How can we trust Morrison’s word, or his motives, on anything?

Scott Morrison has now been Prime Minister for over three years. That means he has spent more time in the job than Turnbull, Whitlam, Rudd, or Abbott did. In those three years he has built a reputation as a man whose word cannot be trusted, and as a man who has given both his Ministers, and his back-benchers, a free pass, no matter what they are caught out doing, or saying. All they need to do is to vote with the Government.

Some say a one seat majority can do that to a Government, but the scandals and the behavioural issues during Morrison’s ascendancy have plumbed new depths. Morrison himself has been implicated in many of them, but even when his hands have been demonstrably ‘clean’, the behaviour he walks past has only served to highlight his elastic ethics, and a seemingly wilful blindness regarding community expectations.

If it wasn’t so tragic, it would be amusing to track the disappointment of those who confuse the crude hucksterism of the Hillsong Church with Christianity. Practising Christians need to stop bleating about his disavowal of Christian principles, and wake up to the fact that the so-called “new churches” are just another dodgy import from the U.S., like the gym equipment advertised on afternoon television.

Many of us have expected this most overtly ‘Christian’ of our leaders, to call Enough!, as new rorts supersede older rorts, as racist dog-whistling continues apace, and Ministers asking for ‘favours’ from other Ministers continues to undermine the very character of our democracy.

Mr Taylor, for example, has had little luck lowering carbon emissions, possibly because he is so busy asking for favours from his colleagues. Sometimes he receives favours even when he has not asked for them, as in the case of the water buyback scheme. It is a most accommodating Ministry.

The changing landscape of newspapers in particular, and the broader media generally, has shaken up the quality of reporting, and the idea of holding power to account, has been almost universally degraded. In the case of the Murdoch media, standards are so low that one might as well watch a game show, as expect objectivity.

Consider the rabid response to the ABC’s Four Corners episode this week. A report, using sourced opinion from Fox News insiders, criticised what is known throughout the thinking universe, as Fox News’ correct calling of Arizona for Biden, and then the shameful sacking of a loyal employee for doing his job, demonstrates their passion for objective news. You cannot then publish over forty articles attacking the show, and to then deny a campaign of vilification.

Years after the bushfires of 2019-2020 the bushfire relief is still being parcelled out, mainly to coalition seats. Some of the victims of the bushfires are still waiting to have their land cleared, but bad luck if you live in a Labor seat. Car parks, sport grounds, buying land, or water, from donors, stacking the AAT with drones, keeping Christian Porter in the Ministry, accepting George Christensen’s and Andrew Laming’s support-they all speak of incompetence and a lack of moral fibre.

After the utter shambles of Robodebt, the Morrison Government has the hide to start it up again. This time they are sending out debt notices to people who were overpaid during the pandemic last year. Many of the debts are very small, but when you try living on less than $300 per week, repaying debt with the threat of legal action is not only dispiriting, it is cruel.

It also exposes the awful double standards of this rabble of a Government. Firstly they pursue the poor for unproven debts. Their next step is to be found to have acted illegally, and ordered to repay all the debts recovered. As a kind of grace note, they then terrorise the same demographic (the poor), to repay any over-payments, caused by their own indifferent drafting, and hopeless messaging, regarding those pandemic payments.

Treasurer Frydenberg is seen by some as a future Prime Minister. This must be seen as a distinct possibility, because John Howard, Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison have all succeeded to the job, and we all know the level of their capabilities. So it is clear that ability is not a pre-requisite for success. It makes Bill Hayden’s comments on drover’s dogs winning elections somehow relevant.

Frydenberg managed to waste $25 billion of taxpayers’ money on JobKeeper last year. He overlooked inserting a claw-back provision, which is a standard measure by which the ATO claws back money over-paid to corporations.

Close to $9 billion was paid to firms whose turnover not only failed to decline as forecast, but actually increased. So the young, inexperienced Treasurer of Australia has lost $25 billion of our money, and doesn’t have a way of getting it back. His leader, Scott Morrison, thinks asking for its return would be to engage in the politics of envy.

Do you trust him to open up the country, safely?

So, would you put him in charge of opening up the country, in the midst of the Delta variant, which is now running rampant through Sydney? Firstly he wanted the country opened up, then he wanted to follow medical advice and close it down; then he wanted to ‘hurry up’ the medical advice, then he wanted to lock down, then he wanted the states to accept full responsibility for everything, then he wanted to give us hope as we waited for the dawn. Lately he has been cherry-picking medical experts, searching for the opinion du jour, which might suit his latest shift.

