As Australia’s COVID crisis reaches its boiling point, Morrison seems unable to explain what’s wrong with our lack of policy

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Last Sunday Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce was asked a very simple question: Would he support any goal of achieving zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050?

As far as climate change policy is concerned, as far as the fundamental relationship between the parties in the ruling coalition is concerned, that is the fundamental question.

His rambling response to Insiders host David Speers was too long to repeat here, but involved the hotel restaurant menu next to where Joyce stood for the interview, and a digression immediately on what Labor Party policy might be.

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National Leader Barnaby Joyce on Insiders

When Speers stepped in to say he wasn’t asking about the Labor Party’s approach but the government’s, Joyce said that the Nationals’ approach “is that we want to see exactly what’s involved and we want to see exactly what the cost is “.

The Labor approach, Joyce said, was: “They don’t care what is on the menu and the price, and when it’s stir-fried pickles and sashimi tadpoles, they’re willing to pay it all. because they said they would take anything for lunch. “

It went on like this for a while.

In a week when the NSW government unilaterally declared its pandemic COVID crisis a national emergency, and two other states were battling to suppress the outbreaks, and in a week when our political leaders were fighting for a strategy to deal with it to all of this it may seem odd to focus on a ridiculous and vaguely insulting hokum about another serious political issue from the country’s second-highest politician.

After all, it’s Barnaby, right? No one expects him to say anything articulate. That’s not what he’s here for.

But think about it. Not only can Barnaby Joyce not articulate a policy to deal with climate change. He can’t even articulate a policy as to why he opposes a policy dealing with climate change that only exists in nebulous form because his main Coalition partner is too terrified to voice it, for fear it will. does not excite Joyce and his friends.

COVID is getting worse, so is the dysfunction

Joyce’s contribution simply helps frame the dysfunctions not only in politics but in politics, which we face as things get worse day by day on COVID.

A close-up of the Prime Minister looking at his notes.
When deploying the vaccine, Scott Morrison is seen as perpetually trying to blame others.(

ABC News: Ian Cutmore

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It’s not just the number of COVID cases that is worsening, nor even the glaring shortfalls and delays in our vaccine supply. It’s the wrong message that has created so much hesitation about vaccines, it’s the lack of consistent data, consistent guidance, a consistent deployment plan, and now economic support. cohesive and consistent.

It’s not that a lot of these things aren’t there in the background, somewhere. We just had a communications breakdown on what the policy might be.

Like Joyce this week, the Prime Minister not only seemed unable to articulate a policy, but also seemed unable to explain what’s wrong with the one we don’t have.

The priority list of people to be vaccinated first, for example, seems to have hit the wall for a long time. All of these groups 1A and 1B like residents and workers in the care of the elderly and the disabled?

And good luck if you’re able to figure out who is now supposed to be in a priority group, not to mention advice on whether you should or can access Pfizer or AstraZeneca, or even if you can get two photos of Either.

Apparently it’s all ATAGI’s fault

It looked like free for all on Friday, with New South Wales authorities begging people to get vaccinated, any shot, but the state is still inundated with unwanted AstraZeneca supplies.

Apparently, this is all ATAGI’s fault – the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization. The Prime Minister made it clear that everything would have been better if their advice had not made people more hesitant about AstraZeneca.

He kept urging them to change their advice, he said, “I just said just, the balance of risks changes guys, so how does that impact your advice and is it time to think about it? “

But ATAGI has always advised on vaccines in a range of risk scenarios. And it’s not his job to balance vaccine risk with issues like economic impact.

As Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley remarked in response Thursday: “If the government has a problem with [the ATAGI advice], engage constructively with them. Look for a solution. Don’t try to blame people for doing their jobs. If we were all doing our jobs, we might not be in the position we are today with very low vaccination rates. “

The ultimate authority of our Prime Minister, unfortunately, has too often been the polls.

And the published polls have all pointed in the same direction this week, as is what focus groups are telling political parties.

Despite the fact that it is the prime ministers of the states who are more regularly in front of the public day after day, and despite the fact that the prime minister is less visible, it is Scott Morrison whom voters hold responsible for the breakdown of the COVID response. The simple measure of its failure in the minds of voters is that we are lagging behind the entire developed world in immunization rates.

And the PM is seen as perpetually trying to blame others. That is why his sudden recognition that he is ultimately “responsible” for the immunization program was perhaps more important than his declaration that he was “sorry” that the immunization program did not meet its goals.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison “sorry” for vaccination program

What lies ahead is clear as mud

You can be sure that this was a statement made in response to the findings of the focus groups, to address those perceptions that he was dodging the problem, even though he continues to blame others for the problems.

Pollster Tony Mitchelmore has long said that the only two things that really mattered to changing voters during this long period of crisis have been the handling of the pandemic and the economy.

Regarding the pandemic, the Prime Minister has repeatedly said that we need to focus on what lies ahead, and not on what happened in the past (which is understandable given the current grim view of what lies ahead. ‘happened in the past). Except that what lies ahead is as clear as mud right now.

Mitchelmore says focus groups aren’t really focusing on economic concerns yet.

But in the same way that COVID messages have become exploded and confused, there is a real risk to the real economy and political messages that the bursting of aid measures – with the federal government increasingly expecting to what states provide in business assistance, and less some personal income assistance available from the federal government – will also affect business and consumer confidence just as hard as the lockdowns.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says we can’t look back to JobKeeper and all the other support the government gave last year. These were policies for the time, he says. And times have changed.

It’s just unfortunate that, like the response to the pandemic, most voters want more reassuring signals from the government about the economy going forward.

Laura Tingle is the 7:30 am chief political correspondent.

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