Scott Morrison has been forced to defend the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine in Australia, which has spectacularly fallen behind targets set at the beginning of the scheme in February.
In a gruelling interview with Leigh Sales on ABC's 7.30 program Wednesday, the prime minister claimed several "shocks" were to blame for Australia falling so far behind its rollout schedule.
With just over 10 per cent of the population vaccinated so far, Sales questioned how realistic it was to plan for 100 per cent immunisation by the end of 2021 – an assumption which underpinned Tuesday night's budget.
"You'd now need to be vaccinating 200,000 Australians daily to get as many people as you'd like to have done by the end of the year," she said.
"Currently we're doing fewer than a quarter of that. How has the Government fumbled this so badly when everything relies on it?".
Mr Morrison argued it was unfair to compare Australia's rollout with countries like the United States, where 45 per cent of the population have received the jab, the United Kingdom where 53 per cent is vaccinated, and Israel where 60 per cent of people are already immunised.
"Leigh, the comparisons you make are to countries where the choice of vaccination was to vaccinate or have serious illness or die. That was the emergency situation the countries that you've referred to," he said.
Australia's vaccination program is "proceeding at a much faster pace" than Japan and South Korea, he argued.
Mr Morison said since the vaccine was offered to people aged over 50, Australia had its highest number of vaccines administered last week.
PM accused of ducking responsibility
Sales also drilled Mr Morrison over his highly-criticised responses to multiple national issues, including the bushfires, Brittany Higgins' rape allegation, Covid deaths in aged care, and Attorney-General Christian Porter's historical rape allegations.
"You've been the Prime Minister now for nearly three years and so Australians have had a chance to observe how you've responded to various things," she said.
"When it comes to taking responsibility, they've seen vaccine stumbles, not your fault, it's a supply issue. Quarantine, that’s mostly a problem for the states. Bushfires, I don't hold a hose. Brittany Higgins, I was in the dark. Covid deaths in aged care, mostly the fault of state governments for not controlling virus spread, Christian Porter, don’t need to drill into the particulars. Minister's breaching standards, I reject that anybody ever has," Sales proposed.
"Doesn’t all that taken together add up to a tendency to blame shift and duck responsibility wherever possible?"
Mr Morrison put the criticism down to being Sales' "narrative", saying it was not one that he shared.
In his rejection of her suggestion, he argued that in the past 18 months, "we've seen confidence in Australia's future lift" as a result of Australians being in a "position and living in a way that the rest of the world is not".
"Over the course, in particular, of this last year we've seen more than 900,000 people get on and get back into jobs. We've seen businesses survive," he said.
"We've seen our defence forces prepared. We've seen our national preparedness for disasters escalated. And in the Budget last night, you saw some of the biggest changes to aged care and mental health that this country has seen."
Acknowledging that Australians would be free to express their views about his leadership in the next federal election, he said his current focus was fighting the virus and keeping Australians in jobs.
"So I'll get on with my job and I'll let you get on with yours," he said.
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