Tag Archives: Scott Morrison

Another farcical week in Australian politics

The last week has thrown up some thorny political issues. Firstly there was Christian Porter, thinking it was okay to accept bucket loads of cash, from anonymous donors, to pay a personal account.

As the previous Minister in charge of drafting the National Integrity Commission bill, one would hope that he would understand what those words actually meant. He delayed that bill for over one thousand days; it was never finished. And now we are relying on Michaelia Cash to step up. Good luck with that!

Porter sued the ABC for defamation. When the ABC presented its defence, Porter then went to court to suppress that defence. That cost even more money. I’m sure most of us would have the native common sense to find out what the costs would be, before engaging two teams of fancy lawyers. There is an old saying that if you have to ask what something costs, you probably can’t afford it, anyway.

We were then exposed to one of the biggest cop-outs in our history. We heard the Prime Minister’s pathetic approach to accountability, and leadership. Morrison stated that Porter “upheld the Ministerial code of conduct” by breaking it, and then by resigning, because he broke it.

He then went on to say that he wasn’t the boss of parliament, but only the boss of the Ministry. That would be news to every other PM in history. It is an excellent reason why the current PM should actually call an election, and see how we feel about him, and his team of clowns.

Porter is to be replaced in the portfolio of Industry, Innovation and Science by Angus Taylor. Taylor is the Minister who has a pathological aversion to wind-farms, and he also believes that the ute is about to be made illegal. The Chaser website says that Taylor is the least qualified Minister for Science, since the last Minister, Porter. We should tell him the new submarines are powered by gas.

Submarine diplomacy

Then we had the submarines controversy. We broke a huge contract with a close ally, but we didn’t bother to tell them beforehand. Mr Morrison said there was no way Australia could have been more transparent with the French, without potentially derailing the highly sensitive deal with the US and Britain. But do not despair-he did try to ring them, the night before the announcement, but he couldn’t get through. Oh well. There goes a century of good relations with the French. We should remind Morrison that it was our choice to order the submarines. We were not hoodwinked into it.

So Morrison said we had to be sneaky, but the Defence Minister, Peter Dutton, who will be an old man when the first nuclear submarine arrives in Australia, stated that Australia had been “open and honest” with the French about its concerns with the project, which had been beset by cost blow-outs and delays.

This is a tricky situation. Morrison’s word v Dutton’s word. This was a $90 billion contract, and we have already spent $2.4 billion on it, now down the drain. There will also be huge break fees, a broken relationship, the possible loss of a free trade agreement with the EU, but Morrison gets to boast about being America’s deputy again. We could have bought lots of hospitals, but hey. Everyone loves a nuclear sub.

He also committed us to nuclear power, with no debate in Parliament. We decided that we were possibly going to war against China, if Washington says so. We will not see a submarine until at least 2040. So we have gone from having no modern submarines, to having no nuclear submarines. We do not yet know the price. At all.

Someone should explain to Morrison that when you buy expensive military hardware, you are not buying them from our so-called ‘friends’, the Americans, but from a multi-national arms dealer.

In 2002, the Howard government ignored military advice that it was too soon to join the F-35 program, and directed the “Air 6000” program to settle on the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The expected cost was $28 million per fighter in 1994 US dollars. Imagine what inflation has done to those prices already. Imagine the price for submarines in twenty years. Food for thought. Our Liberal Prime Ministers seem to have a bit of a thing for American weapons. Maybe they should just grow up. This was just a clumsy attempt to look busy, and important, in the lead-up to a looming election. Strewth!

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.

Starve, or freeze? Choose one, if you are unemployed

Sometimes it is hard to believe the “careful money-manager” spin put on Australian federal spending. Especially with all the rorting, and the pork barrelling. A proper look reveals callous negligence toward other Australians, or a really nasty attitude toward those citizens who lack the political muscle, or the platform, to question some very poor policies. These decisions can, and do, change lives.

When the Treasurer of Australia cut JobSeeker back to an effective “starve or freeze” rate, (meaning, if you are lucky enough to have a roof over your head, do you eat or do you use the heater) he certainly struck a blow for budgetary discipline. The main problem was that not only did he consign many of his fellow citizens to making that choice, but by necessity, their children and grandchildren.

