Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Gary RamageSource:News Corp Australia
Backlash against the prime minister has grown overnight with Scott Morrison the topic of conversation from Australian screens to the UK.
Across social media, television and radio the prime minister faced more criticism for his “chronic inability” to take responsibility for the federal government’s failures in handling the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Labor MP Tony Burke on Sky News overnight.
Mr Morrison refused claims he was an “absent leader” after facing a grilling from all sides, and if last night is any thing to go by, it’s not looking any easier for the PM.
The PM started yesterday with a scathing interview from KIIS 1011 Melbourne hosts Jase & PJ, demanding an apology for his handling of the pandemic and for “the mistakes made”.
“We’ve had problems and we’ve dealt with them, that’s what I do every single day,” Mr Morrison replied.
It only got worse from there, with the UK’s The Independent becoming the latest overseas publication to focus on the PM’s failures with this: “Morrison under fire over fresh Australia Covid lockdown and poor jab roll out”.
Meanwhile, Sydney appeared on the front page of The New York Times under the headline: “How nations are learning to ‘let it go’ and live with covid”.
“Places like Australia, which shut down its border, are learning that they cannot keep the virus out,” the article reads.
The New York Times piece.Source:Supplied
On Wednesday afternoon the PM fronted cameras — without any sign of an apology — but conceded “we’ve had our challenges with this program”.
“We‘ve had significant challenges with this program, as many countries have, but what matters is how you respond to them.
“What matters is how you fix the things that need to be fixed and get the program doing what it needs to be doing and hitting the vaccination rates it needs to hit to ensure that we can get to where we need to be, where we want to be.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison addresses the media at a press conference at The Lodge. Picture: Gary RamageSource:News Corp Australia
Pressure is growing for the PM with frustrated Australians stuck in lockdown and the federal government’s popularity plummeting by the day.
Greater Sydney is facing longer than a five-week lockdown, Melburnians face another week minimum and South Australia is also enduring a seven-day lockdown.
On The Project last night, speaking to Dr Norman Swan, co-host of ABC’s Coronacast, Waleed Aly commented on Mr Morrison’s lack of apology.
“Does he have something to say sorry for?” Aly asked.
Dr Swan replied: “That's up to the country to decide, but I will give you a list of things he may want to think about: Failure to procure enough Pfizer when he had a chance, failing to contact Pfizer like others …”. The list went on.
It comes off the back of Steve Price slamming Mr Morrison on the program on Monday night, asking, “where the hell is the PM?”.
Steve Price asking the question everyone was thinking last night. Then today the PM does some radio + a press conference where he is annoyed people are questioning his handling of the vaccine rollout.
In tough times Scott Morrison has two modes: radio silence or blaming others. pic.twitter.com/bpNjuggoXt
— Tanya Plibersek (@tanya_plibersek) July 21, 2021
It didn’t get any easier as Wednesday night rolled on, with the ABC’s 7.30 trending after ripping into Mr Morrison.
“The problem for the Prime Minister is that despite his protests, slumping poll numbers reveal the Prime Minister facing high levels of disapproval of his handling of the pandemic and a majority perceive him as playing politics & avoiding responsibility,” political reporter Laura Tingle said.
“Even for a prime minister notable for his marketing ability, it’s difficult to find much good to say about Australia’s vaccine rollout.
“International comparison shows just 11.7 per cent of the entire population is fully vaccinated. But the government is now quoting the share of the eligible population vaccinated – that’s 14 and a half per cent – hardly something to write home about.”
Around 13 million Australians are in lockdown. There's still not enough Pfizer to go around. JobKeeper isn't coming back. The Delta strain is a game changer. So, is the PM an absent leader? I asked him and this was his response👇 Watch my report at 5pm on @10NewsFirst#auspolpic.twitter.com/DBaKF2HLOy
— Stela Todorovic (@Stela_Todorovic) July 21, 2021
— Michael Rowland (@mjrowland68) July 21, 2021
Medical community joins battle
Meanwhile more of the medical community joined in criticism after the prime minister told reporters it was a “constant appeal” to get the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) to change their medical advice on AstraZeneca given the outbreaks in Australia.
Mr Morrison again called on ATAGI to reconsider its position given the current situation in several states.
The group — a number of independent medical experts picked by the government — has already changed the advice three times for the AstraZeneca jab — it is now recommended for adults over the age of 60.
The comments saw the Australian Medical Association’s (AMA) vice president and member of ATAGI Dr Chris Moy appear on the ABC’s Afternoon Briefing, telling host Patricia Karvelas that Australia’s covid experts should not be used as fodder.
“Ultimately the job of the government is to appoint these people, get them to give the advice in a cold, hard fashion and deal with it given the circumstances.
“ATAGI should not be attacked, these are good people who give up their time to provide good advice,” he said.
“The main thing is to understand everybody’s role here; TGA approves it, ATAGI provides recommendations, government’s make the decisions and they should actually sit in their spots.”
After no media appearance for over three days, the Prime Minister has been on a radio blitz telling Australians his vaccine rollout was “on the right track.”
— Mark Butler MP (@Mark_Butler_MP) July 21, 2021
Shadow health minister Mark Butler agreed with the AMA and criticised the PM’s comments for putting “unfair pressure” on ATAGI and told the program that Mr Morrison is not taking responsibility for his own failures.
“Just be honest with the Australian people, say you’ve made a mistake,” Mr Butler said.
“Today I heard him mouth the words, ‘I take responsibility’, then in the same breath, blame everyone else.
“I agree with the AMA, I think this is the prime minister using the power of his office as the head of the country trying to shelve responsibility for the terrible failures of this vaccine rollout onto them rather than taking responsibility himself.”