Prime Minister Scott Morrison has lamented not bringing in a top military figure to oversee Australia's vaccine rollout earlier in the pandemic, and regrets leaving it to the Health Department, as he expands on a promise to voters to shift gears as a leader if re-elected.
Speaking at a press conference in Melbourne on Saturday, Mr Morrison said he should have moved sooner to appoint Lieutenant General John Frewen coordinator general of the National COVID Vaccine Taskforce in June 2021 to "fix" Australia's sluggish vaccination rates.
Asked about the mistakes he had made in the last term of government, he nominated the vaccine rollout and singled out the federal Health Department.
"The one I have most commonly referenced was at the start of the vaccine program and how that was driven by the Department of Health," he said.
"Now, in hindsight, bringing in Lieutenant-General Frewen was something I would have done earlier, because when I put him in charge, we fixed the problem and we ended up ensuring the highest vaccination rates in the world."
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General Frewen replaced health department officials in steering the taskforce, with Mr Morrison saying at the time it was an opportunity to "scale up" the rollout.
"I think that very direct command and control structure that has proved to be so effective in the past will add a further dimension and assistance as we step up in this next phase," he said in June last year.
The Prime Minister also said the COVID pandemic had demanded he act as a "protector" of Australians, making tough calls for the greater good, but that he was ready to move into a stage of encouragement.
"What you have seen from me, especially over the last few years, is what Australians have needed, and I think Australians would agree with that," Mr Morrison said.
"In a time of crisis, they needed my protection, they needed my strength.
"In a time of opportunity, they need my encouragement, they need my facilitation, they need my enthusiasm to ensure that the policies we have continue to enable them to meet their aspirations."
The comments follow a dramatic change of tack from the Prime Minister on Friday, in which he admitted to having to be a "bit of a bulldozer" through the coronavirus pandemic in a bid to reframe flagging popularity.
Appearing just a week out from election day, the Prime Minister announced a $20 million expansion of the sporting schools program and reiterated a $1.6 billion budget promise for the proposed Beveridge intermodal freight terminal.
The story PM singles out Health Department in admitting to vaccine rollout mistakes first appeared on The Canberra Times.