The year can’t end quickly enough for the series of cunning stunts masquerading as a Morrison government.
Topping its epic series of diversions, evasions and sensational stuff-ups – and hastening its end, is its curtain call brawl; a spectacular bit of Biffo. Peter Dutton pops up centre stage. He publicly attacks Julia Banks and Malcolm Turnbull. Why? Is the public brawling an orchestrated show of disunity; another stunt? Or is Dutto making his run?
Labor’s Amanda Rishworth ponders whether the comments are sanctioned by ScoMo or merely Dutto freelancing.
Who would know? Sean Kelly in The Monthly writes a detailed and persuasive case for considering the cagey and evasive Morrison our invisible Prime Minister who has developed techniques to erase himself from the frame.
Events occur, but Morrison’s involvement is passive, tangential, almost accidental. He may be the minister, but he is not an instigator, only a vessel through which others’ bidding is done. If you are Scott Morrison, it is even possible to become prime minister without any agency on your part. And, today, it is Dutton who takes the blame.
Liberal MPs “left” and right are unimpressed, calling the attack “selfish” and “arrogant” according to Rick Morton in The Australian . Off-record, one generously calls Peter Dutton “fucking dumb” for bagging Julia Banks.
Liberal MPs “lament the last chance at a reset” according to Amy Remeikis In The Guardian. That’s impossible. No-one admits this government was never “set” in the first place. It is a remarkable series of policy collapses informed only by expediency, the ruthlessly cynical pragmatism encompassed by the Trumpian phrase “whatever works”.
Another accuses Dutton of reminding voters “why they are sick of us.” This, too, taps into the fatuous narrative that the government would be a runaway success if only it could stop talking about itself and get its message out. It’s all a matter of communication. Abbott echoed the same nonsense.
A series of respectable national opinion polls show voters get the message all right and they don’t like it – especially on social welfare, the effective cap on wage growth, environment and energy, kids on Nauru.
The glib dismissals also indirectly serve to highlight the poverty at the heat of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government. There are few policies or practical achievements to celebrate unless we’re suddenly in love with a data encryption bill rushed through on the last day of parliament which experts say is unnecessary, unworkable and a risk to our personal and national security.
What is clear is that the Coalition is tearing itself apart. A March election date firms as its least worst option.
Will Dutto be checked by a ScoMo™ show? Many PM performances self-abort. Nothing, however, will ever top the PM Poppadom’s Curry, a dazzling image and brilliantly-timed injection of esprit de corps in his recent secret dash to Iraq to inspire our soldiers and the nation – (PM-troop pep talks are traditionally for domestic consumption).
Our army is like a curry? Morrison is a poppadom? Food for thought. As with most things Morrison, it gets worse.
“I’m here to be part of the great collaborative curry by association despite having not contributed to the mix of flavours in any way. The alternative is potato though.”
No Australian Prime Minister has ever presented himself in this way. The troops stare at him in stunned disbelief. Or are they just relieved that a PM who can send them to war, with the backing of a servile cabinet, is not Dutton?
Only ScoMo™ could try to persuade anyone that the ADF has a “collaborative culture”. Least of all members of a ranked, class-conscious ADF. Officers eat after their troops. Yearn to be called ‘boss’. Yet it’s complex. Officers shun tattoos and choose their personal car carefully, lest they be labelled as having ‘other rank tendencies’.
We have around four thousand war memorials in Australia. None depicts an officer. Or a poppadom. Or a potato.
Morrison stuns the troops into silence by his riff. “And I see myself as the poppadom, bland and uninteresting by myself, unpalatable really”. Shire genius, ScoMo, plumbs new depths of faux self-abasement. Fools no-one.
But he does get the “unpalatable” right, if only where his own, emetic, political self is concerned. Who can forget when, in 2014, he accused Save The Children advocates of coaching refugee children on Nauru in self-harm?
“Making false claims, and worse, allegedly coaching self-harm and using children in protests is unacceptable.”
“Bland uninteresting and unpalatable?” Now, that’s sure to win hearts and minds as much as it will outrage Australia’s many poppadom aficionados. Nothing tops a public display of incompetence quite like false humility. No wonder, Dutton sees his main chance. ScoMo™’s pose as a hopeless liability is a national embarrassment.
Time to kick a few goals, Dutton decides. Or heads. He’s on a hiding to nothing in Dixon as things stand.
When the going gets tough, the tough go for the vulnerable. Dutton bags Banks and Turnbull for their treachery.
