How and why Scott Morrison’s personal religious views could be shaping Australian public policy

This week has thrown the Prime Minister’s religious beliefs into the media spotlight. At a meeting of fellow Christians, Morrison suggested social media could be used by “the evil one” to undermine Australian society and said the internet could be used by the Devil as a weapon.

Scary stuff, for all (believers and non-believers) concerned.

For my summary of the Prime Minister’s beliefs, I have drawn on an article by Philip C. Almond, Emeritus Professor in the History of Religious Thought, The University of Queensland entitled “Fire aspects of Pentecostalism that shed light on Scott Morrison’s politics” published in The Conversation.

Morrison’s Pentecostal Christian faith includes

Miracles: These are central to Pentecostalism. This means that an all-powerful creator intervenes in human affairs.   Morrison said, “I have always believed in miracles” on the night of his underdog victory in the last election campaign. It is unlikely that he was speaking metaphorically.

Divine providence: All of history and all of the future is in God’s hands. God has a “providential plan” for mankind. This effectively absolves true believers from any active intervention in the world’s problems. Part of the plan is the second coming of Christ and the end of the world. At this point, all those who have not been born again (Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, and non-born-again Christians) will be condemned to everlasting hellfire.

Prosperity theology; This states that belief in God leads to material wealth. Salvation is connected to material wealth. By implication, this means that the rich are godly, and poor ungodly. The public policy implication of this is that government should not encouraged people to rely on the welfare state. Or, as Scott Morrison would say ““If you have a go, you get a go”.

Exclusivism: “There are the saved and the damned, the righteous and the wicked, the godly and the satanic.” Only those saved by Jesus during a direct experience with him, will be saved. These direct experiences are often found in the church congregation where speaking in tongues is common.

Scott Morrison and his wife, Jenny, take part in the Easter Sunday congregation at the Horizon Pentecostal church in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire. Picture: Gary Ramage

Scott Morrison will know what God wants. Reading his speech, it would appear that he believes God speaks to him, or at least shows him signs.

The idea that an all-powerful creator intervenes in human affairs is profoundly disturbing. It effectively denies the the individual right of choice or right of responsibility. It’s a profoundly defeatist view of the world, particularly when it’s held by someone with Morrison’s legislative power and influence.

What hope for climate change, or any kind of change for that matter, if God is going to intervene and solve (or not solve) the problem?

Sad commentary on the power of the outraged few on social media

The AGE reports: Smith Street gay bar apologises for police tribute after online hate

A year ago, four police officers were killed when a truck- driver, heavily affected by ice, drove into them while they were attending an accident. One of the officers was gay and was a regular patron of Sircuit Bar, a Melbourne gay bar. Sircuit Bar participated in a widespread tribute to the dead officers, which involved illuminating a number of city landmarks in blue light.

Sircuit bar in Fitzroy was bathed in blue on Thursday to pay tribute to the four police officers killed in the Eastern Freeway tragedy. CREDIT:FACEBOOK

Sircuit bar in Fitzroy was bathed in blue on Thursday to pay tribute to the four police officers killed in the Eastern Freeway tragedy. CREDIT:FACEBOOK

Online activists soon bombarded the bar’s Facebook page with criticism it was siding with police in the midst of a campaign to end Aboriginal deaths in custody.

“Absolutely abhorrent statement to make,” one of the comments read. “Why not stand in the fight to stop black deaths in custody instead of supporting oppressors? The queer community will never stand with cops.”

Other comments described the gesture as “vomit”, “gross” and told management to “read the room”.

Support for Sircuit Bar was immediate and overwhelming.

Unfortunately, there is a small but vociferous group of “online activists” who cannot make the distinction between supporting the end of black deaths in custody and remembering a friend who died while doing his duty.

It’s a sad commentary on the perceived media power of such activists that their vitriol can lead to an organisation recanting an honest and sincere tribute to someone who died simply doing his job.

To the online activists, the fact that this job was being a policeman, means that he and his loved ones must be denied the human respect due to lives tragically lost in the course of duty.

A quick and effective way of improving education standards: Abolish HECS for teacher training.

Every year, there are deeply worrying media reports of the standards for entry into teacher education programs.

In 2021, the minimum Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) will be 70. That is an average score.

Hardly indicative that teaching is attracting the best and brightest.

More worrying still is that, if a class has a teacher who had an ATAR of 70, there is a good chance that a fair proportion of the class will be smarter than the teacher.

The question of how to improve the standards schools, is a complex one. When I was teacher in NZ in the1960s, class sizes were seen as being key variable. My usual class size was somewhere in the mid-40s. This is no longer an issue, but the standards don’t seem to have risen as result of smaller class sizes.

