Vaccination victories only highlight how much is left

This means that the rest of the country will only hit 70 percent very late in October or November at best.

The 80 percent double dose level for those 16 and over is even more elusive: between mid-November and mid-December for most.

NSW, which is hitting the much higher vaccination rates faster than the rest of the country, is partly driven by the reality of the pandemic that galvanizes people to be vaccinated, and partly by the diversion of Pfizer vaccines from elsewhere before larger supplies to the country.

Of course, Pfizer requires a much shorter distance between doses than AstraZeneca.

The political pandemic is playing out

The difference is overall in the fact that Victoria is only 5 percentage points behind NSW in the first doses (84 percent to 89 percent), but still 15 points behind on the second dose (55 percent to 70 percent) and will hit the 70 and 80 percent markers three weeks behind NSW.

The vaccination figures tell the story of how different the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic – and its fallout – is and will increasingly be around the country.

It only raises the political pandemic games.

The prime minister has spent much of the week trying to turn policy on closed state borders and lockdowns, following his announcement last week that international travel will resume next month to states with satisfactory vaccination rates and playing hard on people’s desires to see their dear at christmas.

It was true, he told a Perth interviewer, “that people in Sydney and possibly Melbourne travel to Bali before Christmas, but no one in WA will”.

The rest of the country first hits at best 70 percent before very late October or November.

“I would love it,” he told a Brisbane radio audience whose people “could fly to Brisbane for Christmas.”

But while urging people to get vaccinated and pressuring states to open up as soon as possible, not everything is working as fast in the world of the Prime Minister.

It seems boring to really mention them: a federal integrity commission that does something about climate change is tackling structural problems in the health care system that got infinitely worse from the pandemic.

David Rowe

Federal and state governments fought again this week for health funding, after state and territory health ministers – all of them – wrote to Federal Secretary Greg Hunt last week.

States and territories, they said, were under “untiring strain due to current COVID-19 requirements and the already existing trend of increased hospital activity”.

The issue had been raised with Hunt as early as April.

His response this week was that the federal government already funded 50 percent of the cost of COVID-19 in hospitals under a special agreement reached last year. The Prime Minister’s response was simply to say that this was an attempt at opportunistic political ‘shaking’ of the states at the back of the pandemic, and to suggest that the states’ problems were their own fault.

“The work to be done quite frankly should have been done in the last 18 months,” he said.

The states’ point is that key aspects of the underlying financing agreement expired in June – and its provisions remain just as crucial to getting the system through as the special agreement.

In their letter to Hunt, health ministers acknowledged that the special agreement last year “provided immediate relief and recognition of some” of the issues facing the health system, but that the national health reform agreement “- that is, the underlying federal funding agreement -” is not suitable for responding to ongoing funding regulations and operating in a “steady state” manner.

They argued that the effects of coronavirus — sometimes opposite effects — such as having to keep beds empty pending possible COVID-19 cases and thus lose funding— “have changed the validity and reliability of data to inform price and volume projections under the NHRA ”.

“The potential for increased activity, together with significant price increases, will create an environment that seriously emphasizes the current growth capsule and has immediate consequences for the effective price of care.”

And all of this happened, just like “we are entering the most critical phase of the COVID-19 pandemic for our hospital systems”.

State health ministers say the federal government has not been prepared to address these underlying issues. “They just want to focus on questions about whether there are enough PPEs or fans,” one said this week.

And somehow this seems like a piece with the general way the government is working these days.

A journalist noted at the PM’s press conference this week that there were only a few weeks left of parliament this year, but a very long to-do list.

“You have the National Integrity Commission, you have laws on discrimination on religiosity,” the journalist noted. “Barnaby Joyce added to the to-do list this morning by calling for a crackdown on misinformation on social media. Which of these would you guarantee the government will deliver before the next election?”

The short version of a very long answer was ‘none of the above’.

The PM has actually argued that Gladys Berejiklian’s death was a good argument against a Federal Integrity Commission, at least one in NSW. He suggested this week that the only thing that stood in the way of the good work the government did on a federal body was to get support from other parties in parliament (who all happen to think the government’s proposal is pathetically weak).

Then, of course, there is climate change. We are also told that the government is ‘so close’ to having an attitude – and a policy – for someone (unspecified) to go to the Glasgow summit.

And fair enough, why should it be busy? After all, it’s still three weeks away.

Of course, ‘the work to be done quite frankly should have been done in the last 18 months’. But it has not been. This has not been done for the last eight years with a credible climate change policy or for at least three years with a credible integrity policy.

With only months until a federal election, the political relegation is living well and well in federal politics.

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