Can Scott Morrison open his mouth without causing further confusion about vaccines? And can he open his mouth without lying? Answers to such vexing questions are unclear after the prime minister finally emerged into daylight for a brief media conference at Kirribilli yesterday.
The first question he was asked was whether the NSW lockdown was on him.
“At no stage at any time in the last 12 months has there been any suggestion that Australia would have reached a level of vaccination at the level we now see in the UK, which I note is not even yet at 65% for two doses at this time,” he answered.
“The national vaccination plan that was adopted last year and all of the targets, even on their most optimistic scenarios, which haven’t been realised, none of them put Australia in a position where a suppression strategy could have been lifted at any time … So the suggestion that somehow there was a vaccination rate that would have put us in a different position right now to what was planned last year is simply not true.”
Trouble is, Morrison himself unveiled a vaccine rollout schedule on March 14 that assumed around 20 million Australians would have had a first jab by now. And that was his revised schedule; his previous schedule had the entire population being fully vaccinated by October. There was a vaccination rate that would have put us in a different position right now, and Morrison promised us that rate.
This was an example of Morrison’s unnecessary lies and falsehoods, the ones he tells even when he doesn’t have to, knowing he can be fact-checked.
He didn’t need to invoke the UK or vaccination rates; he simply could have said the delta variant is a new and more serious threat and blah blah blah. The fact that he immediately resorted to that lie revealed how sensitive he is to it being pointed out that he’s badly botched the rollout. Like lies so often do, they reveal more about the liar than any statement of fact might.
Morrison then urged people to get their second AstraZeneca jab after eight weeks, instead of 12. “We would also be encouraging the eight to 12-week second dose to be done at the earlier part of that eight to 12-week period,” Morrison said. “That is consistent with medical advice — the TGA approval does sit, and [Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATGAI)] advice, on eight to 12 weeks.”
Except, it doesn’t. This is verbatim the advice from the TGA and ATAGI.
TGA’s regulatory approval allows the second dose to be administered from four to 12 weeks after the first. The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation has recommended that the interval between first and second dose is 12 weeks. However if this interval is not possible, for example because of imminent travel, cancer chemotherapy, major elective surgery, a minimum interval of four weeks between doses can be used.
The list of conditions at the end does not include “because the prime minister is in trouble and wants to help boost the vaccination stats by cutting corners”. There’s a reason for the 12-week recommendation — it significantly improves the efficacy of the vaccine above having just one dose or having a second dose only four weeks after the first.
To make it a trifecta, Morrison, having announced that NSW residents would not be subject to the same assets test for accessing federal lockdown assistance that Victorians were, was also challenged about why this wasn’t preferential treatment for a home state run by a Liberal government: “I reject that, I think that’s an absurd suggestion. We’re into the third week of a lockdown. We’ve provided exactly the same support that was provided in Victoria.”
For once Morrison fact-checked himself and followed that up with, “There’ll be a need for further support because this is going longer in Sydney than in Melbourne”. So not exactly the same support at all.
Usually Morrison leaves a longer gap between directly contradicting himself. Maybe he himself is getting tired of misleading us.