You can take the boy out of Kooyong, but can you get the Kooyong out of the boy? Does Josh Frydenberg know anyone from outside his gilded circle? When he speaks of car-parks for commuters, has he ever travelled by train?

Compare his life with yours: – School at Bialik, and Mt Scopus, two elite schools, followed by a gap year playing tennis, and then his two degrees (Economics and Law) at Monash University.

Post grad at Oxford, followed by a stint at Harvard. When he actually started working, aged 28, he did so firstly as an advisor to Daryl Williams, Attorney General of Australia, and then to Alexander Downer, Foreign Minister. His next gig was with John Howard, the Prime Minister.

Such high ranking jobs, for someone who was barely out of school. Obviously he learnt a lot, because his next position was as Director of Global Banking with Deutsche Bank.

As they say, the rest is history. This young man is an admirer of Margaret Thatcher and also of Ronald Reagan. For their economic policies, no less. Did such privilege leave him any options? Does he even know what it is to struggle, even with a relatively good job? Did he labour late into the night thinking of the miserable outcomes he was mandating, for hundreds of thousands of Australians?

Does he believe that repeating “Jobs over welfare” means anything to someone who struggles with literacy, or someone who has no workplace skills, or that other bogey of the Australian right, the addict who cannot find treatment, or maybe doesn’t seek it? Do such Australians deserve a life of misery because some members of the elite see it as a lifestyle choice?

This is where the rubber hits the road. We are all Australians, and surely we believe that no Australian should be left to starve, or to wither on the social vine. Most of us want to pay taxes so that our fellow citizens can at least eat. But, for a certain class of Australian, the poor deserve nothing.

At the same time that Josh Frydenberg dropped the JobSeeker rate, he also dropped JobKeeper. Many large and profitable companies actually profited from the programme, which was designed to keep staff on during the pandemic.

When asked about this apparent profiteering, Frydenberg’s close friend, and leader, Scott Morrison told us “I’m not into the politics of envy.” Mr Morrison dismissed concerns about companies accepting millions of dollars from taxpayers under the JobKeeper scheme, and using some of it to pay executive bonuses and dividends.

“If there are some companies that feel that they want to hand that [money] back, great. Good for them. But let’s not lose sight, in some sort of envy narrative, that that program did not change the course of the nation.” This from the man who presided over the Robodebt scandal, where the Government pursued welfare recipients for unverified, dodgy debts, which were at best doubtful, and proved to be unlawful.

The first place to look for relief, or some ‘common-wealth’ type thinking, ought to be the press gallery. But, with very few notable exceptions, it is really just another collection of educated, mid to upper-middle class careerists, all seemingly hell-bent on a professorship somewhere. So the notion of hard-nosed professionals, calling out inhumane policies, institutionalised theft and misappropriation of funds, not to mention naked cronyism, is the stuff of fairy tales.

Perhaps we could use the Opposition as a brake on the opportunism and the dishonesty; sadly that appears to be a dead-end street. The Labor Party is concentrating on being a small target, so it has ‘lost’ its principles. Past history shows similar day to day malfeasance, although with leaders in the past who seemingly did believe in some form of ‘common good’ purpose. This meant, in practical terms, less obvious contempt for “government for the people”.

Who to turn to? The people, sadly, have taken on some of the beliefs of the ruling party. If you are poor, or disabled, or simply disadvantaged, you deserve to be poor. If you are obscenely rich, God loves you, and you are getting what you deserve.

The only solution would be to start with a National Integrity Commission. Make it hard, and dangerous, for these people to mess with the national wealth. Secondly, perhaps a week spent in one of our provincial towns. A visit to the local food-bank, the supermarket the day before dole day, and lastly, have a look at the local Salvos store.

And stop paying yourselves to go to work. $290 a night to go to work is a disgrace, and it’s not even taxable. No wonder we don’t trust them. And Frydenburg should move seats in Parliament – watching him smirk when Morrison cavorts about does neither of them a favour.

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 https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/nasty-saga-you-nearly-missed-20091025-hem5.html

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.

