Morrison battles to get hardline premiers to accept the inevitable spread of COVID


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraAustralia’s road out of the pandemic has descended into political acrimony and confusion, as Scott Morrison pushes back against the reluctance of some states to accept they will have to live with COVID in their populations.

Morrison on Monday again insisted the nation must open – start “coming out of the cave” – once vaccination levels reached 70% and 80% of the eligible population.

This would mean accepting a large number of COVID cases in the community but minimising hospitalisations and deaths.

“If not at 70% and 80%, then when?” Morrison said. “We must make that move and … we must prepare the country to make that move. The lockdowns now being endured are taking an extremely heavy toll.”

“We must adjust our mindset. Cases will not be the issue once we get above 70%. Dealing with serious illness, hospitalisation, ICU capabilities, our ability to respond in those circumstances, that will be our goal. And we will live with this virus as we live with other infectious diseases. That’s what the national plan is all about.”

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, whose state has new cases running at more than 800 a day, said it was “completely unrealistic” to believe zero COVID could be sustained with the Delta variant.

But Western Australia’s Mark McGowan said: “Queensland has no cases. Northern Territory has no cases. Western Australia has no case. South Australia and Tasmania have no cases. That’s 40% of the national population. And we’re actually quite happy with that.

“So I think there’s a lot of self-serving justification going on by the New South Wales government because of their performance.”

Morrison is trying to hold states to national cabinet’s plan, agreed by all governments, which provides that when vaccination reached 80% (nationally and in the state or territory) lockdowns would be extremely rare and specific.

But WA and Queensland have made it clear they will make their own decisions about opening to other parts of the country even when high vaccination levels are reached.

The Prime Minister told parliament the Doherty Institute had confirmed over the weekend that its modelling on the vaccination levels held regardless of the case numbers in the community at the start.

The Doherty modelling assumed a very few COVID numbers as its starting point.

The institute’s director, Sharon Lewin, on Monday said opening up with more than the small number of cases didn’t change the trajectory of the modelling, although it would affect the timing.

“The most important message from the modelling, is that once we move to Phase B, when we have 70% vaccination and then to Phase C with 80% vaccination, we no longer have zero COVID as a goal,” she said.

“If you open up with more cases, you reach that peak [of cases] quicker and you have a greater load on your public health system. …The outcome is the same. The load on the public health system is higher when you open up with hundreds of cases.”

In a Monday night statement the institute said: “Once we reach 70% vaccine coverage, opening up at tens or hundreds of cases nationally per day is possible, however, we will need vigilant public health interventions with higher case loads”.

It said that while it might seem the “test, trace, isolate and quarantine” measures were not currently working in NSW or Victoria, in fact they were. “They are stopping transmissions and reducing the effective reproduction rate.

“These measures will become more effective with more people vaccinated as vaccines also contribute to stopping transmission.

“We need to keep suppressing COVID-19 through public health measures while we work towards 70%-80% vaccination across the country. This will ensure we continue to keep the level of hospitalisations and deaths as low as possible to protect the community and prevent our healthcare system from becoming overrun.”

The institute said the team of modellers from across Australia which it was leading was “now working through the implementation issues specific to the states and territories, specific populations and high risk settings”.

Drawing on its modelling the institute said: “In an average year of influenza, we would roughly have 600 deaths and 200,000 cases in Australia.

“In the COVID-19 modelling, opening up at 70% vaccine coverage of the adult population with partial public health measures, we predict 385,983 symptomatic cases and 1,457 deaths over six months. With optimal public health measures (and no lockdowns), this can be significantly reduced to 2,737 infections and 13 deaths.”

McGowan said the national cabinet plan allowed for lockdowns at 70% and 80% two-dose vaccination levels. “It’s in black and white. People should read the plan.”

“My view is we should do everything we can to stay in the state we are currently in, and at the same time vaccinate like hell.

“I think that’s the majority view here and in the states without Covid cases. And in Victoria and the ACT, which are trying to eliminate it as we speak,” McGowan said.

National cabinet on Friday is due to consider the health advice on vaccinating young people 12-15, with the federal government’s aiming for that to be done this year.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coalition gains in federal Resolve poll, but Labor increases lead in Victoria


AAP/Mick Tsikas

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneA Resolve poll for Nine newspapers, conducted August 17-21 from a sample of 1,607, gave the Coalition 40% of the primary vote (up two since August), Labor 32% (down three), the Greens 12% (steady), One Nation 2% (down two) and independents 10% (up three).

Resolve is not publishing a two party estimate, but analyst Kevin Bonham
estimated a 50-50 tie, a two-point gain for the Coalition since July. Given the continuing COVID lockdowns in NSW and Victoria, this poll is bad for Labor.

The last Newspoll in early August was 53-47 to Labor, and the last Morgan, in early to mid-August, was 54-46. Either there has been a shift back to the Coalition in the last week or so, or this poll is an outlier. There should be a Newspoll on Sunday night.

A plausible reason for a Coalition rebound is that the vaccination rollout pace has increased, particularly in NSW. In the UK, once there was some good news on vaccinations early this year, the Conservatives went from a near-tie to a high single digit lead that they have not yielded. The Coalition is also pushing for an end to the lockdowns once vaccination rates are above 70%.

Criticisms of Resolve poll

The Resolve poll can be criticised for only giving primary votes and not a two party estimate. While two party figures can be calculated from the primary votes by analysts, the media will focus on the primary votes. Australia uses preferential voting, not first past the post. Resolve should conform to our electoral system.