The vaccination of all Australians was not a race, then it was still not a race, but it was more important to finish well than to start well. Amidst all the tap-dancing around the truth, and the weird word choices he makes, ask yourself why he chose AstraZeneca as opposed to Pfizer. And if he is so concerned about costs, why pay PWC $11 million to not deliver them? Did the Government have a claw-back provision if it was unable, or unwilling, to provide vaccines on time?

I have seen some estimates of the relative costs of the two, with AstraZeneca costing around $6 a dose, while Pfizer can command $22 a dose. Could it be that our leader chose the cheap one, with the attendant problems with vaccinating the country? The problems are immense. No talk of reaching milestones will remove the necessity of vaccinating special needs groups, and workers in crucial industries.

Groups like the aged and the disabled need vaccination, but their carers and nurses do, too. Aboriginal communities need to be vaccinated, because many have underlying health issues. Children are noticeably being infected by this variant, so can he include them when calculating vaccination rates?

Considering his Government’s almost total lack of competence, I would not put him in charge of getting the morning tea. I certainly trust Daniel Andrews way more than I do the twits in Canberra.

Afghanistan-did we learn anything at all?

The Taliban over-ran Kabul last night. They had been advancing throughout Afghanistan for weeks, ever since the Americans called a halt to the Afghan War. When the Americans ceased operations, so too did all their allies.

Australia was one of more than 40 countries which had signed up for the conflict, and which is still scrambling to tie off the ‘loose ends’ of twenty years of war. The loose ends include Afghanis who assisted us, or the Americans, during those twenty years.

As an advanced democracy, we also bear responsibility for the backlash which will inevitably fall on those we leave behind. Admiral Chris Barrie (retired) commented today that we announced our decision to leave in April, and yet, here we are four months later, still trying to arrange the retrieval of our support staff. Too little, too late, again?

The current situation resembles Vietnam in the final weeks, as the Americans strive to get out. Their Afghan allies have been abandoned, military supplies left to the victors, collaborators are in extreme danger of retribution. There is also another large group, which finds itself in dire peril-women and girls.

The Taliban is an extreme and pre-modern Islamist movement, and women and girls can expect, at the very least, the re-introduction of arranged marriages, the removal of hard-won rights and personal freedoms, the abolition of education for girls, and the mandatory dress code, which includes the most extreme version of the burqa. They have also threatened all divorced women in the country, for being divorced.

When you invade a country, any country, you must win the war, or, even if you retreat with honour, you lose. The enemy surges if you abandon the field of battle, and the ideology you were battling against, wins. The Vietnamese are still Communist, and the Taliban will continue to be Islamist fundamentalists.

Why were we there?

Eighty years ago, Prime Minister John Curtin prepared a New Year’s Eve message for the Australian people. It was written three weeks after the war with Japan had begun. It was published in the Melbourne Herald on 27 December, 1941: 

‘Without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom.’

With this message he informed the world that Australia’s foreign policy direction must change, in response not only to the military situation with Japan, but to Australia’s location in the Pacific. From then on, he states, Australia will be proactive, the architect of her own interests. 

Australia disengaged from the ‘general war’ to concentrate on the Pacific conflict. Both Churchill and Roosevelt were surprised, and dismayed, but the die was cast. Australia survived the war, but only with massive assistance from the U.S. America has been the cornerstone of our foreign policy ever since. The alliance between Australia and the United States was formalised through the ANZUS Treaty in 1951.

John Howard took us there

John Howard signed us up for this war. He invoked the ANZUS Treaty. He was in Washington on September 11, 2001 and Australian troops were committed to Afghanistan within a month, by October that year. On the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the U.S. he stated that “the decisions I believed were right. I still believe they were right, and I believe history will vindicate them.” Sadly, every Australian Prime Minister since then, has kept Australia in this fruitless, endless war.

Not even Joe Biden thought the Alliance should still be there. The original mission was to hunt for Osama bin Laden, and the second to deny Al-Qaeda a foothold. Both had been completed. The Americans should stop the nation building, and mind their own business. Look what they have done to every country they have tried to ‘save’. Scenes from the airport at Kabul are a sobering reminder of their folly.

Australians have fought alongside Americans in every major US military action since World War 11. They include Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Somalia, East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq, and lately, Syria.

Many have used the “shared history, and shared values” argument to justify our continued relationship. Others question the value for Australia, which has stood loyally by its mighty ally, through its many wars, with not much to show for the effort, except in terms of lost lives, and wasted military resources. We were never there as equal partners. 

