By Terence Mills
Just before Christmas Scott Morrison, without any provocation, came out and said that in 2018 he will fight back against discrimination and mockery of Christians and other religious groups in what appears to be a bid to take over from Tony Abbott and position himself as the leading religious conservative in the Turnbull Government.
Mr Morrison has also promised to play a leading role next year in the review of religious protections currently being undertaken by former Attorney-General Philip Ruddock.
It’s not clear why Scomo found it necessary to come out with this declaration right now but it seems possible that, after several years of issuing dire warnings about the spiraling government debt and expanding deficit and the need to cut spending and boost government revenues, he is finding it confusing to now be promoting corporate and personal tax cuts. I have to sympathise with him as I too find it difficult to get my head around the rationale of that economic conundrum.
Do you remember when we had a debt ceiling limiting how much the Australian government could borrow? The statutory borrowing limit was created in 2007 by the Rudd Government and set at $75 billion. It was increased in 2009 to $200 billion, $250 billion in 2011 and $300 billion in May 2012. In November 2013, Treasurer Joe Hockey requested Parliament’s approval for an increase in the debt limit from $300 billion to $500 billion, then the formal debt ceiling was abandoned altogether. Just as well as gross government debt has now exceeded $550 billion – more than double that inherited from those profligate drunken sailors in the Labor Party – and the annual interest bill is in the order of $18 billion.
So, if you were Scott Morrison wouldn’t you adopt the look over there policy and redirect the national focus away from fiscal management and call for us to rally under another banner for a new cause, in this case a religious crusade?
The odd thing is that Morrison and the Coalition have in the past strenuously argued in favour of absolute freedom of speech and opposed any protections for those who may be offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated by another person or a group of people based on the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group. That’s right, section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act was utterly offensive to the Coalition and impinged on their absolute commitment to unfettered freedom of speech. But now they appear to want to introduce protections which are almost identical but apply to religious groups, particularly Christian groups but inevitably if they get their way those protections will have to apply to all believers. I’m not sure that the IPA and Pauline Hanson will be happy about that.
What worries me most is that the Ruddock Enquiry could lead to the formation of a religious police squad as part of the Dutton SS with blokes in polyester suits and clip-on ties ranging through the suburbs seeking out clandestine DVD copies of the Life of Brian. I’m going to hide my copy in a cover of Susan Boyle sings Christmas Album 2015.