*CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses rape
“I’m the Prime Minister…” Scott Morrison
Despite its multi-gabled slate roof and ornate, white bargeboards, “rustic gothic” harbourside mansion, Kirribilli, is not our White House, however much Turnbull’s usurper, The Whited Sepulchre, Scott Morrison and his court love make-believe; however much he kids himself that he has the powers of a US president. Or aspires to a Trump-like posturing as some type of populist sage; a pretence that leads him to such ponderous banality as, “Aged care is complex … Life is complex.”
Never have we had a PM whose political career is so unfettered by belief, ideal or principle. Untroubled by deep thought. Ideas. Doyen of the Canberra Press Gallery and black-belt in litotes, Michelle Grattan calls out his near obsession with control.
For Morrison, it’s always all about himself and his grip on power. That’s why he backs ministers who, in any other government, would have been made to pack their Samsonite bags long ago. He’s investing in their loyalty, a quasi-medieval system of patronage rampant in our politics. The result is a court of incompetent crooks.
A brief roll-call is in order, given the twenty-fifth anniversary of lying rodent John Howard’s regime. “Babies overboard!” Forget the Menzies bullshit, Howard’s main legacy was to make us feel comfortable about casual racism. And mendacity.
True, Howard did also go on to fiddle the till; squander the resources’ boom, which began in 2003, on tax cuts – middle class welfare – instead of investing in aged care, for example. Private investment would take up the slack. It was a goldmine for private equity firms, new foreign investors, superannuation and property real estate investment trusts, some of which became big donors to the Liberal Party.
How good is aged care now? It’s a disaster. We’ve failed our elders. How badly? It’s top secret. In a stroke of genius, The Howard government’s Aged Care Act 1997 made top secret all data relating to the safety and well-being of residents in aged care. Kudos, John. The cat is only now out of the bag and the figures are damning. Almost as damning as the number of Morrison’s ministerial scandals.
Speaking of figures, take a bow, Barnaby’s “Flash bit of kit”, Bridget McKenzie, for keeping shtum about $102 million the PMO must explain, in its hands-on rorting of federal funding to 684 clubs for party-political electoral advantage. Amazingly, it added projects, just hours after the election was called, 11 April 2019.
Angus Taylor, where do we begin? Or end. Watergate, grass-gate and the absurdist farce of the forgery of Clover Moore’s air-travel record. Unable to account for what went on in your office? Join the club.
Richard Colbeck, rocks up to a parliamentary inquiry, clueless about how many aged care residents have been infected by COVID-19, or the 800 who’ve died from it. Demoted. Punished by having to work alongside Greg Hunt.
Say this for Dick, on Monday, he’s the only one who seems even dimly aware of the key issues. He got the portfolio in the first place only because Morrison wanted one Tasmanian senator in (the outer) cabinet.
Neither Dick “clueless” Colbeck nor Morrison’s prayer-mate, Stuart, “Gold Rolex“, Robert -a fellow happy-clapper whose online evangelist wife, Chantelle, ran up a $37,975 bill on Stu’s residential internet allowance – have quit over major stuff-ups in their portfolios of aged care and the “robodebt” scandal.
It’s unconfirmed, but word has it that Robert may even be given Defence.
True, these two cases, alone, cost us over a billion dollars which would be welcomed by the 3.24 million Australians below the poverty line, but Scotty’s OK with that. What matters, boys, is I’ve got your back, you can hear him saying, his way of reminding MPs they owe him a favour. He’ll cut them loose if he has to.
Now we’re waving au revoir to the lovely Linda Reynolds who did everything she could to support Brittany Higgins, before shanghaiing Ms Higgins, in June 2019, into service in the halcyon sanctuary of Michaelia Cash’s office, where the young staffer was immured in a small office, in Perth all day, a sure-fire remedy for PTSD.
Sadly, Reynolds doesn’t know who wrote two references for her alleged rapist. Don’t ask. Is she responsible for the steam cleaning of a sofa in her office?
You’ll have to ask Finance, whose former minister, the climate-denying Belgian Shepherd Matthias Cormann who was readily persuaded to jet OS on a fool’s errand for top dog at the OECD.
Alas, Linda is returned to her sick-bed whence she is unlikely to return – at least not to her Defence post. And not until 1 April. Tragically, this means she’ll miss the ritual of having her department take questions on notice at senate estimates.