Another criticism is the very high vote for independents (10% in this poll). At the 2019 federal election, independents won 3.4% of the vote. With Resolve offering independent as an option in all seats, voters who are unsure who they will vote for are likely to park their votes with independents.




Read more:
Craig Kelly’s move to Palmer’s United Australia Party shows the need for urgent electoral law reform


Other results from this poll

46% thought Scott Morrison’s performance in recent weeks was good and 46% poor. After rounding, his net rating was -1, unchanged since July. Anthony Albanese’s net rating dropped three points to -19. Morrison led Albanese by 46-23 as preferred PM (45-24 in July).

The Liberals and Morrison led Labor and Albanese by 44-19 on economic management (41-25 in July). On COVID, the Liberals led by 37-22 (37-25 previously). This is the biggest Liberal lead on the economy since May.

By 62-24, voters wanted political leaders to stick to a national cabinet deal to ease COVID restrictions once vaccinations reach 70% and 80% targets of all Australians aged over 16. By 54-27, voters did not think we would be able to completely suppress the virus again. 12% (down nine since July and down 17 since May) said they were unlikely to get vaccinated.

Essential and Morgan polls

In last week’s Essential poll, 8% (down three since early August) said they’d never get vaccinated, and a further 24% (down one) said they’d get vaccinated, but not straight away. By 75-10, voters supported mandatory vaccination for workers in occupations with high COVID transmission risks, such as hospitals and education.

The federal government had a 41-35 good rating for its response to COVID, up from 38-35 good in early August, but down from 58-18 in late May, before any lockdowns.

The NSW government’s response was rated good by 42%, down five from early August and 27 since early June. Despite the current lockdown, the Victorian government’s good rating rose two points to 56%. Queensland and WA have been rewarded for keeping COVID out, with Queensland’s good rating up six to 66% and WA’s up five to 87%.

A Morgan poll, conducted August 7-8 and 14-15 from a sample of over 2,700, gave Labor a 54-46 lead, a 0.5% gain for Labor since late July. Primary votes were 37.5% Coalition (up 0.5%), 37.5% Labor (up 0.5%), 12.5% Greens (steady) and 3.5% One Nation (up 0.5%).

Victorian Labor increases lead in Resolve poll

In a Victorian state Resolve poll for The Age, Labor had 40% of the primary vote (up three since June), the Coalition 35% (down one), the Greens 10% (up one) and independents 9% (down three). Bonham estimated a 56-44 Labor lead after preferences, a two-point gain for Labor.

This poll would have been conducted with the federal July and August Resolve polls from a sample of 1,106. Incumbent Daniel Andrews led Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien by 50-24 as preferred premier (49-23 in June).

Labor’s increased lead in Victoria comes despite strict lockdowns that have still failed to contain the current Delta outbreak of COVID. It appears voters will support lockdowns until we reach the 70% fully vaccinated target.

However, the 62-24 national support for easing restrictions once vaccination targets are met indicates the federal government is on a winner with this strategy.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Achieving vaccine targets could be followed by a (pre-election) health ‘pinch point’


Biden’s ratings slump after Afghanistan withdrawal

I wrote for The Poll Bludger on Monday that US President Joe Biden’s ratings have slumped after the Afghanistan withdrawal. In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, his ratings are now 47.6% approve, 46.9% disapprove (net just +0.7%). Biden had a +10 net rating in late July and +6 before Afghanistan.

Also covered: Canadian PM Justin Trudeau calls an election for September 20, two years early. And the Social Democrats surge in Germany, ahead of the September 26 election.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Grattan on Friday: As COVID’s third wave worsens, Scott Morrison pivots to the future


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraJosh Frydenberg is Scott Morrison’s house guest at The Lodge – sharing, in Canberra’s lockdown, microwaved meals and watching “Yes, Prime Minister”.

As he recounted domestic life with Scott, the treasurer was inevitably asked whether he’d measured up the curtains.

Among the ministers, Frydenberg and Health Minister Greg Hunt have carried the frontline burdens during the pandemic. For Frydenberg – the biggest-spending federal treasurer in the nation’s history – the experience can be viewed as a test for future leadership.

Although there’ve been mistakes – JobKeeper had design flaws which led to serious waste – he has come through creditably in extraordinary circumstances.

Frydenberg, who is also deputy Liberal leader, has never hidden his ambition and is hungry for the top job. But he is also loyal. Morrison knows that, unlike prime ministerial predecessors Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull, he doesn’t have to look over his shoulder, even in the bad times. Morrison marked three years as PM this week, and there has been no white-anting.

There’s more than one path to the prime ministership for Frydenberg. If Morrison loses the election, Frydenberg would be favourite to become leader of the opposition. But that’s the start of a very rocky road; hard work and high hopes can be dashed, as Bill Shorten found.

An alternative path is to be well placed vis-a-vis your internal competitors and inherit the post when it becomes available, one way or another.

If the Coalition is re-elected next year, would Morrison serve a full term, or is it possible he might leave triumphant after a couple of years, not risking the gamble on a third election “miracle”? Frydenberg knows Morrison’s moving on in a smooth transition would be his best prospect.

The prime minister this week was in full campaign mode for the March or May election and we had a glimpse of the formidable fighter we saw in 2019.

In a week when the NSW government lost control of COVID, the state’s daily new cases rising above 1,000 and hospitals under severe strain, and with Victoria on the brink, Morrison made a dramatic pivot to focus on opening the country.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Achieving vaccine targets could be followed by a (pre-election) health ‘pinch point’


Embattled NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian was firmly in step, making it clear she’s determined to move when the 70% vaccine target is reached (meanwhile announcing some minor easings).

