A Tinpot Dictator?
When Scott John Morrison takes his Sunday fly-drive to leafy Yarralumla to visit His Excellency, David Hurley, AO, a former NSW Governor and his “captain’s pick” for GG, the jig is up; now everyone knows a federal election will be held 21 May and, sadly, the guess-the date-games must end, despite Morrison’s addiction to secrecy, quibbling and game playing. Things that help him lord it over other people.
Morrison loves evading or concealing truth as much as lying. “I just don’t care,” he tells ABC’s Annabel Crabb. It shows. Politics is mostly just a game to him. At the hint of a threat to his power, however, his game morphs instantly into Mortal Kombat.
ADF crew salute him, a Morrison idea, as our malignant narcissist-in-Chief alights Shark One, the QANTAS A330 VIP executive jet, his favourite boy’s toy, a Big Dick clubhouse with wings, done up to look like a business executive’s office suite with $250 million of public money. It’s more than PR. He loves to pretend he’s not just a sad, gutless, gas industry puppet. He’d take his jet to fetch the girls from school if he could.
Following protocol, Morrison knocks up his vice-regal manservant, low profile Governor-General, Dave Hurley to kick-start the election. It won’t be about policy, or even playing the game, it will be a rabid hyper partisan attack on Labor, especially its leader, Anthony Albanese. And pork-barrelling. While Shark One may soar, Morrison’s politicking plumbs the depths of the lowest gutter.
In a damaging flashback, former rival for Cook, Michael Towke, pops up to accuse Morrison of racism. Towke accuses the PM of resorting to “racial vilification” to overturn the initial ballot which Towke won convincingly. Morrison allegedly insinuated that Cook’s voters wouldn’t accept a Lebanese Australian candidate.
“At the time [in 2007] he was desperate, and it suited him to play the race card,” Towke tells The Project’s Waleed Aly,
By remarkable coincidence, during the 2004 federal campaign, when Morrison was state director of the Liberal Party, racist tactics were used against Labor candidate for Greenway, Ed Husic, not a practising Muslim.
A day before the election, a fake ALP brochure was distributed in Greenaway. “Ed Husic is a devout Muslim. Ed is working hard to get a better deal for Islam.”
Morrison wins no friends by leaving his GG call to the last possible moment – but that’s his trademark. He’d be late to his own (political) funeral. As events may prove, given the way he’s alienated women across the nation and more than a few in the Liberal branch of NSW, once a powerhouse the Coalition hoped might counter losses in other states.
Then there’s the pandemic failure. Going AWOL during the bushfires. The submarine fiasco which cost us at least $5.5 billion. The trade war with China that’s helping ruin our export trade and a fair bit of tertiary education. Morrison’s list of failures is huge.
Loyal Deputy Barnaby Thomas Gerard Joyce keeps the faith, however, if only with his followers who count on him to pick a winner. In a sensational leaked text from the Nationals’ leader composed in March 2021, Joyce confides that he does not “get along” with Morrison.
“He is a hypocrite and a liar from my observations and that is over a long time. have never trusted him, and I dislike how earnestly [he] rearranges the truth to a lie.”
A High Court challenge mounted by Matthew Camenzuli, from Parramatta, an IT mogul from the NSW Liberal conservative faction, aligned with former Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells slows things up but, here, Morrison’s only himself to blame. Getting his envoy, Alex Hawke to stall and delay local pre-selection meetings until the Federal executive would have to step in has not endeared him to everyone in the NSW branch nor nationally. Hawke is widely reviled.
Many Liberals resent his high-handed intervention in branch pre-selection. Retiring senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, stiffed for a winnable place on the ticket, calls Morrison a tyrant and a fraud who hides behind the façade of his church-going.
Others accuse him of remaking the party in his own image. Departing NSW Liberal, Catherine Cusack, joins a swelling chorus of women in Liberal politics who call Morrison a bully. He’s “ruined” the Liberal party, she says. She will not vote for him or the party at the federal election.
If you can’t run a Liberal branch, how can you run the country?
