Is not saying sorry the responsible thing to do? Ask the PM. | radioinfo

Is not saying sorry the responsible thing to do? Ask the PM.

Thursday 22 July, 2021

Comment from Peter Saxon.

In some circles, Scott Morrison is known as "Scotty from Marketing."

It’s not meant as a compliment. Rather, it suggests that the Prime Minister is all spin and no wash. 
 
A good marketer knows how to connect with consumers. Great radio talent knows how to connect with their listeners. And great politicians know how to connect with voters.
 
Naturally, it's way harder for a politician to connect with everyone above voting age in their electorate – and even harder for a Prime Minister to connect with all of Australia than a marketer or radio announcer targeting a specific audience. Nonetheless, given that every Australian, 18+, has a vote and all votes are equal, if you want to win an election, you’ve got to try to appeal to as many groups and sub-groups as you can. And that means you have to go on a lot of radio stations that target a lot of different demographics which is not the same as appearing on the same stations and simply covering most of the airshifts on those stations.
 
It’s a lesson that John Howard learned the hard way in 2007 when he lost to Kevin Rudd. Whatever you may think of Rudd since he became PM, his performance as a campaigner to become PM, was exemplary. While Howard stuck mainly to his comfort zone in conservative talk radio, Rudd hit all the FM stations, yucking it up with the Crews and Zoos. No on-air stunt was beneath him. 
 
To the average under 40’s Australian voter, the message was simple. ‘Rudd speaks our language. Howard can’t be bothered even to turn up.’ 
 
Scott Morrison is far more nuanced than that. He, at least, knows to turn up. It’s a lesson he learnt while holidaying, incognito, in Hawaii. It was a well-earned holiday he’d long promised to his long-suffering family after a gruelling election year. His holiday had barely begun when the 2019/20 bushfires hit. As he hinted at the time, there was nothing he could have personally done to quell the fires that the experts in the fireys couldn’t have done better. But in the eyes of the voting public, he was AWOL when the country needed him as its leader and consoler-in-chief.
 
Just a month or so later, when it became apparent that the Novel Coronavirus had become a pandemic, with the potential to kill millions worldwide and perhaps tens of thousands in Australia, Morrison was offered a shot at redemption. He took that shot both hands. His approach to handling of the situation, his non-partisan manner, won him the trust of the Australian public and an astronomical 60+ approval rating. 
 
As the saying goes: a week is a long time in politics.
 
With the pandemic all but vanquished in Australia, ‘Scotty, the COVID-19 slayer’ prematurely put his cue in the rack. He, like everyone else, never saw the Delta variation coming. Suddenly, all the good work Morrison and his government had done had come to nought in the court of public opinion – the only opinion that truley matters for a politician.
 
All of a sudden, there was a desperate need to have Australia vaccinated but there was not enough vaccine to go around - at least not in the hurry that the nation required.  Actually, there was plenty of AstraZeneca but not much Pfizer. 
 
Apart from the monumental problems with distribution, it became apparent that the federal, and to an extent some state governments, had totally botched the messaging surrounding vaccines. The advice concerning AstraZeneca changed on a daily basis. At first, it was only for people in high-risk categories, over 60. Then over 50’s should take it rather than risk Covid. It got to a point where everyone, regardless of age should be taking it. Perhaps the truest statement from one epidemiologist was, “the best vaccine is the one that’s available right now.”
 
But that’s not what the punters were hearing. They understood it as a competition between brands. One brand being far superior to the other – with the government pushing the other.
 
In an effort to deflect responsibility, government messaging became, “Ask you GP.” That turned out to be a disaster because GPs were totally divided as to which brand was the better, which only led to more confusion amongst the public.
 
The final nail in AstraZeneca’s coffin came from Queensland's Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young who proclaimed, "I don't want an 18-year-old in Queensland dying from a clotting illness who, if they got COVID, probably wouldn't die.”
 
Way to go, Jeannette! Now the public is totally convinced that the plentiful AZ vaccine is a cheap Chinese built MG whereas the Pfizer is a desirable BMW.

