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Lies, lies and more lies

On May 25 2020, the Secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet, (PM&C) Phil Gaetjens, the most senior public servant in government administration, made a written submission to the Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee inquiry into Lessons to be learned in relation to the preparation and planning for, response to and recovery efforts following the 2019-20 Australian bushfire season.

PM&C plays a central role in the management of crises, as outlined in the Gaetjens’ submission:

PM&C supports the Department of Home Affairs in coordinating the Australian Government’s crisis response, supporting effective decision-making by the Cabinet and its relevant sub-committees, advising the Prime Minister and facilitating coordination between Australian Government agencies. Emergency Management Australia (EMA) in the Department of Home Affairs is responsible for leading the government’s response to bushfires.

In his submission, Mr Gaetjens asserted that his department:

provided regular advice to the Prime Minister (including through his office) throughout the bushfire crisis, in close consultation with Emergency Management Australia (EMA).

You may recall that Prime Minister Scott Morrison left for a holiday in Hawaii on December 15th, 2019. At this time, eight people had died in NSW and Victorian bushfires, some of which had been burning since November. For the first few days Morrison’s office denied he was absent on vacation. On December 18, acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack confirmed that Morrison had left with his family for a holiday in “an undisclosed location.”

On Wednesday, May 27, Mr Gaetjens told the parliamentary inquiry that his department did not provide Morrison with any written or verbal briefings while he was away in Hawaii. This contradicts his written submission that regular advice had been provided to the Prime Minister by the department, throughout the bushfire crisis. Mr Gaetjens went on to say the he “believed” the Prime Minister’s office had been keeping Morrison updated while he was in Hawaii.

Apparently Mr Gaetjens doesn’t actually know this he merely “believes” it. Why didn’t Mr Gaetjens make it his business to know who was briefing the PM on a national catastrophe if his department was not? His department plays an essential role in the management of such crises and in advising the PM, yet they did not take responsibility for keeping him informed while he was on his Hawaiian sojourn, despite claiming he was briefed by them throughout the bushfires. Apparently, they did not ensure the PM’s office was briefing him either, they just “believed” it would.

We are entitled to know if Morrison was regularly briefed on the deteriorating fire situation while he was in Hawaii, and by whom.

Deputy PM Michael McCormack said on Thursday, December 19:

The Prime Minister is very across this issue. He is getting daily briefings, if not hourly briefings and he is very across it.

Not across it enough to return, however. Extraordinary, really. In what other employment environment would a CEO, for example, fail to return to their workplace at a time of unprecedented crisis? If Morrison was indeed receiving daily and even hourly briefings, how could he not come back, knowing the terrible circumstances Australians were in?

Both Morrison and his office had enough insight into the nature of the optics of his absence before he left, to decide they’d better lie about it. This is a decision that beggars belief, and is not unlike a small child believing if they cover their eyes, an adult can’t see them. However, neither the office nor Morrison had the gumption to realise it really isn’t possible to lie about a PM’s absence during a national catastrophe, and get away with it. Given the eye-watering stupidity of these decisions, not to mention the alarming penchant for magical thinking they indicate, we can’t trust that Morrison was adequately briefed by his office while he was away, and neither can we take it for granted that he wanted to be adequately briefed. The man legged it. Why should we believe that a man capable of legging it at such a time cared enough to stay informed?

It would be astounding indeed if Morrison’s staff took it upon themselves to withhold information about the gravity of the developing situation from their boss, without some strong indication from him that he didn’t want to know. But did they? Did he? These are questions to which we are entitled to demand answers.

It is also impossible that Morrison was unaware, briefings or not, of the disasters Australians were facing while he holidayed in Hawaii. By this time, our plight was the focus of global attention, and unless the Prime Minister isolated himself from all media, including social, he could not help but know how bad things were. And yet, he did not come back, and he sent no messages of support. He was thunderously, and most cruelly, irresponsibly silent.

When he returned he did say he’d beenVery focused on things back here while in Hawaii.” Thoughts and prayers, perhaps?   

How did Morrison watch such devastation take hold from the safety and comfort of his luxury hotel on a tropical island, and do and say absolutely nothing? If he was kept abreast of developments and still did nothing, preferring instead to enjoy his holiday, this makes his choices even worse. And what exactly did go on behind the scenes, in Morrison’s office and in PM&C? They are all public servants. We pay the lot of them. It’s about time we had some answers.

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12 comments

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  1. Roger Patterson

    Morrison lies by example. A strong leader leads by example.