Of course it’s the victims’ fault, especially Julia Banks. The MP for Chisholm is in the gun for everything she’s said and done since calling the Liberals a pack of “heartless bullies”, in a “party riven by personal ego trips” where MPs bully and intimidate to get their way in last week’s Women’s Weekly. And then there’s Malcolm Turnbull.
Turnbull is the political pantomime villain Libs love to hate. Now, as everything goes on to hell in a handbasket, Dutto, at least, has a chance to let rip. The 2016 election fiasco? The loss of Wentworth? All those dud Newspolls? Turnbull’s to blame for everything. Above all, he is to blame for being Malcolm – not just a leftie but a dud.
“Malcolm had a plan to become Prime Minister but no plan to be Prime Minister,” snipes Dutton. Dutto’s own plan to be PM failed spectacularly when his numbers man, Finance Minister Matt (Turncoat) Cormann couldn’t count any better than Dutto – but in postmodern, Trumpian politics – hypocrisy is the new moral high ground.
Legalists triumph in such times. Note, Dutton never said he himself had no plan to be PM. As for becoming PM, what we are witnessing, may, in fact, be his own run-up to toppling a PM who sees himself as a poppadom.
Peter “dog-whistle” Dutton chooses Sunday to join Andrew Bolt in the bully pulpit, our national media, a one stop shop for consumers of “the national conversation” or everything you need to be told on politics, dominated by ex-pat Rupert Murdoch with the generous assistance of the Australian tax-payer and the Australian government.
Bolt and Dutton’s bullying of Banks is a concerted, public attack on the MP’s credibility and integrity. Or what’s left of it. Banks massively damaged her own credibility, herself, with her claim in May that she could live on $40 a day, effectively actively supporting Coalition bullying and intimidation of job-seekers on Newstart.
Labor clearly agrees. Despite its recent national convocation and Shorten’s sermon on the Torrens, in its carefully stage-managed national conference, all it will commit to is a “root and branch review” of Newstart payments. Be its cause political timidity, or neoliberal thinking, the result is to vitiate its historical commitment to welfare.
Surely the party whose Curtin government created unemployment benefits in 1943 and who made the first payments in 1945 would do well to heed its current obligation. Or reflect on Ben Chifley’s 1946 observation.
I cannot forget how miserable those hundreds of thousands of men must have felt when they went back each night to their families after tramping the streets all day in search of work.
Unemployment averaged 2% in 1946. Last month, pollster Roy Morgan, who bases his figures on gainful employment rather than one hour’s work a week, calculates that, “in total 2,333,000 Australians (17.2% of the workforce) were either unemployed or under-employed in November, a decrease of 61,000 in a year (down 1%).
But Dutto’s detonation is a spectacular diversion, especially to Morrison, who is now even losing the seniors’ approval in the latest Newspoll. Now, 45% of voters over 50 are dissatisfied with his performance, according to the poll – a drop of ten percent from the only group to show approval when he knifed Malcolm Turnbull in August.
Public infighting beats backstabbing. It is so much more cathartic. But will it prove politically useful, to either combatants or their party? Some insiders believe Dutton’s latest stunt is carefully orchestrated; stage-managed.
For former PM Kevin07™, it is simply a case of Rupert Murdoch putting his pet candidate forward. He tweets.
“Wonderful to see the Murdoch boys at work in all Sunday papers in a nation-wide puff-piece on their poster boy Dutton. The man who boycotted the Apology to appeal to racists. And was supposed to be Murdoch’s man in the Lodge. Now they’re trying to rehabilitate him & save his seat.”
Is Dutton a stalking horse for Abbott? The Home Affairs Minister dismisses the question; preferring to set and answer one of his own. No. Nor is he making the running for any right wing “bible-basher”.
Banks, a staunch Turnbull loyalist, is not Dutton’s only victim. He savages his ex-boss but includes the odd compliment. Turnbull is “incompetent and spiteful” yet a “gracious and charming man” who “doesn’t have a political bone in his body”, Dutto generously tells the Brisbane’s Sunday Mail. Others also have knives to twist.
Banks’ eloquent, revealing account of how she was driven out of the party by the way she was bullied during the Morrison leadership coup last August appears in this week’s Women’s Weekly. Her story reveals Liberal bullying
Adding to the distraction, former Liberal MP, Julia Banks tells The Women’s Weekly how the “bullying” and “madness” at the heart of the Morrison government caused her to cross the floor to become an Independent. She gives a damaging account, moreover, of how the right-wing “reactionaries” seized control. She names names.
