“You are a fucking mendicant,” Scott Morrison tells Tassie Treasurer, Peter Gutwein, reports Paul Bongiorno who quotes a Herald Sun article, Wednesday, citing “senior Liberal sources”. Gutwein doesn’t dispute the claims.
Bean-counter Gutwein can’t find a good word for Morrison when asked how it feels to be so bullied and abused by his new leader. He fobs off reporters’ impertinent questions. He has “a constructive and positive working relationship” with Morrison, he lies, before falling back on that hoary political standby, “we don’t comment on private conversations”.
Yes Minister. Our politics is choked with such double-speak. In time, it will be a “robust discussion”, part of a “national conversation” or “a healthy exchange of views” but to witnesses, it’s the Liberals’ St Valentine’s (four) Day massacre. Luckily mainstream media, mostly, happily agree to report this nonsense at face value. It’s an extension of the pact to report flawed employment statistics and falsehoods about uninterrupted economic growth as if these were facts.
Morrison may bray about “creating a million jobs since 2013” but he doesn’t give any detail of the quality of those jobs. Nor is any government ever directly responsible for creating jobs outside the government sector. No-one in government mentions population increase or net job growth. Above all, his boast wrecks the government case for company tax cuts. The miracle million has been created without these. Finally, as every household knows, wages remain stagnant.
Roy Morgan reports the workforce which comprises employed and unemployed Australians is now 13,416,000, up 407,000 on a year ago. He calculates that 1,476,000 Australians are unemployed (11% of the workforce); an increase of 152,000 (up 0.8%) on a year ago and the highest level of unemployment for over two years since March 2016.
And the jobs which shouldn’t be happening without expensive corporate tax cuts? Turns out the huge growth in jobs is in education and healthcare which also accounts for a boost in women’s participation. It may just be, of course, that Labor’s NDIS has boosted women’s employment. So much for small business being the engine of the economy.
So much for his government’s fetish for small business, (amen) forever praised (wrongly) as the nation’s biggest employer. It seems the government sector plays a vital role, after all, despite all the fervid neoliberal faith.
None of this fits ScoMo-a-go-go’s mantra of “a fair go for those having a go”, an echo of nineteenth-century self-help. Critics have relegated him and his party to the 1950s. This is a bit mod. His social philosophy goes back to the 1850s.
“Daily experience shows that it is energetic individualism which produces the most powerful effects upon the life and action of others, and really constitutes the best practical education,” wrote the ever popular Samuel Smiles in 1905.
The fair go for those having a go carries its own sanction or disapproval of the slob, or those unable to have a go. It’s a hopelessly limited and outdated ethic but it’s clearly still got a lot of self-righteous political mileage left in it. But whatever happened, pray, tell, Mr Morrison to the Christian ethos of unconditional love?
Beneath the sentimental façade, it’s war out there. Each week brings further news of welfare crack-downs in the Coalition’s war on the poor. Or of bludgers. In 2016, three-quarters of the bludger bashing in the Daily Telegraph included government statistics and interviews with prominent ministers. It’s a Coalition government strategy to alienate public support by poisoning our natural empathy with myths about the unworthy poor. Then cut their allowances.
But no Australians are being prevented from having a go. Or restricted to having only a bit of a go. Morgan finds 1,071,000 Australians (8.0% of our workforce) are under-employed, working part-time and looking for more work, a fall of 170,000 in a year (down 1.5%); The meagre increase in employment is driven by an increase in full-time employment which was up 323,000 to 7,761,000, while part-time employment fell 68,000 to 4,179,000.
The hand-ball to Frydenberg is so smooth it is disturbing. An over-achiever he is already out of the blocks contesting Labor’s thesis that inequality is growing. Except it’s not Labor’s thesis but the work of a body of respected economists. But what matters is that he’s already playing politics with the statistics.
“The Productivity Commission said exactly the opposite,” he cries. “It said we had made strides in recent years in reducing inequality.”
He’s referring to September’s report which, Ross Gittins explains, doesn’t strengthen the government case for tax cuts and trickle-down at all. In fact, it says inequality is not as bad as it could be but only because of measures we have taken which are not to the liking of the right wing of the Coalition at all.
Above all, it assumes that the inequality we started out with was acceptable. It bases its conclusions on a version of the Gini coefficient which has the nifty inbuilt flaw of making inequality appear much smaller than other measures.
