Politics Opinion

'A rogues' gallery': Running through the Coalition's line-up

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Angus Taylor, Scott Morrison and Alan Tudge (image by Dan Jensen)

Allegations of rape at Parliament House, sex in prayer rooms, male prostitutes, staffers masturbating on desks: what the hell is going on?

This Government, led by one of the most religious prime ministers we’ve ever had, is surrounded by crisis after crisis. If this was the management of a fish and chip shop, you wouldn’t let your daughter pick up the dinner.

Corrupt and feckless governments often reach a moment of critical mass when the sheer volume of daily scandals prove too much for the camel’s back. Scott Morrison may have weaselled his way out of taking responsibility for sports rorts, Robodebt and trips to Hawaii, but the allegations of sexual impropriety are coming in daily right now.

The "I don’t hold a hose, mate" shtick is demonstrably wearing thin.

When moments of truth arrive, it’s wise to take a step back and ask, David Byrne-style, "well, how did we get here?".

Since 2013, Australia’s Coalition Government has blessed us with one onion-chewing weirdo, an underwhelming millionaire who couldn’t name a single AC/DC track and the coup de grace in Scott Morrison, a coal-waving Pentecostal extremist who tripped and fell upwards into the job.

But that’s just at the top. Take a walk down misery lane and let’s review the horror show of humanity that congregates Canberra’s corridors.

Down the ticket is normally where you find the crooks and chancers that make representative democracy such a compromised system and Australia’s class of ’21 doesn’t disappoint.

Craig Kelly is a former furniture salesman. Kelly called the downing of MH17 a "price that we have to pay" to maintain relations with Russia and has warned that "people will die" if Australia implements more renewable energy. Conspiracy loving Kelly has really found his happy place during the COVID-19 pandemic, pushing ineffective vaccines and calling masks child abuse.

But scrap that: Kelly resigned from the Liberals last month and now sits as an independent. There's also the conservative normality of George Christensen

No stranger to the horizontal disco himself, Christensen took 28 trips totalling almost 300 days to the Philippines between 2014 and 2018, often visiting Angeles city, a town so synonymous with sex tourism, it’s mentioned on its Wikipedia page. Christensen was reportedly a big spender at Ponytails Bar, a strip club – apologies, "adult entertainment" venue – where it appears he met his wife.

This hasn’t stopped the "Member for Manila" from espousing hard-right conservative talking points such as corporal punishment for drug dealers and calling Greenpeace "terrorists". Naturally, both he and Kelly are climate change deniers.

There are many other stories to tell. These two charmers are just the Mick and Keith of a much bigger band of men (they’re almost all men) trying to drag Australia back to the good old days when white males ran the place and housewives did the ironing.

Barnaby Joyce is an adulterous, anti-abortion, anti-marriage equality human tomato. It’s the front benches where the serious egos are at and Morrison’s team of F-graders does not disappoint. Michaelia Cash, Linda Reynolds, Angus Taylor, Alan Tudge, Stuart Robert and Michael Sukkar were all this week described by journalist Laura Tingle as "walking wounded", but those near the summit are no less damaged.

They say every bunch of roses has a prick, but Australia’s three most senior politicians are a veritable rosebush of cruel egotists.

A British politician was once memorably described as having "something of the night" about him. The phrase could have been custom coined for Peter Dutton, Minister for Home Affairs, relentless accumulator of power and a man who revels in cruelty so openly that you worry he may leave to star in the next James Bond movie.

Dutton is a driving force of Australia’s illegal offshore detention policy, designed to be so awful to the unfortunate people caught in its web that others considering a desperate boat trip to Australia choose to stay in mortal danger at home. When one detainee set himself on fire, Dutton response was, in part, that the man still wouldn’t be getting to live in Australia.

Detainees have sewn their lips shut, guards have traded sex for favours (luxuries like showers), filmed the encounters and then circulated the videotapes. Dutton once suggested that women claiming they had been raped on Nauru were "trying it on". The offhand arrogance it takes to dismiss sexual assault claims without evidence like that is no doubt coming in handy as events play out in Canberra this year.

Always a close contender for that prestigious "Australia’s cruellest man" title is Attorney-General Christian Porter, scion of Australia’s debating teams, author of the Robodebt debacle and a man who relatively recently was happy to suggest that asylum seekers accused of rape shouldn’t be allowed to live in Australia.

Porter returns from leave next week to resume his $370,000 a year salary while doing a part-time job, unencumbered by a number of regular duties courtesy of his defamation case against the ABC.

As AG, Porter has overseen a series of unprecedented secret trials, so it’s not a surprise that when faced with allegations against him, he didn’t take the simplest route to exoneration: an inquiry.

Instead, we must prepare ourselves for the grubby spectacle of a sitting Attorney-General fighting a personal legal battle against the national broadcaster, in relation to historical accusations of rape. 

And standing astride this clown-show is Scott Morrison, an odd, dishonest, self-interested and craven relic from another age, caught in a cultural vortex and chronically unable to meet to the moment. As the allegations of sexual impropriety have stacked up, Morrison has stepped up to the microphone and landed himself in yet another pile of strife every time he’s opened his mouth.

Women marching? They’re lucky they’re not being shot. Sexist culture at parliament? Well, Sky News is just as bad, so we’re even.

Every fish rots from the head and Canberra’s head bloater is no exception. Scott Morrison’s $190,000 empathy black-hole is so darkly comedic you almost want to like the man for resembling a bigoted Chauncey Gardiner.

Yet at a time when the Liberal party has just suffered the worst state election defeat in Australian history and clinging to a wafer-thin majority, this series of misconduct may have sounded the death knell for the Prime Minister.

Morrison, many have concluded, is incompetent, unqualified for the job, far past his political use-by date.

Cultures don’t breed in a vacuum. The atmosphere of poisonous misogyny within Australia’s Parliament has bred in a petri dish of entitled, sexist, self-interested and retrograde white men assembled by the Prime Minister himself.

Now the Prime Minister finds he’s unable to do the job. It’s not a coincidence that the Government is so badly missing its own COVID-19 vaccination targets when the Prime Minister has to spend so much of his day discussing people wanking on desks.

As the political pressure intensifies, it’s worth remembering that this Government is supposed to be managing the worst pandemic in a century, record debt, wealth inequality and crippling unemployment. Instead, Morrison fronts the press each day, mortally wounded, unaware or unable to accept that the weight of scandal will soon prove too much.

Morrison will go, or perhaps there will be an election. But we’ve crossed the rubicon.

George Grundy is an English-Australian author, media professional and businessman. Read more from George on his blog americanprimerweekly.com or follow him on Twitter @georgewgrundy.

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