It seemed incongruous that as the third wave deepened and with only a third of eligible people fully vaccinated, Morrison simply left the bad news behind and headed for the ground on which he wants to stand. In his Thursday news conference, for example, he began by hailing “another day of hope”, based on the latest vaccination numbers.

Morrison, backed by research, judges most voters have had enough of lockdowns and blocked internal travel.

A poll published by Nine this week showed 54% believed Australia could not completely suppress COVID, and more than six in ten favoured opening up once the target vaccination thresholds were reached. In the second year of the pandemic, public opinion appears to have swung from preoccupation with the health response to a strong desire to return to more freedom.

While Morrison pivots when in political trouble, Anthony Albanese this week looked to be lumbering. With the PM accusing the opposition leader of undermining the national cabinet’s exit plan, Albanese knew he had to get himself out of that corner. He stressed support for the plan, but his demeanour was that of a man on the back foot.

The defiant premiers of Queensland and Western Australia are in an easier short-term position. WA’s Mark McGowan, in particular, with his stratospheric popularity, can tell Morrison to go jump, as in effect he did this week. After the PM invoked “The Croods” film to say we must emerge from the cave, McGowan played heavily to West Australians’ parochialism and angst towards the east.

“This morning the prime minister made a comment implying Western Australians were like cave people from a recent kids’ movie. It was an odd thing to say,” McGowan wrote on Facebook. “I think everyone would rather just see the Commonwealth look beyond New South Wales and actually appreciate what life is like here in WA.

“We currently have no restrictions within our State, a great quality of life, and a remarkably strong economy, which is funding the relief efforts in other parts of the country.

“West Aussies just want decisions that consider the circumstances of all States and Territories, not just Sydney.”

Regardless of the national plan to which they agreed, McGowan and Annastacia Pałaszczuk have the constitutional and political authority to handle their states’ transitions as they see fit. But they can’t get away from the fact they’ll have to make the journey, relaxing border restrictions, at some stage.




Read more:
Coalition gains in federal Resolve poll, but Labor increases lead in Victoria


As New Zealand is now finding, a zero-COVID position, however assiduously pursued, seems an impossible dream over the longer term.

Without the sharp motivators of big outbreaks, WA and Queensland have vaccination rates lower than the national average, and health systems that haven’t been stress-tested under maximum COVID pressure. WA, self-sheltered for so long, would be especially vulnerable if there were a big outbreak.

At the national level, one political unknown is what the public reaction will be in the difficult transition period ahead. Will sentiment change again when there are more hospitalisations and deaths as we reopen, albeit with some continuing safeguards?

With the length of the current extensive lockdowns unknown, it is not clear whether by election time we’ll have had, or have escaped, another recession. We know this September quarter will be negative but the December quarter could go either way.

Two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth (the economy shrinking) is taken in technical terms to be a recession. AMP economist Shane Oliver says there is a 45% chance of negative growth in the June-quarter figures, which will be released next Wednesday. If that happened a recession would be certain.

At the election the economy and fiscal policy will be central issues. If we are as “open” as the prime minister foreshadows, the government will need to have plans for when and how it would start fiscal repair.

For Morrison and Frydenberg, this will be another pivot point. Many will be watching carefully how much agility the treasurer can show.




Read more:
Politics with Michelle Grattan: Doherty’s Sharon Lewin on pivoting from chasing COVID zero


The Conversation


Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Grattan on Friday: The compassion quotient in Morrison’s Afghan response needs a boost


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraPrime Minister Scott Morrison this week pointed to the government’s closure of Australia’s embassy in Afghanistan in May as a good decision for which he had been criticised.

More credibly, it was a bad decision, on principle but also very likely for practical reasons.

The scramble by Western countries to evacuate their nationals and Afghans who had assisted them was always destined to be chaotic.

But it is possible, if we had retained a small contingent of embassy staff in place to the end, we might have been able to process the Afghans more efficiently, thus smoothing — even slightly — the exit.

When shutting the embassy, the government emphasised the security danger. That could have been minimised, as some other countries did. Anyway, diplomats should be the last to turn off the lights, not the first.




Read more:
Owning up: Australia must admit its involvement in Afghanistan has been an abject failure


The Morrison government’s slowness in processing the Afghans helpers has left it open to the criticism of “too little too late” (inevitably it was likened to the vaccine rollout).

Viewed broadly, its reaction to the Taliban takeover has found the government scoring relatively low on the compassion meter, and relatively high on that measuring risk avoidance. And keeping an eye on the politics.

The crisis has put three cohorts of Afghans in the spotlight – the former interpreters and others who assisted the Australians; people offshore (in Afghanistan or elsewhere) who will seek entry as refugees; and those in Australia on temporary protection visas (TPVs) who arrived by boat.

The government says 430 former local staff and their family members have been brought out since April (before the current evacuation). But there are more former helpers to come.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton is particularly concerned with risk minimisation in the assessment process.

Dutton told the ABC’s Patricia Karvelas, “You and many other journalists would be screaming down the line at me if one person was brought in that committed an atrocity in our country”.

Dutton is highly attuned to security issues; he also probably has in mind the Coalition base.

Nobody denies there must be stringent vetting. In some cases, people who assisted Australia later changed allegiance – that’s the nature of Afghanistan. Obviously they don’t get through.

But while all reasonable care has to be taken, it is impossible – realistically – to avoid a small element of risk (on a strict no-risk principle, many people would never be let out of our gaols).