Porter and Morrison failed Katherine Thornton

On the issue of whether Christian Porter is a “fit and proper person” to continue in the role of the Attorney General there is no need to hold a public enquiry. As I have already stated, here The Porter case unfolds as classic Greek tragedy the enquiry will hit the same road-blocks that a formal trial would.

Without a witness, without proof of a crime, there is no resolution available. Christian Porter has asked us to imagine that the ‘crime’ never happened. The woman, who accused him, by name, died at her own hand. Incredibly, he and the Prime Minister both claim not to have read the accusation. Neither have they, as far as I can recall, mentioned her by name. Katherine Thornton was her name, should either of them need a reminder.

Any employer, with an ounce of intelligence and any ‘people skills’ whatsoever, would sit down and examine Mr Porter’s background, his track record, his demeanour, his strengths and weaknesses, and his ability to work in a team. That would just be the start. Has he been doing the job well, so far? If someone equally qualified presented his or herself, would you hang on to Porter in the role, or move him on, to something better suited to his abilities? Is he likeable?

The HR professional’s advice would be to look at the duties and responsibilities of the position, look at the candidate, and evaluate. Will he be able to perform, or continue to perform, to the standard required? Will he be able to work within the team? Will he, because it is essentially a ‘public service’ role, be able to represent the interests of all constituents? Will he be good for the unity of the country?

No need to call in the lawyers; no need to stall, or give misleading answers about police investigations which have finished without result; no need to cite a coronial inquest, which would only inquire into the cause of death, and would never include any underlying causes, real or imagined. That is the failing of the law as we know it-it only looks where it is permitted to look.

Those options are not going to eventuate. Morrison knows that; he is kicking the can down the road, a transparent ruse with which to buy time. Because this leader does not like to make decisions. He appears to rely on the passage of time. Perhaps it will all blow over. Could another plague appear?

What does the future hold for Mr Porter?

Will the consumers (voters) be able, or willing to place trust in his abilities, and his character, because the role, that of Attorney General, is one which encompasses a broad range of sensitive areas, from Family Law to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), to the administration of courts. He has, in the eyes of many, stumbled at every hurdle.

He has a history of pushing regrettable legislation through State Parliament as well. This includes mandatory sentences for manslaughter, when he was the Attorney General of Western Australia. He certainly lacks empathy, but then he has been shown to be no disadvantage in this neoliberal era.

In the federal arena, perhaps his worst decision was the sociopathic Robodebt, but his prosecution of Bernard Collaery and his client Witness K, in which he relentlessly set out to destroy a whistleblower, against illegal acts committed by an Australian Government, would rival it. Remember he is the person in charge of the operation of the courts in Australia, and he is currently operating a genuine ‘kangaroo court’.

His reactionary social views are well known. He is a fan of the current age of criminal liability, where children as young as ten, many with cognisant disabilities, are jailed. See here In Australia we jail children, as young as 10

Of course there should have been a continuing review process, which looked at the individual, and his performance, and whether he could improve, if improvement was needed. Any such review would have noted his seeming inability to act in a non-partisan way, for the good of the country.

His handing out of positions on the AAT has been scandalous. He appointed a Liberal Party ex-senator to a position as Deputy President and Division Head of the Social Services and Child Support Division, notwithstanding the fact that she was not qualified, according to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act, and also that she had no experience in the area, and she was not interviewed by the selection panel. She is paid close to a half million dollars every year. Whatever the ‘reasoning’ behind the appointment, it smells wrong.

After the Federal Court’s finding that Immigration Minister Alan Tudge had engaged in criminal conduct, by detaining an asylum-seeker for five days, in defiance of an order by the AAT, Mr Porter replied that the Minister was simply following Government policy. He expressly refuted the opinion of a Federal Court judge. If nothing else it does not support the judiciary in a dispute with the Executive. It is an unnecessarily partisan statement from the Commonwealth’s first law officer. (Tudge has since been cleared of the charge, on appeal.)

These are just some examples where Christian Porter has shown himself as being unfit for the office of Attorney General. If Scott Morrison had an ounce of integrity, and competence, he would show Christian Porter the door. But numbers count in a tight situation, and a majority of one is obviously too close for principled behaviour.

