Australia’s own ‘coming of age’ story-watching Scott grow up?

We in Australia have had a ringside seat as the American Republic tied itself in knots through Donald Trump’s presidency. Now we are going through our own spectacle, watching Scott Morrison’s ‘coming of age’. I know, who wants to? Not me, and not you. Coming of age is best done in the privacy of your own home, and yet, here we are.

The current Prime Minister has turned our democratic process into a sort of soap opera. Cue the child actor. He arrived as Prime Minister, an unknown, and very quickly he became the story. He has a muddy background, with a sketchy work history, with tales of being sacked, resignations, and missing reports into his conduct. Nothing damning, because it seems to have left no trail. He is also extremely evasive, and a great believer in the ephemeral nature of knowledge. If the question remains unanswered for a day, was the question ever asked?

His preselection to parliament was highly questionable. In the first round he was thrashed, by a margin of 82 to 8. However, the victor, Michael Towke, was then attacked, in a concerted campaign, by The Daily Telegraph. Read the report here

So Morrison was able, with help from News Corp Australia’s Daily Telegraph, and senior Liberal Party figures, to overturn the local branch’s vote, and was actually preselected, without a vote. He subsequently won the seat. Michael Towke sued for defamation, and News Corp settled the matter.

But not before Michael Towke’s career was finished, in politics at least. Remember, Michael Towke was a fellow Liberal. Some have pointed out that he was also Lebanese, and that the party big-wigs did not believe he would be successful in the coming election. A hard argument to run, when he won the preselection battle by ten votes to one.

Scott Morrison’s next steps are better known. He served as a shadow minister, under both Turnbull and Abbott, and the only hint of real controversy was when fifty asylum seekers died in the Christmas Island boat disaster. At the time Morrison publicly questioned the decision of the Gillard Government to pay for the relatives of the victims to travel to funerals in Sydney. When cautioned by senior Liberal colleagues, he showed signs of his adolescent nature, apologising for the timing of his comments, rather than the substance.

This allows us to travel forward in time, to more recent examples of his seeming incompleteness as an adult. When confronted about his holiday in Hawaii, while Australia burned, he dithered, he stayed put, he told us he did it for the kids, he used the “I needed a break” line, and when he returned he gave us the immortal line, “I don’t hold a hose, mate”.

He blundered through the bushfire affected areas, forcing physical handshakes upon the unwilling, in an early sign that he doesn’t understand the concept of consent. He described his use of defence force assets as if they were his to offer, or not.

Think of the picture that is emerging. He gives us stuff, and he presumes to tell us he does it because he cares, notwithstanding that it is ours to begin with. The ‘sports rorts’ affair is aired, and found to be a stinking mess. The only casualty of the affair was his Sports Minister, a woman, and a National. Most of his Cabinet colleagues had been complicit, in accepting what were essentially ill-gotten gains. Not one objected. It was like an illicit night-time feast, in the boarders’ dormitory.

His defence that it was “within the guidelines”, the failure to address the questions, the rejection of the possibility of dishonesty, brings us back to the question, “if a question is ignored, did anyone ask the question?” And, as he was early in his career, he was again found out by an audit office. So he reduced funding to the Auditor General.

It appears that we are dealing with a tragically under-developed personality; a struggling adolescent in a rugby forward’s body. And now that Donald Trump has been consigned to history, Australians are watching Scott Morrison’s ‘development’ into an adult, almost in real-time.

When Brittany Higgins’ rape was reported, he needed to go home and report in, and seek coaching on his next step. How adolescent, that he has to ask, but secondly, that he tells us. The good advice seems to have only partially worked, because he released the advisors in his office to undermine her story, even as he fumbled the ‘will he, or won’t he, meet her?’ question. That question remains unanswered. What could the hold-up be?

His response to the Christian Porter allegations is even more flawed. He does not know what the allegations are, and he definitely does not want to know. He believes Porter, although Porter himself does not know what he is accused of, either. He backs Porter retaining his Attorney General portfolio, until he does not, and then he reduces his workload.

The vaccine rollout was a planned logistics exercise. He had the resources of an entire Commonwealth Government, which includes the Defence Force, the Health Department, the goodwill of the people, and every GP in the country on-side.

He cannot own a date, it seems. Do not mention targets, or dates, or actual vaccines. He has done the classic adolescent’s trick of “look, over there, a monster is eating my homework”. First it was the Europeans withholding supplies, then it was GPs not being prepared, then it was vaccine hesitancy, and then we went back to “Promise? What promise? I never made any promises. I reject the premise of your question. I have already answered that, so I won’t again.”

He has since moved on to getting the state premiers to put their heads on the block. Surely they will fall for it. He cannot take responsibility, he is never wrong, “you must have mis-heard”, “there was never a specific date”.

As we watch Master Scott become an adult, remember his non-apology to Christine Holgate. His words may have wounded her, they were blunt, but she resigned. He will not apologise. This from a leader of a country, who cannot bring himself to say “sorry”, because he is forever stuck in childhood.

And we have to endure this travesty. He speaks for the Government, because, believe it or not, he is the best they have got.

The defining characteristic of a coming of age story is that there is psychological and moral growth on the part of the hero, or heroine, from youth to adulthood. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

A template for ruining a country – pull out the Trump playbook

There is something endearing about Australians, in that we always find a way to claim that we do things differently here. Of course we don’t, we import most of our ideas, and we engage in self-congratulation way too much. We are indeed “a lucky country, run mainly by second-rate people who share its luck.”

