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Leadership Liberal style: Is PM Scott Morrison still here?

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons)

Since Scott Morrison pretty much governs in absentia, if he and his entire ministry disappeared, we would be unlikely to notice, writes managing editor Michelle Pini.

PRIME MINISTER SCOTT MORRISON's “leadership” is now so weak, he has all but disappeared.

Morrison’s home and favourite state, New South Wales, is currently experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak, with 40 people, including three aged under 40, now in intensive care. His favourite state premier, Gladys “Gold Standard” Berejeklian, after months of trumpeting her state’s no-lockdown strategy, is engaged in the most shambolic of public health initiatives.

THE PM'S DISAPPEARING ACT

This week, it was revealed Australian business leaders had asked former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to intercede with the procurement of the Pfizer vaccine, after Morrison’s inactivity had left Australia with the lowest vaccination rate in the developed world.

But PM Morrison, despite all this chaos, and looming death and disaster, has disappeared. He is nowhere to be seen. Just like when he took a vacation to Hawaii during the devastating bushfire disaster last year.

In the '90s film, Dave, an otherwise unqualified presidential look-alike (played by Kevin Kline) is asked by the Secret Service to stand in for the U.S. President, who is in a coma after suffering a stroke. This is, ostensibly, to protect the general public from the vice president, who may be mentally unbalanced. However, the doppelganger turns out to be a more effective and popular leader than the POTUS.

There are two things this film has in common with the current state of politics in Australia. The first is the reference to a possibly mentally unbalanced deputy leader. And the second uncanny parallel is that if Scott Morrison was likewise replaced by an otherwise unqualified double, we would be unlikely to notice. This is because the PM is pretty much operating in absentia anyway.

There is, in fact, such a paucity of leadership emanating from this entire Morrison Government that satirical website The Shovel listed all the former prime ministers it saw as currently doing a better job than Morrison, and included Harold Holt. There is much said in jest…

To be fair, Morrison has popped up every now and then to bag his least favourite premier, Dan Andrews. He has also managed to find extra money for the NSW lockdown, which, according to him, is far worse than anything previously experienced in Victoria. This is despite Victoria experiencing lockdown for months on end while NSW is only in its third week.

And, despite Victoria first experiencing the Delta variant, it was never even mentioned by the PM or any of his ministers during that state’s battle with the pandemic. Now that the virus has taken hold in a Liberal state, both he and “Gold Standard” Gladys have suddenly acknowledged the existence of this deadly Indian-based strain and used it as justification for NSW requiring more assistance than that given to its southern neighbour.

Speaking of lack of leadership, while Berejiklian’s half-hearted, ambiguous attitude to the lockdown in her state is bordering on negligence, it still makes her response practically turbo-charged in comparison to Morrison’s abject failure to protect Australian citizens.

PRESENT AND READY FOR DUTY

When former PM Kevin Rudd contacted the global chair of Pfizer, Dr Albert Bourla, to attempt to do all in his power to obtain the vaccine, we discovered that the current PM had lifted not one finger to do this. 

Today, Morrison managed to rear his head long enough to point yet another accusatory finger — this time at medical experts (ATAGI). It is they, according to the PM, who are to blame that we have no vaccines. It must be pretty hard to blame a state premier in this case, for if there was a way, Morrison and Co would no doubt find it and Dan would already be copping it.

AWOL IN ALL BUT RHETORIC

Which brings us to the other relevant ministers who are doing their best attempt at irrelevance during this current crisis.

It is highly unlikely that Health Minister Greg Hunt if he were to join the PM wherever it is he goes during crises, would be missed. Hunt responded to Kevin Rudd’s attempts to accelerate the vaccine rollout with amusement:

‘“I did chuckle when I saw the story”... Mr Rudd only became involved “after we’d done the work with Pfizer and we knew the outcome was likely to be exactly as it was”.’

For most of us, watching Australians fall ill and die as the Delta variant takes hold, facing lockdowns and inadequate quarantine measures while unable to be properly vaccinated and/or make ends meet, it is hard to find anything chuckle-worthy about Australia’s precarious position brought about by his Government’s negligence. Yet for the minister responsible for protecting our health, it’s quite amusing, apparently.

Then there’s Treasurer Josh Frydenberg — “People are sick of his whinging and politicking of the crisis”.

Oh, wait, Josh was referring to Dan Andrews, there! That's the Premier who led Victoria out of the crisis by being available every single day and making the hard decisions. The one who has been shown only derision instead of support by the Federal Government and the media. The leader who was repeatedly denied assistance and the one who now faces more COVID cases, thanks to Berejiklian’s loosely applied lockdown measures. Sure, Josh, it is Andrews who is politicising the virus.

This Morrison Government’s leadership is now so weak, would anyone notice if it disappeared? To use another movie reference, where’s Scott? Scott’s (Dave’s) not here.

This is an abridged version of an editorial originally published in the Independent Australia weekly newsletter. The full versions of these articles are only available to Independent Australia subscribers. They may be read online in the IA members-only area.

You can follow managing editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @vmp9. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.

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