Sex therapist Esther Perel on what bored couples could learn from her Holocaust surviving parents

as told to Conversations with Sarah Kanowski, edited by Michael Dulaney

A woman with blonde hair and a beige jacket wearing headphones and speaking into a microphone.
Couples therapist Esther Perel has helmed a therapy practice in New York City for more than 35 years.(ABC News: Edwina Storie)

Help keep family & friends informed by sharing this LINKSHARE

Esther Perel is a world-renowned sex and relationship therapist who works with couples reeling from infidelity and the loss of passion. She told Conversations’ Sarah Kanowski what her parents’ experience of the Holocaust taught her about finding the erotic in everyday life.

My parents are people who would never have married if it wasn’t for World War II. My mother came from an educated, ultra-orthodox Hasidic background. My father was rather illiterate. He had been to school for three years. They were not of the same class, but they met at the end of the war after they both spent five years in concentration camps.Listen to the episodeConversations draws you deeper into the life story of someone you may, or may not, have heard about.Read more

It happened that my parents had a very good relationship. My father adored my mother. He looked up to her and my mother loved being adored. So it worked really well.

“How did you fall in love,” I asked my father, “in the middle of the concentration camp?”

My entire community in Antwerp in Belgium — about 15,000 Jews — all of them were refugees, all of them were concentration camp survivors or hidden children. And my parents, in addition to that, spent five years as illegal refugees in Belgium before they were given permission to stay.

They were the only survivors of their entire family, and many families were created at that time. But many of these families, after they were done surviving and rebuilding, looked at each other and said: “We have nothing in common.” So they were not, by definition, good relationships, but they also didn’t allow divorce because they had already experienced the utmost of loss and they were not prepared to do that once more.

And I always noticed that the houses of my friends were dark, there was no energy in the house. You felt like people were on lockout — they were surviving, but they were not living. They couldn’t allow themselves to experience joy, because when you experience joy or pleasure, you’re not vigilant, you’re not on guard, and if you’re not on guard some bad stuff may happen that you were not prepared for. So they lived in an utter state of disaster-preparedness.

And then you had the other side. People who, for me, understood the erotic as an antidote to death: how do you stay alive in the face of adversity? You know, how do you maintain a sense of aliveness?

So my parents, they were bon vivant, as we say in French. They were not just there for no reason.

They have survived, and they were going to make the best of life. And that got passed on to me.

It involved music and dancing and gathering people and just really savouring the beauties of life.

But I don’t know why they were able to do that while others were much more drawn to the bottom and unable to mourn and feeling survivor guilt and lots of other things that people experience. That is not a unique experience. I describe this in the context of the Holocaust, but I really think that this is available for any other community that has experienced massive psychic trauma like that.

And I think it’s the same for a couple. When couples complain about the listlessness of their lives. They sometimes may want more sex, but they always want better. And that better is to connect with the quality of aliveness, of pleasure, of fun, of vibrancy.

I’m not [just] talking about the act of sex. Many people have done the act of sex for centuries and felt nothing. Women are experts at that. What we’re looking for is an experience of aliveness, of vitality, of renewal, connection, mystery… allowing our mind to subvert the limits we live with in reality, to bring us into a space that is boundless, where you can be playful.

That’s the difference between sex and eroticism, is that [it is] sexuality transformed by our imagination.

That’s what makes it erotic.Posted 29 Dec 201929 Dec 2019, updated 29 Dec 2019

Diary: What I like to watch on Television

I used to like reading a lot of books. To my regret, with deteriorating eyesight this has become less and less. Recently I lost my strong reading glasses, However, I do get some new even stronger ones. I can pick them up tomorrow. Hopefully, having new glasses is going to encourage me, to take up some book reading again.

So, instead of reading books, I seem to have been watching quite a bit additional TV. During the week I like to watch Afternoon Briefing on the ABC News Channel, and then I switch over to ABC TV and watch Grand Designs and The DRUM.

Yesterday, Sunday, November 14, I watched a bit of Insiders and Songs of Praise and Landline and Gardening Australia, as well as Rick Stein’s Secret France.

In the evening I caught a bit of Death in Paradise and then I wanted to watch Total Control. But unfortunately I was so tired that I soon went to sleep saw not much of that program yet. I have to catch up on it sometime on IView.

I would like to read up a lot on the following items about the COP 26 Summit on Climate Change:

COP26 & Climate Change

Stories from ABC News

New tier 1 COVID-19 exposure sites listed in Victoria

Posted 10h ago10 hours ago

A blue sign shows a hand with a phone and the words 'HAVE YOU CHECKED IN?'.
Fully vaccinated Victorians need to quarantine for a week after visiting an exposure site, but unvaccinated people must spend a fortnight.(ABC News: Danielle Bonica)

Help keep family & friends informed by sharing this LINKSHARE

Health authorities have listed new tier 1 COVID-19 exposure sites in Victoria.

The new tier 1 sites are:

  • Fobia Industires in Benalla for seven days from October 11
  • The Deck restaurant and bar in Shepparton on October 19
  • 9 Grams cafe in Torquay on October 20

The government has stopped listing all exposure sites, instead only publishing the most high-risk venues publicly. Others are managed by contact tracers privately and through the Service Victoria check-in app.

Anyone who has been to a tier 1 exposure site at the specified time must get tested and isolate for 14 days if unvaccinated, or for seven days if fully vaccinated. 

Check the list below for all of the exposure sites and times.

You can find information on testing site hours and your nearest site on the Department of Health website. to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.Volume 100%01:3902:1602:53 Recycling the waste COVID-19 has created(Emilia Terzon)

What you need to know about coronavirus:

What do you want to know about COVID-19? How has the pandemic impacted you? Let us know

EmailCategory-Business and economy (eg. businesses, industries)Communication and technology (eg. misinformation, contact tracing, apps)Education (eg. schools, universities, teachers)Government support (eg. supplements, restrictions, lockdowns)Health (eg. symptoms, masks, personal health, mental health)People and pets (eg. families, pets, state, specific cases)Personal finance (eg. financial issues, tax, super)Public spaces and events (eg. events, public spaces, transport)Science (eg. vaccines, virus)Travel and immigration (eg. borders, interstate travel)Work (eg. working from home, work restrictions)World (eg. WHO, other countries)OtherAsk us your questionWe will be in touch if your submission is chosen for further investigation.First nameLast nameWhat is your gender? -FemaleMaleNon-binaryOtherPrefer not to answerMobile number (optional)State-ACTNSWNTQLDSATASVICWAPostcodeI’ve read and agree to the ABC’s Terms Of UsePrivacy Collection StatementPrivacy Policy, and Crowdsourcing Collection StatementrequiredI consent to being contacted by ABC journalists for newsgathering/investigation purposes.requiredSUBMITPosted 10h ago10 hours agoShare

Related Stories

David’s business has been hit hard by Melbourne’s lockdowns, and he’s still waiting for government support

A man smiles while standing next to his car.

More on:

Traffic light plans on minimum wages, taxes, climate protectionThe SPD, the Greens and the FDP have agreed on this paper

October 15, 2021

Climate protection and socio-ecological market economy

The leaders of the SPD , Greens and FDP have agreed on a joint exploratory paper – and thus recommend entering into the negotiations on a traffic light coalition. In their agreement, which SPIEGEL has before them, they insist on a “comprehensive renewal of our country.” The explorers emphasize that it is not about »profiling individual actors«. The following points have been defined by the SPD, Greens and FDP:more on the subject

Modern state and digitization

As a first point, the party leaders formulate a modern state and a “digital awakening”. The speeding up of bureaucratic procedures was an important campaign topic for almost all parties – now the SPD, Greens and FDP want to implement these plans. They set themselves an ambitious goal: »In the first year of government (should) be made and implemented all the necessary decisions in order to be able to implement private and state investments quickly, efficiently and purposefully. Our goal is to cut the duration of the proceedings at least in half. «Laws should be subjected to a» digitization check «.ANZEIGE

Climate protection and socio-ecological market economy

SPD Chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz emphasized climate protection as the most important point in his statement after the talks. The exploratory paper states that the traffic light coalition wants to launch “an immediate climate protection program with all the necessary laws, ordinances and measures” in 2022.

  • An accelerated phase-out of coal-fired power generation is also mentioned under this point. “Ideally, this will be achieved by 2030,” is the cautious formulation.
  • Germany is to be developed into “the lead market for electromobility”. There will be no general speed limit. Apparently the FDP has prevailed here. The Greens had already announced before the talks that the speed limit on German autobahns was negotiable for them .

We’re paying companies millions to roll out COVID vaccines. But we’re not getting enough bang for our buck

The Conversation

July 22, 2021 6.13am AEST


  1. Lesley RussellAdjunct Associate Professor, Menzies Centre for Health Policy, University of Sydney

Disclosure statement

Lesley Russell does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


University of  Sydney

University of Sydney provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.

View all partners

CC BY NDWe believe in the free flow of information
Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under Creative Commons licence.

Republish this article

How we roll out vaccines is recognised as more important to the success of vaccination programs than how well a vaccine works. And the “last mile” of distribution to get vaccine into people’s arms is the most difficult.

The Morrison government, confronted with a public service ill-prepared for big challenges and with no expertise in rolling out vaccines nationally, has contracted out many aspects of the COVID vaccine rollout to a range of for-profit companies. These include strategies and planning, vaccine distribution, delivery of vaccination programs in aged care, and systems meant to monitor these activities.

To date, vaccine rollout efforts have been clearly inadequate. Government planning has not involved all the possible players and there was no attempt to involve the states and territories in a concerted national effort. Companies have been contracted to give overlapping advice and to provide services where that expertise already exists.

The lack of transparency about how some of these contracts were awarded is also an issue, along with whether the expenditure of taxpayers’ dollars is delivering value and the needed outcomes.

Get news curated by experts, not algorithms.