The relative Gini assumes that inequality stays constant—growth remains ‘inclusive’—if everyone experiences the same rate of growth, and rises only when upper incomes grow faster than lower incomes. Accordingly, inequality stays constant if a two-person distribution x = (10, 40) becomes y = (20, 80). But the poor are relatively poorer.
The income gap has grown from 10 to 40. Moreover, it’s just as plausible to argue that inequality remains constant under The Absolute Gini if incomes grow by the same amount; when individuals receive the same additional amount to the initial measure. If, as is happening, richer individuals receive more, then inequality will grow.
In brief, we should not ignore trends in absolute income gaps when making inequality comparisons, as most of neoliberal governments, and our new Federal Treasurer does. To Frydenberg’s joy, the Commission’s report implies nothing need be done to reduce income and wealth inequality. The rich would stop wanting to get richer.
At the bottom end, government should help only those poor people whose disadvantage has become “entrenched”.
As Ross Gittins explains, “In other words, don’t acknowledge that poverty is being kept high by successive governments’ refusal to lift the freeze on real unemployment (and age pension) benefits.”
Research published by The Australia Institute shows despite record business profits, workers’ share of GDP is at a post-war low. From 58 per cent of GDP in the mid-1970s labour compensation — including wages, salaries, and superannuation contributions — declined to just 47 percent in 2017, their lowest level since 1960.
Even more concerning is that real wages have consistently lagged behind the ongoing growth in labour productivity. This means workers do not get paid enough to buy back the goods and services they produce.
It’s a lesson in trickle up. The loss of labour’s share of GDP translates into the redirection of over $200 billion in income per year from workers to other groups in society (mostly corporations).
None of this reality is of any cause for concern to a Coalition government at war with itself and with economic reality.
A week of wicked leaks almost drowns out ScoMo’s shouting and slanging, his chief gift to our body politic, exceeded only by his rat cunning and his talent for suppression, secrecy, evasion, prevarication and lies. To be fair, yes, ScoMo does put in a bravura absurdist-Dadaist performance on ABC 7:30 Report. He simply cannot explain why we need new laws to protect our religious freedoms, why it is his number one priority, nor why he is PM; why he rolled his PM, Leigh.
(Chumming up with your executioner was a Hawke strategy. The New Generation Morrison would do well to leave the ingratiating use of his interlocutor’s first name alone. But it adds rich nuance and subtext. You can tell she hates him.)
Why is Morrison PM? Because he is not that dangerous lefty Malcolm Turnbull. OK, there’s his overweening ambition.
I have no spur / To prick the sides of my intent, but only / Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself /
And falls on th’ other.
But unlike Macbeth, ScoMo is not big on insight even if he is as ruthless. He’s a verbose Tony Abbott from the suburbs.
Happily, deputy dog, Michael charisma-bypass McCormack, Barnaby’s placemat, tells the truth – in his own fashion:
“But, you know, when you combine those sorts of things – ambition, and Newspolls and the like, opportunity – people take those opportunities and we’ve got a new Prime Minister.” They pullulate like mushrooms after rain, it seems.
Thanks for the heads-up, deputy. We’ll keep our eyes peeled. You never know when another new PM will pop up.
ScoMo loses all hope of authority or legitimacy the moment parliament resumes. It’s not just that he looks like that daggy bloke from the butcher’s who raffles the meat tray in the pub. All he needs is a striped apron and a scabbard.
His debut is ruined by his own treachery. MPs tot it up. He’s knifed a PM whom he’d just publicly embraced as “his prime minister”, a PM whom “he had ambitions for”; a PM, for all his fizz, far more popular than himself. Turnbull and his camp now see clearly what those ambitions were. Or now feels brave enough to put a spoke in ScoMo’s wheel and offer legal advice from NY on what to do with Dutton – an intervention which only a few weeks ago he voted against.
Not only must Holy ScoMo, technically our most charismatic Liberal leader to date, contend with the ghost of Malcolm, Peter Dutton misbehaves disgracefully, abusing parliamentary privilege to imply his former hand-picked Border Force supremo, Roman Quaedvlieg is a paedophile. Morrison sabotages any remaining credibility to unreservedly back Dutton and to dismiss calls that Spud be referred to the High Court over his eligibility to sit in parliament at all.
