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Morrison’s mistakes multiply

By Ad astra

We ought not to be surprised at the multiplicity of Scott Morrison’s mistakes, given the lack of preparation he has had for the role of prime minister. Prior to Malcolm Turnbull’s ouster, Morrison was Treasurer and before that, Minister for Immigration. He had never had responsibility for making the wide range of decisions on the large variety of challenges that prime ministers face. Now, after his accidental ascent to the top job, it shows. While some conservative commentators might cut him some slack, many are already wondering when, or if, his mistakes will ever cease, and whether he can recover from the plethora of missteps he’s already taken.

Is it just inexperience that makes him look so inept, and at times stupid? Or is it his egocentric nature, his exuberant but misplaced confidence, his arrogance, or his advertising executive past? Maybe, all of the above! We canvassed the reasons last month in Oh dear – our new PM is not up to the job. We concluded then that Morrison was a dud. Every day since vindicates that conclusion.

Like almost every parliamentarian who has filled a senior position in government, Morrison has harboured lofty ambitions, dreaming about filling the top job, imagining he’s sufficiently talented to do so. Although he may never have expected to be thrust so precipitously into the job on that fateful day in August, he grasped it enthusiastically, and was soon out and about in his characteristically over-confident way, expounding on every subject about which journalists chose to probe him. Words cascaded from his mouth exuberantly, embroidered with his all-knowing smile. Doubts never entered his mind, or if they did, never escaped his lips.

No sooner was he made PM than he faced the unnerving prospect of having to fight the Wentworth by-election, occasioned by Turnbull’s resignation. It seemed not to faze him. He behaved as if he had it well under control. Indeed, he seemed to take in his stride the danger of losing a seat the Liberals had held for a century, at the time by a margin of over 17%. Surely that couldn’t happen!

So we come to his initial mistake – believing Wentworth was invulnerable, with well-credentialed Liberal Dave Sharma up against an unknown Labor opponent and a gay female Independent.

Morrison began by mistaking the depth of anger Wentworth voters harbored at Turnbull’s unseemly removal by a conservative clique stirred into action by a vengeful Tony Abbott and an egotistical, if innumerate Peter Dutton who saw himself as ‘a better man’ to lead the party. Then he underestimated the political appeal of Wentworth resident Kerry Phelps, a medical doctor, a past president of the AMA, prominent in local council affairs, and a fervent supporter of marriage equality, which Wentworth voters had embraced enthusiastically. He couldn’t see her marshalling the 17% swing needed to take the seat. Morrison’s electoral naïveté quickly became exposed.

Eventually, he got the message from the polls that Sharma was no certainty, and that he had better pull his finger out to attract voter attention. So what did he do – make another mistake – foolishly floating an idea he thought would appeal to the large number of Jewish voters in Wentworth – the transfer of the Australian Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, now declared by PM Netanyahu and President Trump to be ‘the capital of the State of Israel’.

He seemed unaware of the anger that would create among the Palestinians, and oblivious to the irritation such a move would create in neighbouring Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation on Earth, which has long opposed such a move. So upset was President Joko Widodo, that the bilateral trade deal being negotiated with Indonesia was immediately placed in jeopardy. It still is.

At the recent ASEAN meeting, having stupidly wedged himself, Morrison struggled to rescue the FTA. Despite what Widodo had said, and repeated to him in Singapore, Morrison still maintained that the two issues (the siting of the Australian Embassy and the FTA) were not linked! Then Trade Minister Steve Ciobo of all people insisted that there was a “less than a 5% chance” of the move going ahead. Morrison dismissed this as a ‘complete furphy’, going on to declare that he would make a decision about the Australian Embassy by Christmas.

”Why leave it to Christmas” retorted Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong. “The cost of all this chaos to Australia’s national interest is now being demonstrated. He needs to accept he made the wrong judgment and finalise the government’s position and return to the bipartisan position.” 