About us

Calling in the consultants

From late 2020, the federal government engaged a raft of consultancies to provide advice on the vaccine rollout. Companies PwC and Accenture were contracted as lead consultants.

PwC was described as a “program delivery partner”. It was engaged to oversee “the operation, and coordinate activities of several actors working on specific functional areas, including — for instance — logistics partners DHL and Linfox”. In other words, PwC was contracted to oversee other contractors.

Accenture was engaged as the primary digital and data contractor to develop a software solution to track and monitor vaccine doses. This included receipt of vaccines by health services, vaccination of patients and monitoring adverse reactions. It received at least A$7.8 million for this work. It is not known if any of these products were delivered or are in use.

Read more: Is the COVID vaccine rollout the greatest public policy failure in recent Australian history?

McKinsey received a two-month contract worth A$3 million to work with the health department on vaccine issues; EY was contracted for A$557,000 last November to deliver a “2020 Influenza Evaluation and Covid Vaccine System Readiness Review”. Later there was a A$1 million contract to assess vaccine system readiness and provide advice on on-shore manufacturing.

Despite all this “expert” — and expensive — advice, the vaccination rollout has become a shambles and is far behind schedule. So the military (Lieutenant General John Frewen) has been called in to take “operational control of the rollout and the messaging around the rollout”.

Let’s look at distribution and logistics

Last December health minister Greg Hunt announced the government had signed contracts with DHL and Linfox for vaccine distribution and logistics.

The value of the contracts remains undisclosed. However, the 2021-22 federal budget provides almost A$234 million for vaccine distribution, cold storage and purchase of consumables.

Read more: Australia has not learned the lessons of its bungled COVID vaccine rollout

The decision for these companies to be involved in vaccine distribution shocked many in the pharmaceutical supply industry. The government already has a well-established mechanism to supply pharmaceutical products to the most remote areas. It already does this via pharmacies and other outlets as part of the community service obligation funded under the Community Pharmacy Agreement.

This supply network, for which the government pays A$200 million per year, involves a small number of pharmaceutical wholesalers with decades of experience in delivering to pharmacies. In remote areas, the network also delivers to medical services and doctors’ offices. It’s the same network used every year to deliver flu vaccines.

Pharmaceutical wholesalers offered their expertise. But the government did not approach them to undertake this work. The federal government also ignored the capabilities of state hospital systems, which routinely deliver time-sensitive items such as radioisotopes and blood products.

Read more: Vaccines are here, but how will we get them to billions of people?

More contracts, this time for vaccination programs

The federal government took on responsibility for vaccinating people in aged and disability care, and GP respiratory clinics. It has contracts totalling A$155.9 million with Aspen Medical, Healthcare Australia, Sonic Healthcare and International SOS to deliver these services.

Despite the fact these companies were selected in January, planning has been abysmal.

Only now have most residents in aged care facilities been fully vaccinated. Meanwhile many workers in these facilities and people receiving and delivering care in the community are yet to receive a jab.

The health department has not made these contracts public, citing “commercial-in-confidence” issues. There has been confusion about what the contracts covered and concern the firms involved are significant Liberal Party donors.

There have been widespread logistical problems with juggling vaccine deliveries, having the workforce available to do vaccinations, and demand. Poor planning has led to cancelled vaccinations in aged care and thousands of doses thrown away in one clinic after problems with temperature-controlled storage.

Read more: The government is spending almost A$24m to convince us to accept a COVID vaccine. But will its new campaign actually work?

Where to next?

The key task now is to get all Australians vaccinated.

This will require a competent, reliable and integrated system operating at full efficiency. Those aspects of the system that are the responsibility of the federal government (or its contractors) must be better coordinated with the efforts of the states and territories, GPs and others involved in the vaccination rollout. That should be a key responsibility of Lieutenant General Frewen.

The effort to get more Australians vaccinated requires the public having trust in the system that will get us there and the communications that accompany that.

We have no way of knowing what advice the government has received and indeed, whether that advice was implemented. For-profit companies have been contracted to perform vital services, but we do not know at what cost to taxpayers and whether key performance indicators are being met — or even if they exist.

Openness and transparency are the pillars on which trust in government is built. Currently they are sadly lacking.

Before you go…

Evidence-based news and analysis has never been more important. But we need support from readers like you to keep going. If you believe in the importance of independent, fact-based journalism please become a monthly donor today.


Misha Ketchell


You might also like

The Lambda variant: is it more infectious, and can it escape vaccines? A virologist explains

The benefits of a COVID vaccine far outweigh the small risk of treatable heart inflammation

Vaccines for COVID are much more effective than for flu – and reminding people could drive down hesitancy

Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant or breastfeeding? Experts explain the safety, evidence and clinical trials

84 CommentsOldestNewest

Comments are open for 72 hours but may be closed early if there is a high risk of comments breaching our standards.

