The absence of the Prime Minister Scott Morrison in recent weeks as much of the country has been plunged back into COVID-19 crisis-mode with multiple clusters, border closures and Sydney’s ongoing shutdown has been conspicuous. To say Morrison has done the bare minimum is generous.
Morrison has gone several days at a time – at the height of a national crisis – without even speaking publicly. The vacuum of leadership from the Federal Government as the nation struggles, made the reports that Prime Minister Scott Morrison had not made a single phone call to the global chair of Pfizer, Dr Albert Bourla, in the eight months since November 2020, when it became clear that the company’s vaccine was far more efficacious than anyone dreamed, all the more shocking.
That this news broke at roughly the same time the nation was confronted with a terrifying ad that quite cruelly depicts a breathless young woman at the mercy of COVID19, encouraging Australians to go out and get vaccinated, made the damning revelation even worse.
If the PM had picked up the phone to try and ensure adequate supply of vaccines no young Australians would need to fear contracting the virus they can’t get inoculated against.
On Monday we learned that the former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, was urged by Australian business leaders in the US to reach out to Pfizer’s global chair – which he did – in an attempt to accelerate or lift the supply of the vaccine.
On Monday we were forced to confront the fact that our Prime Minister, who made 55 phonecalls to world leaders to help secure Matthias Cormann’s OECD appointment, did not make a single phonecall to the Global chair of Pfizer in a bid to improve the opportunity to vaccinate the population of Australia. Not a single phonecall.
On Monday night we were told by former President of Pfizer Global, R&D, John LaMattina that if the Prime Minister of a country calls the head of the company, that gets answered.
On Tuesday we learned from Kevin Rudd that Israel’s Prime Minister, for example, had called Pfizer 17 times. While 57.3% of Israel’s population is fully vaccinated, just 9.05% of Australia’s is.
The Federal Government’s response has been typical: deflect and dismiss. While not denying they hadn’t reached out to the Dr Bourla, the Health Minister Greg Hunt, said reports of Kevin Rudd’s intervention had made him “chuckle”.
He ‘chuckles’ while 63 Australians are in hospital in NSW, with 18 in Intensive Care. The Health Minister “chuckles’ while thousands of Australians are in lockdown. Hunt ‘chuckles’ while Australians sought not to choke on their coffee as they watched the terrifying ad or caught the news that Sydney had recorded 112 cases of community transmission on Monday or learned that a former PM was doing more than the actual PM to try and get Australia vaccinated more quickly.
It is nothing short of shocking and while we’re still reeling from that, the Prime Minister managed the impossible. He managed to further shock and disappoint by demonstrating what he does have time for while the nation is in crisis.
On Tuesday morning while thousands of small business owners in NSW are hanging on by a thread waiting for assistance wondering how they will pay staff let alone rent; while parents around greater Sydney are bunkering down to attempt the impossible task of homeschooling while also working and parenting and keeping everyone fed and as well as possible; while teachers and early educators and aged care workers and cleaners are all begging to have the proposals to get these critical workforces vaccinated heard; Scott Morrison popped up on LinkedIn to spruik doughnuts.
Morrison found time to “sit down” with a young business owner from the NSW Central Coast for a chat. After losing four jobs last year Emma started a doughnut business in her parents’ kitchen. There is no doubt she has done very well but what this “interview” reveals about the Prime Minister’s priorities is deathly.
It is an entirely transparent and galling attempt at spin from the PM at a moment where the country he’s supposed to run desperately needs leadership. Instead we get a glib, one-way, PR offensive shared via LinkedIn. If Morrison expected the message to be met with praise by the career-minded, business community the comments would be sobering.
“Well done Emma. Fantastic effort and you’re very lucky to have parental support. The sad part here is that for every Emma story there’s probably 100 -1000 -10,000, even 100,000 others that cannot survive their business through no fault of their own. Prime Minister if this is your attempt to market your government’s ‘excellence’ in small business support, this is extremely sad.”One business leader wrote.
“While we have a crises in NSW with no federal support from Fed gov for low income, part time and casual workers, you have decided to post about a small business owner. No disrespect to Emma and what is doing but the timing of this post insensitive to say the least.”Another LinkedIn user commented.
Morrison is letting us know, once again, that for Aussies who have a go, they can get a go! The fact Emma is a woman, presumably, points to his status as a champion of women.
Morrison fails to acknowledge that starting a business in the comfort of a family home isn’t an option for all 20 year olds. He fails to acknowledge that young Australians are in a precarious situation which he has failed to adequately resolve. Twenty-year olds in Australia are no-where near the front of the vaccine queue and yet continue to live with the adverse effects this pandemic continues to present. Morrison fails to acknowledge the considerable difficulties that small business owners in Greater-Sydney are facing right now. Or the very real challenge small business owners with family responsibilities are facing. Or any of the structural barriers that impede women in business.
This moment in Australia calls for bold and courageous leadership. Daily, it seems, we are learning that Morrison is unfit for the task.