Senate debates

Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Matters of Public Importance

Prime Minister

3:43 pm

Photo of Deborah O'NeillDeborah O'Neill (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I'm not distressed by the noise that is coming from the other side of the chamber. In addition to Mr Morrison's denial of reality and his cacophony of excuses, we have the bleating of those opposite, who are backing him in at every turn and saying: 'He's a great Prime Minister. He's doing a good job.' It doesn't feel like that in New South Wales, let me tell you. It doesn't feel like that for businesses in New South Wales.

AstraZeneca can protect you—

Senator Hughes interjecting—

Senator Duniam interjecting—

Who's playing the blame game? Do you really want to ask that question? Accept responsibility. Accept responsibility for the decisions of your government.

AstraZeneca can protect you from the virus. AstraZeneca is the reason that 75 per cent of the UK is vaccinated, and they are returning to normal life as they knew it before the vaccines were rolled out there. The head of the TGA only yesterday said that AstraZeneca has saved dozens of lives every single day since the pandemic started. But Mr Morrison's comments, his embroidery, his profuse language, his hours in front of a microphone have contributed to the confusion and the vaccine hesitancy, the vaccine complacency, across the nation. When he was called out on it, instead of saying, 'Actually, I did get that wrong,' he chose instead to blame. Who did he blame? He blamed the scientists and ATAGI. Mr Morrison actually went to the highest institute in terms of determining what is safe and blamed them, rather than accepting his own responsibility.

Instead of appropriately communicating the risks of AstraZeneca, Prime Minister Morrison blamed ATAGI, Australia's top advisory body on immunisation, and tried to bully them into changing their advice on its risk and blame them for the glacial speed of the rollout. This is despite their role being to provide advice, because it's ultimately up to the federal government, run by you know who, to implement that advice. It is the fault of no-one but the Prime Minister.

Senator Hughes interjecting—

If you want to call him Voldemort—I'll take that interjection, Senator Hughes—go right ahead! He's the man who won't be named, the man who won't take responsibility for anything. Instead of responsibly securing a supply of Pfizer, like Israel, the United States and France, Mr Morrison went cheap, and then he botched the negotiations with Pfizer and then blamed them for the lack of supply. The Prime Minister fatefully said, 'We're not in a race.' Now there is no Australian who can forgive that critical moment, that moment of failure to be a leader, when Mr Morrison decided to say we weren't in a race. He lacks vision for this country. He lacks leadership. He lacks the capacity to own his mistakes. He is a morally flawed individual who is actually putting the whole country at risk through those failures of character.

Senior business leaders around the country had to turn to former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to fix the appalling mess after Mr Morrison completely botched the negotiations. Mr Morrison, according to Pfizer, displayed a 'rude, dismissive and penny-pinching' approach in the negotiations, and he only got 10 million doses, and that was four months after other countries had got theirs. He was offered 40 million doses of Pfizer. Australians, remember that: forty million doses was the offer that Mr Morrison got last June. And, if he had led properly, if he'd taken facts into the decision-making instead of his own hubris, we might not be suffering the lockdown in New South Wales that we are suffering now. The Prime Minister is directly responsible for the shortage of Pfizer. But to hear him tell it, it's everyone else's fault but his.

Not content with fighting with Pfizer, though, Mr Morrison then blamed the European Union for not delivering them and AstraZeneca for not shipping three million vaccines on the delayed rollout, which the EU pointed out was actually only a number of 250,000 doses. Everywhere you look in Mr Morrison's comments there are falsehoods, there are self-congratulatory explanations and there is deflection onto anyone else who he thinks should bear the blame. 'Anybody but me,' says Mr Morrison, day in and day out. 'Blame anybody but me.' Yet he is the Prime Minister of Australia. This is happening on his watch. This disaster is happening on Mr Morrison's watch and he is failing the country every single day.


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