But there’s a ray of hope for ScoMo. Camenzuli’s lawyers fail to overrule Morrison’s intervention to save Environment Minister Sussan Ley, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke and North Sydney MP Trent Zimmerman from a local preselection battle that could threaten their political futures. Camenzuli sought an injunction to block the preselection of nine Liberal candidates which would bar the party from printing their names on the ballot paper.
Keeping everyone else waiting while he gets his act together gives Morrison time to win his high-stakes game. Pick his favourites. Remake the party in his own image. Above all it gets him attention. Forget the daggy dad act. This PM is a ruthless Machievallian.
Will he pull the fat out of the fire? Critics of our PM’s self-abrogating demeanour still decry the way Morrison hogged the show at last January’s Australia Day awards ceremony. Worse, Grace Tame was threatened by someone from the Office. Women vote. They won’t forgive or forget the Morrison government’s record of sexism and misogyny. Nor will they overlook the spate of Liberal women who have recently spoken out against him.
Former commercial rose-grower, Minister for Family Service and manager of government business in the senate, Anne Ruston, Minister for Women’s Safety, fails her first real test. Who threatened Grace Tame? The former Australian of the year used a Press Club Address to explain that someone from “a government-funded organisation” rang to tell Tame she must not say anything “damning” about Morrison so close to an election.
Mystified. Jane Hume adds a bit of hand-wringing. We don’t even know if it were a man or a woman, she wails. Clearly, no-one’s tried very hard to find out. Tame says that she’d prefer that the person who felt they needed to make the call should out themselves. An investigation into the call is “the very same embedded structural silencing culture that drove the call in the first place and misses the point entirely. It’s not about the person who made the call, it’s the fact that they felt like they had to do it,” Tame explains.
It’s sexism; the age-old gendered response of doubting and discrediting the victim’s story when the victim is a woman. But it’s no vote winner for over half the population.
Yet the PM seems happy. Morrison promotes Ruston to Liberal Campaign Spokeswoman. Her Labor counterpart, Katy Gallagher will not give up on women so readily.
But look over there – how good is our invisible Governor General? A big gig every three years, if only to help a PM call a fresh election or witness signatures whenever Ministers are appointed. Morrison loves pomp and ceremony. It adds a legitimacy he craves and a distraction he badly needs. Dave Hurley’s happy. He’s hoping to win a trifecta.
The Governor General’s hazy job profile makes Morrison appear almost industrious by contrast. Being GG, on the other hand, keeps you busier than “the arts” or in tertiary education, both spurned by Frydenberg in JobKeeper, despite his forty billion dollar (Joe Aston calculates) windfall, for businesses in profit despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Fan-boy Greg Jennett, a Tarzan of adulation, if not fatal attraction to the PM, and Jane Norman, the John and Betty of ABC afternoon political television, become a hot mess of running commentary on the twenty minute meeting, breathlessly spilling the beans on such essentials as Morrison’s coffee with the Governor General.
Greg and Jane kindly remind us that Yarralumla sits in 58 hectares of Canberra prime real estate, in case we miss how the trappings of office are lavished on our ruling class, while others die of malnourishment, neglect and the latest mutant strain of coronavirus in “aged care facilities” a gulag of misery where our poor, wretched, vulnerable elders pass their final days in a fog of antipsychotics in state subsidised granny farms staffed by some of the lowest paid, most highly casualised workers in Australia.
The Coalition’s Aged Care Act 1997, ushered in a flood of private investment in the exploitation and commodification of the elderly. Private equity firms, new foreign investors, superannuation and property real estate investment trusts “entered the residential aged care market.” Data on residents’ safety and wellbeing must be kept top secret.
Our current aged care crisis stems from Howard’s Aged Care Act, writes Dr Sarah Russell. His government subsidised private health insurance is still helping scupper Medicare.
Amazingly, Dave, a spry 68 year-old corporate state welfare beneficiary with all his own teeth, is at Yarralumla this weekend and not entertaining Prince Andrew, who’s been known to slip in, sans fanfare, for a quick visit, as he did in 2018, to promote Pitch@Palace, his matchmaking of investors and corporate partners with startup companies. Now it’s wound up after Andy’s misadventures with underage women abroad, stories which his mother, Queen Elizabeth II refuses to believe, preferring the much more plausible “I was at Beatrice’s Birthday at Woking Pizza Express” alibi.