A number of Australian veterans who served in Afghanistan have been vocal about doing the right thing by the interpreters. Given how solicitous it is of the veterans community, criticism from them — which is also mixed with their wider critiques of the war and the withdrawal – is uncomfortable for the government.

Separate from the evacuation of Afghans, the government announced Australia will take 3,000 refugees this financial year, while anticipating the number would be higher.

The modest figure was immediately (to Morrison’s annoyance) set against the ambition of countries such as Canada, which has pledged to accept 20,000. Then there were comparisons with the performance of former prime ministers (Fraser, 55,000 Vietnamese refugees; Hawke 42,000 Chinese students after the Tiananmen Square massacre; Abbott, 12,000 Syrians after the civil war).




Read more:
The Taliban wants the world’s trust. To achieve this, it will need to make some difficult choices


Moreover, the government said Afghans would be accommodated within Australia’s 13,750 annual humanitarian program (which, incidentally, has a lot of spare capacity due to COVID). So the bottom line was substitution – more Afghan refugees and fewer refugees from some other places.

It was quickly clear demand for places would be strong. Andrew Hastie, assistant minister for defence who fought with the SAS in Afghanistan, said his office had been “deluged over the last four or five days with requests. I know other MPs and senators across the country are having the same experience.”

After a meeting with Afghan community leaders on Thursday Morrison, who’s under pressure to do more, said: “We see that as a floor, not a ceiling, so we think we can achieve more than three. If the overall program has to be expanded[…] it will be.

“Our humanitarian program runs every single year, and I foresee […] the Afghan cohort in our humanitarian program having a very strong presence in years to come.”

Both the refugees and evacuees will have permanent residency, which brings a secure future as well as the opportunity to sponsor the arrival of family members.

Access to family reunion is a right the Afghans living here on TPVs don’t have (although their family members will be able to apply for the dedicated refugee intake).

All but a handful of the more than 4,500 Afghans on TPVs came here by boat, many years ago. The current crisis has prompted calls for them to be given permanent settlement.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said: “We need to give them the certainty of Australian citizenship on a permanent basis, rather than some pretence that somehow their circumstances are temporary. They are not. And they need to be given that security.”

But Morrison is adamant. They did not come “the right way”, and affording them permanent status would breach the government’s border control policy.

“I want to be very clear about that. I want to send a very clear message to people smugglers in the region that nothing’s changed,” he said on Wednesday. “I will not give you a product to sell and take advantage of people’s misery. My government won’t do it. We never have and we never will.”

It’s a trade-off of risk and politics on one hand versus compassion on the other. There is no possibility these people will ever be repatriated to Afghanistan. Would giving them permanency really set off the people smugglers? Even if there was any attempt to test the border, we know the navy has capability to deal with that.

The political element is obvious. Labor has always been vulnerable on the border protection issue, and Albanese has given possible ammunition to the government. The Coalition would have to be careful using it, however, when there is a lot of public sympathy for the Afghans.

On the government’s policy, these Afghans who have become members of the Australian community, many of them working in occupations where labour is in demand, are forever to be denied the assurance about their futures that permanent residency brings. They deserve better.

In this Afghanistan moment – which is one of reflection and regret for the failure of the allies’ aspirations for that nation – we show the world what sort of country we are. We should display a more generous character.




Read more:
Afghan refugees can no longer wait — Australia must offer permanent protection now


The Conversation


Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

No permanent settlement for Afghans who did not come ‘the right way’: Morrison


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraScott Morrison has said Afghans in Australia on temporary protection visas who came by boat will not be given permanent residence.

These people had not come “the right way”, Morrison told a news conference on Wednesday.

“I want to be very clear about that. I want to send a very clear message to people smugglers in the region that nothing’s changed.

“I will not give you a product to sell and take advantage of people’s misery. My government won’t do it. We never have and we never will.”

Government sources say there are more than 4500 Afghans in Australia on temporary protection visas, almost all of whom arrived by boat.

Although Morrison is adamant they will not get permanent residency, the government is making it clear there will be no attempt to return them to Afghanistan as things stand.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese is among those who have called for them to be granted permanent residence.

The government announced on Wednesday an initial 3,000 humanitarian places would be allocated to Afghan nationals within Australia’s 13,750 annual program which runs over a financial year.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said the government would give Afghan nationals “first priority” within the offshore humanitarian program. The priorities would be family members of Australians, and those facing persecution including women and girls, the Hazara, and other vulnerable groups.

Some 8,500 Afghans have been resettled in Australia since 2013 under the humanitarian program.

Hawke said the government anticipated the initial allocation would increase further over the course of the year.

Morrison stressed: “We will only be resettling people through our official humanitarian program going through official channels.

“We will not be allowing people to enter Australia illegally, even at this time.

“Our policy has not changed. We will be supporting Afghans who have legitimate claims through our official and legitimate processes. We will not be providing that pathway to those who would seek to come any other way. That is a very important message. The government’s policy has not changed, will not change.”

As the government scrambles to evacuate people who assisted Australian forces in Afghanistan, Australia’s first evacuation flight from Kabul took only 26 people. Morrison said they included Australian citizens, Afghan nationals with visas, and one foreign official who had been working with an international agency.

The Afghans being brought to Australia in the evacuation are not included in the 3000.

Morrison emphasised the difficulty of assessing those Afghans seeking to come to Australia on the grounds of having helped Australian forces.

“They may have worked for us four years ago or five years ago. And we knew where they were then.

“And we may not have heard from them for a very long time. And we don’t know what they’ve been doing in that intervening period in what has been a very unstable situation.