  2. Phil Pryor

    Lying filth, useless administrators, incompetent economics idiots, cheating rural exploiters, abusers of finances, untrustworthy selfish turds, inadequate observers, and, that is just the government backbench. Snotty Mc Moron and Mc WhotheF–k are team leaders,, but if you can find a car from the scrap metal, a spouse from Darlinghurst Rd,. a horse from the peet food knacker’s yard, a gold brick from fat Clive, a straight answer for B Joyce (when sober) you’ll be doing better than the now finished (Murdochish murder) reporters getting honesty here. After more than a century since federation ,we have arrived at a time of con men, thieves, crooks, double crossing twisters, propaganda bashers, media midgets, bumboys and joygirls, with less brains than in a can of PAL.

  3. TuffGuy

    Having seen many times how arrogant he gets when receiving questions he does not like I would love to see his reaction to some of the questions above. Particularly that given he was receiving regular updates yet remained completely silent.
    Why are these questions not being asked, by somebody?

  4. whatever

    A former Liberal Party staffer, who allegedly stole $13.5 million from the life savings of more than 80 people has been handed an additional 51 charges.

    Adam Jones, 31, was arrested at a public library in Green Square, Sydney, in February after cybercrime detectives closed in on the alleged systematic identity takeover.

    Police say he used the stolen and forged personal details to modify the payroll data, superannuation details and credit card records of victims across Australia.

    With such details he allegedly redirected invoices or payroll payments to his own accounts. In other cases he allegedly consolidated legitimate super funds into new funds he had created, purporting to be those of the victim.

    https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/ex-liberal-party-staffer-faces-51-new-charges-over-alleged-13-5m-identity-theft-20200528-p54x6t.html

  5. Phil

    We can waffle on about this government until the cows come home, unless people are prepared to take action, they will keep laughing at us, while they laugh all the way to the bank. The next fucker that tells me this government doesn’t have a plan to destroy the working class by using the federal and state police, the judiciary and lastly the media, I will take a piss on you and tell you its raining. Still I look on the bright side we will soon be able to learn some tactics from the USA. Who told me it wasn’t going to go up in flames? Go back to sleep, you people that think this is business as usual are part of the problem,not the solution.

  6. Jack Cade

    Whatever

    Be prepared for the Alan Bond/Arthur Sinodinos defence.
    In 10 years he will be pre-selected for a safe seat: the Coalition reveres the qualities he showed. Resourceful, innovative, amoral. He’s a cert for the front bench.

  7. Kerri

    Well said! This government is very fond of the same advice my mother gave me about pimples!
    “Ignore it and it will go away on its own”
    I believe them as much as I believed her!

  8. wam

    good one kerri she was as right as smirko is.
    The rabbott broke the chain because he reminded us by lying every day no matter what the question was he had the memorised attack on gillard.
    Sadly labor has to wait for a special character or a toxic lib like howard after 12 years.
    This trifecta after 6year was out but boobby’s miracle has e5ased the memory and we wait for a leader.

  9. Florence

    Keep in mind at the time the PM and his mob were working hard to combat the fact fires at the time were abnormal, unprecedented. Their concern was not the fires or the people who would victims. They feared that support action for carbon emission abatement would be released. Same as they are now trying to create the impression that covid19 is no longer an issue. All focus must be on jobs.

  10. guest

    You are absolutely right, Florence.

    The Murdoch media especially worked very hard to try to refute the fact that the fires were “unprecedented”. Chris Kenny tried to use the single criterion of the number of deaths in fires going back decades and because there were relatively few deaths made public in the 2019-20 fires, saying that that the recent fires are not “unprecedented”. But the recent revelation of the number of deaths by smoke inhalation knocks that pitiful pea and thimble trick into a cocked hat.

    Pathetic, like all the other attempts to deny that Climate Change had anything to do with drought or bush-fires. Hence the ridiculous and fraudulent claim that arsonists were mainly responsible for the fires, or that millions of hectares of forest could have been cleared of bio-mass detritus from the ground by hand or by Aboriginal-style burning.

    People involved in fire-fighting are forbidden to say there is any connection between Climate Change, drought and bush-fires.

    As well, fire-fighting equipment and funding had been reduced or delayed in a way it would not have been if Shorten’s Labor plans had been valued by the voting public.

    We are being hood-winked by ideological twittery, obfuscating smoke and mirrors, blatant lies, public skullduggery, underhand secrecy, and plain ignorance.

  11. leefe

    “Mr Gaetjens told the parliamentary inquiry that his department did not provide Morrison with any written or verbal briefings while he was away in Hawaii. ”

    Semaphore? Smoke signals? Telepathy? So many ways they could have been in contact.

  12. Harry Lime

    Whatever, ..I’d expect to see him gifted a lieberal blue ribbon seat in the next election..he has all the desirable attributes for leadership material…Fuck me.

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