Pitch generated £1.345 million in economic activity, 6,323 jobs and 39% of its winners were women. Andy did quite well, too. Pitch@Palace Global Ltd, the private company set up to run the events, had a clause in its terms and conditions about its entitlement to a 2% equity share for three years for any company that went through its program.
Other royals also are put up at Admiralty House, the GG’s other historic pad on Sydney harbour with ten bedrooms enjoying views of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Hosting VIPs keeps the Hurleys busy. Then there’s Linda’s staff singalongs.
And her serenades. The Guardian Australia reports Hurley wandering betwixt tables of war widows (average age 81, according to Dave), microphone in hand, leading them in song over cucumber and smoked salmon sandwiches. Bit of dill with that, dearie?
“You are my sunshine” is the unofficial vice-regal national anthem – but only the chorus. The verses are a bit downbeat if you Google them. Don’t try this at home.
A staff of seventy-six don’t just run themselves and there’s travel involved in GG. All adds up. Representing HM at home and Australia overseas costs a million a year.
But the nation has to look after its investment. Hurley’s annual salary is around half a million. Of course, a governor general does get a generous pension scheme with that.
As Morrison arrives, his white BMW 7 Series Prime Ministerial limousine with AFP escort ghosting up the long drive, Dave’s lurking purposefully near the entrance to Yarralumla, a “colonial revival” pile set in what remains of an historic sheep station.
The property retains the original shearing shed atop a tumulus of a century and a half of merino droppings. A heritage overlay of decaying sheep shit is a fitting tribute to the types who led the colonial frontier wars waged by European imperial invaders on indigenous Australians in the name of the same British Crown that Governor-General Hurley represents.
The GG has his Mont Blanc Meisterstück Gold-Coated Fountain Pen uncapped, ready to sign a chit to let Morrison dissolve parliament and call a federal general election, a minefield of lies, furphies, turpitude and gratuitous character assassination which our GG can avoid entirely by express permission of the electoral commission. But he does get to look on.
A federal election campaign is a made for TV event just like Master Chef or Hard Quiz or The Melbourne Cup and corporate media regale us with the day’s political stunts.
There’s a scorecard on performance in The Herald Sun and The Daily Telegraph and The Australian as in any horse race commentary. Tallying up the pratfalls displaces any more insightful commentary on commercial TV – Buckminster Fuller’s “bubblegum for the eyes.”
Analysis of issues and policies is supplanted by spectacle and mindless Vox Pops. In a rare departure, this year, however, the Sydney Morning Herald takes Morrison to task for his broken promise over a federal ICAC. Attempting to blame Labor doesn’t pass the pub test.
Imagine if Dave Hurley were to put his mouth where his money is. Our GG, would refuse Morrison permission to hold an election. Nope, ScoMo you’ve abused the trust of the Australian people. Piss off back to Bronte and stop wasting my time.
If only. A relic of colonial rule, a GG hasn’t colluded with the judiciary and The Palace to remove a PM since Whitlam, but it pays to keep him on side and avoid bagging Pine Gap, 16 km south west of Alice Springs, the eyes and ears of the US military, since it went on line in 1969. One of its uses is to provide information to aim drones.
If there’s a moral problem with hosting an outfit which is staffed largely by employees of Boeing Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics – along with niche companies that work exclusively for the CIA and NRO, such as Leidos, Scitor and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) our government doesn’t see it. Put simply, we host companies who profit from war and enable them to collect the data they need to make war.
In fascinating technological updates the satellites have multiplied to at least thirty-eight, which have the capacity to monitor everything from your text message to Dominos to thermal evidence of Chinese hypersonic missile launches. All of this vastly increases our value as a nuclear target. It could give us leverage in a more equal relationship with the US but given our lickspittle foreign policy don’t hold your breath.
Above all, Pine Gap makes Australia complicit in war crimes. Last December, the New York Times lists over 1300 reports of civilian casualties since 2014. Many are children, in wars that the US portrays as being waged by all-seeing drones and precision bombs.