“So it isn’t just a matter of people coming along and presenting, you know, a payslip from the Australian government saying, ‘I used to work for you’. I wish it were that simple.”

The Refugee Council of Australia said in a statement: “Permanent protection is needed for the 4300 Afghans on temporary protection visas, recognising that members of this group are unlikely to be able to return in safety for many years to come and need the assurance that they can continue to live in Australia without the constant fear of forced return.”The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

First negative Newspoll rating for Morrison since start of pandemic; 47% of unvaccinated would take Pfizer but not AstraZeneca


AAP/Lukas Coch

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneThis week’s Newspoll, conducted August 4-7 from a sample of 1,527, gave Labor a 53-47 lead, unchanged from three weeks ago. Primary votes were 39% Coalition (steady), 39% Labor (steady), 11% Greens (up one) and 3% One Nation (steady). Figures are from The Poll Bludger.

49% were dissatisfied with Scott Morrison’s performance (up four), and 47% were satisfied (down four), for a net approval of -2, down eight points. This is Morrison’s first negative rating since the start of the COVID pandemic in April 2020. Analyst Kevin Bonham said Morrison had the fourth longest streak of positive Newspoll ratings for a PM.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s net approval was steady at -8. Morrison’s better PM lead narrowed from 51-33 to 49-36.

Newspoll’s COVID questions continued to show declines for Morrison. On overall handling of COVID, he has a 49-48 poor rating (52-45 good three weeks ago and 70-27 good in April). The vaccine rollout had a 59-38 disapproval rating (57-40 three weeks ago, 53-43 approval in April).

With Sydney in an extended lockdown that is likely to last until vaccination rates are high, and current and recent lockdowns in Melbourne and south-east Queensland, people have become frustrated with the slow vaccination rollout.

But the next election is not required until May 2022. Vaccination levels will very likely be high enough by then to reopen. While the economy will be damaged by the lockdowns, past experience in Australia and overseas shows that the economy will recover quickly once the lockdowns end.




Read more:
Labor gains clear Newspoll lead during Sydney lockdown, but will the economy save the Coalition?


The Guardian’s datablog shows 17.8% of Australia’s population is fully vaccinated, while 17.5% has received just one dose (this means 35% have had either one or two doses). Among OECD countries, we currently rank 35 of 38 in our fully vaccinated share. We were last a month ago, but have overtaken South Korea, New Zealand and Costa Rica.

47% of unvaccinated in Essential would take Pfizer but not AstraZeneca

In last week’s Essential poll, 47% of those who have not yet been vaccinated said they would be willing to get the Pfizer vaccine, but not AstraZeneca.

About one in a million people who receive AstraZeneca die from a blood clot issue. Alarmism from the media and health authorities has tainted an effective COVID vaccine. Australians’ reluctance to get AstraZeneca has impaired the vaccination rollout.

ATAGI’s June recommendation that only those aged over 60 be vaccinated with AstraZeneca, and Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young’s attacks on AstraZeneca have been particularly unfortunate. It took until late July for ATAGI to change its advice on AstraZeneca, and then only for those in Sydney.

By contrast, the UK has vaccinated most of its adult population using AstraZeneca, and AstraZeneca creator, Sarah Gilbert, received a standing ovation at Wimbledon.

Other Essential questions and Morgan poll

In other Essential questions, 50% approved of Morrison’s performance (down one since July), and 40% disapproved (steady), for a net approval of +10. But Albanese’s net approval slumped ten points to -4. Morrison led Albanese by 45-26 as better PM (46-28 in July).

While Morrison’s ratings were stable, the federal government’s response to COVID was rated as good by just a 38-35 margin (46-31 good in mid-July, and 58-18 in late May, before the current lockdowns began).

The NSW government’s response to COVID was rated good by 47% (down seven), the Victorian government’s by 54% (up five), and South Australia’s by 73% (up five). This poll was taken before the new Victorian lockdown.

50% of NSW respondents thought NSW did not lock down hard enough, with 39% believing it to be about the right level and 11% too harsh. For Victoria, responses were 71% about right, 23% too harsh and 6% not hard enough.

By 66-11, voters supported the return of JobKeeper to assist people and businesses affected by lockdowns. By 67-18, voters opposed the recent anti-lockdown protests in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

A Morgan federal poll, conducted July 24-25 and July 31-August 1 from a sample of over 2,700, gave Labor a 53.5-46.5 lead, a 1% gain for Labor since mid-July. Primary votes were 37% Coalition (down two), 37% Labor (steady), 12.5% Greens (up one) and 3% One Nation (steady).

Federal redistribution finalised

Draft federal electoral boundaries for Victoria and WA were released in March, with Victoria gaining a seat, while WA lost one. Final boundaries were gazetted by August 2, and will be used at the next election.




Read more:
Morrison’s ratings take a hit in Newspoll as Coalition notionally loses a seat in redistribution


The WA seat axed was Liberal-held Stirling, while the new Victorian seat of Hawke will be safe for Labor. No other seat changed its notional holder. Ignoring Craig Kelly’s defection, the Coalition notionally starts the next election with 76 of the 151 seats and Labor 69.

ABC election analyst Antony Green has published a post-redistribution pendulum. Labor lost the two party vote by 51.5-48.5 in 2019. For the Coalition to lose its majority, a net loss of one seat is required, a 0.4% swing to Labor under the uniform swing assumption.

For Labor to win more seats than the Coalition, they would need four more net seats for a 73-72 seat lead. That’s a 3.1% swing (51.6% two party to Labor). A Labor majority needs a net seven gains (3.3% swing or 51.8% two party).

