Deck the halls with vows of folly. How good are good tidings, lies and promises you never, for a moment, intend to keep? All Aussies stranded overseas home by Christmas? Ho. Ho. Ho. Australia ‘among the first’ to receive the world’s most promising vaccine? “We could begin manufacturing it by year’s end.” Ho. Ho. Ho. “NSW is the gold standard [of contact tracing]. I don’t spend too much time worrying about NSW.” Ho. Ho. Ho. Santa Morrison’s on top of his game.
The killing season segues into the silly season, a surreal appendix to our political advent calendar. Our coal-lobby’s PM, a fossil with a baseball cap, Keating calls him, indefatigable self-promoter, Santa ScoMo, mugs for official photographer, Adam Taylor, a News Corp recruit hired to show a wholesome 1950s household ruled by a practical but pious, devoted Dad. If the Liberal Party is News Corp’s local political wing, Adam Taylor is its Leni Riefenstahl.
But hark! Hear ye not the Angel Song? Avalon toffs begin to cough and splutter. ‘Rona clusters erupt over Sydney; Croydon, Gosford, Katoomba, Cronulla -now even reach rust-belted Wollongong, site of the grand failure of the first coal port in 1868, constructed by government at great expense.
Will Morrison rise to the (photo)-opportunity? He soars above the pack.
Leadership? He’s all over it. Our nation’s relatable mate, bonds with his tradie base, teaming natty RM Williams red and blue themed check shirt with chinos. He’s up a ladder having a red hot go posing as a DIY festive decorator, oozing practicality; a handyman dad. Blue sky framing the shot evokes Our Comeback™ campaign.
Abbott created the PM’s official photographer role to ensure we see the PM our PM needs us to see. Now press photography is decimated; casualised by News Corp and by the few remaining other mastheads’ kamikaze cost-cutting. A politicised propaganda photo from an embedded happy snapper is increasingly the only political photo we are likely to see. Resilient photojournalists can always transition to posters of the Santos gas pipeline.
Tony Abbott needed two photographers, of course. Turnbull had but one. Gillard dismissed the idea as too narcissistic. But Morrison’s smitten; in love with his own turd polish; his staged image. And how good is being your own sock puppet? A goofy, blokey, populist persona helps cocoon you from accountability, for starters. As does the fun father act. Sociopathic control freaks affect an air of equable laid-back informality with ease. Morrison can even feign the po-faced international statesman.
And the act travels well. Our PM’s junket to Japan is a runaway success. Call me Yoshi, says Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Or so Morrison claims, in his press release to The Australian, the Liberal Party’s Pravda. Like Sydney’s New Year’s Eve fireworks, the relationship gets off to “a cracker of a start”. The Yoshi and ScoMo show further winds up China with a mutual defence pact, the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) which makes it easier to play war games but means that our diggers in Japan could face the death penalty. We’re still working on that.
Also in progress is RCEP, a regional comprehensive economic “partnership” led by top dog China, a huge win for us but no-one can explain why- helped enormously by an image supplied by PM’s Office. Morrison achieves a suitably inscrutable, sourpuss scowl. He’s clearly calculating that when he gets back, fourteen days of self quarantine mean he’ll escape the controversy over allegations of SAS civilian murders and get to spend some more quality time with his personal photographer.
The quarantine gallery of poses includes a suit jacket worn with shorts, a desperate sort of Dave Hughes’ sight gag to humanise the monster who plans to incentivise job seekers by cutting back allowances (“tapering”) so that millions out of work or underemployed will be unable to pay rent, power bills or put food on the table.
But some local images are a triumph. Taylor’s June shot of the PM at the Eden chip mill, Victoria, against the light is just magical. Whilst it’s billed as a $50 million bushfire recovery fund for the forestry industry, readers discover that Morrison’s government is a ray of sunshine for the community which is entirely at the mercy of the local timber mill. None could possibly be redeployed into a less ecocidal, more sustainable line of work.
600 workers’ jobs are at stake, Scotty lies. In fact, there’s more work in the arts and sport in the region, explains South East Region Conservation Alliance spokesperson, Harriet Swift, who sees the grant as a tragic waste of money and opportunity. Fires have burnt 80 per cent of State forest available for logging on the South Coast.
Senator Jim Molan’s announcement of a million dollar grant 6 November is, in fact, the re-announcement of projects to make pallets and briquettes announced well before the bushfires. Our mainstream media’s current nanosecond attention span and a 24 hour news cycle makes recycling old announcements so much easier.