Bill Shorten was similarly scathing. “I think Mr Morrison made a major mistake when he floated the kite before the Wentworth by-election…Frankly, he made himself look stupid and made our country look stupid. If he has decided not to go ahead with moving the embassy, for goodness’ sake just tell us so we can all get on with everything else. I don’t see why this nation has to wait until Christmas so that Mr Morrison can climb off his high horse.”

Another error of judgement! Indeed, why let such a controversial issue drag on for so long?

If Morrison wasn’t troubled about Widodo’s concerns about siting the Embassy in Jerusalem, perhaps the views of the wily Malaysian PM, Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad, recently elected leader for a second time, might trouble him. He had forcibly expressed the view: “adding to the cause for terrorism is not going to be helpful”. Before Morrison could respond though, Deputy Liberal Leader Josh Frydenberg, citing previous anti-Semitic remarks by Mahathir, jumped in, airily dismissing him by accusing him of “…having form in making ‘derogatory comments’ about Jews in the past, including calling them ‘hook-nosed’, questioning the number of people killed in the Holocaust, and banning the classic Holocaust film ‘Schindler’s List’.” Josh added, with a touch of truculence: “Australia will make its own decisions in its own national interest”. As if Morrison was not in enough strife already!

At a subsequent press conference in Darwin, Morrison tried to pour oil on the turbulent waters Frydenberg had created. He said that Mahathir “had raised his concerns ‘courteously’ at the end of their bilateral meeting and his view was ‘not unexpected’. I think what Josh said today was filling in the history of Mahathir’s record on various issues over time. I think those issues are well known and … his contribution to the public record on those topics is well known” adding, “I do not resile one inch from the fact that I think this is an issue that the Australian government should be able to consider.” Never far out of the picture, Eric Abetz was soon complicating the issue by provocatively tweeting: “If Indonesia really wants to dictate Aus foreign policy on the middle east, should we rethink the $360 million each year we give them in aid?”

This matter has become a major political headache for Morrison, and has prompted colleagues to question his judgement. Some moderates want Morrison to dump the idea, but the conservatives favour the shift. More trouble ahead for the hapless PM!

If you need to be reminded of any more instances of Morrison’s mistakes, think about his ridiculous bus tour of Queensland to drum up support among disenchanted voters, so nicely described in Morrison’s latest prop. He’s not really on the bus much, flies between cities so he can get on it again, gets off to drink beer from a can, eat pies without a knife and fork, debate the problem that’s dividing the nation: whether onions go above or below a sausage, don a variety of promotional baseball caps (we’re waiting for an ‘Australia First’ version), and make pronouncements on any subject journalists throw at him, always augmented by his growing collection of pedestrian slogans, and an abundance of ‘fair dinkums’. Policy has been thin on the ground; overinflated rhetoric has been in ample supply, and smiling exuberance abundant.

Add to this unseemly catalogue the mess Morrison got into with the Islamic community over the Bourke Street terror attack and his ill-conceived visit to Pellegrini’s Expresso Bar, ostensibly to foster the ‘good bloke’ image, but opportunistically to promote State Coalition leader Matthew Guy’s ‘law and order’ meme; the decision to cut $323,000 of annual funding from the charity Foodbank, reversed within 24 hours, evoking the headline in the satirical Betoota Advocate: “Morrison Backflips On Initial Idea Of Letting People Starve To Death”; the belated decision by Greg Hunt to extend the time to opt-out from My Health Record; and the decision, announced by Dan Tehan, to institute an enquiry by former High Court chief justice Robert French into ‘free speech on university campuses’, which university figures immediately criticised as ridiculous meddling on the grounds that ‘free-speech’ has always been the very basis of the intellectual endeavour of all universities. To add to Morrison’s woes he thoughtlessly angered China’s leaders by calling the Pacific ‘Australia’s patch’, into which he said he would pour $3 billion in aid. Add to this list the substitution of a ‘big stick’ approach to power companies to provide cheap, ‘far-dinkum’ energy, in place of a coherent climate and energy policy for which business is pleading, and cap it off with his ‘smutty’ response to Pamela Anderson’s plea to bring Julian Assange home, and you have an impressive list of stuff-ups.

