Boosting the Defences

Tony Abbott had been health minister for only a few months when his home fax machine discharged the fateful report one February morning last year. Outlining the possible impact on Australia of an avian-flu pandemic, the departmental brief stunned Abbott, whose gaze kept returning to the key forecasts: 13,000 deaths, 58,000 hospitalizations and 2.6 million people seeking medical help in just the first three months of an outbreak. Abbott attended a funeral that day, but on his way to and from the service he spoke by phone to the report's author, Chief Medical Officer John Horvath. While Horvath's calm manner was...

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