For the record, I've been fully vaccinated with AstraZenecca. And although I experienced a mildish reaction at first, I'm still here to tell the tale and had a negative test 72 hours ago.
 
Anyway, if Mr Morrison hadn’t understood that there was a disconnect between what his government was saying and what the public was hearing, then Monday’s Newspoll published in The Australian (subscription) would have made his predicament crystal clear. Not only has his personal approval rating fallen from 61 to 51 since the start of the year, but if an election were held tomorrow, Labor would romp in. 
 
So, yesterday, into this nightmare scenario, came "Scotty from Marketing" doing a round of radio interviews to sell his government’s achievements. But those achievements were last week’s news. This week it’s about a bungled vaccine rollout and the reasons for it. And radio was ready for him.
 
On his whistle stop tour (that included David Penberthy on Adelaide’s FIVEaa) to ScoMo’s credit, he ventured to go where his conservative predecessors feared to tread, Melbourne’s KIIS101.1 with Jase and PJ. If he was thinking that this would be a pushover, he was in for a rude shock. 
 
Jase Hawkins, on behalf of his listeners wanted to hear an apology from the PM for the botched rollout of the vaccines. He firmly but politely asked the PM, “Can you honestly say to me that the government has taken accountability? 
 
“I have never heard the word ‘sorry’ – ‘guys, you know what, sorry, we did screw it up, but we are getting it right now’.”

 
He kept trying to get anything resembling a mea culpa out of the PM, sayin g at one stage, “I would even take a ‘my bad’.
 
“You say sorry, you admit the problem and we move on. I’m not trying to have a go,” said Hawkins. “I think it is just frustration, we’re in lockdown. Can you just say ‘sorry Jase’? It will make me feel so much better and then I feel like I can move on”.
 
But Morrison wouldn’t have a bar of it. Apologising, by saying, “sorry” isn’t part of a politician’s code. In any case, the politician in him was determined to control the narrative. Hawkins was determined to serve his listeners. The PM should have followed Hawkins' lead. In my opinion, he missed a huge opportunity to connect as a real person, to once more be the caring non-politician of a Prime Minister that brought the country together and governed for all people.



Later, in a TV presser, Morrison said that he takes “responsibility” for the government’s response to COVID, quickly adding that he also takes responsibility for all his positive achievements too such as the low death rates and the financial help his government has provided.
 
In the end, Scott Morrison suffers from the same disconnect that most politicians do. They don’t have near the depth of understanding that a radio presenter such as Jase Hawkins has of their audience. His listeners don’t want to hear what they perceive to be weasel words from a politician like “I take responsibility for my actions,” as a substitute for a simple, heartfelt, “I’m sorry.”


Peter Saxon
 
   


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2 Comments

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IAN WRIGHT
23 July 2021 - 10:32am
Peter, well summarised. On behalf of the Commonwealth Government the PM's "sorry" for numerous mistakes, contradictions and supply delays during the pandemic was justified but late. On the other side of the coin, I'm "sorry" that some media organisations and many of their journalists continually and deliberately go for the juggular. Always needling both State and Federal Governments and their Department Heads, demanding airtight guarantees, definite dates, engaging in crass personal attacks and generally playing politics, during a worldwide health disaster. As for playing politics during an incredibly difficult time, where the population needs to be reassured not alarmed, the Opposition also should say "sorry" for being more negative than positive over the Government's handling of the situation, mistakes and all. I'd like to see the shoe on the other foot......maybe, maybe not. Look, most Politicians (on both sides) are there with the best of intentions to serve the country to the best of their ability. Yes, they make mistakes, just like we ALL do in life. The problem with saying you're "sorry" in politics for something going wrong, is the inane blowback that follows from many, including the media plus the keyboard warriors, who would NEVER take on the job themselves, as they would simply drown, both from the workload and the continual sniping. I'm NOT "sorry" for getting this off my chest and for the record, I normally but NOT ALWAYS vote Liberal, in State and Federal politics. One of the answers to us getting through this, whatever your political persuasion is based on the old Glen Campbell song "Try A Little Kindness". Stay safe and healthy and 'whatever' lay ahead, be grateful we live in Australia !