Yet, “American air wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan have been plagued by deeply flawed intelligence, rushed and often imprecise targeting, thousands of civilian deaths – with scant accountability.”
But does our GG task our PM with this problem? Nope. Dave’s famous for his saying “the standard we walk by is the standard we accept.” He’s a big fan of ethical leadership, a political oxymoron “borrowed” by David Morrison in a sermon on another unicorn, gender equality in the army. Dave M later confesses on Q&A he’s “pinched” the line.
The PM just loves Dave H and the whole vibe of the ethical leader thing, which like cleanliness, is next to godliness and getting professionally photographed at a Hillsong service, eyes wide shut. Photographed? At least one former member of the parliament has read her King James Bible,
“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites. are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and. in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.”
“His actions conflict with his portrayal as a man of faith; he has used his so-called faith as a marketing advantage,” says senator Concetta Fieravanti-Wells.
Federal Election 2022 is to be a forty-one day endurance event, not simply in order to dazzles us with hi-viz photo-opportunities, vapid talking points, or disgruntled punters in pubs, but to buy time, a gamble given incumbents generally decline in popularity over a long campaign. Opinion polls predict a Coalition defeat, Liberal/National 34%, ALP 36%. -7% swing against the Coalition but just a 2.6% swing in favour of the ALP
Perhaps, like Mr Micawber, Morrison is hoping something will turn up. As it does. Albo doesn’t know what the cash rate is and he can’t recite the official unemployment rate.
Of course there’s outcry from the usual suspects, “Unfit to be PM,” decrees Murdoch’s top toadie, Terry McCrann in the expatriate billionaire’s Australian, while AFR, shocker, Phil Coorey gasps “A horror,” leaving Professor Judith Sloan, alone, to hype the Labor leader’s howler into his “Party’s complete misunderstanding of the jobs figures.”
Seriously? Even John Howard who failed the same gotcha in ‘07 is underwhelmed. Babies Overboard Howard bobs up in WA to spare Morrison getting the bum’s rush. Again. Abbott has Covid. Or he’d be there with (bicycle) bells on. Don’t discount a late showing.
True, the Man of Steel’s got other things on his mind like minding Ken Wyatt in Hasluck – it’s not so long ago that Joe Aston had word Kenneth might defect to Labor.
And Swan’s Kristy McSweeney is busted misquoting herself on how if you can’t tell a bloke from a sheila just walking down the street, you probably shouldn’t be aiming for Canberra.
”Is that a serious question? Okay, well Anthony Albanese didn’t know the unemployment rate. So what?”
Morrison’s first gaffe is a big one. He fudges when asked whether Alan Tudge, guardian of the curriculum from the left-wing, is currently education minister – (a Tudge of class?)
His reply that Al is “technically” still in cabinet is at odds with earlier assurances that he’d resigned. Of course, this could be merely another Morrison lie, but it does seem to be a clumsy attempt to divert press from a half million payout to former staffer Rachelle Miller which fails to keep the (unconsummated) affair off the front page.
First up, Tudge claims, “we never had sex.” They were “intimate” four times; sleeping naked together but there was no funny business. Sounds very plausible.
The minister without portfolio may be inspired by Gandhi’s tales of sleeping naked with young women who also took their clothes off just to test his chastity.
With Tudge mounting such an impregnable defence, it is little wonder that Morrison has had to pivot on his earlier version of events in which the Education Minister had surrendered his portfolio for his own sake.
No point asking why Miller was paid “well over $500,000”, if nothing untoward transpired between minister and media adviser. $500,000 is the sum whispered to have been his payout when Morrison himself was sacked as head of Tourism Australia citing irreconcilable differences with boss, Fran Bailey amidst claims tendering processes were not adhered to.
As for any ministerial code violation, the non-bonking occurred before the advent of Morrison’s code. Yet Miller was promoted while in an intimate relationship with her boss. The PM is OK with that. Yet Miller wants the details released. Samantha Maiden reports that legal costs in six figures are also to be paid by the Morrison government.
“He has chosen for the sake of his health and his family for a period of time to stand aside from the ministry,” Morrison claims.
