Thursday, May 16, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

A disappearing PM
It was the last gig for a one-man band with a very short set list

That should be the last we see of Scott Morrison, the incredible shrinking prime minister, with no team behind him, no plan for what’s in front of him, nothing up his sleeve but scare campaigns and empty slogans like “Australia is made stronger by Australians”. Intending to flatter the listener – apparently we ourselves are the answer to the questions Australia faces – this accidental PM instead insulted our intelligence. “The hunger is burning within me,” Morrison said at the National Press Club. If elected, he said, “I will burn for you every day.” If Australians fall for this gibberish, after six years of policy-free Abbott–Turnbull–Morrison mayhem… well, it doesn’t bear thinking about. Morrison asks for blind faith, effectively, yet the man who wants to run our government today spelled out an anti-government philosophy that runs so deep it is almost hypocritical for him to stand for high office.

In one of his many attacks on Labor, which took the place of any kind of positive agenda, Morrison had a dig at the “it’s time” theme around the Shorten campaign, which today visited Blacktown’s Bowman Hall, where Gough Whitlam launched his 1972 campaign. “Let me tell you what it’s time for,” Morrison said. “It’s time to create 1.25 million new jobs.” It’s a vacuous statement, because the government can’t create jobs, and this game of setting a five-year jobs target and later claiming you’ve met it is for mugs. Just like former treasurer Joe Hockey convincing the G20 to go for growth, it substitutes constructive policy work, which is apparently all too hard for this mob, with aspiration.

After quickly running out of bullet points on why it is time to re-elect the Coalition – continuing tax cuts, or continuing boat-stopping – Morrison flicked back to the negative, to tell us what it wasn’t time for. His favourite? Now is not the time to impose $387 billion in higher taxes, he said. It would only hold us back.

Morrison can’t even see what’s holding Australia back. Climate damage is holding Australia back, already costing some $18 billion a year, according to a recent estimate. Poverty and homelessness are holding Australia back. The utter mess the Coalition made of the NBN is holding Australia back. The lack of an energy policy is holding Australia back. Corruption – from Helloworld to watergate – is holding Australia back. The government’s self-obsessed time-wasting culture wars – such as the debates over section 18C and Safe Schools, which exercise a tiny group on the fringes but are completely irrelevant or downright hurtful to the rest of the country – are holding Australia back. The disgrace of a thousand desperate people sitting on Manus and Nauru after six years with no hope in sight is holding Australia back. More than anything, what is holding Australia back is an execrable federal government that has no answers to anything because it’s too busy waging war on itself: the Liberals and Nationals are already skirmishing and the election’s not even done.

We have looked and looked at this Morrison government, over eight months, one budget, three debates, one campaign launch and now today’s ramble, and unfortunately there is nothing there. Morrison told us today that the reason he has talked so much about tax this campaign – “a pretty dry topic”, he admitted – was because it so highlighted the difference between him and Bill Shorten. Shorten, according to Morrison, mistakenly thinks the government is the answer to the questions Australia faces, when really it’s the people themselves. Hence, Morrison wants the people to keep as much of their own money as possible, so they can answer those questions themselves. It’s a hollow, bankrupt philosophy. That’s not why we bother electing a government. If you haven’t got any answers to the questions Australia faces – not one of them – then get out of the way and give the top job in the country to someone who does. We’ve heard this drivel so often from Morrison that it no longer seems remarkable. It is born-to-rule, dog-ate-my-homework laziness to turn up to an election with so little to say. As Simon Birmingham told Q&A on Monday, “This election, we’re asking people to, as much as anything, back themselves.” We don’t need to elect you to back ourselves.

“The nation’s door to the future stands ajar. And we ask the men and women of Australia to vote for change.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten echoes the late prime minister Gough Whitlam in his final campaign speech today.

“Every single person that comes to Australia under any such arrangements are the subjects of both character and security assessments. I don’t intend to make a commentary on allegations that have been made … but simply to assure Australians that they are the process we undertake, and these are the same security agencies that have thwarted 15 terrorist attacks.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison responds to questions about two Rwandans, resettled under Australia’s deal with the US, who have allegedly confessed to murdering eight tourists in Uganda in 1999.

The number of Australians who sought help from homelessness services last year.

“Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are rising, moving the country further away from its Paris Agreement obligations. Whichever party wins government on Saturday, urgent action on climate change must be a top priority for the 46th Parliament of Australia.”

From an open letter signed by 62 scientists and experts, and published by The Australia Institute today.

The list

“Eleven years ago I met a killer. Not a murderer; someone whose profession was killing. Who did it for a living. It was in Seoul, at a services bar in Itaewon, close to the American military base ... I think of him sometimes, wondering where in the world he may be and what he might be doing, and never more so than when I watch one of the John Wick movies, my favourite film franchise of the past decade. They’re about a trained killer as well, a ruthless professional who, like my friend from the bar, speaks so mildly one might almost think him benign. Almost.”

“Under Duterte’s presidency, ‘violence both real and virtual has become part of the air we breathe’, says Ressa. She is grateful she doesn’t have children, and she urged her parents to return to the US for safety.”  

“It would be fair to say that until his half-botched attempt on Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership in August, Peter Dutton had not fixed himself deeply in the affections or even the short-term memories of his constituents. Unlike [Greens candidate] Benedict Coyne and [Labor candidate] Ali France, he is not a natural campaigner, not what you might call … a people person.”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Inside the Greens and the unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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