Morrison’s first week in parliament is a fiasco. He campaigned to be leader with the pitch that his hands were clean and he could hold the show together. Stop boats. In reality, he got votes because he wasn’t Dutton. No PM -even by dirty deed- demonstrates less authority, legitimacy or gravitas. Bernard Keane believes,
Elevation to the prime ministership has exposed his hollowness; he is a figure who has stepped straight from an ’80s lawnmower ad, bereft of policy on the economy, on energy, on wages, on climate change — but most of all, bereft of authority. His colleagues and former colleagues are not even according him the respect due the office; instead, they’re blithely carrying on their own wars with no regard for either the government or the electorate.
Not so much unpopular as reviled, mistrusted and afflicted by dud political judgement Sub-Prime Minister, shifty Scott Morrison alienates rather than inspires. He presides, says Bernard Keane, “over a world-class political circus; less over a party than an ongoing civil war”. And after his Wentworth slap-down, he’s increasingly the party piñata.
Morrison’s angry Tassie outburst caused Turnbull to sideline him in GST talks with the Apple Isle, say the “sources”. Yet, in a chillingly Trump-like response, the new PM denies ever abusing Gutwein. Why, the claims are “offensive” he counter-attacks, trusting we have all forgotten all his offences against human rights; humanity as Immigration Minister.
Most found Morrison’s own actions offensive when in 2011 when he questioned whether taxpayers should pay to fly twenty-one friends and family of refugees to Sydney so they could the attend funerals of their relatives, who drowned off Christmas Island.
Faced with enormous backlash including from members of his own party including Joe Hockey, later Morrison did concede that his comment was “insensitive and inappropriate”. Like Abbott, he prefers to act first and apologise after.
Offensive? What of his lies that Reza Berati’s death on Manus Island, February 2014 was caused by his being outside the compound. Offensive? Experts attest to Manus being set up and mismanaged. Violence was easily foreseeable.
Offensive, above all, is the way Morrison and Abbott played politics, seeking to blame Labor and fob off responsibility on to PNG, a shabby hoax it maintains to this day. It refused to accept that Morrison and his department had a non-delegable duty of care to ensure the safety of those it detains, as refugee lawyer Greg Barns argues, irrespective of the location of detention. Similarly, boats were turned back into almost certain danger.
Much was made of preventing drownings at sea by stopping boats but not a word was spoken of the risks to turnbacks’ occupants’ safety. Morrison brings to his new PM act a history of barefaced chicanery, hypocrisy, evasion and denial.
Is ScoMo our new Trump? He has the cap, the lapel flags and the murky past. Where is he leading us? Surely a Christian leader sees mendicants as blessed – not accursed? Or does he merely mean to remind us that beggars can’t be choosers?
Trump-like, he brushes aside all suggestion that Peter Dutton present himself to the High Court to clear up his eligibility to sit in parliament. As Trump would say, ScoMo claims the public doesn’t want the “lawyers’ picnic” to continue.
A nation puzzles all week over the contortions of the coal lobby’s latest Liberal poster-boy who would gull us he’s an innocent abroad; just a suburban boy in the big city. “I’ve got clean hands. I can hold the show together” was his sales pitch in the second spill. Each claim was as bogus then as it is now. Yet now, he is the accidental Prime Minister.
What is he doing there at all? The inexplicable Morrison is utterly unable to account for his presence as leader despite being invited to do so by the Opposition all week. When he crows about jobs and growth and other so-called Coalition successes, he begs the question of why if things were going so well, Turnbull had to be deposed.
One thing is clear. Expect obfuscation, evasion and turbidity. A poor communicator, he’s more skilled ranting; shouting slogans at us than accounting for his actions. Posturing Morrison’s an enigma wrapped in cliché, inside a mystery. A caricature of cant, condescension, overweening self-righteousness, rigidity and denialism, he’s all front and no Myers.
His “new generation” team is set to take us back to the 1950s or even earlier, anywhere in the age of steam will do.
His denialism is not merely directed towards climate change, gender and marriage equality, it finds expression this week in his dismissal of any hint of bullying in the Liberal Party despite Julie Bishop, Julia Banks and Lucy Gichui making detailed claims. Bishop has even questioned whether some Liberals acted illegally during the leadership spill.
