This blog site traditionally has a look back at what we commented on in the past year as our last article come December. This year, we’re going to break the cycle and look at what Prime Minister Morrison should be considering over the next month or so instead of asking ‘how good is the cricket?’. That’s not saying for a second that we published nothing of worth this year because if you go to the top right of your screen and click on the ‘Archive’ link, you will not only see the articles for 2019, but the 860 or so articles published by The Political Sword since 2008.
The mythology is that when American astronauts have a problem in space, they alert Mission Control in Houston Texas with the phrase ‘Houston — we have a problem’. Going into the festive season this year, Prime Minister Morrison has a few problems where perhaps a shout out to ‘Houston’ might be in order.
Morrison won the ‘unwinnable’ election in May. Subsequently, all the polling organisations went into damage control while they looked at their methodology. Most made some admission that they had errors in their process and the world moved on. One benefit is that the current polling numbers are not front-page news every week or fortnight as there is a general understanding now that statistics and probability are only a guide based on a set of assumptions.
Morrison’s election ‘victory lap’ included a trip to meet President Trump in Washington in September. Trump gave Morrison the honour of a State Dinner. The Wall Street Journal wrote that Brian Houston, the founder of the ‘Pentecostal’ Hillsong Church, was placed on the guest list by Morrison’s people and removed by the Americans as:
In 2015, Mr Houston was censured by the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sex Abuse for failing to alert authorities to paedophile father Frank Houston’s sexual abuse of children in his church.
Australia was still talking about it at the end of November, with The Guardian reporting
It has been dismissed as “gossip” by the prime minister, but in the two months since the White House state dinner, the government has gone to extraordinary lengths to try to avoid answering the simple question: Did Scott Morrison ask the Trump administration to invite the Hillsong founder, Pastor Brian Houston, to the dinner?
If the answer is no, just say it and move on. Assuming the answer is yes (a pretty good bet since it hasn’t been denied), it’s interesting that the Americans can see the reputational risks that Morrison and his minders can’t.
Morrison has also spent a considerable amount of political capital defending Energy Minister Angus Taylor. Apart from being implicated in a scheme when the government paid $80 million for water rights without receiving any water, meeting with the then Environment Minister to discuss why no action should be taken when 30 hectares of protected grasslands in the Monaro region of New South Wales was poisoned by a company in which Taylor has a beneficial interest and claiming an increase in carbon emissions over the past three years is good news, Taylor is also under investigation by the Parliament for an ongoing argument with Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore. Taylor wrote to the Lord Mayor in his Energy Minister role suggesting $14 million spent on international travel was inconsistent with the Mayor’s public position on emissions reduction, as well as leaking the letter to the media. It’s a pity the real figure was a somewhat more palatable $15893.29 (and $5308.88 on domestic travel). Taylor claims the fault wasn’t his; regardless Australia is still talking about it coming into December (a month later).
However, when One Nation votes against his ‘signature piece Union-busting’ legislation as they did in the last week of November, Morrison really has a problem. Hanson is quoted as suggesting
the bill [was] a “sledgehammer against the unions” – and compared it to the government’s response to allegations of illegality from the country’s major banks.
“The Prime Minister says ‘oh well, it’s not up to us, the government, to deal with the banks, it’s up to the boards to do it’,” she said.
“But they’re coming out with a sledgehammer against the unions and doing what they’re doing, so I think there is a double standard there.”
Rather than wrapping up the year on a high, as the ALP are still working out what went wrong, Morrison has maxed out the ‘political capital’ credit card this festive season. Some in the Liberal Party are concerned about the future as discussed in the publicly released results of their election review. It warns
the Coalition’s future chances of forming government will remain “worryingly narrow” unless it improves its standing in Victoria and parts of NSW.
The review warns there is “no room for any complacency” within the party following the 2019 election campaign, recommending a “comprehensive impartial candidate vetting process” for candidates to avoid a similar situation where 10 Liberals were disendorsed during the campaign.
If Morrison is considering whether he should call out ‘Houston – we have a problem’, would the cry for help be meant for Mission Control (AKA Liberal Party head office) or Brian Houston? Will his minders be working overtime this festive season? Recent history tells us the knives won’t stay in the cutlery drawer if they don’t. Pass the popcorn; 2020 could be interesting to watch.
What do you think?
This article was originally published on The Political Sword
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