There is another, even more compelling reason why he should not be Attorney General. I do not think there are many Australian women who would be happy to work alongside Christian Porter right now. Regardless of enquiries held, or not, you cannot have, as a crucial part of your team, someone who is not wholly trusted, by close to half the population. Nothing will fix that situation.

And nothing will fix the lack of compassion, from the top down, for a woman who died proclaiming her hurt. True or not, her allegation deserved an adult, humane response. She is a political problem, now. And the leadership has failed us again.

The Porter case unfolds as classic Greek tragedy

The ‘facts’ of the case are that Katharine Thornton accused Christian Porter of a sustained and violent sexual assault, over an extended period of time, on one night in 1988. There were no witnesses, and there is no supporting forensic evidence. So it really is a case of “she said, he said”.

There can never be a criminal trial, because the alleged victim is deceased. That is because the accusations can not be tested, in court. Under our system of criminal law, the facts have to be proved, beyond reasonable doubt. Without the accuser, the case against Christian Porter is too weak to proceed.

There are only two possibilities here. He did it, or he did not. The law is an imperfect instrument, and especially under our system, if a case cannot be proved, then the truth of the matter remains unresolved.

The same situation applies to any form of enquiry. We can hold one, but it will not prove anything. It might serve as window dressing, but there were only two people who knew the truth of the matter, and one of them has died, and the other one has denied it.

This case has already divided the country, and in many aspects it is reminiscent of the Lindy Chamberlain case. The public didn’t like her then, and they decided that she was guilty, notwithstanding the weakness of the case against her.

Christian Porter is in a similar position. He has many detractors, and sections of the public have apparently made up their minds as to his culpability. However, if he is not able to be convicted then he is nominally free to continue his life. And he has vehemently denied the accusation.

That is where this Greek tragedy unfolds. If he did commit the atrocious crimes he is accused of, he is already being punished. His political life will probably wither and die, and he will carry the taint of his ‘crimes’ for the rest of his life. He will suffer the worst of punishments, a form of banishment from his peers; his family, even his children will be affected. The shame of the accusation will never leave him.

If he did not commit the crimes he is accused of, the punishment remains the same; but he will bear the added burden of knowing that he was innocent. For those who think Christian Porter has ‘got away’ with something, think again. He is damned if he did, and damned if he didn’t.

The other question is about Katharine Thornton. My strong inclination is to believe women who report rapes, because it is highly unlikely that they do so mistakenly, or even maliciously. It is a profound and courageous act to report your own rape, and so many victims speak of the re-traumatisation which occurs when they do. Believing rape victims in all cases is not foolproof, however, and so there is a possibility that Katharine Thornton was wrong, or malicious in her reporting. Whatever the truth, she paid with her life.

There is no way to be absolutely certain of the facts, because we cannot test either story. Katharine Thornton obviously suffered very much, for many years, and she has died as a seeming result of that suffering. But we cannot, with absolute certainty, blame Christian Porter, for her pain.

Christian Porter’s personality is not proof of criminal behaviour. He projects a born-to-rule persona, and a patrician disdain for his opponents. His political method is merciless, and many in the legal community condemn his seeming lack of compassion for those less favoured by fate.

He offends many, and his personal history has not shone a kindly light on his attitudes to women, but questions of his likeability do not prove anything. His dilemma is that, even during what must be a distressing time for him, there is no movement to award him the ‘benefit of the doubt’. Perhaps he is seen as paying for his ‘hubris’.

The Prime Minister has engaged in Olympic-standard fence-sitting, which allows him wriggle room, depending on how the court of public opinion decides. His responses are almost always political, and the political and the legal worlds are simply too small, and too self-interested, to deal with a human tragedy of this scale. Porter is on his own.

No matter where the truth lies, there are no winners in this tragedy.

Voters of Australia – You’re Doing it all Wrong

These days, in the dumbed – down media, there are often articles which tell the reader she has been brushing her hair wrongly, or he has been cutting the avocado incorrectly. I thought I would explain to the voters of Australia just where they got it so terribly wrong.

Most politicians seem to have had a golden moment, somewhere back in their youth, when they were driven by idealism, by a genuine desire to improve the human situation. Reading their Wikipedia entries sometimes shows something resembling a hint of gold, glinting in the quartz of their souls.