“But here’s been no other education minister sworn in, no-one went out to the Governor-General, we’re very transparent about all of that.”
Morrison is creating an issue for himself in refusing Miller’s request that he release details. Unwisely.
Moonlighting as Education Minister, albeit unsworn, is Stuart “Rolex” Robert, the PM’s prayer partner, a tricky phrase now, given recent whistle-blower revelations that senior Liberal Party figures abuse the parliamentary prayer room for congress of a baser nature.
None of the parties implicated: MP Tim Wilson, former defence minister Christopher Pyne and others, or the investigating law firm Sparke Helmore, even try to rebut the story, notes Michael West. Give it time.
More of a problem to his own side than any scandal involving rent boys plying their trade in consecrated space within the House is Mendacity Morrison’s contempt for democracy and his addiction to micromanagement.
Notorious for his pledges that never eventuate, the PM is now hated by NSW Liberals for being too “hands on”.
Former Cook MP, Stephen Mutch, a self-styled moderate who credits himself with inventing the term if not founding the group, calls Scotty a “tinpot dictator” for riding rough-shod over democratic local branch pre-selection processes, to choose his own candidates for key NSW seats. Mutch is shocked at the way the moderate minority now runs the branch.
“Over decades … I saw how the faction changed from a relatively informal group of friends with a fair degree of collective decision-making into a more formalised operation run by politicians, staffers and some party activists,” Mutch tells The Saturday Paper.
As the former moderate explains, the moderates became more high-handed, serving the personalised agendas of a few at the top. Later, the faction morphed into “a professionalised, essentially privatised operation, run by a small coterie of business lobbyists.”
Which is where we are today.
All is not lost, however. Scotty is still a useful tool to the fossil fuel lobby, an old mate of Big Mining and our media oligopoly, Rupert, Kerry and tagalong Peter along with other shonks, shills and big-shots in Australia’s oligarchy.
But just to nip it in the bud, a few of his man-servants in the PMO, big up Morrison with Bushmasters and coal, while Rio shows it hasn’t blown up all its moral high ground along with the 46,000-year-old rock shelters at Juukan Gorge, by taking over RUSAL’s twenty per cent share in QAL’s aluminium smelter, in response to Russia’s attempt to obliterate Ukraine. That’s fixed Putin’s wagon.
How good is a Morrison government which struts the world like a colossus, punching above its weight? Shirt-fronting Putin. “Keeping Australia Safe” is not just hairy-chested electioneering or the Crosby-Textor textbook stunt of creating an external threat tactic.
Nor is this self-interested opportunism by Morrison’s omnishambles of a government plumbing record lows in all the opinion polls. Throw another dead cat on the table. We are the hawks of AUKUS keepers of the sacred flame of the temple of the rules-based order to which Australia, as US deputy Marshall, is so solemnly and selflessly pledged.
Not only does ScoMo continue to wow the international community with his statesmanship, he buys seventy thousand tonnes of Whitehaven coal which the big Liberal donor can’t sell, it’s still sitting in Newcastle until a hapless crew is press ganged into taking it to Odessa, currently in range of Russian rocketry, and on to Ukraine.
True, he’s copped a few shockers recently, including that’s just the price of decisive leadership. OK he may be “a complete psycho”, a “hypocrite and a liar “a fraud” to his own team, but a clutch of Liberal women, his “crumb maidens” as Amy Remeikis calls the women who support Morrison’s patriarchy for scant reward, step forward to back up his latest claim that his high-handed intervention in NSW politics stems from his unbridled feminism and his need to step in to protect a few good women.
It’s farcical, writes The Monthly’s Rachel Withers that Morrison can claim that he stood up for women in an intervention intended to save the seats of two men and woman.
Is he all fake religion and no moral compass? Morrison simply cannot be trusted, warns Fierravanti-Wells who is dropped to an unelectable spot on the Liberal senate ticket in favour of party apparatchik, Marise Payne, in number one spot for time-serving, with another former army officer, Jim Molan, butcher of Fallujah, in at number three.
It’s already turning nasty: in second spot is Nationals’ top NSW Senate candidate, Ross Cadell, another Nat in a hat, who threatens to “drop shit” on the party’s Hunter candidate James Thomson in a public row at Warners Bay Hippo Espresso cafe 20km south of Newcastle, if Thommo does not redistribute $120,000 in donations.
