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‘A phenomenal failure’: Malcolm Turnbull blasts Morrison government’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has lashed the Morrison government’s vaccine rollout as “a phenomenal failure”.

In a stinging rebuke, Mr Turnbull said Australia fully vaccinating just eight per cent of its population was inexcusable.

He said the government’s failure to buy enough vaccines was to blame.

“This is just a failure to do the one single most important job the Commonwealth government had which was to get the country vaccinated. It is hugely disappointing,” Mr Turnbull told the ABC on Thursday afternoon.

“I can’t think of a bigger black-and-white failure of public administration than this.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has triggered a week of competing claims about vaccine advice after highlighting a path for younger people to receive AstraZeneca on Monday.

The expert immunisation panel on Thursday reiterated its advice that Pfizer is preferred for all people under 60 because of rare blood clots associated with AstraZeneca.

Mr Turnbull said Mr Morrison made a mistake and muddied the message around vaccines.

“I don’t know whether that was just a thought bubble, I don’t know if Scott had workshopped that before, I have no idea,” Mr Turnbull said.

“But the fact that you’ve got so many other premiers and chief medical officers disagreeing with it, and very vocally, obviously undermines confidence in the vaccine.”

More than 12 million people are in lockdown with concerns about outbreaks of the contagious Delta variant of coronavirus.

Mr Turnbull said the government had put too many eggs in one basket by not buying more vaccine varieties.

“These lockdowns are a consequence of the failure to get the vaccination done and it is a massive fail,” he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison makes an announcement on Monday evening while isolating at The Lodge, following a National Cabinet meeting.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday evening


Mr Turnbull said there was no point going on and on about how bad the mistake was before describing it as a “phenomenal failure in public administration”.

Thursday was a record day for vaccinations with more than 160,000 people receiving jabs nationwide.

The vaccine rollout will be high on national cabinet’s agenda when state and territory leaders meet with Mr Morrison on Friday.

International passenger caps could also be reduced after premiers called for cuts of up to 80 per cent of current levels.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham cited the India travel ban and limits imposed at the start of the pandemic as examples of responsive restrictions.

“We’ve shown a willingness to adjust based on changed risk profiles and we’ll always look at that,” he said.

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