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Yes, Prime Minister: Government by Satire

The Morrison Government is in a unique state that combines chaos and suspended animation. The Prime Minister himself is, as David Speers pointed out, stuck in a holding pattern, unable to act if he wanted to. Speers, despite his previous work for Sky so-called News, has penned a useful piece for the ABC website. However, it does not quite go far enough and warrants some analysis.

First Serve: How is She Still Here?

Speers opens with this summary of the current situation involving Senator McKenzie

Bridget McKenzie, remarkably, is still in her job. The Minister won’t resign. Nor is she willing to publicly defend herself, leaving the Government bleeding over the sports rorts saga as Parliament prepares to return.

This is the basis for the ‘holding pattern’ claim referenced above. The Minister refuses to resign but refuses to be interviewed. Indeed, she turned down four requests in a fortnight from Leigh Sales of 730 on the ABC. There is an old adage that the right-wing loves to throw at the peasants when they protest the latest round of privacy encroachments: if you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to hide. A follow-up to this is the suggestion that avoiding media interviews means you do not want to answer inconvenient questions. An obvious implication is that she does not have sufficient answers for these questions and so seeks to dodge the bullet.

Let, Second Serve: Speers and the Unspoken Truth

Returning to David Speers, he adds this reflection on the better times of the past:

There once was a time when ministers causing this much obvious damage to their own side would see the writing on the wall and walk.

There once was a time when prime ministers would stem that damage, show some authority and give their marching orders to a minister who’s done wrong.

These days, however, staring down critics and refusing to give an inch is seen as a virtue.

These days, prime ministers outsource decisions on whether their own ministerial code has been breached.

We always remember the past as better than it actually was, but much of this criticism of Morrison and his Menagerie of Mental Midgets is true. In particular, the part about dying on the hill of your own political incompetence and alleged scandals. But there is one major factor that Speers is ignoring: the Morrison government is a tory government. Speers has either forgotten, or refuses to publish, the fact that tory governments are held to entirely different standards not only to the peasants over whom they rule but to the rest of the political class as well.

Changing Ends: Labor Misuses and Double Standards

Anyone unsure about this should consider the cases of Peter Slipper and Sam Dastyari, both forced to resign when it served the political agenda of Tony Abbott to bring down a Labor gubmn’t that should never have been elected in the first place. For misuse of what is, in comparison with the current scandal a pittance (which they either offered to or actually did pay back). These scandals are barely comparable, not merely in terms of the amount of money (roughly $2500 against $100m) but motivations as well. Dastyari and Slipper misused the funds, yes, but for purely personal use: travel mostly.

Senator McKenzie, on the other hand, politicised government grant money. Colour coding was used to identify marginal and safe coalition seats and the pork barrelling began. The applications were not even considered (she never had access to them) so the applications were not, by definition, based on merit. The corruption is amazing! This scandal makes the case for the creation of a federal corruption watchdog. Now you might say that all governments spend money (or promise to) in electorates to win votes. Perhaps, but not so blatantly.

Morrison’s Achilles Heel: The Report

Morrison’s decision, which is pretty standard for politicians, to hide behind ‘the report’ into the scandal has actually created serious problems. He cannot, as Speers said, pre-empt its findings by saying anything before it is handed down. He is therefore left twisting in the wind created by his own lack of leadership and sheer blockheadedness to stick by members of the tribe come-what-may. The government has officially taken the form of a Yes, Prime Minister sketch. The cynic in me is inclined to suspect that the reason Morrison is willing to hide behind the report (aside from the time it buys the government) is, as Humphrey said, never commission a report if you do not already know what it will say. Gathering facts is one thing, but at least put an argument forth. McKenzie’s decision to effectively go into hiding creates a dangerous vacuum for the government. What to do?

Yes, Prime Minister: The Government Changes Direction

Speers notes that the government has been using two chief talking points to respond to this scandal and both are crap. The first was the idea that all projects funded were eligible (which the colour-coded allocation referenced above renders nonsense). The second was a blatant attempt to hide behind gender politics by saying the grants were increasing female participation in sport. This latter claim was rendered absurd by the fact that many genuine applications for funding for this very reason were rejected and that some clubs that did get money for women’s facilities that did not have a women’s team.

The Prime Minister’s latest talking point is to say:

You know, politicians, ministers, members of parliament, we’re part of our community. We know what’s happening in our community. We’re in touch with our community. We know the things that can make a difference in our community.

Really? This government is trying to argue that it is in touch with the community? The sheer lack of self-awareness in that statement is breath-taking. This has to be the most out of touch collection of elitist, upper-class twits trying to pass themselves off as a government in living memory. Perhaps Mr Morrison’s best course of action is to simply follow McKenzie’s advice and keep his increasingly foot-infested bazoo shut.

Speers Through The Heart: Journo Responds to Govt Crap

Speers takes a different angle on this nonsense, taking it apart in the following way:

Is the Prime Minister really saying the Minister overruled Sport Australia’s merit-based recommendations and pumped money into marginal seats because she’s more “in touch” with community needs?

