This morning, ex-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull took to social media in an act of damage control.
Over the weekend, Turnbull was quick to reblog Laura Tingle’s article, which suggested that ex-prime minister Kevin Rudd had been acting as a third party in Australia’s vaccine negotiation with Pfizer. Turnbull then tweeted his hearty congratulations to Rudd.
The news of Rudd’s involvement in allegedly securing the vaccine delivery came after a letter penned by Kevin Rudd was mysteriously leaked to the press.
“It wouldn’t take our greatest detective within the Queensland Police Service to identify who leaked that self-serving letter,” said Defence Minister Peter Dutton, to 4BC Breakfast with Neil Breen.
Rudd’s letter was addressed to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, saying that Rudd had scheduled a call with Albert Bourla, the Chairman and Chief Executive of Pfizer. The aim was to smooth over what he saw as a poorly handled situation.
Rudd currently holds no official role that would explain his interference in the government’s negotiation of the vaccine roll-out.
“I did so not as a representative of the Australian Government, but purely in my private capacity as an Australian citizen who cares for his country’s wellbeing,” explained Rudd, in his letter.
In addition to writing to Morrison, Rudd also called Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to alert him of the conversation. The ABC then ran the story on July 11, saying that ‘a network of senior businessmen contacted the former prime minister Kevin Rudd and set up an introduction with Pfizer boss Albert Bourla’.
An anonymous senior businessman, known only to the ABC, is said to have held meetings with Pfizer executives in late June.
“The executives suggested that, in the absence of Mr Morrison, former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd – who was known to them because of his work in the United States as head of the New York-based Asia Society – may have some influence.” - the ABC
Health Minister Greg Hunt was swift to contradict Rudd’s story, explaining that the fast-track of the Pfizer vaccine was the result of the government’s negotiation with Pfizer Australia, not Rudd’s phone call.
A spokesperson for Greg Hunt’s office clarified the situation to 7:30.
“The minister has met with the Pfizer Australia country head Anne Harris on multiple occasions with a view to the announcement Friday on the timeframe achieved and at the level we had hoped for, which was the maximum that Pfizer had indicated might be available.”
The statement concluded with a reference to Rudd’s comments in the press.
"While we were made aware of Mr Rudd's approach, we are not aware this approach had any impact on the outcome. We appreciate all contributions from those outside of government, even if they made no material difference to the outcome."
Pfizer also confirmed the government’s position, releasing a statement that made it clear that their contractual arrangement with the government over the securing of vaccines was between them and the government, and that claims of third party involvement were ‘inaccurate’.
Since both Greg Hunt and Pfzier have denied the story, Rudd has taken to Twitter for some damage control of his own, posting several blunt replies to the unravelling story.
Rudd also released a statement to the press stating that he had ‘not claimed responsibility for decisions by Pfizer and – as he made clear to Mr Morrison – all negotiating powers rested with the federal government.’
“Mr Rudd would definitely not seek to associate himself with the Australian Government’s comprehensively botched vaccine procurement program.”