Australians have the vote. We take it for granted, but there are millions of people around the world who would sacrifice much to have that privilege. And we all know that, taken for granted or not, it comes with great responsibility, to actually make it mean something. Therein lies our inherent laziness, and a surprising naivety.

We all, wherever we live, have a responsibility to choose carefully, to consider the facts, to plumb the depths of our souls, to weigh judiciously the relative merits of the candidates, and putting aside all extraneous and superficial flights of fancy, we should try and send to Canberra the very best our electorate has on offer. It is not only doing justice to the wonder of democracy, but it includes an element of self-care, in that if we send the best to parliament, they will further our well-being, and the national interest.

This may sound onerous, but really it is not. We would probably look back on the known facts about the competing candidates, beginning with the party they represent, their history of achievement, we might look at their education, and their careers before becoming a candidate, we might look at their voting record, and even their publicly aired opinions. Lastly we might even make a choice based on their presentation, on how they speak to others, their perceived intelligence, their suitability to represent us, their willingness to put our interests first.

So although it sounds like a lot of work, this is really, to a large extent, based on instinct. We generally know if we find someone trustworthy, we make split second decisions all the time. If we take the decision seriously I always think that we will get it right, most of the time.

There are a multitude of reasons why the current Government should never have been elected. Although I generally shy away from using sporting metaphors when discussing politics, it is particularly useful when looking at this rabble.

To be successful, football teams require several A grade performers, a solid core of “better than competent” players, and the rest to be honest, hard working and committed personnel. As the quality of your list thins out, perhaps due to poor recruiting, or injuries, or the team’s age make-up, performance will inevitably suffer.

Football followers rather unkindly describe the situation when their team is struggling, as ‘running out of cattle’. Successful teams go out and find personnel to fill roles, to replace ageing warriors, to improve a function, maybe even to facilitate change, to re-set directions.

As I have bemoaned in the past, there is a growing shortage of quality ‘cattle’ going to Canberra. Consider the curious case of Scott Morrison (the captain) and Craig Kelly (past his use by date). The Liberal Party, prior to the last election, chose to superannuate the supremely un-gifted warrior to the bench, only to find the captain coming in and reversing the decision.

One can look far and wide for reasons, but it seems to be the worst choice a leader could make. Mr Kelly is a vociferous conservative, against same sex marriage, a climate science denier, a person who is against abortion in all cases, a man who would cross the floor to further his belligerent insistence on outdated beliefs.

Getting rid of Kelly was a decision which required no thought. It would send him to join Tony Abbott on the sidelines, it would allow Morrison to modernise his party at least a little bit, it would lessen the numbers in the obstinate right wing rump of the party, and it might increase the possibility of climate change action, even as Australia sinks into ignominy for its refusal to act. And it could have been achieved by not intervening, which would have left Morrison’s hands clean.

To continue the sporting metaphor, you have a captain with no clue, re-appointing a truly untalented player, to re-join a team struggling to achieve a game plan, and rejecting a younger, better player, who would not constantly ‘butcher’ the ball.

A reason commonly given for this apparent moment of madness on Morrison’s part, was to avoid embarrassing the Prime Minister. It appears to be a steep price to pay.

The country is worse off. The voters of Australia are worse off. The electorate of Hughes is again represented by a person whose only claim to fame is that he played rugby. I fear this sporting metaphor has run its course, but how in hell will we ever achieve anything with such a team of ‘poor cattle’?

Unfunded Empathy

We have become accustomed, in Australia, through long adherence to a shared system of values, to governments which would always put ‘the people’ first. We Australians, it was understood, would always adhere to international norms and standards, and we would conduct our day to day political affairs according to equality and fairness. That was until Tony Abbott ascended to the Prime Ministership, and he let the likes of Joe Hockey, Scott Morrison and Mathias Cormann ‘off the lead’.

No matter how mean and tricky governments have been, they have, until 2013, generally governed for the whole of the country, with an unofficial motto of ‘no-one left behind’.

