Tag Archives: Tragi-comedy

Morrison’s shallow talent pool

As a general rule, upon election, it usually took Parliamentarians some time to show what they were made of, and gradually those with the best minds, and the greatest capacity, worked their way up through the ranks. In political life that has always meant attaining ministerial appointment. If one was unfortunate enough to be seated on the ‘wrong’ side of the chamber, one gained ‘shadow’ ministerial experience.

Often the Minister, and his or her shadow, continued in the same portfolio, over a period of years. In this way each became expert in the area covered by the job. For example, when the Government was changed by the electorate, the Shadow Minister was able to step into the ministerial role almost seamlessly, and often with shared goals. That approach was known as bi-partisanship.

This served to illustrate the maxim that the Cabinet is there to serve the country, rather than the party. In the best of times the Minister and his or her shadow were able to work together, with the goal of achieving improvement, for the country as a whole. This really came to an end with the Howard Government.

How did Howard change things?

To many Australians John Howard was known as honest, earnest and relatively harmless. But that persona was carefully crafted. His Government was described as ‘mean and tricky’ in a report Howard himself commissioned, from the Liberals’ own president, Shane Stone. Howard was on a mission in 1996 to re-make Australia, into a faux Thatcherite society, and he used the oldest trick in the book – a faux ‘budget emergency’.

Serving as a beacon to Tony Abbott in 2013, Howard ‘manufactured’ his budget emergency, and embarked on a ruthless project to rid his Government of debt, by imposing strict savings on reluctant Ministers, and selling off the country’s silver.

Some of the more notable pieces of silver were the sale of Telstra, and the privatisation of both the Commonwealth Employment Service, and the Aged Care sector. The damage these own goals have caused, has cascaded throughout the years, and continues to cause the country to bleed.

This served Howard in two ways. Firstly he engineered “cabinet solidarity” on solving the ’emergency’, thus mandating even unreasonable savings, and he isolated the so-called ‘wets’, many of whom fought for their portfolios’ funding.

‘Wets’ was another term for moderates, who generally believed in a type of humanistic Conservatism, where they achieved economic goals, while protecting the poor. Some of his best performers were either sidetracked, or actively removed from the parliament, through selective organisational targeting.

The party is of course now stacked with time-serving, narrow, ideologically motivated drones, whose life experience is usually having served as an ‘adviser’ to a parliamentarian hack, or as a lawyer. That does not deepen the gene pool, but it does provide malleable cattle with which to work.

What happened to bi-partisanship?

Cabinet ministers are now chosen on the basis of loyalty to whomever is sitting in the prime ministerial chair. Talent is in such short supply that someone like Michaelia Cash, a former lawyer, is now a cabinet minister. Her portfolio area is Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business. With her unreasoning loathing for all things union, who could she work with, across the aisle? And working at a major law firm, as a taster for small business?

Angus Taylor is a former Rhodes Scholar, and he has worked as a management consultant for twenty years or so. He must know about risk management, or he would not have been employed in management consulting. And yet, in possibly the most important role he will ever be employed in, that of reducing Australia’s emissions in a pre-apocalyptic world, he adheres to the anti-science rhetoric, and apparent obfuscations of a global heating denialist. The only possible explanation for his behaviour is that he is unable to read a risk profile, or he cannot escape the shackles of his denialism.

The Hon Melissa Price MP was Vice President of Legal and Business Development for Crosslands Resources, an iron ore miner, before she was appointed to the Environment Ministry. As Peter Fitzsimons asked on television, “If a million dead fish at Menindee doesn’t attract your attention as the environment minister, what does it take?”

She also approved the Adani Mine’s groundwater plan just days before the 2019 election, although the plan was riddled with errors. It puts her in line to contest the Worst Environment Minister in History Award, with Greg Hunt and Josh Frydenberg also in the running.

Was the Prime Minister joking with these appointments?

One theme runs through this tiny sample of ministerial misfits. It can be read as being the best we can do, with a shallow pool to pick from, or did Morrison actually choose ministers who would so underperform that he could show his contempt for the very areas they represent.

Considering the IPA obsession for small-to-no-government, could this be, like Trump’s, a new low in ministerial commitment, as we head to low-to-no regulation, and really ugly capitalism?

Politics has been called, unkindly, show business for ugly people, but it should not be taken so lightly. Politics is a deadly serious undertaking, because it has real, tangible consequences. That is why it constantly surprises us that politicians think that they have some form of pass, that they will not be judged for their actions. Because their decisions often have real-world consequences.