  1. J BaldwinConsidering there are already in place systems to deliver vaccines it would appear there was no need to reinvent the wheel.More importantly I feel vaccines should have been ordered in early 2020.Without supply it is impossible to vaccinate the adult population.No doubt there will be a royal commission into the handling of the Covid19 situation.Report
    1. Glenda BunningIn reply to J BaldwinAnother waste of public money. When has a royal commission fixed a problem?How could a destroyed public service deliver anything much and the contractors and government are more interested in the deal and getting at the money than in actually providing anything.They do it because we let them.Report
      1. J BaldwinIn reply to Glenda BunningI think the Bank and Age Care inquiries have highlighted problems.In the main a Royal Commission is only as good as it’s terms of reference.In this case it would appear companies with no expertise in the distribution of medical supplies perhaps has to be questioned.As to the role of PwC i have no idea.Report
        1. Amkh Jogrlogged in via GoogleIn reply to J BaldwinThe wheel was “re-invented” bin order to divert control from the states.Each state is more than capable of utilising it’s resources to set up clinics administer the vaccines.It was the Federal decision to by-pass the states and put the responsibilities to local GP’s (who are NOT “set up” to handle such a programme).The correct practice would have been the feds simply source the vaccine and then pass it on for the states to administer it (using their own systems).Most GP’s will have little or no more knowledge of this that the average punter – and will have far less experience in administering “injections” than many nurse practitioners.The whole dog’s breakfast was set up (yet again) on ideological lines….. playing politics with the lives of the vulnerable.(ironic – as most of the dead are from the demographic that was easily fooled by the “franked credits” scam – and put these criminals in power)Report
          1. Jen NortonIn reply to Amkh JogrNot to mention the time constraints. In most regions there would already be a waiting period to see a GP.Adding the work of administering vaccines to GP clinics was surely a bad idea from the start.Report
            1. J BaldwinIn reply to Jen NortonGood morning Jen.For instance considering the GP’s have to manually enter each notice on vaccination into the Medicare system it is a large waste of time and should have used a swipe of the Medicare card to do this.Doing a manual typing in details will result in mistakes.It took weeks to get my proof of vaccination details done because of the 1900 method instead of just swiping the card.Report
              1. Maggie Robertslogged in via FacebookIn reply to Glenda BunningGood reply Glenda🤓. There have been numerous Royal Commissions recently, most notably the one into Age Care. But what has eventuated? Nothing! Since Abbott got rid of 6000 public servants Australia has been left unsupported. We urgently need an honest unbiased efficient ICAC.Report
                1. Glenda BunningIn reply to Maggie RobertsI agree. A federal ICAC is long overdue.Report
                  1. Colin MacGillivrayIn reply to Amkh Jogr“It was the Federal decision to by-pass the states and put the responsibilities to local GP’s (who are NOT “set up” to handle such a programme).“That was exactly the wrong thing to do.Sarawak has done the job with no consultants I think, 77% one dose 43% both doses – it’s in the paper every day. The target is 70,000 shots a day. Our population is 3 million and we are the size of England. A few long houses are only accessible by river.You can get a jab everywhere – the big shopping centres now have them. The main places are stadiums and the Convention Centre. Thiose with comorbidities go to the Genral Hospital or a few nominated GPsFree jabs for all, unregistered foreign workers (who walk in from Kalimantan included and over 70s retirees like me.Report
                    1. Jock WebbAspen are certainly beloved of the government for reasons that are certainly not related to skill. They botched their first gig in Qld. DHL I have had personal experience of at a local level and useless would be my word. PWC have cost us a fortune by advising companies on tax dodging and we pay them more? I would say 10 years ago there would have been health bureaucrats well able to take this on, but the public servants with high skills have been replaced by flunkies or let go.Report
                      1. Phil DavidsonWhen I first learned of the nature of these vaccines I understood they had to be transported at -80C A fellow commentator set me right and shared the information that -80C was the long term storage temperature. Pfizer had also developed transport cases that could be topped up with dry ice to maintain -80 for days. They could then be defrosted and stored at a much higher temperature similar to a standard pharmacy/clinic fridge used for other temperature sensitive pharmaceuticals and in that state had a shelf life of 5 days. But -80 became a big drama and specialists were needed to transport the vaccines…..when in fact existing mechanisms would have worked just as well. For example I believe 15 million of so flu vaccines are delivered to pharmacies, clinics etc most years in quite a short timeframe without too much drama.Report
                        1. Sandra Cochranelogged in via GoogleIn reply to Phil DavidsonVery interesting and contradicts Hunt’s claim (last week I think) that Pfizer has only very recently developed the capacity to provide the storage you have outlined. Thanks Phil.Report
                          1. Luke WilliamsIn reply to Sandra CochraneThis storage solution is nothing new, unless I am missing something? The same can be achieved by throwing a case of vaccine filled syringes into an esky and covering them with dry ice. This is routinely done in labs. Maybe Hunt is trying to find excuses for his inability to handle the roll out?Also, since May the shelf life of the Pfizer vaccine has been extended from 5 days to 31 days:
                            1. Luke WilliamsIn reply to Luke Williams** case of vaccine filled vials, not syringes.Report
                              1. Wal MuhlederIn reply to Phil DavidsonWhat we are talking about her is an experimental mRNA vaccine authorised for emergency use. Out of caution the Pfizer vaccine was recommended to be stored at a very low temperature. That made storage and distribution of it difficult. Places like doctors surgeries and pharmacies and remote locations didn’t have the cold storage facilities required. Usual distribution channels to them could not transport it. It was necessary to employ people who could.But as more testing was done, and knowledge was built up from its use, that very low temperature requirement was revised upwards.Report
                                1. Phil DavidsonIn reply to Wal MuhlederWal – my information comes from when Pfizer was originally rolled out in the US – so before we started. It’s interesting how this myth of how tricky low temperature distribution and storage has taken hold and was used to justify the complexity of the distribution. Certainly we needed ultra low temperature storage at distribution hubs – probably at a State level. But the requirements once released into the system were not that onerous.I validated the information on the Pfizer web site that had a very detailed technical description of how vaccines would be packed, distributed, stored (they can be stored for 30 days in the shipping packs with added dry ice), defrosted, then kept fresh for use in clinic fridges (2-8 degrees) for 5 days. So in total they can be stored for 35 days without a super cold deep freezeThe system included special packages to ship vaccine at -70C, packages which were designed to be topped up with dry ice to maintain their temperature (these are the same ones you see unloaded from DHL aircraft in Australia – they are made by DHL and branded). Each pack has GPS enabled thermal probes, data loggers and trackers which report the temperature profile of each container as they are shipped to ensure QC. Australia did revise its guidelines in early April to allow storage for 2 weeks at -15 to -25.Here is the link to Pfizer guidelines – it’s the one I originally read. moreReport
                                  1. Phil DavidsonIn reply to Sandra CochraneSandra – as Luke says it’s nothing new – the link I provided to Wal is from Pfizer dated November last year.Report
                                  2. Cormac Ó Síocháinlogged in via Facebook“Openness and transparency are the pillars on which trust in government is built. Currently they are sadly lacking.”Lesley, how do we change the system so that transparency and accountability become part of it?Report
                                    1. Stephen LakeIn reply to Cormac Ó SíocháinPerhaps the first problem would be finding people in public office who both themselves want to be transparent and accountable, whose power does not corrupt or lend them a sense of entitlement, and who will then use the powers of office entrusted to them to ensure that the entire business community should likewise be compelled to be transparent and accountable? Do we even know anymore what transparency and accountability are, or are we only defining them in terms of what is missing?Report
                                      1. Maureen McInroyIn reply to Cormac Ó SíocháinI think a good place to start would be with those commercial-in-confidence agreements as they simply provide a shield for governments paying absurd amounts of money to mates.Report
                                        1. Watashi-wa SugoiIn reply to Cormac Ó SíocháinLesley, how do we change the system so that transparency and accountability become part of it?Ask your grandparents, Cormac.Report
                                        2. Stephen LakeThis is part of a much larger and long-standing problem, and the ostensible rationales that underpin the concept of privatisation per se, as well as what amounts to a questioning of expertise and, if it exists, who has it and who doesn’t. The reality of privatisation is that it does not function even according to its own principles, insofar as it still depends upon, or is anxious to screw, billions out of the public purse instead of fully funding itself and ensuring through the notion of competition that it both keeps things affordable and maintains excellence – neither of which are true. Properly understood, privatisation should not cost the taxpayer a penny. So why does it? The notion of consultancies looked good on paper, but they essentially did what companies themselves did previously, and at a fraction of the cost. Consultancies often have no expertise in the sectors they are invited to consult on, which means that they – and many business managers – do not properly understand what they are advising on, miss essential aspects of enterprises, and do not at the end of the day make anything better – and all for the modest sum of millions of dollars that could be better spent elsewhere. It appears to be inherent in neoliberalism that the entire principle of expertise is being thrown out the window, which may help to explain the growing under-valuing of expertise, mistrust in it, anti-intellectualism and many other phenomena of culture and society today. And besides all of that, we are no longer really educating experts anymore anyway, insofar as the corporatisation of our universities has so drastically reduced our quality and standards, in order to divert more money away from the business at hand and into private pockets. No service delivery that operates for profit manages to combine a limited and acceptable profit margin while delivering best possible service. It was arguably the most advantageous element of the lot that government, or public, service delivery was not operating to make a profit but to provide a service, and in many instances they did a far better job than anything this country has known for the past 30 years. Operating for profit means that you invest the minimum amount of money possible to create an illusion of efficiency while guaranteeing inefficiency – as has also occurred in numerous other areas in this country, including in our universities – because you don’t spend what it takes to employ and maintain the best possible and most qualified workforce. You operate on the pink batts model, or the NBN model, or the age discrimination model that excludes anybody too old and with too much experience in favour of the young and dumb (no offence intended), or our energy sector, or infrastructure projects that drag things out as long as possible so that you have an indefinite guaranteed piggy bank while doing things so badly that they have to be done all over again, which keeps you in work for even longer. There is simply no case to justify the conduct of any outsourcing, privatisation or waste of taxpayer money on service delivery for anything in Australia, and there never has been. Added to this comes the government’s self-interest of keeping the business community happy so that it will support the government, rather than government actually governing in the best interests of the people and then standing for election on the basis of a solid track record, instead of corrupting democracy. And that, also at a high cost to the taxpayer.Read moreReport
                                          1. Brandon YoungIn reply to Stephen LakeThere is simply no case to justify the conduct of any outsourcing, privatisation or waste of taxpayer money on service delivery for anything in Australia, and there never has been.Private sector debt. The one and only goal of the federal LNP government is to maximise the growth of private sector debt.The financial system becomes unstable if there is not enough new demand for private debt. It sounds insane, that we would allow a banking system that absolutely depends on perpetual exponential growth of debt just to prevent a catastrophic collapse of the financial system and the broader economy, but that is exactly what we have done.The federal LNP government is not interested in any public policy unless it serves the goal of driving up demand for private debt.If there are real needs for public policy to change, undeniable needs, then the federal LNP government will ask itself (or paid advisors) “How do we get the private sector to take on enormous amounts of new debt in the process of pretending to serve these needs?”The vaccine rollout has not so much been bungled, it has been coopted, to serve instead the goal of maximising the volume of money and debt that the banking system creates out of thin air. This is the only lens through which the public policy of the federal LNP government makes any sense at all, and which explains why we are being hoodwinked as the article concludes:We have no way of knowing what advice the government has received and indeed, whether that advice was implemented. For-profit companies have been contracted to perform vital services, but we do not know at what cost to taxpayers and whether key performance indicators are being met — or even if they exist.Openness and transparency are the pillars on which trust in government is built. Currently they are sadly lacking.Openness and transparency might lead the public to the truth, the shocking truth, that government is now merely a scam, a puppet show, to distract the punters from the underlying reality that the federal LNP government is an agent of the global financial-corporate system.The federal LNP government only wants to throw lots of public money at the private sector and address the pandemic enough so that the economy can get back to business-as-usual as quickly as possible. The resumption of the growth of private sector debt (at the expense of the real world) is the only thing that really matters here.Read moreReport
                                            1. Mike McEnaneylogged in via GoogleIn reply to Stephen LakeExcellent overview of the privatisation scourge.Report
                                            2. Trevor Kerrlogged in via TwitterNo surprises here, it’s just the way global capitalism operates. Most, or all, of those transactions & contracts are locked up behind the usual disclaimers. Sure, ministerial assent would have been given, but on advice, and those giving that advice will never be interrogated under pain of severe penalty. Look at how a previous director in Health walks large as life, dispensing opinion (and, likely, advice on vaccine contracts behind closed doors) while proudly extolling her virtues as director of a casino where black cash was laundered. We live in strange times. Darkness of deliberate obscurity nurtures secretive collusion that feeds conspiratorial mutterings. Never mind all that, though, 👍👍 is the response from our media overlords. All made to measure for a grateful herd of circus-lovers. Ask no questions, bring on the sport.As for trust, we already know how Govt responds – “You voted for us, trusted us, here we are. If you don’t like it, blame yourselves.” That attitude is corrosive to the core of democratic principles, but the USA with all its checks & balances and legalistic infrastructure couldn’t protect itself from the likes of Trump. We are in the grip of an enlarging crisis.Read moreReport
                                              1. Ron BowdenIn reply to Trevor KerrAll too true, Mr Kerr. Bring on the apocalypse!Report
                                              2. Stephen Saunderslogged in via GoogleI would just like to clarify, none of this is down to Scott Morrison, he was home with an upset tummy that day, and it certainly isn’t his fault.Surely he must have an “Independent In-Confidence Commercial Advisory Board for Vaccine Consultancy Horizons” that can be blamed?Report
