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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