The remainder of the “recovery fund” is buried deep in labyrinthine, bureaucratic complexity. Communities have to resort to full time grant application writers to even engage with the process.
It’s a different story for big Liberal donor, Anthony Pratt, Australia’s second-richest man whose multi-national-VISY, one of the largest paper companies in the world, gets a ten million dollar handout for its undamaged mill at Tumut. (The mill does suffers widespread loss of plantation timber as 62,000 hectares of NSW state forest are lost.) The grant is guaranteed to create jobs, according to federal government, but The Greens point out that the funding goes to a stacker-reclaimer, an automated piece of machinery built overseas. Few Australian jobs are in the deal at all.
Then there’s the inconvenient truth that waste from the paper mill goes into landfill in towns around the Riverina.
But it’s all in the call. Nick Feik in The Monthly calls Morrison The Announcement Artist – because it’s more refined than bullshit artist. Morrison can’t help himself. He’ll announce anything. Do nothing. Deny everything. Take his infamous hollow promise on aged care.
“… the Australian Government will be responsible for residential aged care facilities”, he bullshits in February in his great palaver over his fifty-six page Coronavirus Emergency Response Plan, that turned out to lack any plan at all. Not everyone’s forgotten. Few families forgive him.
The PM was helping too blue to be true, former teacher, Reservist, cattle and truffle-farmer, RFS Volunteer, Lifeline Counsellor, Anglican Church Property Trustee and Oxfam Director, Fiona Kotvojs, an unwitting self-parody of Liberal Party “values”, lose the Eden-Monaro by-election to Labor’s Kristy McBain, as it happened.
Or was he? A few electors may have recognised Morrison as the bloke who took a holiday during the bushfires or who forced the odd local to shake his hand. The unsuccessful Liberal candidate may not have been helped by Morrison’s mug shot on each of the seventy polling booths, however talented the official photographer.
Today, there’s no hint of apology for the PM’s role in clear-felling Victoria’s timber export industry as a result of his government’s abortive trade war with China. Our former best customer is declining any logs from Australia. Expect Fiona to be parachuted into the senate or AAPT on to the ABC board, or all three, as Our Comeback ™ plays out.
All his political career, Morrison’s worked hard to remove himself from the frame. He spins, ducks weaves and deceives in a frenetic blur of role-playing self-promotion, sophistry and evasion. You can’t pin anything on him. Especially not blame. Sean Kelly calls him our “no-fault PM”. If only that were not -in itself- a massive fault.
In frame is a festive, fire-truck-red aluminium step-ladder and a tantalising background glimpse of the pluto-populist’s million dollar Sydney harbour view. Just an hour up the road, is Avalon, named after King Arthur’s isle, a refuge to cure Arthur of his mortal wounds but, today, it’s the centre of a Coronavirus cluster of 144.
Cricket Australia overrules doctors and dictates to the state government, the New Year’s Test will go ahead.
“The best health advice tells us outdoor ticketed seated events are safer than household gatherings, and that’s just a fact,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian bullshits. 25,000 fans will throng public transport. Masks will be optional.
Experts fear a super spreader event. But it won’t be Morrison’s fault. Nor will Hillsong Church be in any way be held responsible, despite images of mass beachside gatherings of non-social distancing prosperity-gospellers.
Our PM has long since abdicated his federal responsibility for quarantine to the state but is on standby to issue vital statements commending the embattled premier Gladys Berejiklian on her heroic non-lockdown or her capitulation to the vested interests of commercial sport, alcohol and gambling.
(The) … major reason for success with Covid 19 directions was that the messages were coming from health professionals, hence trusted. The politicians , PM with Brendan Murphy and Gladys with Kerry Chant have used them to sell a different message. Undermining our need to trust science, tweets Tony Windsor.
Charismatic Gladys appears daily in turgid TV pressers pleading with viewers not to travel – unless they have to. Nags them to wear masks. If they feel like it. She is the very model of libertarian authority. Her personal relationship with medical science is also uneasy. Don’t go to the fireworks unless you feel compelled? She could be Deputy-Head-Mistress of a progressive private school. If she were a leader or public speaker. Or just in charge.
“Limit your mobility … we are far from out of the woods.” “This is a very unpredictable, contagious disease, but we also appreciate that we don’t want to put more burdens on our citizens than we need to. It’s a very fine line,” Gladys agonises. Real leaders such as Dan Andrews or Anastasia Palaszczuk just draw the line.