                                                1. Watashi-wa SugoiIn reply to Stephen SaundersBelittling your leader like that would get you executed in most parts of the world. You should be grateful you’re in a country led by someone like him.Report
                                                  1. Sandra Cochranelogged in via GoogleIn reply to Watashi-wa SugoiThe PM reminded protesting Australian women of that very recently. Unfortunately for our politicians, in a democracy they have to put it up with it. The alternative is to govern competently and accept bouquets instead.Report
                                                  2. Joy RingroseIf anything ever screamed to the Australian public the need fo an effective, retrospective Federal ICAC, it is this shamozzle. It also illustrates the desperate need for Australia to de-politicise the public service and return it to a meritocracy. We are way too far down the path of political corruption, and urgently need to return to transparent, accountable federal governance.Report
                                                    1. Sandra Cochranelogged in via GoogleIn reply to Joy RingroseMore and more it appears that the govt does service delivery by rort. We should never have expected it to deliver a vaccination program where and when it was actually needed.Report
                                                      1. Anita SpinksIn reply to Sandra CochraneMore and more it appears that the govt does service delivery by rort.Exactly, Sandra. By rights it should not get one vote and it’s to our shame that voters have had their attention drawn away by divisive issues that have little relevance to our day to day lives. I’d like to lift the voter IQ myself but that’s a hard ask when most gain information through the govt’s propaganda arm.Report
                                                        1. Maureen McInroyIn reply to Sandra CochraneThe problem is, Sandra, that services are not delivered. One of the articles linked to in yesterday’s CT article on the parking station rorts contained this comment:Of the 47 commuter car park sites, construction has been completed on just two sites and started in three more. Just $76.5m of the program’s funding, 12% of the amount committed, has been spent so far.Two projects were cancelled in December 2019 just months after they were announced, one project was later found to be ineligible and four other were cancelled in May 2021.Some 11 projects worth $175m have had no assessment work – meaning “a project proposal had not yet been received from the identified proponent”, the report said.So, of the 47 projects approved prior to the May 2019 election, only two have been completed and three more have been commenced.Report
                                                          1. Enzo FableIn reply to Maureen McInroyIt would be fascinating for a spreadsheet to be created recording $ committed/promised and how much spent – if the information can be extracted from the Government. It seems easy to promise $100s for this and that knowing there is massive underspend planned so that more promises can be made on the back of underspend. It is a form of telling lies perhaps?Report
                                                          2. Jonathan StraussThe government saw a great opportunity to come to the rescue of Australians. However by ignoring the established, well organised and seemingly relatively efficient systems that have delivered a multitude of vaccines for decades, it ignored the risk of failure in developing a new system with an inexperienced workforce. Unfortunately, for us and at the cost to bottom line, it fell flat on it’s face.The cloak and dagger secrecy that has become government modus operandi for all things just keeps growing. It’s origins sheeted home to “operation sovereign borders” the gabble of then minister Morrison,Report
                                                            1. Sandra Cochranelogged in via GoogleDespite all this “expert” — and expensive — advice. It’s plain there’s been no expert advice. I want my money back.Fascinating that the pharmacists, generally so powerful and influential, have been locked out of this particular process when they have so much to offer.No wonder we need a bloke with a loud voice, gun, uniform and chest of medals to pull this lot into line! Maybe we should appoint Frewen Speaker of the Reps once he’s clean up this mess.Report
                                                              1. Enzo FableIn reply to Sandra CochraneUnfortunately the image presenting the same messages and language the Minister and Prime Minister want to put out to us all doesn’t change the performance and outcomes required. We are being played. The uniform is supposed to make us feel more confident and trustful of the message because we have lost that all with the Minister and PM. Frewen is doing his job dutifully, he must as a Military man.Report
                                                              2. Scott SmithThe “bang for your buck” argument could apply to the entire federal government. They’ve spent so long outsourcing any responsibilities to either the states or consultants that one really has to ask why they exist at all.The vaccine rollout is just the latest failure – while the states did the heavy lifting Scomo spent most of his time ducking and weaving to avoid any responsibility.Report
                                                                1. Sandra Cochranelogged in via GoogleThank-you for such a concise and clear summary, Leslie.Report
                                                                  1. Nell Crowe Ryan“commercial-in-confidence” says it all. This is the wrong government in a pandemic – vax rorts!Report
                                                                    1. janeen harrislogged in via GoogleIn reply to Nell Crowe RyanThe government are forgetting who’s actually employing these consultants. It’s tax payers who are paying them, and they have a right to know how much it’s costing. This roll out has been such a mess, and now I understand why. There’s too many snouts in the trough. A competent public service would do the job, but they’ve been turned into flunkies.Report
                                                                    2. Tiffany MeekLet’s face it, most private sector contractors rub their hands together at the idea of getting a government contract. I think the basic maths behind the tendering process is: Work out how much it will cost to produce, times that amount by 10, add a 20% cushion in case it rains, then times all that by 2 for good luck. After all, the government is made of money yeah? When it comes to timeframes I think the same math applies. The government seems to have been blissfully unaware of this for decades. I’m not sure if this is because they have no idea how much it costs to deliver in the real world, or whether they’re so inefficient that they think these prices sound reasonable.Report
                                                                      1. Peter WestCasual Academic, University of Technology SydneyIn reply to Tiffany MeekI agree. Shocking waste of money like that a idiotic, useless ap that was supposed to be life-saving.It’s a bit like the roadworks going on now in Bondi Junction and Bronte. Making a bike lane we’ve not really seen used except once or twice. And expanding a walk. Employ a large construction team we know well who are “sound” as Sir Humphrey used to say. Give them 6 weeks and let them expand that -again and again…and don’t worry too much if work stops by about 230 or 330 every day, maybe by 2 on Fridays….Four backpackers could do the job in a few weeks.PSWho said Morrison was good at looking after money? How on earth did they get that rep? Scomo is great at sliding away from the facts, avoiding critics, not appearing on any decent talk show, talking to his sly mates, etcReport
                                                                        1. Glenda BunningIn reply to Tiffany MeekWithout transparency or accountability who knows where the money went. Into political party coffers and private tax haven accounts most likely. We’ll never know.Pity is half of Australians now think this is how things are done never realising Australia was a great place simply because it wasn’t how things were done here in the past at all.A strong, stable, fair, welfare state does not happen by chance.Report
                                                                          1. Tiffany MeekIn reply to Peter WestReminds me of a certain 300m stretch of road close to where I live that was ‘under construction’ for such a long time that it became a standing joke around town. Contractors are setting themselves up for life (ie. paying off their homes etc) with one government contract and laughing all the way to the bank. The whole tendering process really needs to be totally overhauled. People who tender amounts that are realistic are not taken seriously because those who quote astronomical sums are perceived as ‘the pros’. Where is the oversight of these projects by people who actually know what they’re doing?Report
                                                                            1. Glenda BunningIn reply to Tiffany MeekThey sacked the people who knew what they were doing.Much easier to cream the top off if nobody knows what is going on.Report
                                                                            2. Mike PulestonThere’s no surer way to push up the cost of public services than to outsource them to the private sector. Everyone knows this. Yet, come election times, voters repeatedly fall for the line “private is better than public”.Report
                                                                              1. Sandra Cochranelogged in via GoogleIn reply to Mike PulestonHi Mike, This is fascinating phenomenon. The QLD Neumann govt came to power on the promise of sacking a large number of public servants. I knew public servants who actually voted for him with the certainty that they wouldn’t lose their jobs it was the most astonishing thing (and of course terrible thing for them).Report
                                                                                1. Tiffany MeekIn reply to Mike PulestonDepends on the circumstances. I’ve worked for government and been absolutely gobsmacked by the waste of money that goes on. On the other hand, I’ve also been gobsmacked the tenders submitted by private sector for government contracts – prices that FAR exceed the actual real world costs to deliver. I think it’s more about government employees having no motivation to be efficient because the money just arrives by magic. And private sector taking advantage of governments acceptance of unrealistic, inflated tenders.Report
                                                                                2. Michael AffleckThis is just the Morrison government doing the only thing its good at – making sure its corporate mates make big profits and to hell with any accountability for what they are actually producing of benefit to the Australian people.Report
                                                                                  1. Peter WestCasual Academic, University of Technology SydneyIn reply to Michael AffleckYes indeedReport
                                                                                    1. Jen NortonIn reply to Michael AffleckWhy is this not clearly labelled “Corruption”?Report
                                                                                    2. James CoburgAs on old leftie the superficial tendencies of The Conversation to shoot from the mouth without a thought to the mind stands out. The artticle is quite clear that there are existing effective private sector based means to distrubute vaccines – pharmacies and their distributors are private sector, heavily dependent on public underwriting.Hence the heading ought to be about using the ‘wrong companies’ not the use of companies.Report
                                                                                      1. Enzo FableIn reply to James CoburgIt is more about wrong process than wrong companies James – that’s a red herring.Last year the existing process delivered some 17M flu vaccines without any fuss, all voluntary. This Morrison failure is massive. There can be little doubt Morrison has sought to differentiate Federal and State. If he had succeeded with his venture started at ground zero he would be crowing every day on ABC etc how great he is. It has backfired big time and once again heavily resisting ownership and pointing fingers elsewhere.On top of that he has lost control over timing of the next election for political advantage. The longer the farce goes on the worse it gets for him and the Liberal Party. I’d suggest Sept/Oct was first preference to capitalise on Jobseeker/Jobkeeper before the honeymoon ended – that has bypassed him now with all the fumbling with NSW and Victoria taking the cream off the cake and exposing reality.Will the Liberal Party act on these failures before the next election? I’d suggest it is increasingly possible….Dutton may well be interested?Read moreReport
                                                                                      2. John SneddonOver many years, governments have reduced and emasculated their public services so that expertise (in such things as logistics for example) has been reduced to such a level that they can no longer provide “frank & fearless” advice to the government. This, in turn, means that governments, composed of self-interested ideologues, are susceptible to the influences of equally uninformed and self-interested private interest persons (eg some consultants) who will often not provide relevant advice or support. Governments often need internal advice from public servants who know enough about particular topics to know what they and any external consultants don’t know and can thus advise caution.Report
                                                                                        1. Mike PulestonIn reply to John SneddonAn excellent summation, John. Let us not forget that this has been happening for nigh on 40 years, at federal and state levels, under both Coalition and Labor governments. In fact, it was the Hawke-Keating Labor government that started the rot, through its enthusiastic support for privatisation and deregulation.Report
                                                                                          1. Glenda BunningIn reply to Mike PulestonYes indeed.However both Hawke or Whitlam could have made a speech , even with beer in hand, and had Australians queueing in droves for the jab knowing the vaccine was available. They would have made sure there was enough vaccine.We owned CSL and CSIRO was really something before the Libs destruction.Report
                                                                                            1. Enzo FableIn reply to Mike PulestonAnd today we read that the Morrison Government is likely to not appoint another Human Rights Commissioner – see what is going on here now…? Remove any obstacle by any means to achieve the ideological/political agenda.This can only be a journey down the gurgler….Report
                                                                                              1. James CoburgIn reply to Mike PulestonRemind me when chemists were public officials?Report
                                                                                              2. Chris SaundersThanks Lesley some nice detail on what was already suspected. Existing supply lines tend to work quite smoothly in Australia. One had to assume they were not being used by this government and why the government wasn’t became more and more inexplicable as time and delay went on.Report
                                                                                                1. Tony Simonslogged in via TwitterScotty wanted all the glory and so bypassed the states who have the experise.Report
                                                                                                  1. Enzo FableIn reply to Tony SimonsIt may well be as simple as that Tony. Consider this though – how many jobs have been created? At first glance one might expect a lot however one might also expect not that many and much of this money just hived off into bank accounts of companies/consultants created to ‘do the work’. With the Great Barrier Reef $440M apparently some $80M was drawn quite quickly for Administration costs….Problem is we simply do not know and can’t know. Morrison and Co have determined we don’t need to know even though it is our taxpayer money. Only an election to kick them out can get their snouts out of the trough. They are otherwise unaccountable.One wonders if the Governor General has sent a letter to PM Morrison expressing concern at the rorts uncovered to date?Report
                                                                                                  2. Les JohnstonIt is apparent that the Federal Government was demonstrably incompetent in its management of vaccine delivery. The cost to all Australians for this incompetence is long lasting. It would be good to have the critical analysis of mismanagement and its cost towards lockdowns due to unvaccinated Australians.Report