Anthony The Koala
23 July 2021 - 12:26pm
I wish to comment on the remark made by the Qld Chief Medical Officer and the logistics of distribution and administration of the vaccines as reported in the media.

First, there has been much unjust criticism in the media of the Queensland Chief Medical Officer's ('CMO') remark "..."I don't want an 18-year-old in Queensland dying from a clotting illness who, if they got COVID, probably wouldn't die....”

The CMO may have alluded to a case in Italy of an 18 year old woman who was jabbed with the AZ vaccine then died.
https://www.italy24news.com/News/81148.html
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/10/world/italy-weighs-restricting-astrazeneca-shots-in-younger-people.html
https://www.ruetir.com/2021/06/10/camilla-the-18-year-old-ligurian-vaccinated-with-astrazeneca-dies-ruetir/
https://www.gospanews.net/en/2021/06/13/disturbing-and-mysterious-death-of-18yo-camilla-after-vaccine-astrazenecas-jabs-stopped-in-italy-for-young-people/

So the criticism by the media commentators of the Queensland CMO's remark about an 18 year old dying from blood clots after the administration of the AZ vaccine may well be unwarranted. Thus the notion of an 18 year old dying from the adminstration of the AZ vaccine may well be valid.

Finally, I fully agree with the comments Mr Wright. May I add that the virus is apolitical. A person is infected regardless of what the infected person votes for.

Going back to Mr Wright's comments. At the start of the pandemic, Australia had one of the lowest death rates in the world. There were faults on the administration of lockdown policies with the "Ruby Princess" case in NSW and the deaths of several hundred patients in Victoria in July-August of 2020.

One would have expected that the logistics of planning the distribution of the vaccines would have been organised in late December 2020 such that the administration of the vaccines would be carried by hospitals, GPs, pharmacists and vaccination hubs. It was expected that it would be a smooth transition.

One issue has been the alleged stopping of the Pfizer vaccine by the EU. The EU Ambassador to Australia denies that the EU stopped export of the Pfizer vaccine while the Prime Minister alleges that the EU did stop exports of the Pfizer vaccine.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-04-07/eu-denies-blocked-shipment-over-3-million-vaccines-to-australia/100052134
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-09/european-union-not-block-pfizer-coronavirus-vaccine-australia/13134702

Not having access to the data of Pfizer imports in order to attribute "who is to blame" for the shortage of the Pfizer vaccine, I leave it to the reader.

Clearly the media reports of the way the vaccines have been distributed and adminnistered appears to media consumer as being disorganized. Much of the criticism has been typically "...if the flu shots have been administered by pharmacists and GPs why couldn't the same methods of distribution and administration of the covid vaccines be done the same way?..."

Nevertheless, there was a lack of supply of the Pfizer vaccine.

At the same time the government should have hedged their bets also on ordering approved such as Moderna and yet-to-be-approved vaccines such as Novovax in 2020. The logistics should have taken account of the equipment needed to store the Pfizer vaccines at -70 degrees celsius.

The distribution and administration of vaccines should have been made with co-operation of the Federal and State Governments as well as private enterprise specializing and/or willing to distribute vaccines requiring storage and transport at low temperatures.

The choice of a General from the Military such as Lt. Gen. Frewin is an excellent choice because the Military have extensive training, knowledge and real-life applications of logistics and risk management.

It is the ad-hoc "let's add GPs and Pharmacists now". That should have been planned at the beginning in the same way as flu shots have been planned.

Don't we have a record of how the "Sabin" (polio), tetanus and diptheria vaccines were distributed "in the old days"?

At the same time, despite the ineptness of the distribution and administration of vaccines for want of 'disorganization' by the Federal Government, for many reasons, we should be thankful that we live in Australia.

Thank you,
Anthony of exciting, dynamic, thoughtful Belfield





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