Education Minister Alan Tudge has appointed a panel of education experts to conduct a six-month review of initial teacher education courses, which he said was the most critical element in arresting declining academic standards.

There have been repeated inquiries into teacher education programs over the decades. This one is unlikely to come up with anything new. And this government has very poor record of accepting recommendations from reviews.

One thing that can be done in less than six months is removing HECs from teaching education programs.

The cost of a bachelors teaching degree is AUD $15,000 – $33,000 per year. That’s a minimum of debt $45,000 and possibly as much as just under $100,000.

That’s a lot to pay when your chances of getting a job are not great.

Only 45% of teachers get a full-time job in the first year after graduation.

It is also a powerful disincentive to enrol in teacher education in the first place.

One quick and easy way to solve a small part of the problem would be for Minister Tudge to abolish HECs for teacher education.

And while you’re at it Alan, the same should apply for nurses.

Morrison’s Vaccine Plan C may have substantial logistics and temperature control problems

THE AGE: The Federal government is looking to states and territories to set up mass vaccination centres and may need to use state hospital hubs to help vaccinate aged care and disability workers

Prime Minister Scott Morrison conceded on Wednesday that the vaccine rollout had experienced difficulties.

Source: Crikey

He aired the ambition to vaccinate all Australians by the end of the year as long as the country received imported doses promised by Pfizer and local vaccines produced by CSL under an alliance with AstraZeneca.

The arrival of the 51 million Novavax doses from October this year could also be delayed after the company pushed back its timeline

The aim is to “deliver about 240,000 doses per day over 12 weeks to complete the vaccination program this year.”

Novavax: Keep the vaccine between 2°C and 8°C (36°F and 46°F) for up to 6 hours or at room temperature (up to 25°C or 77°F) for 2 hours.

Pfizer and BioNTech— maintain temperature conditions of between -70º C and +10º C.

Moderna says vaccine—“must be stored at 2º to 8º C

AstraZeneca: storage and shipping at -20º 

Johnson and Johnson ( which is currently off the table world-wide) can be stored in a refrigerator between 2°C and 8°C

The process that will be required for the delivery is Just-in-time (JIT) developed in Japan at Toyota. In essence this involves providing a car component (or a vaccine) just as it is required in the factory or the vaccinations centre.In the case of the vaccines this looks as if it might mean that the vaccines need to be delivered on a daily basis.

JIT will require a large central storage area of vaccines, preferably located close to the large vaccination sites. It will require a large fleet of highly specialised refrigerated vehicles possibly making overnight deliveries.

Morrison is promising(?) to deliver 240,000 doses per day over 12 weeks

And that’s not something a Marketing Department can deliver.

Speed of vaccine rollout or quantity of vaccines? Morrison appears to have opted for quantity.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said 170 million vaccine doses had now been secured as part of the $7 billion vaccine strategy, enough to inoculate the entire population several times over.

The vaccines are to be Astra Zeneca, Novavax, Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech.

Why does Australia need 170 million doses of vaccine when it probably needs around 40 million to vaccinate the population?

There are serious ethical questions about Australia holding this volume of vaccine when poorer nations are struggling to get access to reliable supply.

At least this means that there is plenty of vaccine to go around, and around and around.

But this huge stockpile faces significant logistics problems. It is only an order for the vaccine, not the actual vaccine. The second is that the rollout is currently stalled at well below Morrison’s predicted goals.

THE AGE reports:  McKell Institute executive director Michael Buckland said complete the vaccine rollout by November, between 1.47 million and 1.77 million doses would need to be administered weekly, up from the current rate of 127,000 a week. “That really tells me we’re not going to catch up,” 

And now

From today’s AGE Prime Minister Scott Morrison has abandoned setting targets for Australia’s vaccine rollout and conceded for the first time that not all Australians will get their first dose of a coronavirus jab by the end of the year, even though the government has doubled its order of Pfizer’s vaccine.

Source AB

The Guardian:However, five months after Morrison announced Australians were “at the front of the queue” for vaccination, our rollout is presently ranked 104th in the world – sandwiched between Lebanon and Bangladesh – based on the latest seven-day average vaccination rate. This is a national disgrace.

This means that the rollout of the vaccine will not begin until 2022 and, if current rollout rates are not improved, it could be towards the end of the year before the population achieves herd immunity.

The risk is that, if there is another wave of Covid-19, most Australians will not be vaccinated.

A Covid-positive passenger arrived in Melbourne after a 13-hour flight. What happened to the other passengers?

COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria reports: An international passenger who arrived in Melbourne on a flight from Doha on Thursday, returned a positive test result yesterday and was transferred to a health hotel last night, CQV said.

There is no mention in the media of what measures have been taken to identify and isolate the other passengers on the flight from Doha.

Presumably, COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria Identify them as not being a risk of spreading the virus. Or have they?