                                                                                                    1. Enzo FableIn reply to Les JohnstonLets just start at “It is apparent that the Federal Government was demonstrably incompetent …” and leave it at that. No need to get too complex. One might add, however, corrupt?We have already seen a couple of Auditor General reports that provide critical and unbiased analysis of the level of mismanagement. I vote for an open cheque or whatever is needed to be handed over to the Auditor General’s Office to continue their great work asap on behalf of taxpayers who are funding all this corporate welfare.Report
                                                                                                      1. Maggie Robertslogged in via FacebookIn reply to Les JohnstonTo say nothing about the illness and deaths experienced and the virus is now attackingyounger and younger people.Report
                                                                                                      2. Nayland Aldridgelogged in via LinkedInUnlike the State Public Services, by and large the Commonwealth Public Service is not business of service delivery, instead it is geared towards the administration of the buckets of money doles out to the States. The Commonwealth Department of Health is a perfect example of this. Their website states that they “work in awareness and education, consultation and engagement, initiatives and programs, grants and tenders, policy, regulation, compliance and research.” It doesn’t actually own or run any hospitals. Instead of attempting to roll out the Vaccine, the Commonwealth should have procured the Vaccine and then stood back and let the States deliver it.Report
                                                                                                        1. Albert HaranDoes this look familiar?Which brings us to America’s idiocracy in 2021. Our most important public functions are handed over to corporate sponsors. Our entire political system is designed to let corporate money speak, through campaign contributions and corporate lobbying. is greed on speed.Report
                                                                                                          1. Amkh Jogrlogged in via GoogleI propose that an “efficient rollout” was not the aim of the awarded contracts.I suggest that the intention was to funnel public monies into the bank accounts of various firms that would then divert some of those funds to the lib/nat parties as “political donations” or to various third parties (who then use the funds for electoral adverts and the like).… would it be possible that Palmer woudl receive such donations to run another fraudulent scare campaign in Qld?Report
                                                                                                            1. Bas DolkensScoMo likes keeping his mates on side, hence the transfer of public funds into his mates’ accounts. Just another rort to add to the growing list of rorts.Report
                                                                                                              1. Scott PickfordThe fact that the Coalition Government decided to ignore existing supply channels and arrangements is the biggest concern. The changing nature of the COVID virus and the already identified need for future booster vaccines and/or vaccination programs with yet to be developed vaccines mean that this is not once only effort. Therefore Australia needs to build capability and capacity in systems and processes that can be called upon in a repeatable manner. The mechanisms that the Government are using with once-off, secret contracts, private sector profiteering, unknown objectives and questionable outcomes will not deliver the capacity and capability that we need. As with many of the Coalition Government programs, home care, aged care, Barrier Reef, energy, etc, their vision ends at writing a big cheque and grabbing a “record spending” headline.Report
                                                                                                                1. Simon Coxlogged in via GoogleWhat is this ‘commercial-in-confidence’ bullshit? Any expenditure of public funds should be publicly accountable. It should be a condition of doing business with the government that it is not ‘in-confidence’. If you don’t like that, then you can’t take our money.Report
                                                                                                                  1. Graeme HarrisonThe reason the Feds want zero transparency re vaccine strollout is because this would undoubtedly uncover the clear links with offices of Scovid Morrison & Ghunt as to who rebuffed Pfizer in mid-2020, and who made eventual decision to order only 5m doses, to vaccinate only 10% of population.My money is on Hunt being at epicentre of bad decisions, as he obfuscated most, claiming for months that ‘official’ negotiations with Pfizer started only in 2021. People lie most when covering up personal mistakes…Report
                                                                                                                    1. George FinlayOnly when the coverup ends and the detailed information on our vaccination program is released should we accept the recent statements of regret from the government. Without that they are empty words and just the latest example of spin. We’ve had enough spin already. Why is so much information on the vaccination program being kept secret?We know the program has failed and continues to fail. It’s crystal clear from the figures which can’t be hidden that our vaccination program has progressed at a dangerously slow pace. So much so that the Delta variant is now a far greater threat to a low immunity Australia than it is to to all the countries which have higher vaccination rates. That is every other OECD country.But what is being hidden from us is the information which would explain in detail why our vaccination program has failed. Having that in the public domain would help lead to better approaches. However releasing the detailed information currently hidden would also make it very hard for the Morrison government to continue to muddy the waters and spin. It’s wasted so much of its energy doing that rather than focusing on getting vaccination up as fast as possible. It’s outrageous or worse that all this information is not already in the public domain. If it were released it would lead to a far better approach. The Morrison government needs the help of all the experts and all the capable organizations in this country to get this failed vaccination program on the right track. It seems to be relying too much on a secretive highly paid group of private contractors. And the figures clearly show this approach hasn’t worked.Read moreReport
                                                                                                                      1. Shane Thomas O’DonohueThe public service has a culture of contracting out work even though people are in highly paid jobs to do the work eg. I previously employed a Director of marketing and communications in a large public sector super fund. When the appointed person came to me with a marketing strategy to be developed and delivered by an outside consult I told him that was his job and if I needed consultants I would sack him. The look of terror on his face was memorable.Report
                                                                                                                        1. john daviesAnother consequence of the emasculation of what used to be one of the best “public services” in the world. A comment based on 39 years in the system, including a couple of years in the UK “civil service” and visits to half a dozen other countries, including the US, to compare how things were done.Years of cutbacks, so called “efficiency dividends”, sacking staff and replacing them with contractors, putting senior executives on fixed term contracts. Governments of the past twenty years have done the country a massive disservice. Starting in the Hawke/Keating years but taken to a scandalous level by governments of the opposite persuasion, to the extent that corruption and incompetence is rampant. Our current government has no concept of what the public service could, and should, be!Report
                                                                                                                          1. Lesley RussellAdjunct Associate Professor, Menzies Centre for Health Policy, University of SydneyIn reply to john daviesAs per Thodey Review of APS
                                                                                                                            1. Trevor Kerrlogged in via TwitterIn reply to Lesley RussellThat Thodey Review has many references to ‘accountability’, but not one word on the concept of penalties to back it up when breaches occur. The Review says bugger-all about management of conflicts of interest, only thisAmend the Public Service Act 1999 …ِ to … ِ include requirements to ensure agency heads and SES avoid or manage potential conflicts of interest after leaving the APS.In other words, nothing but the sound of 🦗🦗.It would help to restore the bridge of trust between citizens & Govt if just one of the agencies of APS that steer the direction of expenditure of public money would publish what it does to manage conflicts of interest.More from the Report -Accordingly, it is critical for the APS to have the capability to deliver clear value for money and better outcomes through its relationships with external providers.
                                                                                                                              Finance to develop, for Secretaries Board endorsement and Government agreement, a framework for APS use of external providers. Framework to focus on better decision-making, value for money and outcomes.Read moreReport
                                                                                                                            2. Jose CroneroThe Morrison government, confronted with a public service ill-prepared for big challenges and with no expertise in rolling out vaccines nationally, has contracted out many aspects of the COVID vaccine rollout to a range of for-profit companies.Hang on….How are all other vaccines rolled out nationally? GPs? Chemists? Are these not private for profit entities?Report
                                                                                                                              1. john daviesIn reply to Jose CroneroNot really very clever Jose. I suggest you quote the rest of the para. Isn’t context so important!Report
                                                                                                                              2. George FinlayYou’d be naive to think that the massive and dangerous failure of our vaccination program was largely a problem caused by lower numbers in the public service or the use of private contractors per se.Problems raised about these issues in the comments here have validity. But the failed vaccination program has fundamentally been caused by very poor federal political leadership and poor overall federal management of the program. The failures have been exacerbated by the tendency of the government to spin, create diversions and exaggerate differences between the states rather than unite all the country and all the impressive resources this country has to get the vaccination program up to an acceptable standard. So that we don’t remain the worst performer of all OECD countries. We as a country have a very impressive public and private health system, very impressive and capable public and private organizations which should all be helping in this fight we have with the virus. But we know of two key organizations at least : the aged care industry and the organization of pharmacies which are well positioned and qualified to help and are not being fully used by the government. With the secrecy revealed in this article it’s hard to know how many more organizations offering to help have not been used to their potential by the government. And the government should not be waiting for organizations to offer help, it should be actively and creatively seeking help. Arguably there are still many untapped sources of help. Until the government comes clean and releases the information this article reveals the government has been hiding the electorate would be foolish to believe the government’s statements of regret or to have confidence in the capability of the government to turn their poor performance around.Read moreReport
                                                                                                                                1. Steve HindleSounds like there a need for an entity with oversight of the contracted consultants overseeing the contractor companies and their sub-contractors. I guess that is something the Government could contract out?Report
                                                                                                                                  1. George FinlayUntil the secrecy and coverup stops we should regard any expression of regret by the government with suspicion. The government needs to show its good faith by releasing all the information this article reveals it’s been keeping secret. If it doesn’t the expressions of regret should be regarded as just another element of its spin campaign. The secrecy and coverup revealed in this article are consistent with the spin, the muddying of the waters and the obfuscation we’ve been getting from the government. Secrecy makes it easier to spin and cover up failures and mismanagement. We know from the vaccination figures which can’t be hidden that the vaccination program overall has been a dangerously slow failure. But we don’t have all the details of why it’s been a failure. We need information this article shows is being hidden released so we can learn from the failure and turn this vaccination program around.Rather than seeking to divide, hide and obfuscate the government needs to take the community into its confidence. We are in this together. Only then will the government deserve any forgiveness for its failures. And only then will its failures be reversed.Read moreReport
                                                                                                                                    1. Dave BradleyGet real. Morrison knew exactly what he was doing. He is just so utterly incompetent and mean. Morrison is more guilty of the offence of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office than the ObiedsMorrison’s misconduct has cost many lives and billions of dollarsHis intention was to take credit for Roll out away from the states so he alone could claim credit tor saving Australia from Covid, win an early election and blow vaccine savings on his Covid led Gas economic recovery and tax cuts.But he didn’t follow expert advice in July 2020 and buy enough vaccines like every other developed country did. The LNP conspired against Australia.
                                                                                                                                      1. Andrew FisherI think there is little point in analysing this rollout as a discrete event. Our government spends billions outsourcing the provision of functions and services hitherto provided by government, to the private sector. Always with the same results. It costs more, it delivers less, it reduces the pool of skilled labour and it hobbles the government’s ability to react to changes and to control outcomes. And although the LNP are far more persistent in this, recent Labor governments have also played this game. The question is, why.Decades ago, we were sold the myth that private companies were leaner and more efficient than bloated government departments. We were told that they could be more flexible and more innovative and that we would get better value for money by letting them take over. Those claims have been belied by reality. Even in the few cases where private companies are all those things, the benefits don’t flow through to the state.Some people think that these moves by politicians and administrators are simply about enriching themselves and their friends. The proportion of MPs who become very rich during their tenure has never been higher and there are enough cases where the beneficiaries of decisions have been personal friends or acquaintances. So while this is clearly true in some cases, it probably doesn’t explain the overall thrust.My own belief that this relentless move to rid the government of its assets, capabilities and responsibilities, has more to do with a certain ideological world view. What we are seeing is an attempt to dismantle the trappings of the modern liberal democratic state. It’s a religious fight against big government that has nothing to do with social good. The point is that our government doesn’t believe it should be responsible for providing social benefit, or social reform, or social anything. This government, in particular, has never articulated a social vision. Like Thatcher in Britain decades ago, they don’t even believe in the existence of society. Looking at government decisions in this light, they make more sense and appear more consistent.The refusal to manage the vaccine rollout is as deliberate as the refusal to take action on global warming and results from the same way of thinking. They might prefer us to survive the pandemic and the coming climate catastrophe but they won’t acknowledge any collective responsibility to achieve those ends. Using the superior government infrastructure to vaccinate us would be admitting that some things can only, or best, be accomplished by collective action and they just can’t come at that.Read moreReport