A Ship of Tools

Judgement Day Feb 4, 2020

7.00am: Barnaby wants another go at being Deputy PM. He remembers the big pay packet. He is struggling, supporting two families. He remembers the look of sadness in their eyes, the last time they turfed him out (The Nationals, not either of his families. I didn’t mean them). He wants something better than weatherboard and iron.

The day also marks the opening of the Parliamentary Year, and the Parliament will pass a Motion of Condolence for those who have lost their lives in the recent bush-fires, and to honour those involved in fire-fighting efforts. The Nationals will have their moment in the idiot spotlight, no matter what.

7.22am: National Party members think about Barnaby leading them again. Many are in tears, some are too scared to cry. Many Liberals are numb, bereft, their eyes are tired, they are too drained to feel.

9.00am: The vote is held and the impossible happens. God has intervened, Barnaby remains in the wilderness. Mr Morrison leads a united party room prayer. He takes the opportunity to remind the troops that the world is watching them, so SAY NOTHING STUPID.

It appears that the team can hold the line. Craig Kelly is being detained in solitary, and Barnaby is consoling himself by cursing the heavens. Peter Dutton is lazily torturing asylum seekers, and dreaming of what might have been. The Prime Minister takes a private moment, sobbing like a baby. Bridget sits alone, wondering how it all went so horribly wrong. No point in moping – she might as well go out and shoot something. It seems to relax her.

1.10pm: I am sorry, Michael McCormack, the winner of this morning’s poll, has just told us that this summer’s bush-fires were not unprecedented, we have always had bush-fires, many just like this year’s. Can this signal the end of peace, as we know it?

Mr Morrison will now have to re-frame his arguments. No more can he ‘accept the science’, where he connects Climate Change with the fires (a tiny bit). It’s take a step, move back to the right. There is NO connection between the two. Thank God for this Government. There is no other like it, in all the world!

Judgement Day is now but a distant memory.

Barnaby is now full of goodwill. It is just that he doesn’t like the way Michael McCormack speaks. He is clearly (from Latin clarus; clear or loud) not a Latin scholar, as Barnaby so clearly is. “I have disdain when the term ‘learnings’ is used. Leaning is a verb, knowledge is a noun and ‘learnings’ is nonsense.” Barnaby went to the same school that Tony Abbott did, so you can see the quality of the ‘old boys’. Asked later if he had really studied Latin at school, he replied in Latin. He then was kind enough to tell the reporter, “you don’t have to speak Latin but English helps.” Those Jesuits really know how to teach a guy, don’t they.

What is next for the Nats?

Stay tuned for exciting developments in this unfolding yarn. I’m just going out to get a new piece of straw to chew on … Well, let’s recap. We have Llew O’Brien being the bomb-thrower on Judgement Day, by calling the spill motion, which caused the emotional turmoil within the group, indeed throughout the Government. Llew made the call because he wants Barnaby back in the big chair, mainly because he is more aggressive than Michael McCormack.

I question his strategic nous however, as very soon after Barnaby lost the vote for leader, Llew left the party, which means that when they have another leadership ballot, which seems inevitable, he WON’T have a vote, because he has resigned from the party. A bit of an own goal, really.

Matt Canavan is a true coal warrior. His brother runs an energy company, so he is never lonely. He is also the person who, when questioned about his possible Italian citizenship in 2017, did a Warnie, and blamed his mum. I know, it sounds like a television skit, but this is all true. Anyway, he resigned from Cabinet so that he could support Barnaby. He had also failed to list one of his houses in his register of interests, so maybe he was just giving himself a bit more time in which to fill in paperwork. He used to be Barnaby’s Chief of Staff, which must have made for a fun office. I wonder if they burned briquettes during winter.

Anyway, in the great tradition of the bush, he and Barnaby are now producing a podcast, called Weatherboard and Iron, which presumably describes their humble little houses. Or is it meant to show empathy with owners, or even renters, of such houses, or just because it is a catchy name which shows their humble roots? And now that they are on a backbencher’s wage, every cent helps.

Michael McCormack appeared on Insiders last week. He could not explain why a rural grants program delivered 90% of the cash to urban seats, and only 10% to the bush. He was the minister in charge of the grant program. Maybe that is why Barnaby and Matt think they could do better. I think that a week is a long time in politics, but in the case of the Nats, it is an eternity.

Stay tuned for more fascinating insights into how our system of parliamentary democracy works.