Michele Grattan’s piece in The Conversation: Morrison government brings back memories of McMahon days summarises well the Morrison debacle to date. He is now looking as much a clown as did McMahon, a dangerous place for any politician. The resemblance is striking! It will appeal to those of you who can still remember Billy’s pitiable final months. Rated by many as our worst-ever PM, Morrison is giving McMahon a run for that ‘accolade’.

The longer this piece grows, the more Morrison’s mistakes multiply, day after agonizing day. So to avoid it becoming encyclopaedic, I had better stop, and let you add your own ‘Morristakes’, or would you prefer the tag: ‘Morristuff-ups’.

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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28 comments

  1. New England Cocky

    Yes, we remember the exciting days of the decaying MacMahon Liarbral Notional$ misgovernment, when government propaganda was challenged by academics skilled in researching the areas of government policy that the press releases misrepresented, only to be corrected by the academic experts, often within the hour.

    When the Australian voters said “It’s time” to remove this coven of self-serving, self-righteous, egomaniacs and replace them with a competent Whitlam ALP government dedicated to doing the best for the Australian battlers rather thanks-towing to the foreign owned multinational corporations.

    When the Australian Parliament discussed and debated policies for the nation rather than point scoring like schoolyard bullies.

    Once again “It’s time”.

  2. Graeme Henchel

    There once was a P M called Mal
    He said it was all go-ing well
    But he fell with a thud
    When bought down by a spud
    Now Mal on re-venge will so dwell
     
    We now have a li-ar called Scott
    He thinks he is good, he is not
    He’s told so many lies
    That the pub-lic sur-mised
    That Scott is a bull shitting clot

    This drong-o has not got a clue
    Pigs arse if this bloke is true blue
    It’s all fake dink-y di
    Just a sick pork-y pie
    Hear one more fair dink-um, I’ll spew

    The Thug was a wreck-er that’s all
    The Fizz-a aToff with no balls
    This Mark-et-ing bloke
    Is naught but a joke
    A tri-o of duds to ap-pall

  3. Max Gross

    Bungling Abbott made moronic McMahon look good. Bungling Morrison makes moronic Abbott look good. Turnbull did nobody any good. Bring on the election so we get the family wagon back on the road

  4. Josephus

    One more mistake: Morrison thought he could buy the Jewish vote by floating Jerusalem. “Wherever there are three Jews together they have four opinions. ” There are among them Zionists, Bundists, atheists, Hasidim, you name it. His advisers should be sacked. So should the witless Mr Morrison; no, wait, a fool is perhaps better than the malevolent Dutton.

  5. Kaye Lee

    Muslim leaders are refusing to speak with Prime Minister Scott Morrison after he lashed the community for “making excuses” for extremism.

    “Many in the Muslim community… are deeply concerned and disappointed with statements made by senior government ministers and the prime minister in the recent past which infer that the community is collectively culpable for the criminal actions of individuals,” the letter said.

    “These statements have achieved nothing to address underlying issues, but rather, have alienated large segments of the Muslim community.”

    https://www.news.com.au/finance/work/leaders/muslim-leaders-to-boycott-roundtable-discussing-islamic-extremism-with-prime-minister/news-story/a645b6338bb2f5e8b96bf8268b61ae61

    Anger over Tony Abbott’s Indigenous envoy role:

    “Haven’t we been punished enough in Indigenous affairs? How long can we put up with a paternalistic government who does not choose to engage or to talk to us? Tony Abbott has a track record in terms of denying Aboriginal people their rights to social justice, but also to self-determination.

    “There’s almost that notion of chief protector has come back to re-visit us. We’re all very dismayed at the outcome.”

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-08-29/indigenous-leaders-voice-anger-at-tony-abbott-envoy-role/10179436

  6. pierre wilkinson

    Ad Astra: if only room permitted you could write a massive missive on promo’s performances and i would enjoy the reading.
    NEC: It is time indeed.
    Graeme: love your verse- atality.
    Max: nobody could make abbott look good, but I agree with the sentiment.
    Josephus: you are so right, herr dutton is a very present danger, though probably not suited to play the “sentimental bloke”
    and promo is indeed totally witless.
    thanks everyone, i love the insights expressed on this forum.