                                                                                                                                      Address to the National Press Club by Malcolm Turnbull


                                                                                                                                      29 September 2021With the swirl of media soundbites, the impression has been created that the Australian Government has replaced a diesel electric French designed submarine for a nuclear powered American, or British, one. This is not the case.

                                                                                                                                      Australia now has no new submarine programme at all. We have cancelled the one we had with France and have a statement of intent with the UK and the US to examine the prospect of acquiring nuclear powered submarines.

                                                                                                                                      Over the next eighteen months there will be a review of the possibilities – the biggest probably being whether the new submarine should be based on the UK Astute[1] submarine or the larger US Virginia class[2].

                                                                                                                                      The hyperbole around the new AUKUS partnership has been dialed up to 11. No three nations in the world already have closer security, intelligence, and technology collaboration than Australia, the US and the UK. And it has been getting closer in recent years. As Canada’s Justin Trudeau observed this is all about selling submarines to Australia[3].

                                                                                                                                      The Australian Government has chosen to terminate a contract with France’s largely state-owned Naval Group to build 12 Attack class submarines. While based on the design of France’s latest nuclear sub they were to be conventionally powered – a modification stipulated by Australia in the competitive tender process begun in 2015 and concluded in April 2016 when it was approved by my Government’s NSC of which the current Prime Minister, Defense Minister and Foreign Minister were all members. 

                                                                                                                                      But nothing is agreed. There is no design, no costing, no contract. The only certainty is that we won’t have new submarines for 20 years and their cost will be a lot more than the French subs. However, high hopes and good intentions are in abundance. But there were plenty of them when we did the deal with France too. 

                                                                                                                                      The first of the Attack class[4] submarines was to be in the water by 2032, with the rest of the fleet coming out of the shipyards every two years until the full complement had been constructed. It was the largest defence procurement in our history – a partnership of generations between France and Australia.

                                                                                                                                      The nagging concern about the French submarines was that they were not nuclear powered. Nuclear powered subs have unlimited underwater range – nuclear reactors, unlike diesel engines, do not need oxygen. Their endurance is only limited by the need to keep the crew sustained. They can operate at much higher sustained speeds underwater, about 25 knots, than a diesel/electric submarine.  And they don’t need to surface, or snort, to recharge their batteries by running their diesel motors.

                                                                                                                                      So, given the long distances our subs have to travel, and our vast maritime domain, why did Australia decide not to order nuclear powered submarines? The answer is, or was, that we do not have, and by law are not able to have, a civil nuclear industry which is needed to support the maintenance of a nuclear navy. There is no country with a nuclear navy that does not also have a civil nuclear industry.

                                                                                                                                      The choice of a conventional submarine had been made long before I became Prime Minister, and the competitive tender was well underway. This determination was confirmed to us on numerous occasions not just by our own Navy, but by the expert advisory board chaired by Don Winter, an engineer and former US Secretary of the Navy and included three US Navy Admirals with direct command and engineering experience in nuclear submarines.[5]

                                                                                                                                      There were three bids – from France, Japan and Germany.  It was my Government, which chose the French bid on the basis that it was the best – especially in terms of stealthiness, which is the prime requirement for a submarine. 

                                                                                                                                      In 2018 I tasked the Defence Department to formally reconsider the potential for nuclear powered submarines in Australia. Technologies were changing, the risk environment was worsening, I was concerned that conventionally powered boats would not be good enough in the future. The big question, however, remained whether we could sustain and maintain a nuclear-powered navy in Australia without local, Australian nuclear facilities and the advice remained that we could not.

                                                                                                                                      Leaving aside the politics it was plain enough that we did not need a civil nuclear industry to generate electricity. It was very clear that the cheapest forms of new generation were renewables backed by storage – batteries or pumped hydro. So, any local nuclear industry would have as its overwhelming justification the support of a nuclear navy.

                                                                                                                                      The alternative, I was advised, would have been to have a nuclear-powered sub that required maintenance in another country. This would have meant our submarine capability was not sovereign – if you can’t maintain your own ships, you are not in full control of them.

                                                                                                                                      One of the attractions of the French subs was that they were originally designed for nuclear propulsion. So, if we decided to switch to nuclear we had a partner that had the expertise to do it with us.

                                                                                                                                      In its natural state uranium is 99% made up of a stable isotope U238, the unstable radioactive isotope U235 is only about 0.7%. The more U235, the more radiation, reactivity and energy. Highly enriched Uranium (HEU) has a concentration of 20% or more U235. Low enriched uranium (LEU) as used in nuclear power stations is typically between 2-5%.

                                                                                                                                      The United States, United Kingdom and Russia are the only countries still to use HEU in their naval reactors. It is enriched to about 95% and is drawn from stockpiles built up for nuclear weapons. 

                                                                                                                                      For Australia, a non-nuclear weapons state, using HEU in a submarine is not a breach of the Treaty on Non Proliferation (NPT), but it does set a precedent which other currently non-nuclear weapons states, like Iran, will seek to exploit as a justification for producing HEU.

                                                                                                                                      Following the AUKUS announcement, I was advised by the Government that the work I had commenced on nuclear options continued and it had been concluded that Australia could use the modular HEU reactors currently deployed in the UK Astute and US Virginia class submarines which, because of their HEU fuel, do not require replacement during the 35 year life of the sub. This, it is contended, means that Australia could have a nuclear-powered submarine without any need to maintain, service or refuel the nuclear reactor.

                                                                                                                                      This is very different advice to that given to the Government as recently as three years ago. It sounds too good to be true; Australia would have submarines powered by nuclear reactors running on weapons grade uranium. And we would not need to have any of our own nuclear facilities or expertise? 

                                                                                                                                      Is it credible to have a hands-off plug and play nuclear reactor filled with weapons grade uranium and not inspect it for 35 years?  The US and UK will know for sure in about thirty years.  And until then if something does go wrong, both nations have extensive nuclear facilities and expertise to deal with it.

                                                                                                                                      Australia does not.

                                                                                                                                      The French nuclear propulsion system however uses low enriched uranium (LEU) – somewhat more enriched than that used in civil nuclear plants. By law they inspect their reactors and refuel them every ten years. All submarines go in for a lengthy, year or more, refit every decade. The refueling of the French naval reactor takes a few weeks.   In this regard at least, French naval nuclear reactor safety standards are stricter than those applied in the United States and the UK.