Swings are never uniform, but the pendulum suggests that Labor will need a bit more than 50% two party to oust the Coalition. I wrote about Labor’s problems after the last election.




Read more:
Difficult for Labor to win in 2022 using new pendulum, plus Senate and House preference flows


UK COVID data two weeks after “Freedom Day”

July 19 was “Freedom Day” in England, when virtually all remaining COVID restrictions were relaxed. I had an article for The Poll Bludger on August 2, two weeks after Freedom Day. Almost 89% of UK adults have received at least one vaccine dose and over 74% are fully vaccinated. About 95% of English aged over 55 are fully vaccinated.

New UK COVID daily cases were over 54,000 on July 17, two days before Freedom Day, and were predicted to surge to over 100,000. But instead they declined to under 22,000 last Monday, though they have risen back to 27,400 Sunday. Average daily deaths are 86, way short of the horrific January peak of over 1,200.

German polling ahead of the September 26 federal election, and Biden’s ratings and US COVID data were also covered in the article.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Vaccination rate needs to hit 70% to trigger easing of restrictions


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraSeven in ten people aged 16 and over will need to be fully vaccinated for COVID restrictions to begin to be eased, under targets agreed in principle by national cabinet on Friday.

Further relaxation and opening beyond that, including a near end to lockdowns, will require 80% of those eligible to have had two doses.

At present the proportion of people 16 and over fully vaccinated is 18.24%, while nearly 40% have had a single dose.

Each targets is dual – it must be met at both the national level and in the particular state or territory. Scott Morrison described it as a “two key process”.

Announcing the targets on Friday night, Morrison said no timeline has been attached to them.

But he believed the 70% target could be reached by the end of the year.

“There will certainly be the supply and the distribution and the opportunity to do that. But whether that is achieved is up to all of us.”

The long-awaited numbers have been attached to the four-phase re-opening plan previously endorsed in principle by the national cabinet.

In the current phase, the objective is to suppress COVID, including by tough lockdowns.

The second “transition” phase, triggered by the 70% vaccination levels, seeks to minimise severe illness, hospitalisation and deaths with low level restrictions.

In this phase, lockdowns would still be possible but less likely.

Restrictions would be eased on vaccinated residents. Morrison said this was “because if you’re vaccinated, you present less of a public health risk.

“You are less likely to get the virus. You are less likely to transmit it.” But the detail of how this would operate is still to be worked out.

The third “consolidation” phase – triggered by the 80% threshold – would have only highly targeted lockdowns, such as for vulnerable communities, and would exempt vaccinated residents from all domestic restrictions.

In the final phase, COVID would be treated like other infectious diseases.

The targets follow modelling from the Doherty Institute and work by Treasury.

They come as the latest tally of cases in Sydney, where the lockdown has been extended by one month, was 170 new community cases.

Amid calls for the NSW government to impose an even tougher lockdown, Morrison said it had been agreed “under this plan, no state or territory is required to increase the restrictions beyond where they are right now.”

Morrison said in the suppression phase, “going
hard early” with lockdowns “ultimately results in less cost on the economy”.

But in phase B “then the calculus does change and lockdowns do cost a lot”.

After the announcement crossbench MP Craig Kelly, who was formerly in the Liberal party, lashed out on Twitter, claiming constitutional freedoms were being violated and declaring “WE MUST FIGHT THIS”. The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

View from The Hill: Morrison shakes money tree again in bid to avoid second recession


BlueSnap/Shutterstock

Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraAs NSW on Wednesday extended its lockdown for another month and the federal government shelled out more money, it was as if we were back in 2020 and Victoria’s long incarceration.

Thankfully, one big difference is that the Sydney outbreak, where the latest figure is 177 new locally acquired cases, hasn’t had (at least so far) a high death rate.

Some deaths are occurring, including a woman in her 30s, but the nursing homes now seem substantially protected, although there remains concern immunisation of aged care workers has a long way to go.

In its latest funding, the federal government has resisted calls for the reinstatement of JobKeeper, but there is help for both individuals and businesses.

Scott Morrison announced the maximum COVID disaster payment for workers who lose hours would rise from $600 to a maximum of $750 (the original JobKeeper level). There will also be $200 for people on welfare payments who lose more than eight hours work.

The Prime Minister argued JobKeeper did not have the flexibility now required.

JobKeeper was “not the right solution for the problems we have now,” he told his news conference (held at The Lodge, where he’s isolating, with reporters clutching umbrellas).



“What we are doing now is faster [paying the money direct to workers rather than through the employers], it’s more effective, it’s more targeted, it’s getting help where it is needed
far more quickly.

“We’re not dealing with a pandemic outbreak across
the whole country.

“What we need now is the focused effort on where the need is right now. And so it can be turned on and off to the extent that we have outbreaks.

“JobKeeper was a great scheme. But you don’t play last year’s grand final this year. You deal with this year’s challenges.”

The cost of boosting the disaster payment and the welfare top up will depend on how long the NSW lockdown lasts – and what other (if any) future lockdowns occur there or elsewhere.



Under an expanded package for businesses hit by the NSW restrictions, more businesses will be covered, with the maximum turnover threshold increased from $50 million to $250 million.

Those eligible – including not-for-profits – will be able to receive $1,500 to $100,000 a week (compared to $1500 to $10,000 previously).

The government says up to an extra 1,900 businesses employing about 300,000 people could benefit from the widening of eligibility.

The total cost of the NSW package – funded on a 50-50 split with the state – is $600 million a week, up from $500 million in the previous package.

