It has taken me some time for the penny to drop in the cosying up of the Prime Minister to the State Premiers, for I kept thinking what does Scott Morrison gain in continuing to provide protection for the worst of state government excess imaginable who have continued to undermine his position throughout most of the pandemic?
Then I recalled how politically burnt to a cinder Morrison was looking mid year because of the “slow vaccine roll out,” which Sally McManus cuttingly called a “stroll out.” Morrison’s electoral chances would not be good, if that stroll-out did not quickly become a stampede. Taking a look at Federal-State relations meant realising that while the Feds have the money, the States have most of the infrastructure, both legal and physical, to solve any logistical headache. This means that for the vaccine roll out to succeed, the States are absolutely necessary. Without the States and that mafia-like contingent of <strike>second</strike> third rate premiers, there could be no efficient jabbing of arms. However, there was one more factor required to draw this mRNA and Viral Vector vaccine sausage-making factory together; enter Lieutenant General John Frewen as <em>Vaccine Supremo</em> (h/t Yes Minister).
When Lieutenant General Frewen took over the vaccine roll out everything ramped up, including the belligerence of the States in creating Health Orders designed to bludgeon citizens to get jabbed. Simultaneously, Frewen counter-balanced this heavy hand with jingly marketing ploys for the more delicate sensibilities – most notably in the <em>Arm yourself</em> campaign stuff and how important the vaccines were for the individual’s, their family’s and the community’s health and all undergirded by the continuing necessity of face nappies to ensure ongoing fear, compliance AND in-crowd status messaging. What in fact this is, is a classic “good cop, bad cop,” scenario with General Frewen in the role of the former and the states playing the latter.
In NSW, mid year, Gladys Berejiklian went the 180 and closed down most of western and south-western Sydney as well as the construction sector completely for two whole weeks, after saying time and again that “cases didn’t matter, it’s all about hospitalisations.” Later, Victoria, Western Australia, and QLD, ramped up compliance with Health Order mandates for vaccine take-up for entire business sectors. Even the Federal Government assisted the exercise by signalling to business to deny access to their premises under property laws to the unvaccinated, including their own workers, or those who were unwilling to reveal private medical information to a third party.
All of these factors together enabled the PM to continue to proclaim that the government does not mandate jabs, even while mandates for vaccinations revved up and continued without delay all around the country. The PM’s positioning here could be understood as not just a sop for the more naïve of conservative voters, purist States’ Righters in the Coalition who presumably are less interested in the rights of the individual and more interested in invisible lines on a map, but also those constitutionalists who would be concerned about S51 and the mandating of vaccinations.
And the payoff? Well, the State Premiers moved up the pecking order to <em>National Cabinet</em> status with all that national media attention, which has further cemented their positions in their parties and as the saviours of their residents. And for the PM, his aim to shake off the Opposition’s and others’ claims that he was too slow to get the nation vaccinated. “Look at that dynamo, General Frewen go, will ya?” says the PM as he adjusts his <em>Let’s go <strike>Brandon</strike> Morrison</em> aviator sunnies. It remains to be seen, however, whether his strategy has worked. Never mind that to save his political skin he’s thoroughly shafted the nation in the racking up of massive debt. But more importantly in a free country, the damage he and his government has inflicted on our individual freedoms, especially the right to informed consent and bodily integrity, both have become sacrificial lambs to political expediency.