                                                                                                                                      The new AUKUS submarines, we are told, will still be built in Adelaide. But if there are no nuclear facilities there, that must mean the submarine hulls will be transported to the US or the UK to have the reactor installed together with all of the safety and other systems connected to it.

                                                                                                                                      You don’t need to be especially cynical to see it won’t be long before someone argues it looks much simpler to have the first submarine built in the US or the UK, and then the second, third and so on.

                                                                                                                                      Australia is the first country to receive access to US naval reactors since the technology transfer to the UK in 1958. But the UK was and remains a nuclear weapons state with a substantial civil nuclear industry. Australia will be the first country without any civil nuclear industry to operate a nuclear submarine and the first non-nuclear weapon state to use HEU in a naval reactor. So, if we are not going to develop nuclear facilities of our own (as Mr Morrison has promised) then we will no more be sharing nuclear technology with the US than the owner of an iPhone is sharing smartphone technology with Apple.

                                                                                                                                      A new submarine, under the new AUKUS arrangement, would not be in the water until 2040, we are told. That is about eight years after the first Attack class sub would have been in service. So, we are now without any new submarines for the best part of 20 years. In the meantime, the Collins Class submarines are going to be refitted so they can last another decade. Let’s hope that works. But it doesn’t get us to 2040. So whichever way you look at this there is going to be an even bigger capability gap.

                                                                                                                                      For several years now the Attack Class submarine programme has been accused of cost blow outs – from $50 to $90 billion. The $50 billion was the estimate of the cost of the total programme in 2016 dollars. This included the Lockheed Martin combat and weapons system and the construction of a new dockyard in Adelaide. The $90 billion figure is no more than the estimated cost of the project in nominal dollars over its 35- year life. It is a rough estimate based on assumptions about inflation, exchange rates and technologies over decades.[6]

                                                                                                                                      Of course, now that the flurry of the media announcement is over, the question remains whether we will be able to negotiate a satisfactory deal with the US and UK to deliver a nuclear-powered submarine for Australia. If the Astute is preferred because of its size, then for practical purposes we will be price takers. 

                                                                                                                                      Tony Abbott was of the view that Australia could not build the new diesel/electric submarines itself and his original plan was that they would all be built in Japan. With the support of my colleagues, I determined that all submarines should be built in Australia. This was to be the biggest element in a new continuous sovereign shipbuilding industry in Australia, itself an engine of innovation, science, and technology with enormous spillover benefits to the rest of the economy.

                                                                                                                                      How can we maintain that commitment without having the nuclear facilities in Australia to enable maintenance and support of the new submarines’ reactor and connected systems? If that is where we are heading, and I believe it should be, then a reactor fueled with LEU is safer in every respect than one fueled with HEU.

                                                                                                                                      Nonetheless, in 2040 if we have the first of a nuclear-powered submarine fleet, that will be a good development in that the submarine will have range and capabilities a diesel/electric boat does not.

                                                                                                                                      But the way we are getting there has been clumsy, deceitful, and costly. Too many questions are not being asked, and fewer answered. The blustering attempts to wedge those who seek answers do not serve our national interest.

                                                                                                                                      Our national security does not rely on fleets and armies alone. And that is just as well, for we will never have military might to match that of potential rivals.

                                                                                                                                      Echoing our 2017 Foreign Affairs White Paper[7], as Marise Payne said on Monday “Australia is respected when we engage with the region honestly and consistently.”[8]

                                                                                                                                      Diplomacy matters, and at the heart of diplomacy is trust. Australia’s reputation as a trusted and reliable partner has been an enormous asset to us on the international stage, just as a trustworthy reputation is an enormous asset to someone in business.

                                                                                                                                      Some of you may have read the transcript (fairly accurate) of my notorious phone call with Donald Trump in January 2017 in which I persuaded him to stick to the refugee resettlement deal I had struck with President Obama. My argument was that America had given its word, and he should stick to it. When he suggested I had broken agreements in my business life, I said that I had not. Furious he may have been, but Trump did not renege on the deal.

                                                                                                                                      Imagine if he had been able to say, “How about the time you double crossed the French?”

                                                                                                                                      It was only a few years ago that our partnership with France was to be one for generations. As the sun set over Sydney Harbour in March 2018, from the deck of HMAS Canberra, President Macron described the partnership with Australia as the cornerstone of France’s Indo Pacific strategy. This was not just a contract to build submarines, it was a partnership between two nations in which France chose to entrust Australia with its most sensitive military secrets – the design of their latest submarines.

                                                                                                                                      France is an Indo Pacific power. With two million citizens and 7,000 troops across the two oceans, drawing closer to France as a security partner made enormous sense both for us and the United States.

                                                                                                                                      France is the world’s sixth (and the EU’s second) largest economy, a permanent member of the Security Council, a nuclear weapons state with its own nuclear technology for energy, naval propulsion and weapons. With Merkel’s retirement, Macron will be the most influential of the EU leaders. Always inclined to protectionism, France became a strong supporter of our bid for an FTA with the EU, invited Australia (for the first time) to the G7 and aligned its Indo Pacific strategy, and ultimately that of the EU, to ours.

                                                                                                                                      Mr Morrison has not acted in good faith. He deliberately deceived France. He makes no defense of his conduct other than to say it was in Australia’s national interest. So, is that Mr Morrison’s ethical standard with which Australia is now tagged.: Australia will act honestly unless it is judged in our national interest to deceive?

                                                                                                                                      It was as recently as 30 August that our Defence and Foreign Ministers met with their French counterparts and publicly re-emphasised the importance of the submarine programme. Two weeks later, on the day Mr Morrison dumped the President of France with a text message, the Department of Defence formally advised Naval Group that the project was on track and ready to enter into the next set of contracts.

                                                                                                                                      The media has been gleefully briefed that Mr Morrison struck the deal with Boris Johnson and Joe Biden at the G20 in July shortly before going to Paris where the PM confirmed to President Macron his continuing commitment to the submarine deal.

                                                                                                                                      France’s Foreign Minister has described Australia’s conduct as a stab in the back, a betrayal. Macron recalled his Ambassadors to Canberra and Washington. Dan Tehan can’t get a meeting with the French Trade Minister any more than he can with the Chinese Trade Minister.

                                                                                                                                      France’s Europe Minister has already poured cold water on the prospects of concluding an EU-Australian free trade agreement. Australia has proved it can’t be trusted, he has said.

                                                                                                                                      France believes it has been deceived and humiliated, and she was. This betrayal of trust will dog our relations with Europe for years. The Australian Government has treated the French Republic with contempt. It won’t be forgotten. Every time we seek to persuade another nation to trust us, somebody will be saying “Remember what they did to Macron? If they can throw France under a bus, what would they do to us?”

                                                                                                                                      So, what should have been done? The conventional/nuclear debate was hardly news. Morrison could have told the truth.  He could have said to Macron that we wanted to explore the potential for acquiring nuclear powered submarines. Macron would have been supportive. The French Government had already invited such a discussion. The Americans, who were supplying the weapons system, should have been engaged. President Biden has acknowledged this has been mishandled and that there should have been “open consultations among allies on matters of strategic interest to France and our European partners.”[9]

                                                                                                                                      If after that honest discussion it was concluded that we could not use a French reactor, the inclusion of a US or British reactor could have been considered. Let us assume that after this discussion the conclusion was that only a US or UK submarine would do. If the contract was terminated at that point, nobody could say Australia had been dishonest or sneaky. France would be disappointed, but not betrayed, disrespected or humiliated.

                                                                                                                                      Morrison’s response is to say that he could not be open and honest with Macron because the French might have run to Washington and urged Biden not to do the deal. That tells you a lot about how confident he is about the commitment of the Americans.

                                                                                                                                      As Paul Kelly records[10] (with approbation), Scott Morrison deliberately and elaborately set out to persuade the French their deal was on foot and proceeding until he knew he had an alternative deal whereupon he dumped the French and his deceitful conduct was exposed.

                                                                                                                                      Despite this awkward birth, I hope that AUKUS turns out to be a great success. It should be. We are already the closest of friends and allies – none closer.

                                                                                                                                      As Prime Minister I argued we should not see our region as a series of spokes connected to Washington or Beijing but rather as a mesh where nations like Australia would build their security by stronger ties with all our neighbours – great and small. This approach delivered a much stronger relationship with Indonesia and most nations of ASEAN. It secured in 2017 a commitment from the four leaders to revive the Quadrilateral dialogue between India, Japan, Australia and the USA. In the same year, with Shinzo Abe, we were able to defy the doubters (at home and abroad) and conclude the Trans Pacific Partnership without the United States.

                                                                                                                                      Throughout this time, and since, our security alliance and cooperation with the United States became stronger and more intense. But we always made our own decisions. Of course, our rivals and critics have said Australia will always fall in with the US. Years ago, the foreign minister of one of our neighbours said to me, “If Australia is seen as just a branch office of the US, why should we take much time with you – better to talk direct to head office.”

                                                                                                                                      If we want to have influence in our region we must be trusted. Our word must be our bond. We must be seen to have an independent foreign policy and sovereign defence capabilities. We need to have, develop and retain relationships with other nations, in our region and beyond – like the TPP – which are not simply derivatives of our alliance with the United States.

                                                                                                                                      And at the heart of all this is trust.

                                                                                                                                      New polling: Australians say fire up the nukes

                                                                                                                                      Charles Pier

                                                                                                                                      Getty Images

                                                                                                                                      Charles Pier

                                                                                                                                      28 September 2021

                                                                                                                                      This is one of those bonus weeks for poll wonks when we get a Newspoll on Monday and the fortnightly Essential Research poll just 24 hours later.

                                                                                                                                      Essential’s topics can vary and this week they’ve got a beauty. They haven’t just asked about support for the AUKUS/nuclear submarines announcement (a solid majority are in favour). They’ve also asked about nuclear-generated electricity.

                                                                                                                                      In a fascinating development, 50 per cent of Australians support the idea while 32 per cent are opposed.