Also on sick leave is Christian Porter, who is the subject of rape allegations which he *strenuously denies* a key phrase assiduously repeated ad infinitum. And it’s a police matter. Porter’s off work, recovering bits of his memory that put the lie to his claim that he knew his deceased former debating pal Jane Doe only briefly in 1988. Seems they did renew their acquaintance, twice, subsequently, at least.
Porter’s looking after his mental health. Close ranks, chaps. Were he to subject himself to an inquiry, our society would collapse. Anyone could accuse anyone of anything and the onus of proof would be reversed.
Or so he claims. Is he thinking of Robo-debt; a stand over scam, for which he, as chief architect must take full responsibility? No doubt, the thought of the two thousand Australians who died after receipt of Robo-demands keeps him awake at night. Of course, not all of these committed suicide but it must surely vex his conscience.
Fellow barfly, and Big Swinging Dick, (BSD) acting Immigration Minister, Alan Tudge, also owes Morrison. Both Tudge and Porter were keen to close down an ABC Four Corners investigation, which revealed that both MPs flouted Fizza Turnbull’s bonk ban; to say nothing of Public Bar displays of passion. All dismissed by Morrison because, their alleged actions occurred during the watch of the previous prime minister.
But he’s good at shooting the messenger. Subsequently, Rachelle Millar, who tells ABC Four Corners, that she had an affair with Tudge, and who details Porter’s open dalliances at Public Bar, finds herself without a job because of her media appearance.
In his defence, Fizza Turnbull, does point out, a little after the fact, that he did call Porter on his conduct. Porter strenuously denied public snogging, hard drinking, sleaze-bagging or any other such impropriety. It’s not what Four Corners’ Inside The Canberra Bubble, broadcast last November, shows.
But just when Porter thinks it’s time to have a crack at PM, Niki Sava suggests he confides in “sources close to him” that he may leave politics after this term. The recent loss of his father, his second marriage break up and the proposed redrawing of the electoral boundaries of Pearce, his seat in WA which may either fold into MP for Cowan, Anne Aly’s – or become more marginal may cause him to choose another career.
As Attorney General, a position of public trust, his situation is untenable. His “it just didn’t happen presser” Wednesday is a train-wreck. He sounds more like the gun schoolboy debater he once was – than the AG he is supposed to be. His main slippery slope fallacy that an inquiry, in his case, would enable a flood of false accusations is a wilfully cynical and cheap misrepresentation of the type of inquiry he would face.
Above all, he has failed to meet the expectation that he be a model litigant. Perhaps Twiggy Forrest could fix him up with something. Along with Rio Tinto CEO, Sam Walsh, Twiggy was one of Porter’s referees for Federal Liberal pre-selection.
Are we seeing a tragic and dangerous case of arrested development, the middle-aged party animal frat boy?
Why keep the duds? Morrison sets great stock on buying colleagues’ support by standing by them in public, says insider Niki Savva, although “buying” is not her term. He has to. There’s his pathological lying. His weasel words. His (we owe you nothing) have- a-go-get-a-go? His charisma bypass. His Fixer. Who could trust him?
Especially on the rule of law, a concept he doesn’t grasp but which he’ll soon render meaningless by abuse.
With the aid of Hale alumnus, The very Christian Porter, whose big achievement so far is to abolish the family court, despite a wealth of experts warning of the great harm this would do women – who vastly outnumber men as victims of what is still misnamed “domestic violence” – Morrison leads a mob notorious for flouting the rule of law whenever it suits its dodgy cause. Take its guilty-until-you-prove-yourself-innocent Robo-debt extortion racket. Or the sheer malice aforethought or sadistic bastardry in the secret trial of witness K who is prevented from even knowing the charges against him. Teach him to blow the whistle on our bugging of East Timor in 2003.
Morrison’s above the rule of law government, acting through its paragon of innocence and virtue – if not Australian citizenship test grade family values – Christian, “I’ll smut my way through law school” Porter has ruined the career of Bernard Collaery who committed the crime of stepping up to be Witness K’s lawyer.
Whilst there’s so much more below the waterline of the Morrison government’s glistening fatberg of illegality and venality, cameras turn, this week, to Kirribilli, Sydney’s bullshit castle. The harsh sun of the first day of autumn reveals glimpses of a glittering waterfront backdrop, while chief of the Liberal tribe acts out his Walter Mitty power-trip. Morrison’s increasingly agitated, discombobulated, to rephrase Oscar Wilde,
“To lose one minister, Mr. Morrison, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”
Who believes the PM’s even read the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety? Or that he didn’t read the letter and thirty page dossier, anonymously mailed to him, containing names, addresses and other evidence to support the late Jane Doe’s allegation that she was anally raped at sixteen by aspiring Prime Minister, Attorney- General Christian Porter, whose pal, ABC’s Andrew Probyn pities for the burden of his ambition. Former Costello press secretary and then Howard advisor, Murdoch’s Niki Savva, accuses the PM of using the police as a shield. His response she says, has been appalling. The Murdoch worm is turning.