  7. pierre wilkinson

    Kaye Lee: isn’t it remarkable how a greek orthodox immigrant can run into a bunch of people because god told him to, but he isn’t a terrorist because…. well we know
    but a total nutter who should have been medicated runs amok with a knife and suddenly a whole community are vilified
    btw love your work, so absolutely researched, so unlike anything this current government or media are capable of.

  8. Peter Wynn

    And don’t forget the idiotic decision not to sign up to the UN Migration Pact. That made me ashamed to be Australian.

  9. Kronomex

    Scummo’s stupidity is a down escalator running so fast that his common sense is stuck in place, unable to keep going up and afraid to stop because it will crash back to the bottom.

  10. John O'Callaghan

    I recently wrote to McMahons family apologising for saying he was the worst PM Australia ever had, that distinction now goes to Scott Morrison followed in 2nd place by The Mad Monk!

  11. Kronomex

    And first prize for the Dumbest and Most Idiotic Senator Award goes to –

    https://www.smh.com.au/national/only-i-am-being-prosecuted-david-leyonhjelm-raises-sexism-in-local-court-stoush-20181122-p50hmm.html

    What happens if the “extremist” is born in Australia and the family tree goes back generations and is white? Will they be stripped of their citizenship and deported to Australia?

    https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/extremists-could-lose-australian-citizenship-under-morrison-proposal-20181122-p50hoc.html

    This man has created a whole new version of stupidity.

  12. helvityni

    I just love Graeme Henchel’s little ditty; says it all in a most amusing fashion…

    I will not start listing all Scottie’s and his Advisor’s (Dutton) mistakes; if I start I’ll be here all day…

    Good article Ad Astra.

  13. Ad Astra

    Folks

    Once more, I thank you all for your splendid contribution to this piece, which has enriched it so. Thank you too for your kind remarks.

    Graeme Henchel
    Great verse.

    Kaye Lee
    After Morrison’s dressing down of Muslim leaders for not controlling their followers and notifying authorities of those who had been radicalised and had become dangerous, which he made after the terror attack in Bourke Street, you will be interested to read this article from Independent Australia titled Why is Scott Morrison protecting Hillsong Pastor Brian Houston?

    https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/why-is-scott-morrison-protecting-hillsong-pastor-brian-houston,12123

    The pot calling the kettle black.

  14. New England Cocky

    @Graeme Henschel: Another delicious ditty! that you.

    @ Ad Astra: Why is it OK for Christian radicals to walk freely among the community without any restraint? Is it because they are white AngloSaxon followers of a religion that values celebrate males and pederasty over the sanctity of children’s rights to grow up in safety and without fear of sexual assault?

  15. Henry Rodrigues

    Thanks AdAstra. Its agreed by all that this fool is a total dead loss. He hasn’t got a clue and his party of dunderheads are just as clueless as him. At least Bill Shorten and Labor are showing the Australian people that there are still politicians out there who are ready to do the research and come up with workable and acceptable policies that will work for all the people, as shown by their energy initiatives..

    Graeme Henschel, that is a cracker. You’ve encapsulated the whole circus of clowns down to a ‘t’. I’ll be chortling all weekend.

    Have a nice weekend, all.

  16. Ad Astra

    Good Morning Folks

    If you are looking for a laugh to lighten your day, take a look at this interview by Sky News‘ David Speers of the Liberal Candidate for Frankston in the State election today – he’s a policeman. You’ll enjoy particularly the discussion they have about building a new coal-fired power station!

    https://www.skynews.com.au/details/_5969800529001

  17. Michael Taylor

    Ad astra, he was woeful. And by wanting to put police in schools I think he’s been channeling Donald Trump.

