It’s not hard to make the case that the karma bus found Prime Minister Scott Morrison in February 2022. A whole lot of poor choices made by Morrison and his colleagues over the past few years all combined to make February one to remember for all the wrong reasons.
Morrison’s discomfort probably started in late January with his friend Brian Houston standing down as the worldwide head of Hillsong to clear his name from charges that he dealt inappropriately with allegations his father, also a Pentecostal Minister, was guilty of historical child molestation charges. Around the same time, Citipointe Christian College in Brisbane emailed parents and requested them to sign a new enrolment contract that stated
We believe that any form of sexual immorality (including but not limiting to adultery, fornication, homosexual acts, bisexual acts, bestiality, incest, paedophilia and pornography) is sinful and offensive to God and is destructive to human relationships and society
The contract also required students to be enrolled corresponding to their biological gender. Even Prime Minister and Pentecostal Church attending Scott Morrison didn’t support it. Morrison went as far as suggesting that the contract discriminated against some students, however in reality he was likely concerned that one probable ‘acceptable’ outcome of his religious ‘freedom’ legislation had been advertised ahead of time.
Morrison did introduce a religious ‘freedom’ bill to Parliament in one of the two sitting weeks of the House of Representatives in February. The bill, which was supported by a number of ‘Christian Groups’ would allow for discrimination against those who didn’t necessarily demonstrate the beliefs of the organisation because of their lifestyle, sexuality or preferred gender while working for or receiving the religious organisation’s services. In essence it was ‘legalising’ the potential outcomes of CItipointe’s enrolment contract or similar activities. Depending on which MP you believe, Morrison had or had not promised to amend the Sex Discrimination Act ensuring that transgender school students and staff would be protected at the same time the religious ‘freedom’ legislation was introduced.
After an all-night sitting, the legislation was passed only after five Liberal Party MPs ‘crossed the floor’ and supported amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act that stopped active discrimination against transgender school students, initiated by Independent MP Rebekha Sharkie.
The next day, the ’conservative‘ Australian Christian Lobby wanted the legislation to be dumped as
[The exemptions] have enabled faith-based schools to teach their religion and conduct their schools according to their faith values,” ACL director Wendy Francis said.
“The loss of this protection would outweigh any benefits that could be obtained by the religious discrimination bill.
“With the amendments so damaging to religious freedom, the government should immediately withdraw the bills.
Morrison complied with the request (probably after ‘doing the numbers’). It’s doubtful the legislation will be introduced in the Senate this side of the next election.
The same week, regulations designed to cripple the ability of industry superannuation funds to own and operate firms that provide investment advice to the funds were also disallowed by the Senate. While Frydenberg made the regulations some time ago, they only came into effect three days earlier. Apparently the ‘for profit’ superannuation funds and the Institute of Company Directors were not impressed!
Morrison made a commitment in 2018 to create laws around religious freedom as well as laws to set up and operate a federal anti-corruption commission. There are claims Morrison apparently tried to also get anti-corruption commission legislation into Parliament in the same week as the religious ‘freedom’ legislation as a distraction to ameliorate the effects of the acknowledged flaws in the religious ‘freedom’ legislation. Not only was he rolled by his own Ministers, the action taken was leaked to the media with a number of commentators also asking why he left both pieces of legislation so late in the term of government.
So why would the Morrison Coalition Government choose to nail themselves to a cross (pun intended) on religious ‘freedom’ legislation that apparently not even all Coalition parliamentarians could agree on. As the ABC’s Brett Worthington suggests
The federal Coalition wants to wedge Labor, in the hope it can campaign against the opposition as being anti-religion in suburban electorates that will determine the election – a move that worked successfully in 2019.
But in order for a political wedge to work, you need everyone on your own side singing from the same hymn sheet.
The Liberal Party likes to describe itself as a broad church. Although, when five of your own cross the floor to join with the opposition and crossbench, you start to get the sense that on this issue, these Liberals come from a different denomination.
A week after the religious wedge failed miserably, Morrison and his family sat down with Karl Stefanovic on Channel 9’s 60 Minutes so we could all get to meet the ‘real Scott’. Probably unwisely, Morrison chose to demonstrate that he can’t sing by attempting to perform Dragon’s April Sun in Cuba on a ukulele. He’s also pretty crap at remembering the words to the chorus. The ABC’s Vera rated better than 60 Minutes that night. Morrison also finally found out how to ‘hold a hose’, at a media event in a hair dressing salon somewhere in Victoria. Yes, the obvious comparisons were made.
The sharks are circling in the Liberal Party. Both Frydenberg and Dutton can apparently see the writing on the wall and other MPs are either finding a spine or listening to their electorates on the proposed anti-corruption commission having some real legislative ability to prevent corruption. Morrison was asked at the National Press Club to comment on his former ‘valued colleague’, Gladys Berejiklian’s text to an unnamed current Federal Minister providing a free character assessment of Morrison as a “horrible person” who was untrustworthy.
With the election still a few months away, all Morrison has left is name calling, pork barrelling and inaccuracy. His recent claims that various members of the Opposition are supported by and behoved to China has been repudiated by the current and former heads of ASIO. His claims of the dangers of a Coalition Government (if it was between the ALP and Greens) are laughable – considering neither the Liberal Party or National Party have had enough MPs to form Government in their own right for decades. Sadly for Morrison, it seems that pork-barrelling isn’t a sure-fire winner either.
Simply put – February was a shocker. With Dutton and Frydenberg circling, will Morrison make it past Ihe ides of March?
What do you think?
This article was originally published on The Political Sword
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