But then, what can we expect of a post-modern, post-truth, Trumpian, neoliberal anti-hero? A white knight who has to consult the little woman before he can grasp that rape is a crime? Or think of his daughters? Australian of the Year, Grace Tame nails Morrison’s sophistry after her powerful Press Club address,
“It shouldn’t take having children to have a conscience. And, actually, on top of that, having children doesn’t guarantee a conscience.” Others simply dismiss the talk with Jen as another Morrison rhetorical fiction.
Fittingly, Kirribilli’s walls are a fashionable taupe, a dirty off white, a Camelot of rendered stone. But the heritage-listed pile reeks privilege and power, which a squattocratic, Scott Morrison, a Sutherland copper’s son, our uppity, current Prime Minister wilfully confuses with legitimate authority. And cynically exploits to his government’s advantage. Expect more pressers from the bunker. Morrison in decline apes his mentor Trump.
Morrison invokes a Rule Of Law, which he just makes up. It’s embarrassingly inadequate, almost juvenile. Our civil society would collapse into barbarism and mob rule if there were to be a properly constituted judicial inquiry into allegations against his Attorney General, he huffs. Yet the paramount component of the rule of law is that it operates to protect the most vulnerable and underprivileged in our community.
Morrison’s promptly refuted by a slew of legal experts including UNSW’s Professor Fleur Johns who points out that the rule of law is “associated with making power vulnerable to question, especially power derived from office. It is being invoked for precisely the opposite – the harbouring and insulation of power”.
Geoffrey Watson SC in The New Daily, warns that it’s wise to be suspicious when any MP invokes The Rule of Law and concludes by chiding the malignant narcissist in Porter for his solipsism,
“I was especially surprised at the Attorney-General’s claim that if he stood aside the rule of law would be destroyed. Sorry to be the one to tell you Mr Porter, but the rule of law was functioning pretty well before you ever came along, and I am confident that it will be able to survive your departure.”
Canberra University’s Professor Kim Rubenstein quotes Legal philosopher, Lon Fuller, who holds that the rule of law refers to
“legal power over subjects [as] distinguished from mere power over subjects”. Mob rule or brute force, when used by those in power heralds the end of the democracy.
He suggests that Morrison’s “mob rule” is better characterised as democratic will and expectation.
But Scotty’s a hot mess. There would be anarchy, he wails. It’s a Big Lie he repeats, ad nauseam, with the help of his claque in Murdoch’s media monopoly, billionaire Kerry Stokes, and Peter Costello’s Nine. The Big Lie is a tactic commended by Joseph Goebbels, with one proviso.
You have to squash dissent. Nip it in the bud. Disinformation will only take you so far.
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
Squash dissent by any means at hand. Even if you have to break the law. The first law officer knows this. That’s why Attorney-General, one of our power elite’s self-styled Big Swinging Dicks BSDs, Christian Porter, got the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission (ACNC) to “suss out” which do-gooders are likely to break the law and revoke their charitable status. Stop activists like Father Bob, masquerading as charities.
Porter gives himself away. Experts note that Porter’s proposed Integrity Commission is a ruse designed to trick the public into thinking the Morrison government is tackling corruption when in fact the proposed commission is designed to protect parliamentarians and public servants from investigation and exposure.
It’s sly; cynically hypocritical and, surely, a breach of public trust.
Since 2017, notes Elizabeth Minter, Porter was in breach of Commonwealth legislation for three years by neglecting to table crucial reports documenting his use of secretive national security orders. An administrative oversight, says the Attorney General, who only rectifies his failure after Nick Xenophon exposes it on The ABC’s Q&A. Porter blames his breaking the law on an “administrative oversight”.
Much fawning attention is lavished upon to the costume and especially the caps and the RM Williams Macquarie Street Cowboy rigs that Morrison favours. He’s a brilliant quick change artist, a legacy doubtless of the child actor, The Vicks Love Rub star in him. And he’s in constant quest of reinventing himself as a populist hero.
