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As a fish rots from the head, so is Australia’s democracy

A lack of accountability, incompetence, corruption, vilification, a shredded social fabric: the Morrison government is perhaps the worst in history.

So the year has crawled to a dingy close. Remember a few short years ago when Australian democracy was seen as having developed a uniquely Australian flavour. We believed in the fair go, we frowned on favouritism, we all had a sort of grudging respect for our leaders but we held them to account.

We definitely had no time for politicians who were in it for the money, or the post-political career. We thought they were on Australia’s side. Well, cast aside any sense of false pride because as the fish rots from the head, so has our form of democracy.

We now have a leader who is regularly described as a noted liar. Our deputy prime minister is a man that even his own party does not respect. He represents nothing that I can identify, beyond advancing his own pay packet. He is apparently afraid of his own backbenchers. The Nationals as a group are reviled everywhere outside their own party room.

The country is standing on the abyss as climate change moves into top gear. Our minister for reducing emissions went to the Glasgow climate summit with the intention of spruiking for the fossil fuel industry, and the prime minister, representing Australia on the world stage, described our contribution to reducing emissions as being “uniquely Australian”. To anyone with half a brain, that meant using the old “the dog ate my homework” excuse, and they then came home and released a brochure which only met 85 per cent of their own target. The other 15 per cent would be provided by Lady Luck.

Most Australians do not read at all because almost a half of them cannot read. That is because successive governments have so robbed the public education system that only those who attend private, heavily subsidised schools can read. Of course, what they read is heavily monocultural. So if you wonder why all the private school boys and girls these days behave like entitled twits, that is why.

Our former education minister, Alan Tudge, had a bee in his bonnet about children questioning the Anzac Day myth. Imagine putting a person in charge of education in this country who believes that history should be taught with an optimistic slant. Cue the Turkish government: it imprisons anyone mentioning the Armenian genocide (1915-16). Or Japan, which denies the use of Korean women as sex slaves during World War II.

Many of our private schools are so-called Christian schools, because our political class is unrepresentative of the population at large, and many of them profess fundamentalist religious beliefs which have nothing to do with the values of our country.

We do not like “bible bashers” or wowsers. We are uncomfortable with people who wear their religiosity like a magic cloak, and I am personally creeped out at the prospect of Scott Morrison laying his hands on me, or any of my fellow citizens, in his inane search for godly connection. I was born once, and baptised once, and that is enough for me.

How did we come to a position where the only item on the national agenda is a religious freedom bill? The only people in Australia with an agenda against the right to practise your personal religion is the Coalition. From Peter Dutton and his African gangs (code for Muslims) to Dutton (again) and his Lebanese-Australians carrying a criminal gene (code for Muslims) to the former education minister (again), who made a call for Australia to mount a “muscular” defence of Western liberal values and an amplification of the values clash narrative, using examples popular with the right such as the prospect of female genital cutting, child marriage and domestic violence. He warned that Australia was veering toward a separatist multicultural model.

Tudge is a family values politician. He is now an ex-minister because his former mistress has accused him of emotional and physical abuse. Which brings us to the thorny question of women.

Morrison and his ministry have constantly sidelined women, and even his female ministers are not safe from Scott. Scott interrupts them, he counsels them, he “‘supports” them, he volunteers them (Gladys Berejiklian for Warringah) and he consults them. Remember his response to Brittany Higgins’ rape allegation. He consulted his wife, who told him to behave like a father. We would prefer he acted like a competent, fully formed human being who has been elected leader of a vibrant nation of men and women.

Of course he has also, aided and abetted by Dutton, vilified China, the Chinese political system and Chinese culture. Seemingly unaware of China’s history or its size and power, he seems to be rattling his tiny sabre and hitching our wagon to the US.

Today we discovered that over the past four years the Coalition has spent three times as much on Liberal electorates, when compared to Labor-held seats. This proves that we should move house if we want some of our taxes to come back to us, or maybe just vote them out.

Which brings us to accountability. No bill has been seen. Morrison blames Labor because he cannot get his own pathetic version of an integrity commission past his own backbenchers. Ask yourself why he won’t legislate a national integrity commission. Ask yourself why he vilifies the NSW ICAC every second day. You know the old saying – if you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear.

The verdict is that, for me, the Coalition government is the single worst government in living memory, possibly in our history of representative government. From the top to the bottom they shred convention, they outsource our governing functions to multinationals, they have starved our elderly in aged care, they keep the unemployed poverty stricken, they are fanning the flames of conflict with China, they have destroyed our social fabric, and they run kangaroo courts. There’s not a lot to like.


This article was originally published on Pearls and Irritations and has been reproduced with permission.


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  1. Phil Pryor

    All true, clear, obvious, but only if one is open, honest, keen to research and assess. To backward, savage, primitive, benighted, unaware, superstitious, greedy, extravagant, lucky conservative intruders, Australia was an El Dorado mythicality, there for the taking, shaking, baking, raking, open slather imperious exploitation, here we go! Superstitious idiots abound, with NSW led by a mediaeval one who utters mumbles about faith while ignoring educated attitudes based on science, logic, decency, manners, honesty, prudence. Uncontrolled conservative, donor driven stupidity, greed and acquisition will ruin any chance of a fair go. Sickening…

  2. Geoff Andrews

    I hope you are willing to release copyright on this piece, Mark.
    It would save Anthony Albanese’s speech writer a lot of time preparing his campaign launch address.
    What an opportunity for another timely address to the nation! I can still see and hear Whitlam’s opening, “Men & women of Australia.”

  3. RomeoCharlie29

    A handy distillation of the ineptitude of the worst government in Australia’s history. This should be published in a black-bordered box on the front page of every newspaper in Australia. In my dreams. One wonders how anyone with half a brain could seriously argue that Scummo and his clique of incompetents could be worth supporting, I do not know.

  4. David Baird

    Very concisely put, Phil. So very true! Our god-botherer-in-chief is a prime example of the dangers lurking in giving control of the levers of power to someone whose utter ignorance and supreme self-confidence know no bounds. The fact that he’s a devious, disingenuous (at best), brazen liar and slimy little shit doesn’t really need to be said, but I feel a little better for saying it.

  5. Max Gross

    “Remember a few short years ago when Australian democracy was seen as having developed a uniquely Australian flavour.” Oh it’s uniquely Australian alright: crooks, creeps, con artists, cretins and crackpots in charge of everything.

  6. Andrew J. Smith

    Good article, one would suggest, since round the time of Howard and ascendancy of Murdoch, we are now observing the symptoms of imported US radical right libertarian socio-economic ideology joined at the hip with white nationalism, eugenics, misogyny and autocracy behind a veil of mostly white Christian nationalist males.

  7. Harry Lime

    Heartily agree,Geoff Andrews…it would be really something to hear Gough Whitlam’s observations on the thing posing as Prime Minister.

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