Morrison said Commonwealth support to NSW amounted to $750 million a week.

There is also a new joint federal-state package (funded on a 50-50 basis) to give Victorian small and medium businesses extra support to recover from the recent lockdown. This will total an extra $400 million.



On the vaccine front the NSW government, having failed to get more Pfizer from other states, has decided to divert some Pfizer doses from regional areas to inoculate Year 12 students in the COVID hot spots.

These students will be able to return to face to face learning on August 16.

We’ve yet to see how the reallocation decision will go down in the regions.

Morrison was upbeat in predicting Australia’s economy would bounce back strongly from the lockdown, as it did after the earlier dive. It’s crystal ball territory. The September quarter is set to be negative. The December quarter result is unforeseeable.




Read more:
Now that Australia’s inflation rate is 3.8%, is it time to worry?


Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said what happens in the December quarter, “will largely depend on how successful NSW is in getting on top of this virus.”

The government is trying to judge what it will take to keep the economy out of a second recession, which would likely kill many businesses that just managed to hold on through the earlier one.

A second recession would inflict a major hit on the government politically, just before an election that must be held by May.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Labor wouldn’t disturb tax cuts, negative gearing in ‘small target’ strategy


A poll done by Utting Research in NSW on Monday underlines the message of other polls: COVID currently is taking serious skin off the PM. Only 37% were satisfied with the job he is doing handling the COVID crisis; 51% were dissatisfied.

Morrison said on Wednesday: “I would expect by Christmas we will be seeing a very different Australia to what we’re seeing now”.

He knows if we don’t, he could be in dire straits.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Barnaby Joyce scores dismal ratings in Resolve poll, while Berejiklian government easily in front despite NSW lockdown


Mick Tsikas/AAP

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneIn the latest Resolve poll for Nine newspapers, the Coalition had 38% of the primary vote (down two since June), Labor 35% (down one), the Greens 12% (up two) and One Nation 4% (up one).

This is based on a sample of 1,607, conducted from July 13 to July 17.

Two party estimates are not provided by Resolve, but The Poll Bludger estimates 51.5-48.5 to Labor from these primary votes, which is a one-point gain for Labor.

Negative ratings for Joyce, Morrison and Albanese

Of those surveyed, 45% said they had a negative view of Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. Just 16% had a positive view, for a net likeability of -29. Former Nationals leader Michael McCormack had a 17% negative, 11% positive rating for a net -6 in June.

This poll suggests the ousting of McCormack in favour of Joyce could hurt the Coalition, as I wrote about last month.




Read more:
Labor regains Newspoll lead as COVID crisis escalates; is Barnaby Joyce an electoral asset?


Also in the Resolve poll, 46% (up six) gave Prime Minister Scott Morrison a poor rating for his performance in recent weeks and 45% (down three) a good rating. Morrison’s net -1 rating is his first negative rating from any pollster since the COVID pandemic began, though Resolve’s ratings are harsher than other pollsters.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s net rating fell three points to -16. Morrison continued to lead Albanese by 45-24 as preferred prime minister (46-23 in June).

On COVID, voters thought lockdowns and border restrictions should be gradually eased over the coming months as more people are vaccinated by a margin of 54-19%. By 54-19%, they thought fully vaccinated people should be given more freedom, though they believed (45-34%) this should not occur until everyone has had an opportunity to be vaccinated.

On economic management, the Liberals and Morrison led Labor and Albanese by 41-25% in July (43-20% in June). On COVID management, the Liberals led by 37-25% (40-20% previously).

Essential voting intentions, and anti-vaxxer sentiment

The Essential poll no longer publishes voting intentions with each poll. Instead they release them every few months for all polls they conducted during that period. Essential’s voting intentions numbers include undecided voters.

Last week’s Essential report gave Labor a 47-45% lead with 8% undecided. If undecided voters are removed (as other pollsters do), Labor led by 51-49.




Read more:
Labor gains clear Newspoll lead during Sydney lockdown, but will the economy save the Coalition?


This is a slightly different result from early July when Labor led by 48-44 (52-48 without undecided). They have led by two or four points since April. The Poll Bludger said applying last election preferences instead of respondent preferences to the current poll gives Labor above a 52-48 lead,

With the Sydney and Melbourne lockdowns, anti-vaxxer sentiment has dropped. In Essential, 11% (down five from early July) said they’d never get vaccinated, and 27% (down six) said they’d get vaccinated but not straight away. In Resolve, 21% (down eight since May) said they were unlikely to get vaccinated.

The federal government had a 46-31 good rating for response to COVID in Essential, slightly better than 44-30 in early July, but a long way below the 58-18 rating in late May, before the Victorian and NSW outbreaks. 54% (down three) gave the NSW government a good rating.

Morgan poll and BludgerTrack poll aggregate

A Morgan poll, conducted over July 10-11 and 17-18 from a sample of over 2,700, gave Labor a 52.5-47.5 lead, a 2% gain for Labor since mid-June. Primary votes were 39% Coalition (down 2.5%), 37% Labor (up 2.5%), 11.5% Greens (down 0.5%) and 3% One Nation (down 0.5%).

With polls from Newspoll, Resolve, Essential and Morgan, the Poll Bludger’s BludgerTrack aggregate of recent polls has Labor ahead by 52.0-48.0, from primary votes of Coalition 39.8%, Labor 37.3%, Greens 10.7% and One Nation 2.9%. Labor has been gaining during this year.