                                                                                                                                      Interestingly, while the strongest support for nuclear power is found among the over 55s, there are solid blocks of younger voters prepared to entertain the concept — indicating a recognition of the significance of nuclear energy in maintaining reliable baseload power and the limits of renewables.

                                                                                                                                      Indeed, the Essential Poll shows that as many as 29 per cent of Australians would support the use of nuclear energy “to establish Australia’s nuclear weapon capabilities”. That’s a fascinating result.

                                                                                                                                      The simplistic nuclear taboos of the past are crumbling as Australians recognise both the challenges of providing reliable electricity and our strategic environment.

                                                                                                                                      No one’s talking about nuclear weapons but the time is clearly ripe to begin serious policy discussions on nuclear energy.

                                                                                                                                      Australians are ready. Can our politicians please catch up. Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

                                                                                                                                      $1 million per month: more secret costs of vaccine failure

                                                                                                                                      Charles Pier

                                                                                                                                      Getty Images

                                                                                                                                      Charles Pier

                                                                                                                                      17 August 2021

                                                                                                                                      6:37 PM

                                                                                                                                      The Innovation Australia website has another cracking story. What’s the reward for the government’s vaccine rollout failure? A million dollars a month.

                                                                                                                                      Over to InnovationAus:

                                                                                                                                      The federal government is paying global consulting giant PwC nearly $1 million per month across 2021 to assist with its troubled COVID-19 vaccine rollout, under a previously secret contract released publicly nine months after it was signed and nearly eight months after government was obliged to make it public.

                                                                                                                                      The Department of Health entered into a contract with PwC worth $11.4 million on 14 December last year, running until 14 December 2021, for “COVID-19 vaccination program management support”…

                                                                                                                                      PwC’s role in the work was announced by Health Minister Greg Hunt on Christmas Eve, but no contract was posted to AusTender and further details on its work have been significantly restricted, and no information has been provided on what has been delivered by PwC.

                                                                                                                                      The contract, which will see PwC paid $950,000 per month for all of 2021, was issued following a closed tender process, with the Department using an exemption due to its necessity to “protect human health”.

                                                                                                                                      PwC is acting as the federal government’s “program delivery partner for the vaccine rollout”.

                                                                                                                                      And how did this scandalous “previously secret contract” get made public. That’s a second scandal of its own:

                                                                                                                                      Despite signing the contract nearly nine months ago, it was only made public last week, on the same day InnovationAus published a story on the lack of a contract with PwC for its vaccine rollout work, and after questions were put to the Department on this issue.

                                                                                                                                      The Department said the contract was kept secret due to it being “incorrectly registered” as being exempt from reporting. The exemption does not, however, apply to consultancy services, and the error was picked up by “routine assirance activities” with a correction made “as quickly as practicably”, a department spokesperson told InnovationAus.

                                                                                                                                      The government can’t manage its own programs, can’t provide fundamental accountability — but is going to keep us safe from the virus.

                                                                                                                                      Yeah. Right.Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

                                                                                                                                      Preliminary research finds that even mild cases of COVID-19 leave a mark on the brain – but it’s not yet clear how long it lasts

                                                                                                                                      September 24, 2021 10.37pm AEST

                                                                                                                                      The new findings, although preliminary, are raising concerns about the potential long-term effects of COVID-19. Yuichiro Chino via Getty Images


                                                                                                                                      “Interestingly, when the researchers separated the individuals who had severe enough illness to require hospitalization, the results were the same as for those who had experienced milder COVID-19. That is, people who had been infected with COVID-19 showed a loss of brain volume even when the disease was not severe enough to require hospitalization.”

                                                                                                                                      With more than 18 months of the pandemic in the rearview mirror, researchers have been steadily gathering new and important insights into the effects of COVID-19 on the body and brain. These findings are raising concerns about the long-term impacts that the coronavirus might have on biological processes such as aging.

                                                                                                                                      As a cognitive neuroscientistmy past research has focused on understanding how normal brain changes related to aging affect people’s ability to think and move – particularly in middle age and beyond. But as more evidence came in showing that COVID-19 could affect the body and brain for months or longer following infection, my research team became interested in exploring how it might also impact the natural process of aging.

                                                                                                                                      Peering in at the brain’s response to COVID-19

                                                                                                                                      In August 2021, a preliminary but large-scale study investigating brain changes in people who had experienced COVID-19 drew a great deal of attention within the neuroscience community.

                                                                                                                                      In that study, researchers relied on an existing database called the UK Biobank, which contains brain imaging data from over 45,000 people in the U.K. going back to 2014. This means – crucially – that there was baseline data and brain imaging of all of those people from before the pandemic.

                                                                                                                                      Get news that’s free, independent and based on evidence.

                                                                                                                                      Get newsletter

                                                                                                                                      The research team analyzed the brain imaging data and then brought back those who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 for additional brain scans. They compared people who had experienced COVID-19 to participants who had not, carefully matching the groups based on age, sex, baseline test date and study location, as well as common risk factors for disease, such as health variables and socioeconomic status.

                                                                                                                                      The team found marked differences in gray matter – which is made up of the cell bodies of neurons that process information in the brain – between those who had been infected with COVID-19 and those who had not. Specifically, the thickness of the gray matter tissue in brain regions known as the frontal and temporal lobes was reduced in the COVID-19 group, differing from the typical patterns seen in the group that hadn’t experienced COVID-19.

                                                                                                                                      In the general population, it is normal to see some change in gray matter volume or thickness over time as people age, but the changes were larger than normal in those who had been infected with COVID-19.

                                                                                                                                      Interestingly, when the researchers separated the individuals who had severe enough illness to require hospitalization, the results were the same as for those who had experienced milder COVID-19. That is, people who had been infected with COVID-19 showed a loss of brain volume even when the disease was not severe enough to require hospitalization.

                                                                                                                                      Finally, researchers also investigated changes in performance on cognitive tasks and found that those who had contracted COVID-19 were slower in processing information, relative to those who had not.

                                                                                                                                      While we have to be careful interpreting these findings as they await formal peer review, the large sample, pre- and post-illness data in the same people and careful matching with people who had not had COVID-19 have made this preliminary work particularly valuable.

                                                                                                                                      What do these changes in brain volume mean?

                                                                                                                                      Early on in the pandemic, one of the most common reports from those infected with COVID-19 was the loss of sense of taste and smell.

                                                                                                                                      A woman with COVID-19 symptoms tries to sense the smell of a fresh tangerine.
                                                                                                                                      Some COVID-19 patients have experienced either the loss of, or a reduction in, their sense of smell. Dima Berlin via Getty Images

                                                                                                                                      Strikingly, the brain regions that the U.K. researchers found to be impacted by COVID-19 are all linked to the olfactory bulb, a structure near the front of the brain that passes signals about smells from the nose to other brain regions. The olfactory bulb has connections to regions of the temporal lobe. We often talk about the temporal lobe in the context of aging and Alzheimer’s disease because it is where the hippocampus is located. The hippocampus is likely to play a key role in aging, given its involvement in memory and cognitive processes.

                                                                                                                                      The sense of smell is also important to Alzheimer’s research, as some data has suggested that those at risk for the disease have a reduced sense of smell. While it is far too early to draw any conclusions about the long-term impacts of these COVID-related changes, investigating possible connections between COVID-19-related brain changes and memory is of great interest – particularly given the regions implicated and their importance in memory and Alzheimer’s disease.

                                                                                                                                      Looking ahead

                                                                                                                                      These new findings bring about important yet unanswered questions: What do these brain changes following COVID-19 mean for the process and pace of aging? And, over time does the brain recover to some extent from viral infection?

                                                                                                                                      These are active and open areas of research, some of which we are beginning to do in my own laboratory in conjunction with our ongoing work investigating brain aging.

                                                                                                                                      Brain scans from a person in their 30s and a person in their 80s, showing reduced brain volume in the older adult brain
                                                                                                                                      Brain images from a 35-year-old and an 85-year-old. Orange arrows show the thinner gray matter in the older individual. Green arrows point to areas where there is more space filled with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) due to reduced brain volume. The purple circles highlight the brains’ ventricles, which are filled with CSF. In older adults, these fluid-filled areas are much larger. Jessica Bernard, CC BY-ND

                                                                                                                                      Our lab’s work demonstrates that as people age, the brain thinks and processes information differently. In addition, we’ve observed changes over time in how peoples’ bodies move and how people learn new motor skills. Several decades of work have demonstrated that older adults have a harder time processing and manipulating information – such as updating a mental grocery list – but they typically maintain their knowledge of facts and vocabulary. With respect to motor skills, we know that older adults still learn, but they do so more slowly then young adults.

                                                                                                                                      When it comes to brain structure, we typically see a decrease in the size of the brain in adults over age 65. This decrease is not just localized to one area. Differences can be seen across many regions of the brain. There is also typically an increase in cerebrospinal fluid that fills space due to the loss of brain tissue. In addition, white matter, the insulation on axons – long cables that carry electrical impulses between nerve cells – is also less intact in older adults.

                                                                                                                                      As life expectancy has increased in the past decades, more individuals are reaching older age. While the goal is for all to live long and healthy lives, even in the best-case scenario where one ages without disease or disability, older adulthood brings on changes in how we think and move.

                                                                                                                                      Learning how all of these puzzle pieces fit together will help us unravel the mysteries of aging so that we can help improve quality of life and function for aging individuals. And now, in the context of COVID-19, it will help us understand the degree to which the brain may recover after illness as well.

                                                                                                                                      [Get the best of The Conversation, every weekend. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.]

                                                                                                                                      Before you go…

                                                                                                                                      Producing evidence-based journalism comes at a cost. At a time when Australian media is in crisis, The Conversation produces trusted news coverage written by experts and we rely on donors to keep our lights on. If you value us, please show us by becoming a monthly donor.

                                                                                                                                      Give today

                                                                                                                                      Misha Ketchell