Qatar flies the Airbus A350-1000 which has a capacity of 369 with 10 cabin crew.

There must be a possibility that some of these people have been infected during the flight.

The Victorian public is acutely aware of how quickly and easily one mobile individual can spread the infection. But in this case, there is potential for the more than one, many more.

COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria should reassure the people of the Victoria that this does not represent a existential threat of another significant outbreak of Covid-19.

Letter to my grandsons: Motorcars (iii)

I have written two letters about my relationship with the motorcars in my life dating back to when I was four years old in the late 1940s.

Letter to my grandsons: Motorcars (i) and Letter to my grandsons: Motorcars (ii)

These are part family history, part motorcar history and part personal reflection. The second letter ended with my purchasing a Puch motor scooter when I started Training College and University.

It was cheap and reliable transport and there was no real alternative for going between home, Teachers College and University. My first teaching appointment was a one-year appointment at Rosebank Primary, which involved a 1.25hr ride each way.

That year was the wettest year on record for Auckland and I remember being wet every time I rode because my three layers of riding clothes would not dry out in time. So, in 1964, I decided it was time to buy a car. It was a 1952 Ford Prefect and cost £60. That is probably $2000 in 2021 terms. Purchasing a vintage model nowadays will cost between $10,000 and $15,000.

Cars were very expensive in New Zealand because they all had to be imported. So this was a pretty good car for a young 20-year-old. But by today’s standards, it was pretty ordinary. It was small inside and the front seat was a bench seat. There were no seat belts and you wound windows up and down.

There was a three-speed manual gearbox with no synchromesh on first gear. That meant a special technique had to be used to change into first gear while the car was moving. This meant using the accelerator to have the cogs moving at the same speed. Failure to get this right Willmeant that two cogs spinning at different speeds, tried to engage. The resultant noise demonstrated to everybody within hearing distance that you were a failure as a driver.

But then, quite out of the blue, a distant uncle left me £580 in his will. The Prefect was getting old. The back of the front seat had broken and was held up by a piece of rope with two ring bolts in the pillars between the doors. So I decided to move up and purchased a 1964 Singer Gazelle.

The interior was luxurious compared with the Prefect. It had a walnut dashboard and leather rather than vinyl seats.

Not only, but it also came with steel-belted Michelin X radial-ply tires. These were state-of-the-art in 1964 and improved handling immensely because the side of the tire became flexible and gave far greater rubber on the road than the standard rubber tire with its inflexible walls.

But we were down-sides to having a racing tyre on the saloon car. I was stopped for speeding on the way to school. I wasn’t going all that fast. The traffic officer inspected the tyres and said disapprovingly, “Michelin X, eh.” and wrote me a ticket.

The first thing I did when I got the car was to install seat belts. They were not compulsory in those days, but the research indicated that they improved your chances of surviving crash immensely. In those days, you could only get lap belts and they didn’t have the torsion reels of the modern seatbelt, so there was no “give” if you’re in an accident. What this meant was that you would probably survive an accident but survive with broken hips.

After the Prefect, the four geared Gazelle was a dream to drive and I must admit that it was the beginning of my love affair with luxury motor cars.

But eventually, the Gazelle wore out and changes needed to be made. I had met and married your grandmother and we soon needed a bigger car. I was also a member of the Muriwai Surf Lifesaving club and rowing in a surf boat. As none of the other crew members had a car, someone needed a six-cylinder car to tow the boat. One of the club members, Roger Thomas, was a used-car salesman and gave me a special deal on our next car: a Mark III Ford Zephyr Zodiac complete with tower. He was also decent enough to give me some money for the Gazelle, which probably had zero value on the second-hand market.

It was a much bigger car than the Gazelle and more in line with American styling than British. That meant big enough to take a pusher.

By this stage, we had lap and shoulder belts installed and a baby seat for Andrew.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it was a potential disaster by today’s standards. In the case of an accident, the child would be flung forward onto the restraining bar suffering what would probably have been near-fatal injuries.

Fortunately, we didn’t have an accident before we sold the car and departed for Australia.

A new chapter of motoring history was about to begin.

Lurching from the mishandled crisis of sexual harassment, the Morrison government continues to falter.

The rollout of the vaccine has not been going well. The reasons have been well documented and kicked around the political playground. 

But the reality is that it is woefully behind schedule. 

And there were no signs that this situation would improve.

But then, on top of all of this, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation recommended to the government that AstraZeneca should not be administered to be under 50 age group.

It was a body blow to the rollout plans for Stage II as there is no replacement vaccine for AstraZeneca in Australia.

The AGE We can measure the panic in the snap purchase overnight on Thursday of 20 million additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine, to be delivered in the final three months of this year.

