Scott Morrison was road-testing a new approach today. Apparently, he is the sensible centre, resisting the urgings of those who would drag him off course one way or the other.
The idea that Scott Morrison has a course is the first problem with that narrative.
His vision for governing is to get paid to do nothing. His default position on pretty much everything is to oppose it and his preferred method of opposition is belligerence and ridicule. If forced to take action, pretend it was your idea.
Everyone has recently been reminded of FauxMo’s ridiculing of electric vehicles and humiliating u-turn, but there are many other examples which should not be forgotten.
Remember when a grinning Treasurer taunted Labor in Question Time “This is coal. Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared” as he and Barnaby chortled away?
Then a week before the election, the now PM tried another comedy routine, ridiculing Labor’s plan to rely in part on international carbon permits to achieve its emissions target.
“I call it the Borat Tax with carbon credits for Kazakhstan. I know what Borat would think of the Labor Party’s policies on emissions reduction: Very nice, very nice.” (delivered with accent, silly grin and double thumbs up)
Moving on to the latest Australian Way brochure on emissions reduction, and lo and behold, the government is now relying on “a high-quality carbon credit scheme in the Indo-Pacific” to achieve its 2050 target with a belated acknowledgement that “the benefit to the climate of an avoided tonne of emissions is the same wherever it occurs”.
It’s not just emissions reduction where Scotty has been forced to change direction.
In August 2016, Morrison described calls for a banking royal commission as “nothing more than a populist whinge from Bill Shorten.”
“He is playing reckless political games with one of the core pillars of our economy. He’s acting with callous disregard and complete political opportunism. I think there is the great risk that if the opposition continues to engage in this recklessness that the only product of that approach could be to undermine confidence in the banking and finance system.”
Come November 2017, Scotty grudgingly announces a Royal Commission.
“The nature of political events means the national economic interest is now served by taking what I describe as a regrettable but necessary action. Politics is doing damage to our banking and financial system, and we are taking control as a government to protect the strength of our banking system through a properly constituted inquiry.”
In October 2019, trying to tap into the outrage, Morrison ordered his own ACCC inquiry into the big 4 banks (despite having rejected a call for that from Rod Simms the month before).
In his 2019 election campaign speech, ProMo boasted of “having the courage to put the aged care system to a Royal Commission to ensure that we value our older Australians and they get the best possible care, because we love them so dearly.”
Now that one really riled me up because it was personal.
For years I had been trying to get something done about aged care, complaining to everyone from the management of the facility my mother lived in right on up to the federal minister. I still have the response from Ken Wyatt telling me that none of my concerns, including staffing levels or how funding was being used, were the responsibility of the government. It’s up to the provider. The date of that letter is April 12, 2018.
Six days later, I read “Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt has unveiled a plan to merge a number of agencies into a new Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. It’s being dubbed as a “one-stop shop” to prevent failures and monitor and enforce quality standards.”
“I am not going to tolerate providers who do not meet what is required both within legislation, regulation and in terms of quality standards,” said a completely ineffectual Ken Wyatt.
Luckily for him, there are no regulations regarding staffing levels or staff training or quality assurance.
When Bill Shorten, a couple of weeks later, said the aged care system was in crisis and called for a Royal Commission, Wyatt was outraged.
“I’m slow to anger but I must admit that recently the Opposition Leader commenting that the system is in crisis and a national disgrace was not becoming of what I would expect in a bilateral and bipartisan approach to aged care.
“This demeans every one of those dedicated aged care workers and it achieves nothing but instilling fear into the hearts and minds of older Australians. For the Opposition Leader to continue this fear-mongering is verging on the abuse of elder Australians and it must stop.”
Then Four Corners started an investigation.
Wyatt dismissed the need for a Royal Commission as an unnecessary move because the Government was already reviewing the sector. “A royal commission, after two years and maybe $200 million being spent on it, will come back with the same set or a very similar set of recommendations,” he said.
The weekend before the Four Corners program Who Cares? was to air, I got a phone call from someone at the ABC telling me that Scott Morrison was going to call a Royal Commission. Sure, enough, there he was the day before the two-part program began, executing one of his rapid u-turns.
The recommendations from both Wyatt’s inquiry and the RC have been largely ignored.
Backtrack to November 2013 and the announcement that the Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing was to be scrapped – at a saving of just over $1 million a year.
The chair of the Panel, Mr Everald Compton, told ABC Radio: “We’ve only got six months work to go and we can give the government a blueprint on all the legislative and policy and financial changes that need to be progressively made over the next 25 years to make sure we turn ageing into an asset rather than a liability. And I find it a little hard to understand why, when we’re so close to finishing something that we’ve had some years of work in, that it’s chopped off and that the government does not appear to want a report on how ageing is going to hit Australia.”
And Scotty wants me to believe they care?
It’s not extremists that are causing Scott Morrison to bounce around like a beach ball. He’s a thin-skinned bag of hot air, totally dependent on the crowd to determine his direction.
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