In a strange irony, yes. Morrison does not mean this, but McKenzie could be said to have done this because she was in touch with the needs of the community – the community of the Liberal Party. Speers goes on:

Is he [Morrison] really suggesting deserving clubs in safe seats missed out because McKenzie had a better understanding of these communities than the experts at Sport Australia who weighed the merit of each application?

Strange, is it not, to think that Speers once worked for Sky so-called News? That statement was the equivalent of a shovel to the side of the head, not that Morrison does not warrant that in spades. The utterly political nature of these grants renders Senator McKenzie’s position, in both the cabinet and the parliament, terminal.

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  1. Pingback: Yes, Prime Minister: Government by Satire #auspol - News Oz

  2. Jaquix

    I think David Speers is really starting to enjoy his new job at the ABC ! Hes slipped right in like a pair of well fitting gloves.
    First interview with Morrison was a bit weak, but his comments for @abcNews and this first episode of Insiders shows, he is really getting into his stride, which is what I hoped he would do. He said a few days ago that he was really keen to work with the public broadcaster, knew how important the public broadcaster was.

  3. Rosemary J36

    A lot of people, and I am one of them, think that this government is s**t.
    A lot of people also expect the ABC to hold the government to account.
    The problem the ABC has, in spades, is that it has to be politically neutral.
    It is free to ask penetrating questions of both sides of politics but must leave us to draw our own conclusions.
    I have watched Insiders for years, with many different hosts. Barrie Cassidy was superb but most of his time in the position of host, the climate was possible less hostile from the perspective of putting future funding at risk.
    When you have a government led by a narcissistic idiot, tread lightly in case the carpet is pulled out from under your feet.
    I thought David Speers did a pretty good job on his first day in the chair!
    And I was amazed at how critical Niki Savva was of the government!

  4. David Evans

    Women in Sport ey? Sorta, kinda reminds me of the unexplained (unexplainable?) $30mn that fifield gifted to Fox, “for Womens Sport”. Must be big votes in “Womens Sport”.

  5. DrakeN

    But no changing rooms for them, David.

  6. New England Cocky

    When a legal skeptic reads between the lines of this political charade it becomes increasingly obvious to Blind Freddie that Smirkie from Marketing Morriscum has a hand in the planning of this Sportsgate vote buying exercise. It was a favourite strategy of a former Leader of the Nazianal$ who in one early noughties election withheld about $2.4 BILLION from regional road funding so that regional voters would support the Nazianal$ to get the funding, then withheld the funding after the election was over.

    So it appears that Bandit Muckenzie has Smirkie from Marketing over a political barrel and Smirkie seems to lack the necessary intestinal fortitude to take the appropriate action to remove her from the Ministry and strongly recommend that she retire completely from Parliament.

    Compared to the previous Nazianal$ scandal with the marital infidelity of the Nazianal$ Party representative in New England demonstrating the duplicity and hypocrisy are stock standards in that Party, then this Sportsgate vote buying scandal shows that a federal ICAC is needed immediately if not sooner.

  7. Terence Mills

    I give Speers an 8 out of ten for his first Insiders.

    I have followed his career and always found him to be what a journalist should be : impartial, probing and well researched. He never was going to fit the Murdoch mould at Sky and has, I understand, dropped some salary and benefits when moving to the ABC. Speers resigned from Sky in April 2019 but they forced him to work out his contract to December – no love lost there.

    This leaves Chris Kenny as the only ‘real journalist’ at Sky but he has time and again shown that he is on the Murdoch bus no matter what and he doesn’t so much interview guests as, in the Alan Jones style, he states his own opinion and then asks the guest to agree with him. Then you have the unusual package known as Paul Murray, not a journalist but eager to promote his right-wing agenda without any apparent need to be accurate, impartial or to research his subject AND then you have Peta !!!

    By the way, Speers reminded us that in addition to the rorted $100 million grants program Morrison also announced in March 2019 :

    A total of $150 million will be spent supporting the development of female change room facilities at sporting grounds and community swimming facilities across Australia through a new dedicated stream of funding for these activities.

    What happened to that :

  8. Kaye Lee

    What is needed is for the “Ministerial discretion” to be taken away.

    We should also take away their ability to sack and employ public servants. No more promise of a cushy job if you hush up. No more threats about if you speak up.

  9. ajogrady

    Why do we call the L/NP government our elected representatives when in actual fact they only represent their donors. They all should be wearing sponsorship strips. At least then we would know who owns them. We pay them to protect and serve us. The Australian public get duped twice once at the ballot box and then when our tax dollars are gifted to their corrupt donors. Democracy is the victim of corporate power and greed.

  10. pierre wilkinson

    wonderful to see the ABC resume its’ critical role in just this single instance
    may it, and our protests, prosper and grow like our economy could if we divested ourselves of these economic DNAists
    thank you Rosemary J36

  11. Roswell

    Great read, Tim.

  12. Terence Mills

    Like the Norwegian Blue parrot, Bridget is no more, her term has expired, her career is defunct, she is a former minister, she has been sacked and escorted from the building.