“It was all driven from Tony Abbott’s opposition,” explains Julia. “Tony Abbott, Peter Dutton, Greg Hunt – that whole program to knife Malcolm was driven by and led by them.”
Top Gun, Peter (Dog-whistle) Dutton, is scrambled. In a trademark deflection, he puts the boot into Labor. Again. (After all, his Great African Gang crisis of 2018 worked so well for his Victorian colleagues.)
“Under Labor, terrorists couldn’t be stripped of their citizenship. This government has now stripped Australian citizenship from 12, and our country is safer as a result.”
Both demean the Turnbull supporter, now an independent, by accusing her of lying out of self-interest.
“It just didn’t happen and it has been used by Julia as an excuse to leave the party because she was upset about Malcolm losing the leadership and her not being promoted to the Ministry under Scott.
It is pure and simple a case of sour grapes and it deserves to be called out. We need more women in politics but to suggest we have a bullying problem is ridiculous.”
Dutton inadvertently, reveals the very misogyny, bullying and intimidation, from reactionaries, that Banks and other women MPs claim is entrenched in Liberal party and federal Coalition culture.
Banks is moved by Dutton’s allegations to retweeting (off the record) a cabinet minister’s view that the Queensland MP is “just an egotistical moron who lacks self-awareness”.
Luckily, other scapegoating stunts are available to ScoMo’s government. A Home Affairs Minister can do a lot these days, especially after the data encryption bill was rushed through parliament on its last sitting day.
Bernard Keane warns that, “The encryption laws, designed to target terrorism, could allow security agencies to trick suspects into giving up access to their private messages, effectively robbing them of the privilege against self-incrimination, and also give law enforcement the ability to circumvent the need to obtain a warrant.”
Keane also quotes President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties Pauline Wright’s concern. “There’s been a massive amount of legislation passed that prior to then would have been unthinkable. There have been incursions into freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of movement, right to protest, all basic legal rights that underpin our democracy”.
Wright maintains that we now have more national security laws and harsher laws than any other western nations.
Neil Prakash, the nation’s star ISIS recruit, is stripped of his Australian citizenship this week by Dutton. Because he can. Because the Morrison government desperately needs a diversion from Broadgate. How could ScoMo™ not have been told by his own department of the scandal surrounding Andrew Broad, MP for Mallee over his alleged use of a dating website dating to seek out a sugar baby? It beggars belief.
“Broadgate” is the noxious miasma emanating from ScoMo™’s office after its incredible claim it knew early in December of Andrew Broad’s alleged attempted philandering but kept mum about the sugar daddy with their boss, the Prime Minister of Australia. For two whole weeks.
Incredible? “A long stretch” says Anthony Albanese, but, if true, evidence of the Morrison government’s acute dysfunction. Perhaps they didn’t want to over-tax ScoMo™. After all, he’s got an image makeover. Gone are the rimless spectacles and the suburban dad gear. Pictured talking to the Iraqi PM. ScoMo’s sports a look upgrade; new, open-necked shirt and pants – RM Williams boots, even, in Iraq. So much more like Malcolm’s wardrobe.
Of course, it may be that ScoMo™’s deputy PM, “Major Malfunction” Michael McCormack, ineffectual even in a token role, felt he needed to “support” Broad, if not collude with him, to curry favour with his right-wing critics.
The Nationals party room which Joyce created give Macca stick for not being Barnaby. It’s not looking good for the deputy PM, who, as Paddy Manning notes, “is being circled by a miraculously rehabilitated Barnaby Joyce”.
Today, The Courier-Mail reports that he has a “target on his back” as colleagues accused him of hiding Broad’s “sugar babe” scandal to protect himself from being rolled.
The year ends with a government at war with itself. Revealed also explicitly and implicitly is the entrenched bullying culture in the Liberal Party and in Coalition MPs behaviour that Scott Morrison promised he would set up a review to deal with. Those who have any doubts as to why progress has been glacial need only read Julia Banks’ account. This taken together with evidence from his colleagues at Tourism Australia and elsewhere suggest that the culture of bullying in the current parliamentary Liberal Party reaches all the way to the top.
Dutton’s bullying of Banks and Turnbull confirms that Morrison is either without judgement or authority. Or both. As for the future of the Liberal Party, the fish rots from the head down.