You can see why Cadell has beaten the venerable, born-again John Anderson, Joyce’s mentor, a man with a Big Mining background as well as a former Nationals leader.
“While professing to be a man of faith,” the retiring senator says, sporting a huge crucifix in her bitter Goodbye To All That speech, he is “adept at running with the foxes and hunting with the hounds, lacking a moral compass and having no conscience.”
Don’t hold yourself back, Connie. (As Morrison and his team insist on belittling the former Liberal senator, much as the PM does with “Grace” and “Brittany”.)
Team Morrison rushes to point out that hell hath no fury like a NSW senator relegated on the ballot paper. Connie’s just disappointed. A pile-on of other furious colleagues ensues, including much of the NSW Liberal Party. But ScoMo, a work of performance art in progress, won’t let a few dud reviews put him off his game.
Good Friday, Morrison tells national media how Jen and the girls go to church at Easter. Albo, Tony Abbott and 5000 others also attend Sydney’s Maronite Christian Mass. Easter is a time of hope he says, while claiming on national TV, religion is such a personal thing for him.
But there’s revived interest in how the PM deposed Lebanese-Australian and Maronite Christian Michael Towke in a dirty bid for pre-selection in Cook in 2007. So Morrison chooses a service in Victoria at Syndal Baptist Church with Gladys Liu MP, who failed to disclose her links with the Chinese government before preselection in Chisholm, a marginal Liberal seat.
There were also issues with an undisclosed donation to the Liberals of $37,000, together with questions as to how exactly the MP raised a million dollars for the party.
But Easter is a time of hope. No doubt Dave gives Scott a few pointers on the PM’s integrity commission model. Its architect, former Attorney-General, Christian Porter resigned over an anonymous donation or blind trust he’d accepted to pay his legal fees in a defamation case against ABC investigative journalist, Louise Milligan, a case he abandoned.
Ethical leadership is costly. The PM spends big money to get his own way in a high stakes poker game which goes right to the High Court over whether he can override local branches’ preferences in Liberal preselection in NSW. Chief Justice, Susan Kiefel says he can.
Not that Morrison gives a toss. It’s our money he’s spending. Has there ever been a bigger spending, higher taxing government? But the political cost of alienating so many NSW Liberals is huge. It’s already undone him in Warringah where his transphobic captain’s pick, Katharine Deves, proves a dud, with her social media post about “surgical mutilation”.
Having the arrogance to believe you know best and bypassing the local democratic process (with a bit of help from Premier Perrottet) leads to a poor choice?
Who’d have known?
Anti-trans activism could derail the Coalition’s election campaign. It triggers a pivot. Morrison backflips on his plan to dog whistle prejudice, intolerance and ignorance. He withdraws his support from Tassie Senator Claire Chandler’s bill banning transgender women from playing women’s sports, after he cops flak from Liberal “moderates” and independents.
Incredibly, the PM lies about why he pulls rank on NSW pre-selectors. The “menacing controlling wall-paper”, as former Liberal MP Julia Banks calls him, pretends to ABC 7:30 he’s a knight in shining armour rescuing women from “factions” whom he leaves unnamed, as if he’s just being protective; one of his most outrageous lies to date.
“Sussan Ley, one of my finest cabinet ministers and one of our most successful women members of parliament, was under threat. She was under threat from factions within the Liberal Party and I decided to stand up to it,” Morrison says.
“I’m very serious about having great women in my ranks…Fiona Martin was another.”
But Julia Banks tells a different story. “It was the three months of Morrison’s leadership that … was definitely the most gut-wrenching, distressing period of my entire career.”
Morrison an advocate for women? It’s risible and – as The Monthly’s Rachel Withers notes, it’s insulting to women.
“The claim is laughable. If there’s anyone Morrison was trying to save it was factional consigliore Alex Hawke in the seat of Mitchell, and his overarching aim was to maintain control of the numbers in the party. At the end of the day, the only person Scott Morrison truly stands up for is Scott Morrison.”
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