh Burns said the Coalition pledged $15 million for a car park at Balaclava station, in his Melbourne electorate of Macnamara, despite the fact the land was already set aside for public housing.
New Urban Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher yesterday defended the pork barrelling as “election commitments”, an excuse that, as Crikey unpacked yesterday, flies in the face of the fact most were picked before the election was called and that funding was included in the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Outlook.
PS: The AFR ($) reports that the Nationals are once again pushing for taxpayer funds to underwrite a new, otherwise unfeasible, coal-fired power station in Collinsville, Queensland. All while Canada currently cooks under record-high temperatures.
GOODBYE, AT LEAST FOR NOW
And with that, friends, family, readers, and hate-readers, it is with a terribly sad heart that I say goodbye to you all for a crack at the public service.
Getting to do this newsletter throughout the pandemic — and a slew of seemingly non-stop corruption/misconduct/etc scandals in Australian politics — has been often devastating but, I hope, worthwhile work, and I want to thank all involved.
A special shout-out to the Crikey Worm’s sub-editor Elizabeth Flux — who is not only an extraordinary editor but, as headline writer, is responsible for at least 90% of compliments I have received in this gig, undeserving and bitter to the end — and the Worm’s new writer, Emma Elsworthy.
It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with Private Media these past three and a half years, a company I truly believe is creating world class journalism at a time Australia needs it the most. So, until I inevitably end up crawling back to be part of its extended family in some shape or other, thank you, Crikey and Crikey readers all, and please keep on at least trying to keep the many, many bastards running this country honest.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
I mean this constant numerical chase for the next [COVID-19] headline is a nonsense, and perhaps is to mask this dreadful reality that’s now being flushed out that Australia’s own CSIRO and universities are being involved in the research that’s produced this bioweapon, this COVID, that’s caused this catastrophe.
While it’s best not to listen to anything on Sky News after dark for more than six, maybe seven seconds, it is probably worth keeping an eye on the fact that the Hardgrave host, along with contributor and fellow former Liberal MP Bronwyn Bishop, is broadcasting the Wuhan lab “bioweapon” theory as fact.
“In the public service, saying something is an ‘election commitment’ is like sprinkling magic pixie dust over it. All accountability, transparency and good administration requirements vanish. Election commitments, portrayed as some sort of solemn democratic contract with the electorate, are to be implemented come what may and no impediments will be tolerated. Infrastructure Secretary Simon Atkinson in his angry response to the ANAO insists everything about the car park program was fine because they were election commitments.”
“Dunkley, in outer Melbourne, where Labor increased its thin margin from 1% to 2.7% in 2019, got three projects funded through the Urban Congestion Fund grants. It was also a sports rorts winner, getting $1.4 million in funding. And more recently it’s been lucky again. Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs Jason Wood gave a $450,000 Safer Communities Fund grant to St Thomas Syro-Malabar Church in the seat, despite it not being recommended by the department.”
“So there’s nothing remarkable about [Barnaby Joyce] talking of ‘burning flesh’, with regard to the COVID impact on Melbourne, because in his mind we are the damned of hell. (Barnaby once found Canberra to be too much of a megalopolis; when first elected, he mused aloud as to whether senators could vote online, from home, so they could be with their families. Funny old world.)
“Was this deranged comment — I presume it refers to the cremation of those who died during the 2020 outbreak — a planned outrage, a flare shot into the sky such as could be seen in rural Queensland, to leave no doubt that Barnaby was back? Or was it case of Barnaby believing his own publicity and playing to his image?”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
View from The Hill: No, this isn’t based on the medical advice — Michelle Grattan (The Conversation): “We follow the medical advice, has been a Morrison government mantra since the pandemic’s start. Well, not any more. With the rollout struggling and half the country in lockdown, Scott Morrison is now encouraging younger people to get the AstraZeneca vaccine, despite the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) not recommending it for the under 60s.”
Australia shouldn’t be poster boy for climate change perils ($) — Sussan Ley (The Australian): “Once again, the sometimes troubled waters of the Great Barrier Reef are being politicised as a lens through which the world can argue climate change. Global climate change threatens landscapes, biodiversity, nature and people. Tropical and temperate coral reefs, and the marine ecosystems they support, are no exceptions. Climate change is real and it is the biggest threat facing the reef; it requires global action rather than global promises.”
Chart of the day: Australia’s growing climate complacency — Ketan Joshi (RenewEconomy): “Polling firm Essential Vision recently released an update of a long-running poll in which they have been asking respondents to gauge how much they think Australia is doing on climate action — and how much they think it should be doing. It shows some genuinely worrying results. Broadly, the number of people who think that Australia is doing too much on climate remains low, but is still at its highest level since the poll began in 2016, at 12% of respondents.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
Lawyer and chair of Harmony Alliance: Migrant and Refugee Women for Change Nyadol Nyuon will launch the report of the very first comprehensive study of Australian migrant women, “Migrant and Refugee Women in Australia: The Safety and Security”, at the National Press Club.
Author Briohny Doyle will discuss her new novel Echolalia in a Readings webinar.
The Clean Energy Regulator will hold a webinar on its “Quarterly Carbon Market Report — March Quarter 2021”, which summarises supply and demand for generation and technology certificates and Australian carbon credit units.