The (current) program, involving around 15 million doses of the vaccine to 6.817 million people, would proceed on schedule. It’s the remaining 56 million doses, covering almost 18.883 million people that will be “recalibrated”, which is Morrison-speak for delayed.

 PM Morrison, who announced the changes to the rollout schedule and the vaccine that will be used, was unable to provide the Australian public with any timetable beyond a vague estimate of somewhere towards the end of 2021.

Given that roughly a million doses have been delivered against target of 4 million by the end of March, this means there will be a currently immeasurable delay before the population is effectively vaccinated.

While Australia remains Covid free, this delay has little practical effect for the general population.

If there is another wave of infections, then Scott Morrison and the Federal government’s bungling of this situation will have devastating consequences.

The reasons for the suspension AstraZeneca rollout do not inspire public confidence

It was clearly a decision that the best experts available did not take lightly.

In an AGE article entitled: Australian vaccine experts felt compelled to make AstraZeneca. Aisha Dow and Rachel Clun report the views of several experts.

A good starting point is:

“The dilemma is very simple,” said Dr Richard Kidd, chair of the Australian Medical Association Council of General Practice.

“We have got a horrible disease – a lethal disease for older people with a horrible death.

“And you are having to weigh all of that harm from this new disease against an otherwise safe and effective vaccine we have got here … and a very rare but serious possible side effect.“

Studies have estimated that clotting may occur in about four to six people in every million inoculated with AstraZeneca within 20 days of vaccination. It is estimated to cause death in a quarter of cases. That’s 1.5 people in 1,000,000 may die. A chance of 0.0000011 of 1%.

But the different views of the experts on the Advisory panel are somewhat concerning.

Professor Allen Cheng, the co-chair of the expert advisory group, said a tipping point was when consumer representatives on the advisory group were struggling to wrap their heads around these benefits and risks, leading experts to believe they couldn’t just leave it up to the public to weigh up whether they would get the jab.

Professor Allen Cheng said the decision to name Pfizer as the preferred vaccine for those aged under 50 was difficult.CREDIT: SCOTT MCNAUGHT

But then: ATAGI executive team member Professor Kristine Macartney said she hoped that many people under the age of 50 would still consider receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, including people with medical conditions that put them at higher risk of complications from COVID-19.

Professor Cheng is effectively saying that the Australian population won’t be able to grasp the issues of risk and benefit associated with AstraZeneca.

This is based on the observation of consumers on his advisory panel. For a scientist, this is a remarkably small sample and, despite the Professor’s disclaimers, may not be representative of the total population. This is Statistics 101: Sample size.

would appear not to be the view of another to

ATAGI executive team member Professor Kristine Macartney said, “People aged 49 or under will still be allowed to get the AstraZeneca vaccine if they wish, where the individual benefits are likely to outweigh the risks.”

Professor Macartney is also director of the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance.

So, where does this leave the Australian public?

It appears that people under 49 can choose to have Astra Zeneca. Still, it also appears that it will not be available to that age group.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said, “Immunisation providers should only give a first dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to adults under 50 years of age where benefit clearly outweighs the risk for that individual’s circumstances.”

Who will assess this? The local GP? (The problem with this is that many younger people do not have a regular GP.) The individual?

For those concerned about the health risks, waiting for Pfizer appears an attractive option. But that could mean waiting until 2022 for vaccination.

And then waiting for the single jab Johnson & Johnson vaccine becomes a viable option.

Lurching from the mishandled crisis of sexual harassment, the Morrison government continues to falter.

The rollout of the vaccine has not been going well. The reasons have been well documented and kicked around the political playground.

But the reality is that it is woefully behind schedule.

And there were no signs that this situation would improve.

But then, on top of all of this, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation recommended to the government that AstraZeneca should not be administered to be under 50 age group.

It was a body blow to the rollout plans for Stage II as there is no replacement vaccine for AstraZeneca in Australia.

The AGE We can measure the panic in the snap purchase overnight on Thursday of 20 million additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine, to be delivered in the final three months of this year.

The (current) program, involving around 15 million doses of the vaccine to 6.817 million people, would proceed on schedule. It’s the remaining 56 million doses, covering almost 18.883 million people that will be “recalibrated”, which is Morrison-speak for delayed.

 PM Morrison, who announced the changes to the rollout schedule and the vaccine that will be used, was unable to provide the Australian public with any timetable beyond a vague estimate of somewhere towards the end of 2021.

Given that roughly a million doses have been delivered against target of 4 million by the end of March, this means there will be a currently immeasurable delay before the population is effectively vaccinated.

While Australia remains Covid free, this delay has little practical effect for the general population.

If there is another wave of infections, then Scott Morrison and the Federal government’s bungling of this situation will have devastating consequences.