Morrison is a (piece of) work in progress. But setting, as he shrewdly knows, can upstage even the worst ham and he’s in need of a bit of support because Monday’s the day he’ll play the autocrat, supremely indifferent if not deaf to the entreaties of ABC upstarts such as the brilliant Anne Connolly, who calls him out:
“This report was delivered last Friday. You gave us half an hour to attend a press conference. You tabled the report when we were here. How can we ask questions to know what’s relevant in the report without knowing what’s in it?”
“I’m the Prime Minister.”
Kirribilli is not just bullshit castle, it’s the temple of Morrison’s Jen, his Pythian oracle, who clarifies things to do with women for him. Above all, it’s Vesta to The Girls, his daughters Abbey and Lily, his maids of compassion and Jen’s special friend, Lynelle Stewart, whose QAnon freak husband, Tim, is Scott’s bestie from way back. It’s also a challenging destination for a presser. It’s difficult for the hacks and flacks of the media to get across Sydney traffic, especially when summonsed at short notice.
After announcing the report would be launched mid-week, the PM cunningly brings that forward. To Monday. You get thirty minutes’ notice. Get your skates on.
Not only is it inaccessible and imposing, part of Kirribilli will always be off limits, upstaging proceedings, as our shapeshifting PM shrewdly knows. How good is home advantage?
Morrison and Hunt are always up for a stunt, especially when it means evading scrutiny on another bloody Royal Commission or an inquiry. Morrison’s a master of the dark arts of evasion. But how good is acting? He loves to improvise; indulge his passion for cringeworthy amateur theatrics; get in touch with his inner, provincial thespian.
“This is personal’. Morrison croaks as he squints into the early afternoon sun, his best histrionic voice aquiver. Will he tear up?
Flanked by Hunt and Colbeck, his latest Aged Care sales duo , Morrison postures, frets and soliloquises incoherently about his father John’s final days in five star luxury. Hunt takes up the same theme. See. The system works fine (for wealthy old white men).
It doesn’t matter that he hasn’t read the report. Neither has the media. He’s seen to that.
He’s given the hacks and flacks no time at all to read the eight volumes and 148 recommendations of the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, one teal volume of which Scott Morrison holds aloft for the benefit of his official photographer, or to help bolster his outrageous lie that the RC is all his own initiative.
A woman dares to question His Authority? Called publicly to account by ABC’s Anne Connolly, whose awards include a Gold Walkley (Cash for Comment) the 2020 Graham Perkin, Australian journalist of the year, Morrison tries to pull rank. Connolly’s reporting helped get us a Royal Commission into aged care quality and safety, a report which castigates federal government for its lack of leadership. Morrison spits the dummy.
“I’m the Prime Minister. This is my Minister. Our Cabinet will decide our response to this Royal Commission, OK? So we’ve released it. I think I’ve answered your question, thank you.”
It’s a put-down. A gag, not an answer. But it’s a risky triple-bluff. Patently absurd. Fobbing off an expert, the notorious buck-passer, Scott, “I don’t hold the hose mate,” Morrison can’t even pretend that the buck stops with him. If only he had the authority.
Worse, the week’s Essential Poll shows nearly half of those sampled (49%) believe the Prime Minister avoids responsibility. It’s a theme Labor is now embracing to some effect.
Two out of three believe the Morrison government puts politics ahead of women who make rape and sexual assault allegations. It reflects the catastrophic failure shown by the PM to discipline Defence Minister Linda Reynolds over her failure to support Brittany Higgins when she reports she’s been raped by another, more senior Liberal staffer. Her shitstorm peaks this week when Reynolds calls Higgins’ a lying cow. But it’s all cool, says Morrison, with trademark sophistry. It was said in private and Reynolds wasn’t talking about the rape allegations. Her remark” involved subsequent commentary”. It’s a desperate (unheld) hosing down.
Behold! The lying cow, as Sissy Jupe, daughter of a circus performer who goes to live with Gradgrind, sage of calculating rational self-interest, learns in Hard Times, turns out to be a recumbent bovine quadruped after all.
Lawyers have to intervene before Reynolds apologises to workers in her open plan office – a public space – in which several clearly hear her call Ms Higgins a liar. Higgins receives no such courtesy because she dares speak out about how she was treated; how she was made to feel she was a problem to be disposed of after she was raped by a staffer who is yet to be questioned. Why? How things have changed since Morrison’s impassioned 2019 advocacy of believing the woman’s story. But that was an attempt to smear Bill Shorten.