Realpolitik suggests that there is an element of coercion in the relationship, in that the U.S. is understood to reward its allies, and to punish those who are not. Self-interest is also clearly evident. We consider ourselves too small to defend ourselves in a dangerous world, and so being friends with the richest and most powerful nation on earth, adds to our international weight.

Is Morrison committing us to a war with China?

Last year our Prime Minister ramped up the hysteria and the rhetoric concerning China. He even committed a sum of $270 billion to defence, which included funding for long range missiles. These are presumably to warn China that we are deadly serious about defending ourselves, militarily, against our largest trading partner. 

This can be traced back to a slavish desire, on Morrison’s part, to please Donald Trump. The ex-President, in an attempt to divert attention away from his own criminal negligence regarding the pandemic in America, had sought to demonise China for somehow ‘inventing’ Covid19.

So by jumping onto Trump’s bandwagon, Australia is now in the uncomfortable position of having antagonised our largest trading partner, and then by clearly choosing the Americans over China, in a geo-political struggle which we should have stayed out of.

So we probably do need the relationship with the Americans, because we chose to be China’s enemy. Or is the American Empire heading toward its inevitable end? In Australian terms “have we backed the wrong horse?”

A lucky country, run by second rate people

“Australia is a lucky country run mainly by second rate people who share its luck. It lives on other people’s ideas, and, although its ordinary people are adaptable, most of its leaders (in all fields) so lack curiosity about the events that surround them that they are often taken by surprise.”
That is a quote taken directly from Donald Horne’s The Lucky Country. It was published in 1964.

Is that still true? The short answer is of course yes. Let me count the ways our lucky country is led by second rate people, and some of their signature ‘tunes’.

Morrison is like a bull in a china shop

In December 2010, the shadow cabinet were asked to bring three ideas each, to a tactics meeting, for attacking the Gillard Government. One of Mr Morrison’s ideas was to use an anti-Muslim campaign, as he thought it might be effective, and popular. He was dissuaded by colleagues, who thought it a step too far.

In February 2011, he objected to the cost of flying grieving relatives to Sydney, for the funerals of their loved ones, who had died in the Christmas Island boat disaster. After much criticism, he apologised for the timing of the statement, but not the substance. He made the statement on the actual day of the funerals.

He repeatedly referred to “illegal arrivals” and “illegal boats,” when discussing asylum seekers. He was eventually elevated to Immigration Minister in 2013, when Abbott came to power. He takes particular pride in having ‘stopped the boats’. He was widely criticised for his refusal to discuss “on water matters”. He has a basic disregard towards the public’s right to know what the Government does, on our behalf.

In November 2014 the Australian Human Rights Commission found that he had violated the rights of children in his care, and of breaching Australia’s international obligations. Tony Abbott was concerned that the report was politically motivated. No remorse, from either of them.

In the five years to 2019, more than 95,000 asylum seekers arrived in Australia by plane, causing a huge backlog of unsuccessful applicants, all waiting to be deported. Critics say that many are the victims of people smugglers, using the other, acceptable gateway, the airport. Many are vulnerable to exploitation, and possibly slavery. It is possible that Morrison has thought about this, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

In 2019 he went to Hawaii while Sydney was on fire, because he had promised his kids. He doesn’t hold a hose, because he is more of an office type of guy. He was busy, he said, and he deserved a holiday, like every other husband and father. This was the beginning of the ‘daggy dad’ routine. Beers at the footy, visits to Bunnings, silly hats. All part of a campaign to humanise him, to try and remove the ‘big end of town’ focus of his policies. Tax cuts for the rich, Robodebt for the poor. He has a mortgage, like everybody else, except he gets paid over half a million dollars a year.

The pandemic saved him, because he has so little regard for following process that he, and his Government, were in danger of being hounded out of office. It is still amazing how little he expected to be found out, with firstly his sports rorts affair, and now the supercharged car-parks scheme. He is like a burglar who thinks no-one can see him, as he breaks and enters, misusing taxpayers’ funds as if they were his own.

The vaccine rollout has been a disaster, because the daggy leader didn’t understand that he had only done the first part of his job. He was happy to coast on our low deaths and infection rates, without any curiosity as to what might come next. Second and third waves have been a part of pandemics since at least 1919 and the Spanish flu, but it was, in his mind, definitely not a race! More of a victory lap.

If we were to study Morrison’s response to gender issues this year, his calling in of his wife to advise him on an appropriate response to Brittany Higgins was a particular lowlight. He seems to be afraid of those pesky women, and their demands for, at the very least, a safe place to work. Again, his tone-deaf support of Christian Porter highlighted his inability to read the signs of change.