And take expert advice. Ms Berejiklian permits Christmas gatherings of children because, she claims, children are not transmitters. Yet other countries’ research shows children and young adults to play key roles in the spread of the virus. Schools have been a driver of the second wave in Europe, India, Canada, the UK and elsewhere. Children account for three of the six cases of Coronavirus in western Sydney’s Croydon Coronavirus cluster.
Morrison appointee, CMO Kelly says he wouldn’t take his kids to any cricket match but it’s OK for the public.
No buy-in from PM? Scott’s just a humble dad, at heart, taxed by putting up family Christmas decorations. Mulling over his New Year’s word salad about our optimism and confidence. Being handy is such a relief from his day job, evading quarantine responsibility, waging war on the poor, the aged and his pet project of blowing up the economy by suppressing wage growth, depressing consumer spending and alienating our main trading partner.
And grovelling to Rupert Murdoch is hard work- pleasing our Dear Leader demands all his intuition . “It’s like News Corp editors; they know to anticipate god’s wishes, they don’t need to be told how to cover stories.” But they never cease worrying over getting it right.
Above all, Santa Scotty’s plumb tuckered out just from reshuffling his cabinet. Making Greg Hunt Minister for the Aged while allowing him to keep the Health portfolio is a snub to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, whose media release on its interim report is entitled A Shocking Case of Neglect.
Commissioners Tracey and Briggs call for comprehensive reform. In August, senior counsel assisting, Peter Rozen QC, voices his scepticism. Rozen can find no evidence of any plan at all. Just evidence of months of under-resourcing, lack of planning and wage theft. Following the deaths of 685 aged-care residents, minister Richard Colbeck loses his COVID-related responsibilities. Not that he admits to any responsibility.
“I don’t feel responsible personally for the deaths that have occurred, as tragic as they are, which were caused by Covid-19,” Colbeck tells a Senate estimates hearing. It’s the death of ministerial responsibility, writes Dr Sarah Russell. Morrison’s re-shuffle seems to be based on little more than looking after his mates. Yet never was a talent pool so shallow.
Why was “criminal act” Al Tudge promoted from acting Immigration or David Coleman’s locum to Education? Why reward his contempt for the law? Hawke’s perfect in Immigration- already big-noting himself; calling for visas to be revoked in Northern Beaches’ – because tourists are so anti-Australia in failing to social distance.
Attorney-General “Public Bar”, Christian Porter is still the very model of a modern Liberal attorney-general by continuing to conduct the secret trial of whistle-blower, Witness K, a trial which his lawyer, Bernard Collaery, says has destroyed his Canberra legal practice.
Our democracy is fragile, Collaery tells ABC’s 7:30 Report. “Publicity is the soul of justice.”
Our PM is not wearing The Legion of Merit, a fab new decoration, which Murdoch papers insist, is a top military honour from his mentor, fellow war crimes enthusiast and Kleptocrat in Chief, Donald Trump, another family guy who stuns everyone with his refusal to be the only outgoing president of the US to be voted out of office. Not only is he refusing to accept the will of the people, his crackpot accusations of voter fraud will undermine the Biden Presidency’s legitimacy enough to sabotage the incoming administration before it’s even sworn in.
Shinzo Abe and Narendra Modi get the Merit gong, too, a nod to the Quadrilateral alliance of India, Japan, Australia and the US which resurrects the gang of four; Quad 2.0 to keep China in its place. It’s working flawlessly so far to cause a dramatic cut in our export trade. Yet has the US made the Morrison government an offer it can’t refuse? There’s no overt reason why the Coalition would go out of its way to poke the panda.
Jack Waterford notes that iron ore prices may temporarily, in total value, compensate for the losses faced by coal miners, wine, fish, barley, timber, lobsters and any other item China chooses for impact on the Australian economy and Australian public opinion.
“But it is China setting the pace, not us.”
Over 50 Australian coal ships are still stranded off China’s coast, held up by an import ban, despite the nation facing coal shortages and one of its worst power blackouts in years, reports The Guardian’s Helen Davidson.
Imports of timber from NSW and WA are also halted. Local customs officers find pests in cargoes from those states, the General Administration of Customs says late on Wednesday.
Perhaps Australia is not aligned with the U.S. to protect itself from China. Australia is aligned with the U.S. to protect itself from the U.S. As a Twitter follower recently observed, the US doesn’t have allies, only hostages.