Bizarrely, however, the Foreign Minister praises the party for handling complaints internally in more theatre of the absurd. Despite Minister for Women, Kelly O’Dwyer’s pledge, the issue barely gets a mention in Tuesday’s Liberal party room meeting.
Despite his promise that bullying complaints would be dealt with internally, the Prime Minister’s office confirms no process has been established to investigate them – or, is even planned. Instead, the party’s whips have been charged with handling “future” complaints. Which probably will be suppressed and denied also. What could possibly go wrong?
Gichui, another devout Pentecostalist, confirms on ABC Radio National, that, “as a good Christian woman” she was pressed to vote for Peter Dutton in last month’s leadership spill. Yet Morrison persuades her to drop her threat to name names when parliament resumes. Those who have been bullied are bullied out of making a complaint.
What is going on? Is it, as Bernard Keane suggests, the women have been reminded that men control the pre-selection and to shut up if they wish to work in Canberra again?
What is clear is the Liberals’ fabled broad church is narrowing. Morrison and other foot-soldiers of the religious right are capturing the party as former member for Moore, Mal Washer puts it
“… on climate, on women’s rights, on freedom of choice on abortion, on new ideas about sexuality, about a whole range of things … Basically, they are out of date and out of step with community views. They are bloody damaging, to be realistic.”
But man, can ScoMo duck and weave. All week, Morrison evades questions from Labor and Leigh Sales as to his legitimacy. He quotes stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf, the US general second only to McArthur in theatricality, whom he recalls, as having heard once at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. As you do.
‘When placed in command, take charge,” Our new PM sees his role as akin to a military commander? Alarming.
But Tinpot Morrison seized command. Now he promulgates the myth of acclamation. Greatness was thrust upon him.
He cunningly quotes lying rodent and inveterate plotter St John Howard. He’s invoked Ming last week – even visited Albury, birthplace of the miscellany of self-interested reactionaries and union-bashers that became the Liberal Party.
“John Howard used to say something quite simple and that is, the privilege of serving as the leader of your parliamentary party is the decision of your parliamentary party,”
His attempt to induct himself into the Liberal pantheon is embarrassing. None of his overreach has a shred of credibility.
Mal’s out for revenge. He’s also got it in for Dutton. He phones and texts key Liberals. He wants Peter Dutton referred to the High Court because of his apparent violation of the constitution’s section 44 given his wife Kirilly’s family trust, RHT Investments, of which he is a beneficiary, owns two childcare centres which have profited from the crown.
The Liberals’ civil war rages.
A daggy dad joke will fix it. In a bizarre twist to his existential nightmare, Morrison’s office tweets a meme it’s cleverly compiled showing coalition MPs in Question Time, Thursday, repeatedly raising their right hands. The frantic fascist arm action is dubbed with Be Faithful, a track from rapper Fatman Scoop, whose lyrics celebrate casual sex.
The chorus elevates the PM’s EM Forster-inspired “Only Connect” defence to a whole new level.
Who fing Tonight? Who fing tonight?
Who fing Tonight? Oh! Oh! Who fing tonight?
“We’re just trying to connect honestly with people, Morrison says in defence. Connect honestly? Bugger policy. Honest communication. Listening to the electorate. In ScoMo’s world a tricked up, meretricious, video clip is an honest connection?
Bowen reckons the members of ScoMo’s Party room know he doesn’t have a clean pair of hands. In the first big test of his already comprised authority, Muppeteer Morrison favours party hack Katherine O’Regan for Wentworth. There’s great hand-wringing over quotas in the media. but the fact is that on current trends, the Liberals will soon be an exclusively white, male brethren.
Worse, party polling puts the Liberal primary vote in Wentworth at 39%. Minority government beckons. Our new sub-Prime Minister shrewdly plays the gender card, even though it’s against his religion. Throws a sheila on the barbie.
ScoMo is rolled by Turnbull and Howard. Their pick, Dave Sharma, a former ambassador to Israel, a long-shot, political and geographical outsider, is duly pre-selected. David Gonski’s reference helps. Losing the seat to high profile Sydney Councillor independent, Dr Kerryn Phelps appears increasingly likely.
Morrison sends a fulsome, fawning tweet in which he gets Sharma’s name wrong. His name Devanand.
“Big congratulations to David Sharma. A quality guy with extensive experience and capability. The best candidate won. That’s how it should be.”