Perhaps the rot set in when Joe Hockey described Australia as a nation of ‘lifters and leaners’. Which mis-reads the nation’s egalitarian aspirations, and history. It applies a Victorian era division to society, between those who give, and those who take. It is unloving charity, judgemental and harsh. Not to mention realistically nonsensical.

The social security system is designed to act as a safety net. “The gap between social security and welfare is precisely the gap between entitlement and stigma.” It is designed to act as a safety net, which props up citizens, rich and poor, when something goes horribly wrong, or when they reach retirement age, or when they get sick, or lose their jobs. So they tend to give and take over a lifetime; I can’t imagine anyone choosing welfare as a lifelong income source.

This thinking is a regression, a riff on the British Chancellor of the Exchequer’s phrase “strivers and skivers”. It is being used by a man who really fell into his parliamentary career, when the sitting independent unexpectedly resigned, leaving the seat virtually ripe for the plucking. At the first sign of stormy weather, when he was about to lose the Treasurer’s job, he resigned from the Government. If he is a ‘lifter’ he has very little heft in his lift. Mention his name to the Australian public and all they see is Joe Hockey, sitting in the Parliamentary garden, smoking a fat cigar, with his mate, Mathias Cormann.

The next step in his seemingly lucky life was as the Ambassador to the U.S., a job for which he was untrained and unsuitable, but a ‘mate’, so of course he got the job. Not surprising, because he replaced another ‘mate’, Kim Beasley, a friend to the previous Labor Government.

Let us just agree that this particular position now seems to reside in the pocket of the sitting Prime Minister, to be given to the latest ‘mate’ to resign. In breaking news, but hardly a surprise, Arthur Sinodinus has just been appointed to the role. Luck appears to follow hard on their heels for these ex-politicians. Out of one high paying job, and into another. Not even an interview, and I bet no-one asked him about Australian Water Holdings.

If we continue down this murky path we encounter Scott Morrison. He recognised middle Australia’s fear of the ‘outsider’ and turned it into something we thought we had left behind, along with the White Australia Policy.

In our anxiety about floods of not-quite-white refugees we were able to be manipulated by a self-satisfied marketing man who turned our Immigration officials into quasi-military types, decked out in their military uniforms and boots, and the minister refusing to confirm or deny ‘on-water matters’, as if they were anything other than tales of a professional Navy catching wretches in fishing boats, doing their best to better themselves and their families. I suppose they were classic ‘leaners’, to his frantic mind.

Fast forward to Scott Morrison again, now our current Prime Minister. He only dresses up in military gear when he visits American warships, but he is suffering compassion fatigue, it seems. Before the election he spoke of “a fair go for those who have a go” which says it all. We will assist you if you have a go, or if you are not suffering from a mental or physical illness which handicaps your efforts at living a productive life, or if you are old, or suffering from a disability, or you struggle to make ends meet. Help is conditional, and we set the conditions.

But that is not the worst of what this person will stoop to: He has now introduced the notion of Funded, and Unfunded, Empathy into our political lexicon. This was in response to calls being made, from across the political spectrum, for a rise in the Newstart Allowance.

This is not the Australia I know. This attitude to those who are not going so well is despicable, and in the worst sense, bullying. It is taking advantage of those who cannot stand up for themselves. It drives our opinion of this Government even lower, and it brings into sharp relief the hypocrisy of the Ministry.

Recently one of them suggested that if you can’t get a job in your home town, then re-locate. This from someone who is paid $290 for every single night that he stays in Canberra, which is where he works. This figure is tax free, and is more than the weekly rate for a single on Newstart.

Yes, that is correct. Their job is in Canberra, and they are paid to go and stay in a luxury hotel, or in their own home, and we compensate them more than an unemployed person is paid for an entire week, to go to work.

So if you are a retired Minister, you are in a good position to be able to be appointed to a plum Ambassadorial role, on top of your parliamentary pension. You will have no training, and you will leapfrog over suitably qualified persons who have worked as diplomats for their entire lives.

This Government is led by a person who feels empathy if it is paid for. He only wants to help people who help themselves. He unashamedly passes out gifts of highly desirable jobs to people who are not qualified, and he leads the worst, do-nothing Government in Australian history. He is not fit to serve the people of Australia.