US political analyst, neorealist, right wing John Mearsheimer put his view less delicately last year to the CIS.
“You’re either with us or against us,” he says. “And if you’re trading extensively with China, and you’re friendly with China, you’re undermining the United States in this security competition. You’re feeding the beast, from our perspective. And that is not going to make us happy. And when we are not happy you do not want to underestimate how nasty we can be. Just ask Fidel Castro.”
It’s all far too hard for Morrison. Yet there’s little sign that his doctrinaire approach to applying neoliberal austerity to Australian workers is likely to pay any dividends beyond securing the continued support of party donors.
Merry Christmas, reads a Bunnings sign in another shot in ScoMo’s promo. Yet for millions of Australians, whom Morrison’s government is depriving of income support, Christmas is miserable. In a last act of bastardry, the 2020 parliament cuts incomes of the poor. Two million have no paid work. A further million children live in these families.
Rather than a safety net for a marginalised minority, as the Coalition has it, short-term reliance on Newstart is relatively common, at nearly a quarter of the workforce, from 2001 to 2016, the latest figures available for study, according to a recent study by The Brotherhood of St Lawrence in conjunction with ANU and RMIT.
“Despite record high unemployment and underemployment, the Government is cutting income support at Christmas time, down to $50 per day, almost taking us back to the old, brutal Newstart rate of $40 a day,” despairs Dr Sandra Goldie, ACOSS, CEO.
Since March, a quarter of a million more of us are forced to seek work while Scotty’s party helps usury prosper by axing responsible lending laws just as eviction moratoriums expire.
Homelessness will rise nine per cent in the New Year while housing stress will afflict an extra 24% of families.
You can’t fault the choreography even if the plot’s a turkey and the lead character’s a ham. Scotty the fawning, shape-shifting sycophant- “I don’t hold the pose, mate,” – is a Karma Chameleon, a man for all seasons’ greetings.
The one constant in Scotty’s approval-seeking is his indifference to others’ suffering, his empathy bypass, as vital to his evasion of responsibility as it is to his capacity for gratuitous cruelty, evident in his indefinite detention, a form of torture of asylum seekers, through to his signature Robodebt’s extortion with menaces; all his own work.
“Contrary to the assertions of Stuart Roberts … the (Robodebt) disaster was not a logical development from data matching schemes of previous governments going back to Bob Hawke. It was the extra leavening of bias, malice, inverted onus of proof, major jump of logic and administrative and bureaucratic arrogance that sheets the conception home to Morrison himself,” notes former Canberra Times news-sleuth Jack Waterford, AM.
For Murdoch’s media, our ABC and other camp followers of the News Corp behemoth, monster Morrison morphs into a harmless if not endearingly incompetent suburban middle class dad puzzling over electrical connections of his modest Christmas light show. Yet even uber-orchestrated, Scotty’s retro Xmas show betrays a toxic nostalgia for gender inequality.
In Morrison’s 1950s division of labour, a fun father mucks around with festive fairy lights, while mum, left with all the real work, especially, the family’s cognitive and emotional labour, which so often includes relentless, corrosive maternal guilt, has a nervous breakdown in the pantry.
Mum’s infinitely elastic role includes kitchen galley slavery, extra housekeeping on top of Everywoman’s traditional yuletide role as chief scapegoat and emotional hostage. Domestic violence, the euphemism for male violence is rising over the pandemic and during the Christmas season, yet there is no hint that this government is willing to increase funding for refuges or provide any real support for women in crisis.
The level of artifice in Scotty’s Xmas sales pitch is astonishing. He publishes a manipulative letter to “his girls”, daughters, Abbey and Lily, in which he claims that Dad just has to be away from home a lot because the country needs him to help people look after the environment, get a job, a house and pay for their retirement.
Or doctors, hospitals and drugs. He reminds his daughters that if the economy can’t afford drugs for a child their age with Cystic Fibrosis, the child doesn’t get to breathe. No pressure. No emotional blackmail. What a mensch! What a man for our times. Yet as the pandemic becomes endemic, as his government’s debacle in its megaphone diplomacy with China begins to cost, the Morrison’s government’s hollow promises, lies and incompetence will be its undoing. Looking at the debacle that is the NSW government’s response to what may well prove to be a new wave of coronavirus cases surely no-one can miss the criminally negligent federal government behind the scenes. Our challenge is to hold it to account.