Speaking of vaccines, NSW is opening a mass vaccination hub, as AAP reports:
A mass COVID-19 vaccination hub will open in Sydney Olympic Park as the city keeps most of its coronavirus restrictions for another week.
The NSW government expects the Homebush hub, opening on Monday and the first to open in the state, will have the capacity to administer 30,000 COVID-19 jabs per week.
It will be staffed by hundreds of medical personnel and operate six days a week from 8am to 8pm in a specially-fitted commercial building.
For its first two weeks, the hub will be open to people in categories 1a and 1b before expanding to anyone over 50 from May 24.
Victoria has now streaked 25,300 vaccine doses ahead of NSW after bringing six mass vaccination hubs online across the state.
The hub opening comes fresh from the NSW government extending Greater Sydney’s current restrictions for another week, except for mask usage in retail settings.
What has been absolutely amazing* in the last few months is watching all the federal politicians who were raging against restrictions and border controls and what city restrictions were doing to regional and rural areas now turn around and speak about how amazing life in Australia is right now, compared with the rest of the world.
*Not at all amazing.
With confirmation the international border won’t be opened until at least next year, and the vaccine program delayed, don’t expect the majority of Australians to be vaccinated until 2022 either. We have to wait until we see the budget to see what Treasury assumes, because the government won’t set a target on it.
Michael McCormack, who is still the current deputy prime minister, was asked about the vaccine schedule on ABC News Breakfast and continued to use a lot of words to say absolutely nothing:
As soon as practicably possible. It’s a big country. It’s the largest logistical exercise in Australia’s history, absolutely in Australia’s peace-time history as Brendan Murphy has said on any number of occasions and so we’re making sure that we get that vaccination rolled out, we’re working with very cooperatively and collaboratively with public state officials and we’ll continue to do that and we ask Australians to continue to be their best selves.
Australians have been magnificent. They exercised social distancing, they have worn masks when asked to do so even though in some times, in some cases, in regional cases they were many hundreds of kilometres from the nearest coronavirus case. I thank Australians on behalf of the government for doing just that, that’s why we kept our country largely Covid safe and free.
Welcome back to politics live for the first time in about six weeks!
Parliament isn’t sitting today, but it is the day before the budget, which means everyone is in town and everyone has some last-minute messages to get out.
The government is trying to undo its start to the year by remembering women and women’s health in the budget – no doubt you have seen the headlines on how this is to be the “women’s budget” – but we are still waiting on detail.
And it being an election year means infrastructure is one of the big spending items – although how much of that is money being brought forward and how much is new is also still to be worked out.
As with everything in politics, the devil is absolutely in the detail. And that is what we are looking for.
Other than the budget, there is still the issue of “Fortress Australia”, with Scott Morrison telling News Corp there isn’t enough information on how the vaccines work to wind back Australia’s border controls as yet. There was some kerfuffle yesterday – the story originally said Morrison was holding on to “zero cases”, which the government denies – it says it is working on suppression, not elimination of the virus in Australia. But there is no doubt that after almost a year of bemoaning the states for their attitude to border closures, Morrison has decided it’s an election-winning strategy. Which doesn’t make it any easier for the thousands of Australians still trying to get home, or the 9,000 or so Australians stranded in India. Repatriation flights might be starting next week, but only about 10% of people – those listed as vulnerable – will make it home in the first month, with just one flight a week allowed. People who have tested positive to Covid before their flight will not be allowed to board. It’s a lot, and it’s heartbreaking and there is a lot more to go on this, so we will keep you up to date.
You have Mike Bowers, Katharine Murphy, Paul Karp, Sarah Martin and Daniel Hurst with you today, along with me, Amy Remeikis on the blog. I have missed you! You can catch me here, and here if you need me for something, and we will try and keep comments open for as long as we can.
It’s going to be at least a four-coffee day.
Ready? Let’s get into it.