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Whispering campaign for vaccines? … empathy personified … dead, not killed

Whispering campaign for vaccines? … empathy personified … dead, not killed thumbnail

NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds demolishes the long-held idea that public servants are cold and callous. Plus other tips and murmurs from the Crikey bunker.

NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds (Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

National campaign for Hamilton Leigh Sales started the morning off on a strong note, asking in a tweet why there is no national campaign to get vaccinated: “I’ve literally seen more marketing for @HamiltonMusical than I have for public health.”

Funny. Except she’s wrong. The Health Department launched a national coronavirus campaign back in March 2020, and on January 27, 2021, launched a $23.9 million public information campaign to encourage Australians to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Of course, just because something is there doesn’t mean it’s working.

The campaign was supposedly rolled out in three phases: the first reaffirms that COVID vaccines have been put through our world-leading independent approvals process, ensuring both their safety and efficacy; the second provides information on how the vaccine will be rolled out, particularly to priority groups, and dosage requirements; the third informs people about how and where to get vaccinated, dosage requirements, and support vaccine uptake.

Which phase are we up to again?

Perhaps if Hamilton’s marketing team is as successful as Sales says, the government should have partnered with it for some vaccine product placement to really get the word out.

Humane bureaucrats NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds knows a lot about empathy, as we know. She failed to provide anything approaching decent support when one of her staffers allegedly raped another staffer, Brittany Higgins, in Reynolds’ office, even summoning Higgins to a meeting in the very office where she says she was assaulted. Later she referred to Higgins as a “lying cow”.

Crikey Worm

She’s a true master of empathy.

We were thus fascinated to see her judgment about public servants dealing with people with disabilities. It turns out Reynolds thinks bureaucrats have too much empathy. “We’re relying, I think, too much on individual public servants’ judgment and also their natural empathy,” she told a Senate committee yesterday.

In Reynolds’ view you need external contractors to properly assess the needs of people with disabilities, not weak-willed, namby-pamby shiny arses prone to indulging people.

Another rationale for further contracting out basic functions of the public service — though we admit a novel one. Bureaucrats are more traditionally seen as cold and heartless when it comes to access to services and government support. Who knew?

The placebo effect on facts and fairness Just as new polling published by Nine papers shows that Australians are increasingly unwilling to get our safe, proven and effective COVID vaccines, a review of another media company’s actions might provide some insight into why people are feeling this way.

Late last week, the Press Council found that News Corp’s Herald Sun had misled and failed to present facts with fairness and balance with its December headline about Pfizer’s vaccination trials: “SIX PEOPLE DIED DURING PFIZER”. It was followed by a Facebook post along the same lines.

While technically true, the issue with the headline was that four of the six people who died during the trials got the placebo and not the vaccine. The adjudication wryly notes that this means Pfizer’s vaccine “was unlikely to be the cause of their death”. It took six months for the Press Council to come to this decision and there are no consequences for the company.

The News Corp cycle On May 10 News Corp Australia confirmed it had formalised payments from tech giants Google and Facebook and announced a digital-focused hiring spree. But in nature’s cycle of life and death, just four days later Guardian Australia reported that the last of News Corp’s photographers were called in to meetings with management and told their positions were being made redundant.

It’s not all bad news though. According to the Guardian’s Amanda Meade, they can buy their photography equipment at discounted prices and come back to work as outsourced labour.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray


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