Ditto for global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) delivered its Sixth Assessment Report this week, and the usual suspects fronted up to gaslight the Australian public. Morrison again stated that he supported the science, and his Emissions Reduction Minister, Angus Taylor, repeated the line that we are on target to “meet and beat” the Paris target. The climate crisis, for it really is one, was visible to scientists thirty years ago, and yet the Liberals think they can still fob us off with tales of “technology not taxes”.

In this instance we are going it alone. We are not even borrowing ideas from overseas; the rest of the world knows Climate Change is happening, but our leaders have stuck their heads in the sand. Like ostriches, or was that emus? How embarrassing, and ultimately dangerous. Clearly, we are led by second rate politicians, who hope their luck never ends.

In Australia we still jail children, some as young as 10

Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie introduced a Private Members’ Bill last year, to put pressure on the Government to follow a United Nations recommendation, and raise the age of criminal responsibility in Australia from 10 to 14 years. This would re-align us with most of the developed world.

In November 2019, then Attorney-General of AustraliaChristian Porter, was of the opinion that the current system was working well. He went on to state that the bill was highly controversial, because it would mean there would never be any circumstances where a person aged ten to 14 could be held responsible for their actions. That opinion appears to be, at best, wilfully blind.

It is worth noting that a spokesperson for the current federal Attorney-General, Michaelia Cash, said the issue was one for states and territories to decide. Quite a backward step from the Commonwealth, and from the first law officer in the nation.

Porter had worked previously as Attorney-General of W.A. where he must have known that almost 40 per cent of Western Australian youth in detention have fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and almost 90 per cent have a neurological impairment.

We are desperate for change, but the Attorneys need more time

This is hard to believe, but in Australia, today, there are over six hundred children, aged between 10 and 13, who are in jail. It is a fact that about 65% of those children are of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) heritage.

If you wanted to consciously set about handicapping a person for life, what better way than to lock them up, separate them from family and friends, take them out of the classroom, and impose the rigors of life in an institution on pre-pubescent children.

This reeks of another ‘stolen generation’ disgrace, and we can’t blame ‘redneck’ police, or consciously racist bureaucrats for this. No, this state of affairs sits squarely on the shoulders of our federal and state attorneys-general.

One of the cornerstones of criminal law in Australia, and other Common Law jurisdictions, is the concept of “mens rea“. The phrase means a guilty mind, and it must be present, to prove intent to commit a crime.

We all know that these children are legally ‘infants’. They cannot vote, or marry, or drive a car, or sign a contract, or consent to sexual activity, but they can commit crimes? We should consider improving their lives, rather than jailing them.

Think back to when you were ten years old. How did you rate when it came to weighing up your options, the consequences and rewards of your intended action, and your willingness to accept the outcome, if there was one. Did you know the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’? How about lawful and unlawful?

The attorneys-general of this great nation have been in a bit of a bind, because they feel that they have not had enough time to consider the matter of whether it is appropriate to continue to lock children up in detention. That is not to mention the 600 who are already there.

In mid-2020 they indicated that more work needed to be done on alternative forms of punishment before they could make their recommendations.

They have just completed another full year of ‘deliberating’. They refuse to answer questions as to what specific work has been undertaken, and by whom, in the past year, to identify adequate processes and services for children who exhibit offending behaviour.

Reasons why change is necessary, now

Professor Judy Cashmore, of the University of Sydney Law School, lists five reasons why it would be a good idea to lift the age of criminal responsibility in Australia:

  1. Most children who offend at these ages (10-13) will “simply grow out of it” with appropriate support, but those who won’t will need an appropriate public health response, rather than justice based;

2. The younger a child is at their first contact with the criminal justice system, the greater their chances of future offending, so at least increasing the age will mitigate the harm to the child;

3. Indigenous children are highly over-represented in this group of children so positive, culturally and age-appropriate responses are critical for these children to reduce this over-representation;

4. It is extremely costly to bring children into juvenile detention – that money urgently needs to go into therapeutic justice re-investment;

5. Raising the age to 14 would bring Australia into line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is time that Australians were again proud of our civic culture, rather than being stuck in a time-warp of ‘old white man’ reaction.

The Morrison Government has a chance to undo some of the reputational damage it has caused to Australia over the last eight years. Raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 is a no-brainer. All thinking Australians seem to be in favour, except for the lawyers in power. We should release the children in custody immediately. Their lives are being trashed as we speak!

So, take a good look at a ten year old kid, and wonder why we are victimising children. To make matters worse, the law is more likely to punish them, if they are Indigenous. Shame on us.

This post has been updated, to reflect changes since it was first released.