Consider the case of Trumpism. ” We’re not like them”, “aren’t the Americans mad” “wow, we were lucky there” are just examples of good old Aussie self-delusion. The Morrison Government would never come right out and announce the deconstruction of Australian society, because it is innately secretive, gradualist and cunning. But it does share Trump’s goals. Remove all constraints, dismantle the Public Service, reward the rich and the big end of town, and trash the poor.

Our leader is not only a brash narcissistic fool, with a short attention span, and a plan provided to him by his backers. He is more cautious than that. His changes have all been done by stealth, but Morrison is following the Trump playbook of deconstruction, without the innate intelligence, or even an eye to his legacy, to consider the consequences.

Cutting Red Tape

That is just another way of saying let’s throw away the rule-book. Here are some examples:

Environmental controls – hand-pass them to the states. It is too hard for this Government. Even Richard Nixon was forced to establish the EPA, back in the 1970s, because private industry, unregulated, began defiling America’s water and air quality in a reckless pursuit of super-profits. The people knew, because their lives were affected. The damage could be seen from space.

Appoint a succession of ministers who do not understand the gravity of lost bio-diversity, of dwindling natural resources, and who think that they will be comfortably retired, and working for an oil company, when the shit hits the fan.

Climate change – kick the can down the road, destroy Australia’s international reputation, and its climate. Enrich your mates in the fossil fuels industry, and ensure your retirement, post politics. Ignore the majority of Australians, and for the gullible, continue to lie and distort reality. Always question the science. And always deny that our bushfires, our floods, and our denuded forests and gutted Great Barrier Reef are related to climate change. The people may object though, when they notice there are no insects, or birds, or koalas, left.

Aged Care – The Australian Government is responsible for Aged Care. So sell it off. Underfund it, allow minimal regulation, appoint a minister who, amidst the recent pandemic, could not answer basic questions regarding care, quarantine, or staffing. Treat the elderly as if they are an afterthought, and if all else fails, use weasel words to try and shift the blame. And then do nothing to fix it, even after the pretence of a Royal Commission, where the two chairs could not agree. What an excellent reason to do nothing.

An example of the level of regulation: “Two brothers banned from the poultry industry for a total of 17 years after starving more than a million chickens were involved in the acquisition of two aged care homes in Melbourne, despite being bankrupt at the time and having no experience.”

Post Covid recovery – The hopes for a “Green Recovery” were soon dashed, even though the Government knew that most Australians were in favour, and the opportunities abounded, for a super-charged economy. The reason for this decision? The Government has a coterie of friends from the Oil and Gas industries, and it is instructive and depressing to look at their backgrounds.

Notwithstanding Australians’ love for renewables, Morrison and Taylor have proceeded down this cul-de-sac, because of their own fear of the far right rump of the Coalition, and I suspect, their hopes for a very nice retirement, working for the fossil fuels lobby. In understanding centre-right populists it is always best to look at narrow self-interest first, because frankly, many of them do not have another agenda.

Robodebt, (aka torturing the poor) – was a shameful episode in Australia’s history, where a government, knowingly, proceeded to harass and harm the most vulnerable Australians, illegally. They continued the harassment after finding out that the process was illegal. Services Australia, whose motto is “We deliver government payments and services” is a privatised organisation which presumably ‘looks after’ Centrelink work.

It has been recently ‘run’ by Stuart Robert, but Robodebt has many fathers. Alan Tudge and Paul Fletcher have been named in the class action against the scheme. I cannot work out why “services” is shown on the internet in italics. Perhaps it indicates a special type of service; could it be one which is illegal, and causes harm to citizens?

The people most affected were the unemployed. These people are now ‘served’ by Job Centres, who appear not to find work for anyone, and so they are forced to live on a pittance, and still go for lots of non-existent jobs. The Government has instructed that the smallest infraction will incur the harsh penalty of actually being starved. Their welfare payments are cut off, with no sustenance provided.

Of course, many of the people who are affected by these draconian laws are children, so they cannot yet vote. Some of the people responsible for that debacle are ‘looking at’ ways of gutting the NDIS, which has been described as possibly Australia’s greatest legislative achievement for the last fifty years.

National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) – In Trump’s America the Government leaked like a sieve. Most of Trump’s mis-steps and acts of bastardry were actually leaked to the media, and we are finding the same process is occurring here. So there are still consciences to be found, even within this Government.

In a recent example the Sydney Morning Herald reported the Government was legislating for the denial of “funding to Australians with acquired brain injuries and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder as well as reducing avenue of appeal for participants as part of secret plans to save costs.”

What could the reasoning be behind this plan? Are we blaming the kids for their fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and how will they live? Will we put people with an acquired brain injury on the side of the road and leave them there?

Where do these people come from, these people who do not want to help Australians who have been cruelly disabled? Is it not a part of Australia’s mission statement that we look after everyone? By saying that, we are not saying that everyone’s life will improve, but that on any sensible evaluation, the lives of most Australians will be improved. Because that could be the only legitimate reason to seek Government.

I cannot think of another valid reason to seek power, and there has never been an Australian politician who admitted that he, or she, was in it for the money and power. They invariably claim that their purpose is “to serve”. I see no evidence of a culture of caring for the people, and if forced to give a Google review, one star for turning up to work.

Although, to be fair, David Coleman hasn’t turned up for work since December 2019. In December 2019, it was announced that Coleman would be taking indefinite leave for personal reasons, with Alan Tudge taking over his portfolio as acting minister. He formally remained as a minister until a December 2020 reshuffle, in which he was instead appointed Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. Wikipedia. So, no star for David. One year on a ministerial salary. Could he possibly resign, and allow someone else to actually ‘work’?

He is still active on Facebook, though. Perhaps he is taking a cue from the Prime Minister, who has taken to making official announcements on Facebook. That way neither of them has to answer a question concerning what it is that they actually do.