The vaccination situation

Vaccination is, without doubt, our best pathway to move on from the pandemic. So it baffles me, each and every day, as to how the Federal Government has screwed it up so incredibly badly.

I won’t dwell on the AstraZeneca situation because, frankly, as I see it, it’s a perfectly satisfactory and safe vaccine. The conflicting rhetoric from the Federal Government and the media regarding the vaccine has done this country no favours.

I will say just this: if you’re eligible to get it, then do so. You’re four times more likely to be struck by lightning at some point this year than you are to die of a side-effect.[1]

My main concern with the rollout isn’t so much what vaccine we’ve got to offer, it’s the fact that we’ve barely got one to put on offer, and likely won’t until the end of this year.

In early November last year, Scott Morrison loudly and proudly proclaimed that Australia was at the “front of the queue” when it came to vaccinations![2] It made headlines across the nation, and positive news stories for the Coalition.

But, was Morrison’s claim true? I’ll let you be the judge of that.

The graph below illustrates vaccine doses administered per 100 people in OECD countries on the date of this post’s publication. Notably, that Australia’s coming 36th out of the 38 OECD nations. Now look, I don’t know about you, but I ain’t convinced that this is what the front of the queue looks like.

It’s all well and good to suggest that these countries need the vaccine more than us. That they’ve been impacted by COVID more than we have. Even accepting that, I’m still of the view that we should (and could) be doing much better right now.

At present, we’re seeing COVID outbreaks in Melbourne and Sydney. I’m no infectious disease specialist, but it seems to me that if we had a highly vaccinated population, we’d probably be a bit calmer about it. Instead, because the vast majority of the population is unvaccinated, we get into a big panic every single time a few cases get into the community. It’s farcical, albeit necessary, yet could have been so easily avoided.

Now, to give the Federal Government credit where credit’s due, there’s no denying that Australia’s economy has presently recovered far better than most of the countries above, and indeed the wider world. But if the vaccine “rollout” continues as it has been, we’re going to be left behind in the long run.

Our borders will remain closed, while quarantine-free international tourism returns elsewhere in the world.

We’ll continue to suffer the financial impacts of domestic lockdowns, while the rest of the world gets on with business as usual.

Families will remain separated by the Federal Government’s reprehensible, unprecedented ban on Australian citizens leaving the country.

Until vaccination is an easy process, accessible to all, and one which commands the public’s confidence, we’re going to continue facing these impacts which come from living alongside the virus.

I note that Scott Morrison was one of the first in the country to have a Pfizer jab stuck in him. At the time it happened, I supported that move entirely. It seemed important that he set an example to Australians that the vaccine is safe and worthwhile. Now, though, seeing how little of the adult population remains unvaccinated thus far, he looks like a selfish fool.

Similarly, last week, the Prime Minister found himself on the other side of the planet, swanning around Cornwall pondering his convict heritage, chatting with locals in pubs, in a place of the world which any normal Australian citizen is legally prohibited from visiting.[3]

Mr Morrison, you’ve got a job: to lead, to inspire confidence, to convince the public that everything’s under control. Get on with it. If you’re not up to the job, step aside and let an adult take the reins.

It seems that perhaps the Prime Minister has finally found himself in a situation in which spin won’t set him free. It’s about time that he steps up, takes responsibility, and owns the fact that this really hasn’t gone to plan. Or, at the very least, stops insisting it has.[4]

Ultimately, it’s not too late to sort this whole situation out. A strong and effective marketing campaign, as well as a consistent and sufficient supply of vaccines, will see the “rollout” become an actual rollout. Indeed, you, dear reader, can help simply by rolling up your sleeve and getting the vaccine when your time comes.

We can still get it done, so let’s not just do it — let’s demand it. For when we can return to a COVID-free world, it’ll all be worth it. We might even be lucky enough to visit Cornwall and discuss our family history over a pint with the locals.

Respecting women: if not now, when?

Throughout the last month, the parasitic mistreatment of women has been thrown into the spotlight of our nation once again. Be it in the halls of parliament, or those of our schools, it’s clear we’ve got a problem.

Initially, I decided to avoid writing anything on this topic because I didn’t think it was my moment. I’m not a woman, nor can I claim to have a true understanding of the adversities they face within our society.

But I was wrong. It is my moment. It’s your moment. It’s everyone’s moment. Our moment, as human beings, to take a stand, to confront the fact that the behaviour we are hearing about isn’t okay — it’s appalling, and in most cases criminal, too.

The issue isn’t that all men are bad; they’re not. The issue is that women are all too often subjected to inappropriate physical, verbal, and sexual behaviours from men. Enough men that we see the following statistics in Australia:

1 in 6 women over the age of 15 are victims of sexual assault.[1]

1 in 6 women have experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or former partner.[2]

One woman a week is killed by a current or former partner.[3]

85% of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment at some point in their lives.[4]

These statistics are not right, they’re not fair, and are just a handful of the many which depict the frightening reality for women in our society.

Janine Hendry, the organiser of last Monday’s March 4 Justice in Canberra, further articulated the prevalence of gendered violence in an article published in The Guardian.

The reality is this: within society, there will always be bad apples. People who’ve lost their way, and subject others to things that no person ought ever to be.