  18. SteveFitz

    When you have no defence all you can do is attack. Unfortunately, there is a feeble minded collective, out there, who believe the right-wing and, this is one of the greatest threat to a more progressive society. It’s a combination of ignorance and arrogance within the community reflected in the LNP. Birds of a feather I guess.

    The LNP see attacking the opposition as part of the political strategy to maintain power. They can’t do it any other way. As soon as you attack the LNP, what do they do? They attack the most vulnerable group in society to threaten us. It’s typical of all authoritarian governments to do just that and, shows the LNP’s true colours.

    They are pathetic and disgusting, and history will see this LNP government as the worst to ever smear the seats of our illustrious parliament house.

  19. Ad Astra

    Michael Taylor
    Yes, he was woeful. The people of Frankston also realised how hopeless he was, and voted his Labor opponent into that seat.

  20. Ad Astra

    Folks
    The Victoria State election is over now, but one is left with a sense of ‘nothing changes’ as our politicians continue to go about their work as the dust settles.

    Reminded of a piece I wrote on The Political Sword back in 2017: We need to understand entrenched belief: I re-read it just now after hearing the denials that are beginning to emerge among Liberals after the catastrophic demolition they suffered at the hands of Labor.

    Deputy Liberal Leader Josh Frydenberg was first off the mark insisting that the Victoria result was simply because this was ‘a state election run on state issues’. He did not, and I suspect will not ever concede that the brusque removal of Malcolm Turnbull was an important factor in the Coalition’s loss. Nor, I suspect, will his colleagues. It is just too painful for then to concede, so entrenched are they in their belief that Turnbull’s removal was necessary if the Coalition were to have any chance of winning the next election.

    A concession did come though from ABC panellist, Shadow Attorney-General John Pesutto, who lost his seat in the full glare of the TV audience. He was prepared to acknowledge the adverse affect of the Coalition’s turmoil in Canberra.

    Labor supporters will be happy about the Coalition’s intransigence and their adherence to their entrenched beliefs, which will lead them to electoral oblivion again next year.

    If you want to refresh yourself about: We need to understand entrenched belief, here is the link: http://www.thepoliticalsword.com/posts.aspx?postid=73db3ddd-aec9-4e21-86e1-f579ca630792

  21. Ad Astra

    Folks
    The denial continues – now Greg Hunt insists it was state issues that determined the Victorian election outcome!

  22. Ad Astra

    Folks

    The denial continues – now it’s Craig Kelly.

  23. Matters Not

    Re the psychological concept of entrenched belief and the (seemingly) parallel sociological concept of (individual) constructed reality, (Thomas Theorem.) it seems to me that the work of Imre Lakatos has much to offer. His work, Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes where he attempts to reconcile the arguments between Popper and Kuhn has a much wider application.

    Lakatos is one of those philosophers whose influence extends well beyond the confines of academic philosophy. Of the thirty-three papers citing Lakatos published in the first twenty-five days of 2015, at most ten qualify as straight philosophy. The rest are devoted to such topics as educational theory, international relations, public policy research (with special reference to the development of technology), informatics, design science, religious studies, clinical psychology, social economics, political economy, mathematics, the history of physics and the sociology of the family. Thus Imre Lakatos was very much more than a philosophers’ philosopher.

    Lakatos’ notion of core and belt theories – where those beliefs in the (outer) belt are abandoned somewhat freely provided the core beliefs are left intact provides insights into why entrenched beliefs are so hard to counter.

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/lakatos/

    http://people.loyno.edu/~folse/Lakatos.html

    Needless to say, I enjoyed your piece and linked articles.

  24. Ad Astra

    Matters Not
    Thank you for your helpful comment and complimentary remark.

    I have bookmarked the two links you left and look forward keenly to reading the work of Imre Lakatos, and in particular how he reconciles the arguments of Popper and Kuhn. Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is one of my most treasured references.

  25. Josephus

    Yes, the Central Europeans lead in this field. The otherwise useful and wide ranging recent work of Daniel R de Nicola on this vast topic, Understanding Ignorance, 2007, is US-centric and does not mention Lakatos, Kuhn or Popper.

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