NSW Coalition retains large lead in Resolve state poll

In a Resolve NSW poll for The Sydney Morning Herald, Berejiklian’s Coalition had 43% of the primary vote (down just one point since May), Labor 28% (steady), the Greens 12% (steady) and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers 1% (down three).

This poll was conducted at the same time as the federal June and July Resolve polls from a sample of 1,100. While the July poll was conducted during Sydney’s lockdown, the June poll
occurred after Jodi McKay was ousted in favour of Chris Minns as Labor leader, owing to a disappointing result in the May 22 Upper Hunter byelection.




Read more:
Coalition has large lead in NSW as Nats easily hold Upper Hunter at byelection


The Sydney Morning Herald’s poll article says the Coalition’s position was worse in July than in June. With NSW’s optional preferential voting, the Coalition would lead by around 55-45 from these primary votes. Incumbent Gladys Berejiklian led Minns as preferred premier by 55-16 (compared to 57-17 vs McKay in May).

In questions on the outbreak (only asked of the July sample), 56% thought Sydney was too slow to go into lockdown and 52% said the government should have been more proactive in urging people to get vaccinated. Almost half (46% agreed) the state has handled the outbreak well.

In Essential, 44% of NSW respondents (down seven since early July) thought NSW had moved at about the right speed to enforce lockdown restrictions. But 44% (up five) thought NSW was too slow, and 12% (up two) too quick.

Other states were unsympathetic to NSW, bringing the national figure to 56% for too slow, 34% for about right and 10% for too quick.

Labor easily holds Stretton at byelection

A state byelection for the Queensland Labor-held seat of Stretton occurred on Saturday. It was caused by the death of the previous member, Duncan Pegg.

With 73% of enrolled voters counted, the ABC’s results currently give Labor a 63.8-36.2 win over the LNP, a mere 1.0% swing to the LNP from the 2020 election. Primary votes are 56.6% Labor (no change), 32.7% LNP (up 2.5%) and 6.5% Greens (down 2.2%). The anti-vaxxer Informed Medical Options Party won just 2.5%.

Parties defending seats at byelections normally suffer from the loss of the previous MP’s personal vote. State Labor has held government since 2015, so this is a good result for them. 62% of Queensland respondents in Essential gave their government a good rating on dealing with COVID.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Morrison government orders Pfizer ‘boosters’, while hoping new ATAGI advice will warm people to AstraZeneca


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraWhile still struggling with a current shortage of Pfizer, the Morrison government announced it has secured 85 million doses of that vaccine for future “booster” shots.

This will be made up of 60 million doses in 2022, and 25 million doses in 2023. Delivery will start in the first quarter of next year.

Scott Morrison said on Sunday this was “prudent future proofing”, although there is still not definitive advice on when boosters will be needed.

Meanwhile the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has liberalised its advice on AstraZeneca.

It said in a statement on Saturday all people aged 18 and over in greater Sydney, including those under 60, “should strongly consider getting vaccinated with any available vaccine including COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca”.

This was on the basis of the increasing risk of COVID and “ongoing constraints” of Pfizer, the advice said.

Last week Scott Morrison said the government was constantly appealing to ATAGI to review its advice on AZ according to the balance of risk. Many people have shied away from AZ, supplies of which are plentiful, after ATAGI’s caution about it for younger people because of rare blood clots.

Asked about some general practioners being reluctant to give AZ to people under 40, Morrison said he certainly hoped GPs “would be very mindful of the ATAGI advice”.

ATAGI is presently considering whether children between 12 and 15 years old should be vaccinated against COVID, with the government expecting advice in mid-August.

As the crisis continues in Sydney, on Sunday NSW reported 141 new locally acquired cases and two deaths, including a woman in her 30s. This followed Saturday’s report of 163 new cases in the previous 24 hours.

Victoria on Sunday reported 11 new local cases, and is on track to end its lockdown soon, as is South Australia.

Morrison again stressed the lockdown was the primary weapon in fighting the Sydney outbreak.

“There’s not an easy way to bring these cases down. And it’s the lockdown that does that work. The vaccines can provide some assistance, but they are not going to end this lockdown. What’s going to end this lockdown is it being effective.”

But NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who tried unsuccessfully to get the vaccination program refocused on south west Sydney, the centre of the outbreak, has a different emphasis. “Please know that what will get us through this outbreak is a combination of our restrictions, but also of more people being vaccinated”.

Morrison has refused to alter the focus, saying this would “interrupt the rhythm of the national vaccine program”.

The federal government has found 50,000 extra Pfizer doses for NSW. Asked where these came from, Morrison said: “There are small variations in supply and delivery, which from time to time may ensure that there’s tens of thousands of doses that might be free at any given time.”

Morrison condemned Saturday’s Sydney anti-lockdown demonstration attended by thousands of people, which saw violence, dozens of people charged, and more being pursued where they can be identified.

He said it was not just selfish. “It was also self-defeating. It achieves no purpose. It will not end the lockdown sooner, it will only risk the lockdowns running further,” he said.

Asked about Queensland Nationals MP George Christensen, who attended a rally in Mackay, Morrison said: “As for other parts of the country that aren’t in lockdown, well, there is such a thing as free speech, and I’m not about to be imposing those sorts of restrictions on people’s free speech”.

Christensen said on Facebook, “Civil disobedience eventually becomes the only response to laws that restrict freedom. This is what we’ve seen in Melbourne today.”

Pressed on this, Morrison said: “The comments I made before related to an event that took place in Queensland where there are no lockdowns”.

The Prime Minister told the Liberal National Party state council in a virtual address on Sunday: “After a difficult start, the vaccine program is now making up lost ground, and quickly”.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.