But right now, far too many men aren’t just bad apples. They’re conscious participants in (and beneficiaries of) a system that protects them from inappropriate behaviour, and supports its generational perpetuation.

So, to my fellow men, I say this: it comes down to us to confront and end the actions, big and small, which have and continue to lead to the damaging attitudes held by far too many among us.

It’s about making the choice to not laugh at that questionable joke with your mates. It’s about having the courage to take a stand, even when it feels awkward. Put a stop to these attitudes while they’re in front of you, because while it might not be the ‘cool’ option, it’s always the right one.

Changing inappropriate behaviours and attitudes is not a big ask. It’s a simple request to treat others with basic human decency. The issues that presently exist could be solved overnight if every man were to instantaneously develop a fundamental sense of respect for others.

In reality, though, these issues cannot be solved overnight. However, with time, effort, empathy, and education, the only place we’ll hear about the widespread mistreatment of women, and the men who engaged in it, will be in history classrooms.

Let’s make it happen.

A sinking ship

Like every other decent human being, and (apparently) the President of the United States, I was appalled by Wednesday’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

For months, Donald Trump has recklessly sown doubt over the legitimacy of the U.S. presidential election. He has called his unwaveringly loyal supporters to arms. And now, we’ve seen the consequences — an act of domestic terrorism at the fount of democracy, conducted in the name of a sitting U.S. president.

What happened earlier this week is exactly what Trump and his loyal band of disciples wanted: to bring unprecedented disruption to an established, constitutionally-mandated formality.

And yet, despite this disruption, the Electoral College certification process was completed, culminating in the official declaration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the next president and vice-president of the United States. In eleven days, they will assume those roles.

So, what happens between now and then?

First and foremost, Trump needs to go. Eleven more days at the helm is eleven days too many. While every major social media platform has deemed it too high of a risk to remain on their platforms, Trump remains in unilateral command of the world’s most powerful nuclear arsenal. Through his actions, he has demonstrated an inability to continue to act in the best interests of the United States, and the “free world” he’s so frequently purported to lead.

Republicans argue that removing a sitting president eleven days out from the end of their term sets a bad precedent.

To those Republicans, I’ll tell you what I think sets a bad precedent: allowing a president to permit a large, radicalised element of their voter base to become so blind to reality to the point that they commit an act of domestic terrorism on the U.S. Capitol. And then, as that act is unfolding, to tell that radicalised element that said president “loves them” and that they are “very special”, and failing to deploy readily available troops to end the conflict.

Allowing that to go unpunished? That sets a bad precedent, and that’s why Vice President Mike Pence and Cabinet must invoke the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to remove Trump from office as quickly and decisively as possible.

Should that fail, impeachment should (and will) be pursued. While it’s unlikely a trial will conclude before Trump’s departure from office on the 20th, should the Senate find Trump guilty, it would disqualify him from holding public office ever again — putting an end to any suggestion of a return in 2024.

Shutting down Trump’s future ambitions is an important step forward, but it’s by no means a catch-all solution.

To echo a sentiment I expressed in my last post, The end of the road, Trump is on his way out — but Trump-like figures are not. Just this week, Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley have proven a willingness to put their own ambition above acting in the interests of the greater good of society. It’s people like these who represent the long-term threat that American democracy faces.

To be complacent is to be complicit — and far, far too many have been complacent.

That includes social media companies, especially Twitter and Facebook. Twitter has allowed Trump to post a variety of dangerous tweets in recent years, including threatening to commit war crimes against Iran. Facebook, on the other hand, has allowed Trump’s campaign to use its targeted advertising tools to prey on everyday Americans by selling his deluded vision of “making America great again”.

I could argue all day about the merits some see in keeping Trump and others within the regulatory confines of these platforms, as opposed to allowing their opinions to ferment in darker corners of society — but in my view, the reality remains this: deplatforming works, and it’s regrettable that it took an armed invasion of the U.S. Capitol — the first of its kind since that led by the British in 1814 — for social media companies to see that.

This is a topic which isn’t going away, and one I’ll likely write about in more depth soon.

Now, finally, it’s plain to see that the Trump ship is sinking. Many of Trump’s longest-serving loyalists are now seeking to jump ship and distance themselves from him. Shame on them, and shame on anyone and everyone who has enabled this appalling chapter of history and now seeks to absolve themselves of responsibility for it.

Soon, the Trump era will be over, and the time for healing and, importantly, reform will begin. Joe Biden and his Cabinet nominees appear up to the task. In particular, Merrick Garland strikes me as an excellent choice to lead a Justice Department which will face the difficult task of handling the high-profile prosecutions which are bound to emerge from the current administration.

More than anything, I hope that a sense of normality returns to U.S. politics.

Beyond that, I hope for progress. I hope that those in government opt to be more than a cog-spinning kakistocracy. To actively make life better for actual people, rather than corporations and the ultra-wealthy. It’s the failure of governments to do this that has led to the socio-economic conditions that allowed Trumpism to rise — which is why something must be done to address it.

There is much work that remains to be done, but I’m confident that when we all work together, the fundamental principles which underpin our combined existence will prevail.