For her pains, Brittany Higgins, is now on the receiving end of Gradgrind Morrison’s self-interested backgrounding against her partner, lobbyist David Sharaz. It has also cost Sharaz his job. Last seen, the couple were preparing to move out of Canberra, a transition which may well coincide with International Women’s Day, 8 March.
Oddly, Morrison flouts his own sage counsel.
“One of the things that often happens with [rape] is they’re not believed and their stories are not believed and it’s important that their stories are believed and they know that if they come forward their stories will be believed,” he says in a barb aimed at Shorten at the start of the 2019 election campaign
“Women in those circumstances should have a greater sense of confidence that if they tell their stories they will be believed.”
Women don’t make it up. Why should they? False allegations don’t get you anywhere.
“While men successfully convinced each other and us that women cry rape with ease and glee,” Susan Brownmiller writes, “the reality of rape is that victimised women have always been reluctant to report the crime and seek legal justice – because of the shame of public exposure, because of that complex double standard that makes a female feel culpable, even responsible, for any act of sexual aggression committed against her … their accounts are received with a harsh cynicism that forms the first line of male defence.”
While Morrison is in damage control his delegation of responsibility suffers. France could follow Italy’s lead in blocking supplies of coronavirus vaccine, reports Jess Malcom in The Weekend Australian but do we even need it? Turns out we didn’t factor it in? Greg Hunt’s got it all under control. Yet when pushed Monday, Morrison’s over eager to pull rank.
“I’m the Prime Minister.” What a crack up. Our mining, Murdoch and business lobby puppet, has a hissy fit. Did the PM pull rank on Craig Kelly before he defected to the cross bench? Throw his weight around? Last April, he cut ABC’s Andrew Probyn off mid-question. “Andrew, you don’t run the press conference.”
No-one’s really shocked by Morrison’s ego. Or his bullying. Queensland and Victoria know it well. But every day brings signs the PM is losing his grip and with it, his self-control. “Portergate” threatens to undo him. While in one breath, he’s leader of the pack, in the next, he’s not top dog at all. The week begins badly.
“I am not the police force,” he says. “That is a matter for the police. I am not the commissioner of police.”
Last Sunday, keyboards were busy into the night at the ministerial wing of Parliament House, Canberra, erasing Wikipedia details of Christian Porter’s presence in Sydney 1988, the date of an alleged brutal rape of a sixteen year-old Jane Doe, who later, tragically took her own life. When questioned, Porter says he didn’t even know that there were Wikipedia entries. The scrubbing of internet references parallels that performed for the Liberal staffer whom Brittany Higgins accuses of raping her.
It matters little what Porter says he knows. The fact is that some Fixer is prepared to go to great lengths to engage professionals to remove inculpatory internet evidence; any evidence which may assist those accused of evading justice; hinder the chance that the victims’ allegations can be corroborated.
In the meantime, of course, the PM goes swimming at Bronte Beach, despite promising the nation that he’d spend the weekend reading the eight volume report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care.
Wednesday, The Australian says “the political crisis” is “engulfing the Morrison government.” Mangling metaphors, Australian Financial Review political editor Phillip Coorey says the government is
“reeling from the allegations … the events of this week have highlighted just how quickly the government’s fortunes can run off the rails.”
Phil’s a fabulous fence-sitter. No splinters in his bum. The government’s problems are largely of its own making. The week’s events have found out a government and a Prime Minister who have spectacularly failed to exercise due diligence or duty of care.
Instead, whether it be paying lip-service to reforming its responsibilities in aged care or its handling of allegations of rape by young women working in Parliament House, its response has been to make the problem go away; abuse its power rather than exercise its legitimate authority.
A democratic government in a civil society doesn’t gag its press when faced with difficult questions. The reporter is just doing her job. A young woman who says she is raped in the Defence Minister’s office deserves respect and support. Instead, she is called a “lying cow” and she and her partner are run out of town.
The Prime Minister is too quick to pull rank or handball his responsibility to the police. Or rely on his fixers behind the scenes. He does himself and his government no favours by allowing his ministers to evade responsibility. His behaviour is increasingly despotic and his invocation of a bogus conception of the rule of law is making him a laughing-stock amongst the legal profession, while exposing a disturbing level of desperation.
Morrison is out of his depth. He needs to stand down two ministers and ensure that all rape and sexual assault allegations are investigated by an appropriately constituted independent inquiry. If he can’t lead from the front he needs to get out of the job. If you really were an effective Prime Minister, Mr Morrison you wouldn’t have to tell us.
I’m the Prime Minister? Really? All the evidence suggests otherwise.