Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been hit with another brutal attack, with a former PM accusing him of attempting to “gaslight” Australians in order to deflect blame over the bungled vaccine rollout.
Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is the latest in a string of high-profile Australians to call Mr Morrison out of his handling of the vaccine rollout.
Mr Rudd has labelled Mr Morrison’s vaccine strategy a failure, calling on the PM to “own up” to his mistakes in order to move forward with the rollout.
“The daily reality of the vaccination rollout strategy reveals a litany of policy and administrative failures,” Mr Rudd wrote in The Guardian.
The former PM claimed Mr Morrison missed the mark on his “core responsibility” of securing sufficient international and domestic vaccine supply, getting approval for multiple candidates in case issues arise with individual vaccines and organising an effective distribution strategy to get the vaccine out as rapidly as possible.
Just over one million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Australia, which is well behind the four million vaccinations the government predicted would be completed by the end of March, 2021.
“Despite earlier doubling down on unrealistic targets, Morrison now tries to gaslight Australians by claiming he didn’t actually say what we all heard him say,” Mr Rudd said.
“That we would be at the ‘front of the queue’, that we had access to the best vaccines in the world, and that we would have four million vaccinations done by the end of March. All bullsh*t.”
Mr Morrison has now completely scrapped plans to announce a new deadline for when the majority of Australians will be vaccinated or when each phase of the rollout will be completed.
Over the last few weeks, the Federal government has blamed the slow rollout on a number of issues, including delays in receiving promised doses from overseas and suggesting states and territories were unnecessarily holding back vaccine doses from the public.
The latter prompted a furious response from state and territory officials, with many lashing the government for providing inaccurate information on vaccine shipments.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said he was “extremely angry” and demanded an apology from the Federal government.
Now, the recommendation that the AstraZeneca vaccine, which most Aussies were set to receive, should only be administered to people over 50 has further added to the chaos of the vaccine rollout.
Mr Rudd labelled Australia’s current COVID-19 vaccination rate a “national disgrace”, claiming many countries will have finished rolling out their vaccines before millions of Australians even get their first shot.
“At present, we do not know when all Australians will be vaccinated against COVID-19. We don’t even know when all of our frontline doctors, nurses and quarantine workers will be vaccinated,” Mr Rudd said.
“The early perceived political “successes” in Australia’s handling of the virus appears to have induced on Morrison’s part a breathtaking level of political complacency on vaccination strategy that borders on professional negligence.”
Mr Rudd said the only thing left for Mr Morrison to do was to take responsibility for the bungled rollout and to be more upfront with the Australian public.
Scott Morrison facing ‘serious threats’
Mr Morrison has been fielding an increasing number of attacks from political foes as the vaccine rollout falls further behind.
On Friday, Labor leader Anthony Albanese launched one of his most scathing attacks on the prime minister to date, labelling the rollout a “debacle” and putting the blame squarely on Mr Morrison.
“The fact that we now have such uncertainty about the rollout is a direct result of an arrogant government that was too focused on the 24-hour media cycle and not focused on what Australia needed,” Mr Albanese said.
“Australians won’t forget who is responsible for failing to deliver on what are his own promises and his own commitments when it comes to these issues.”
These kind of attacks are likely to ramp up as the year goes on, with Mr Morrison set to face “multiple, serious threats”, according to Australian National University Professor and political commentator Mark Kenny.
“Coupled with a poorly managed political crisis over the treatment of women, Morrison’s 2021 has been tin-eared,” Professor Kenny wrote in The Conversation.
“A sharp decline of public trust in government, in expertise, and in institutional competence looms as a clear and present danger for Morrison’s popularity.”
Professor Kenny said increasing criticism from Labor shows “business-as-usual politics” is already starting to make a comeback,
“Voters themselves see other countries are surging ahead while Australia inches along, tempting the fate of another outbreak, and delaying the economic recovery dependent on vaccination,” he wrote.
“And that’s the next inversion we’re likely to see. Business and Coalition hardliners were outspoken last year against state border closures, lockdowns, and other restrictions, on economic grounds.
“Expect to hear those voices too in coming weeks as the penny drops about a whole extra year lost to the pandemic.”