Scott Morrison has clashed with an FM radio host in Melbourne after refusing to apologise for the country’s sluggish vaccine rollout.
As part of a blitz of radio stations in Adelaide and Melbourne on Wednesday, the prime minister was challenged by the hosts of Kiis FM to apologise for the “nightmare” of the vaccine rollout.
“Can you honestly say to me that the government has taken accountability?” Kiis host Jason Hawkins asked. “Like, I have never heard the word ‘sorry’ – ‘guys, you know what, sorry, we did screw it up, but we are getting it right now’.”
Despite repeatedly being pushed to apologise, Morrison refused, saying only that the government was focused on “fixing the problems”.
“Yeah, we have had our problems, I don’t dismiss that, I don’t deny that, but the thing is you fix the problems and you get the program back on track and that is exactly what is happening now,” Morrison said.
Hawkins told Morrison that at their workplace, “when someone stuffs up it’s all about accountability”.
“You say sorry, you admit the problem and we move on,” Hawkins said. “I’m not trying to have a go, I think it is just frustration, we are in lockdown. Can you just say ‘sorry Jase’? It will make me feel so much better and then I feel like I can move on”.
Morrison replied: 'Wel, we have had problems and we have dealt with them, that’s what I do every single day. Yes, the government is accountable for this and I am accountable for this, that is why we take it accountably by fixing the problems and getting it right.
“We have had our problems, there is no doubt about that, and they are problems that are not always things within our control, that is the nature of Covid 19.”
Hawkins tried again, asking for a “sorry Jase”, and then, “I would even take a ‘my bad’.”
“You can’t do it,” Hawkins said. “I’ve got one for you – what does this spell, S, O, R, R, Y?”
Hawkins then said: “He’s ignoring me.”
Morrison said he understood that “everyone is really frustrated”, but “we just have to keep pushing through”.
“It will continue to be a challenge and the only way we will get through it is if we hang together and just keep pushing through," hy het gesê. “We just need to continue to be patient, work together, stay positive and we’ll get through it.”
Hawkins responded: “We are staying patient, we are working together but, until there is accountability, it is hard to move on.”
Morrison said: “I am accountable for the vaccination program and everything that has happened in it.
“And I am also accountable for fixing it, and that is what I am doing.”
After the interview, Hawkins said he was “more frustrated than I was before I spoke to him”.
“Just don’t be a robot, have a normal bloody conversation,” he told his listeners. “We say it on this team, if someone stuffs up at work or in a relationship, you know what, ‘hey babe, my bad’, and then move on.
“You’re very quick to come out and say all the good shit you’ve done, just say the word sorry, screwed that up and we’ll get it right, it’s not hard.”
The morning radio blitz also took Morrison to Adelaide, where he defended his comment earlier in the year that the national program was “not a race” – which he claimed related to the vaccine safety approvals.
“I absolutely think we have to have total urgency on this issue, and that is what we have been applying to it,” Morrison told host David Penberthy on radio 5AA.
When asked if he regretted saying “it’s not a race” in March, Morrison said he was talking about the regulation of vaccines.
“I don’t think Australians wanted us to cut corners when it comes to the vaccines that were put in people’s arms that affect their health, I think they would have wanted us to have followed every proper process,” Morrison said.
“Once they were approved we have been going as fast as we possibly can and getting over the problems that we have had.
“I understand there is great frustration, believe me, I feel the same frustration.
“This latest Delta variant has thrown a completely new curve ball on this issue, which every single country in the world is wrestling with.
“We haven’t got every decision right, no country has in this pandemic”.
He said the rollout had been hampered by changing advice over the Astra Zeneca vaccine, but the program was catching up.
“We’ve had our problems but we’re getting over them,” Morrison said.
The Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines were approved in January and February respectively, but Morrison’s comments about the vaccine program not being a race were made in various interviews in March and April.