It was fortuitous for the Coalition government that the Covid-19 virus should disrupt the world at the moment when the integrity of the government’s actions was under intense scrutiny.
Since the Coalition came to power in 2013, under three different leaders, there has been a plethora of occasions when the behaviour of Ministers would have resulted in their resignations, from office or from Parliament, in past times, when integrity and honesty were expected to be standards to which parliamentarians should adhere.
Clearly those standards have varied but now it appears that there are none at all.
There have been many conjectures as to why Malcolm Turnbull created the mega-Ministry of Home Affairs and put Peter Dutton in charge. To judge from the regular criticisms, whenever the Australian National Audit Office conducts an audit, criticisms which include its ignoring due process, plus failing to follow correct procedures and act within budget, it was clearly not based on his competence as a Minister.
The hiatus over the Ruby Princess debacle has raised questions at to whether the Australian Border Force (ABF) really understands what its duties are intended to cover. The extent to which ABF’s attitudes seem to vary from fascist dictators to complicity in unacceptable behaviour bears witness to the foundation for reports of concern expressed by individual members as to exactly what they are there for!
Before it was effectively sidelined, questions in parliament were all centred on the clearly inappropriate handling of sports grants by the previous Minister for Sports Senator Bridget McKenzie.
A largely inappropriate and biased ‘inquiry’ partially exonerated her, and attempted to mollify critics by forcing her to, reluctantly, admit to a conflict of interest and so resign. It appeared the Scott Morrison had been heavily involved in the decision making which she presided over, but the virus hiatus intervened to his advantage.
Prior to that issue, there had been numerous occasions when Angus Taylor had been in the spotlight for less that scrupulous dealings in several matters, the most recent being a manufactured document implicating Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of Sydney, in ridiculous levels of spending on travel.
The subsequent inquiry was totally inadequate but, once again, events set the matter aside for more life and death reasons.
I do not belong to any political party, but I support those politicians who value social justice and abhor those who are corrupt. Many matters of concern that have arisen during the Coalition ministry would have had the Opposition and the Murdoch media screaming from the rooftops had the ALP been in government!
Disappointingly, members of the public do not seem to be really concerned about corruption! In interviews with people on the streets after the sports rorts affair, one woman was recorded as not being surprised because “they all do it”! What an endorsement of irresponsible government – at all levels!
The Coalition has a one-seat majority in the House and relies on support from the cross-bench in the Senate. Yet Our (for me not so) Dear Leader has chosen to abandon democracy and establish a National Cabinet which, while including State Premiers and Territory Chief Ministers of differing political persuasions, does not include the Opposition Leader.
He is also relying on advisers who are more clearly those with a vested interest from areas like mining rather than well-accredited experts.
The Covid-19 pandemic will not be over any time soon, and, sadly and particularly when a crisis intervenes, people tend to have short memories.
But examples of ingrained corruption made clear by the Sports Rorts affair and the actions of Angus Taylor, make it very easy to read unflattering biases by the government from the surprising designation of hairdressing as ‘essential’ – when Angus Taylor’s reputation among many makes it credible that he owns 2000 hairdressing salons (see comments below) – and the volte-face over making child care free, when Peter Dutton’s wife owns at least two such centres.
To lay itself open to accusations of bias because of having been perceived as providing funds where the choice of recipients is biased by political judgement, before an ‘unwinnable’ election, is more than ‘not a good look’, particularly when there is already a confidence deficit.
No doubt the Coalition is hoping that, by the time the country, and the world, returns to any form of normality, these issues will have been forgotten.
And the fact that the massive reduction of manufacturing activity, plane flights and people movement has resulted in a perceptible decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, might persuade the government that pressure for action on climate change will no longer be an issue.
But, just as a slight decrease in the rate of increase in Covid-19 infections is not enough to reduce efforts to prevent further spreading, so too the exponential growth in emissions having eased does not mean the problem of global warming can now be ignored.
Anyone in Australia who cares about integrity, transparency and good governance must be on their toes. By side-lining Parliament, Scott Morrison has already severely damaged a democracy which was not in brilliant health to begin with.
He is a man with an unbalanced world view, due to his religious affiliations – religion is not a seriously important issue for a majority of the population, although there are many who wish the government had a better moral compass – and our Constitution, itself in urgent need of revision, still requires separation of religion and state.
Now is the time for close scrutiny of future policies, which must include serious emphasis on reducing emissions, restoring CSIRO to its former glory, so that another pandemic does not catch us unprepared, and accepting that the economy is designed to serve the people, not vice versa!
I end as always – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:
“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”
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