AU$24m vaccination campaign to ignore misinformation from federal MPs

Prime Minister says Facebook shouldn't be used to get information on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, anyway.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has touched on plans for how vaccinations against COVID-19 will be rolled out across Australia, with the most vulnerable to be first in line starting later this month.

The rollout includes a AU$24 million campaign that aims to build public trust in the vaccine, encouraging individuals to participate.

Taking questions following his address to the National Press Club (NPC) on Monday, Morrison was asked if it was wise to use taxpayers' money on a campaign, instead of on reigning in misinformation spread by members of the Coalition.

"We've been very clear to point out where you can get your information from. You don't get it from Facebook, you get it from official government websites and that's what I encourage everybody to do and that's what we're doing, what we're investing in," he said.

"Don't go to Facebook to find out about the vaccine, go to official government websites; if you want to understand about vaccines, go talk to Brendan Murphy over there, that's who I talk to.

"[Craig Kelly is] not my doctor and he's not yours, but he owns a great job in Hughes."

Last month, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese pointed to the United States Capitol riot as an example of where mistruths can lead.

"This idea that you can say whatever you want, that there aren't any facts, that we're in a post-truth world, is extremely dangerous. Extremely dangerous," he said.

"It's about time that people weren't given a platform to spread hatred, to spread lies, which has had consequences for people … throughout it all, you've had Craig Kelly promoting these conspiracy theories.

"I can't understand how someone like Craig Kelly can be allowed to promote these theories, along with George Christensen and others, and remain a part of mainstream society."

The prime minister also used his NPC appearance to discuss the News Media Bargaining Code that is making its way to law in Australia.

Morrison was asked if he was confident Australians would be left with sufficient alternatives if Google moved ahead with its threat to pull its search engine.

"I can tell you Microsoft is pretty confident. When I spoke to Satya [Nadella, Microsoft CEO] the other day, there was a bit of that," he said. "Look, these are big technology companies and what's important to Australia, I think, is that we set the rules that are right for our people and having a news environment in this country that is one that is sustainable and supported commercially, then this is vital to how democracies function."

He turned to his time as Treasurer to say issues of rule-bending among big tech has always been high on his agenda.

"When I would go to the G20, I would be talking not just about are they paying tax and how do we best address that, but I began the conversation … about antitrust and competition policy issues that I said we were going to have to address," Morrison said. "Australia is being true to our word again.

"I would like to see more alignment between the world's economies on these sorts of things."

The prime minister said he just wants the rules in the digital world to be the same as the ones that exist in the physical world.

"And that means you cant go around abusing people and carrying on like people do, you wouldn't behave like that in a room like this -- well I don't think you would," he said, minutes after facing questioning on Craig Kelly's remarks.


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