    Good riddance !

  13. RosemaryJ36

    I think it is also clear to blind Freddy that Bridget’s gun club fiasco was seized on to ensure she could plead guilty to conflict of interest and resign, so ensuring ScoMo’s involvement in the rort avoided scrutiny.
    The rottenness at the heart of this government bodes ill for effective climate action.

  14. Graham Parton

    I was impressed with Spears too, a welcome addition to my ABC.

  15. RomeoCharlie29

    The undeclared gun club membership is just a figleaf for Scotty from Marketing to hide behind as he tries to look like he’s taking action but this rort is too big for him to weasel out of. Meanwhile Bridget still protests her innocence. They just don’t get it. This is such an egregious abuse of authority that it must come back to haunt both of them. I hope Labor goes in hard in both Reps and Senate, keep tightening 5ge screws. Scotty from Marketing will continue t make up new weasel words and phrases to avoid answering questions but his excuses are being subjected to more scrutiny from a wider range of sources. Even his Oz boosters are starting to look askance at him.

  16. Harry Lime

    So the useless Minister for Agriculture and patsy for Sportsgate has been forced to resign.That’s another debt hanging over Fauxmo,and of course he’ll put his grubby mitt into the public till to pay her off.Nothing has been answered and Morrison is just accumulating more ordure daily.We can expect the shouting and the lies to go to a new level next week.
    Will the opposition go full mongrel, or just wring their hands?

  17. LambsFry Simplex.

    And isn’t the crown jewel the sacking of MacKenzie after this Sunday cabinet meeting.

    Their vile slyness nauseates.

  18. totaram

    Ajogrady: ” They all should be wearing sponsorship strips. ”

    But, but, don’t you remember? There was a member of parliament who came in wearing a High-vis vest with the coal company name emblazoned on it. No shame whatsoever. In fact, did it with great pride.
    And did the voters think there was anything wrong with that? No, not at all!

  19. Ferkin Wartneck

    Some people are impossible to satirise, impossible to lampoon. Morrison is one.
    Lang Hancock, an appalling man himself, once summed up his own daughter and heiress Gina Rhinoarse, as being so repellent that ‘…she is her own punishment.’
    A discerning electorate would say the same about Morrison. But the Australian electorate is not discerning. In fact, with our compulsory voting system we may well be the only electorate in history, anywhere on earth, that willingly voted in the majority for a fascist government.
    Now, the latest news is that Briget McKenzie has decided to resign. Not sacked, as she would have been by an ethical and moral government. No. Not sacked. She has apparently decided – of her own free will – that she has failed to live up to the ministerial standards of a ministry that does not have any ministerial standards.

  20. my say

    I agree with Rosemary j36 ,the gun club membership was to cover his ass,He must think we are all so stupid that we will believe the findings from someone within his own government,over the report handed down from the Auditor General who said it was done for political gain.So in Morrison’s world he is saying move along nothing to see hear,knowing full that they rigged the grants to win an election

  21. LambsFry Simplex.

    Dont worry FerkinWartneck, she is in witness protection.

    If she is a good girl, who knows what nice pressies Santa will bring?

  22. New England Cocky

    @FerKin Wartneck: Uhm … The Nazi Party was a democratically elected government in Germany from 1933 that became a Fuhrerstat dictatorship after the Reichstag Fire that some historians suggest was caused by US agencies. The remaining period to 1945 is well-known and doe require repeating here.

    I agree with your comments about the correct outcome was being sacked weeks ago rather than resigning. However, that would require leadership qualities that Smirkie from Marketing simply lacks completely.

  23. Ferkin Wartneck

    New England Cockie.

    Hitlers party received only about 43% of the vote in 1933.
    Morrison’s government, which displayed almost all of the recognised features of a Fascist party in 2019, got more than 51% overall.
    Donald Trump – in my eyes at least – is exactly what the USA is; a vainglorious mendacious braggart who is utterly untrustworthy, vindictive, cruel and spiteful; but he got nowhere near a majority of votes. With a clear majority, Morrison and his gang may well reflect exactly what this nation truly is. I don’t like it, but that’s the way I see it now.

  24. Geoff Andrews

    McKenzie must be feeling like Al Capone when he went to jail for tax evasion – whew! that was close.

  25. Glennis Whitney

    Really impressed with David and Insiders, So glad you kept getting up Josh when you were interviewing him. Also the 3 reporters were great too. Keep up the great work Looking forward to next Sunday . Keep up the great interviews. You are a winner

  26. Neil Hogan

    “Strange, is it not, to think that Speers once worked for Sky so-called News?”

    Well there actually is a Sky News where Speers has always been a quality journalist over 19 years.

    Then there is the dark side of Sky News and that is Sky Afterdark where you find all the Chris Kenny, Paul Murray, Alan Jones and Peta Credlin lowlifes etc. etc. where truth is never allowed to get in the way of their bile.

    I think David Speers easily slipped into the shoes of Barrie Cassidy in his first edition of Insiders and that is not only good for the ABC, but also good for all of us political tragics as well, just as your article is too Tim Jones.

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