The view from Billinudgel

How lucky is Scott Morrison?
NSW Labor’s latest strife has been a blessing for the prime minister

Source: Twitter

Once again our miraculous marketer has fallen into the dunny and emerged covered, if not in diamonds, at least with a passable array of bling.

The fallout from the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu was not looking promising, with our prime minister’s rejection of Pacific leaders’ pleas to do something about climate change characterised as arrogant and condescending. This conclusion was only reinforced when Morrison’s deputy, Michael McCormack, suggested that the recalcitrants could always come and pick a bit of fruit.

The climate-change denial flowed through to the news that Australia’s emissions were still rising (which, for Energy Minister Angus Taylor was a source of exultation) and that the Great Barrier Reef was in even worse shape than we had feared.

The cruel and unnecessary decision to deport a Tamil family outraged even the permanently belligerent Alan Jones, and then, as Morrison prepared to go to Timor Leste for what was supposed to be a celebration, the vindictive persecution of Bernard Collaery and Witness K over the bugging of the Timor offices on behalf of Australian commercial interests produced a backlash in both countries.

But then, right on cue, the smoking volcano of NSW Labor erupted with a Krakatoa-like detonation, and Morrison was able to slide back into his silent communion with his quiet Australians.

It was a story that had everything: a shopping bag full of cash; alleged conspiracies; and Chinese billionaires orchestrating potentially illegal donations.

It has already cost the state general secretary, Kaila Murnain, her job after a panicked and futile attempt at a cover-up, and there are now demands for a complete overhaul of the branch, including the removal of party headquarters from its natural habitat, Sydney’s Chinatown. Send in the administrators, came the call. Well, perhaps it’s worth a try, but it’s been tried before, and it didn’t work last time.

In 1970, Gough Whitlam and his allies determined to break the autocrats of the Right in New South Wales as a quid pro quo to get rid of the real enemy – the antediluvian Victorian Left, who had kept federal Labor in Opposition for more than 20 years. After much negotiation and angst the reforms went through – the remorseless power of the machine was halted, and a new sharing arrangement introduced.

The Victorian branch was tossed out, allowing Whitlam to win the next election – the next two, in fact – and New South Wales was forced into a compromise that gave the Left a voice. But it didn’t last: the four horsemen of the Right, Paul Keating, Laurie Brereton, Bob Carr and Graham Richardson swiftly restored the status quo and the Sussex Street mafia was back in charge.

It gave us, among others, Eddie Obeid, a modern day incarnation of 19th-century despot John Macarthur, the architect of the Rum Rebellion. And now it has hit ScoMo on the arse with a rainbow. With opponents like that, who needs friends?

Mungo MacCallum

Mungo MacCallum is a political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy. Visit his blog, The View from Billinudgel.

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