Politics Editorial

Morrison's early election ruse catches Kelly's COVID

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons)

Managing editor Michelle Pini discusses the possibility of an early election with National ALP President Wayne Swan and IA columnist Professor John Quiggin.

PRIME MINISTER Scott Morrison is perhaps better known for what he doesn’t do than any notable achievements.

During his Prime Ministership, Morrison has successfully avoided dealing with a national bushfire emergency, a raft of corruption allegations and most recently, a global pandemic — all while expertly sidestepping any and all questions about his Government's activities.

The PM is angling for an early election ... going early to maximise the favourable effects of COVID while escaping the disastrous long-term ramifications.

~ ALP National President Wayne Swan

Morrison’s familiar refrain of “I’ve already answered that question” when he hasn’t, or his fall-back position of ridiculing the question and dismissing the questioner, is so ingrained with this Prime Minister’s public persona, few in the media push back.

When ABC’s Laura Tingle confronted the PM about his refusal to sanction Liberal Member for Hughes Craig Kelly’s dangerous public ramblings about COVID-19 on Monday, Morrison gave the following reply:

“He’s not my doctor! And he’s not yours!”

What a sad state of affairs when, rather than Tingle’s legitimate question concerning a well-paid member of the Morrison Government sparking further questions, this attempt at humour had the audience of the National Press Club in hysterics — feigned or otherwise.

While going on holiday during the bushfire calamity that swept the nation did have a negative impact on Morrison’s political standing, passing the buck to the states for the handling of the coronavirus was a stroke of genius, as we predicted at the time. It has afforded Morrison a welcome respite from the economic mismanagement occurring ahead of the pandemic, as well as many other embarrassing incidents that have since been overshadowed by COVID-19.

Like everyone’s nightmare corporate boss, shifting responsibility away from his own desk has meant Morrison could ignore any bad decisions (like the Ruby Princess and the aged care debacles) while simultaneously claiming credit for all that turned out well — such as the state premiers’ positive action on the pandemic. The fact that the PM was not a fan of taking any preventative measures and even campaigned in favour of the British approach to the disease, is all yesterday’s forgotten news, apparently.

Which bring us to the present.

This week, the show that markets itself as ‘Australia's flagship political discussion program’, ABC’s Insiders, began the year providing advertorial space for Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to lay out the Government’s economic “plan” while raising "questions" about the Labor Party. These included what “five prime ministers in ten years mean for the Labor Party” and how “Anthony Albanese is trying to unite his caucus colleagues behind him right now for a tough fight ahead”. Riveting stuff.

How fortuitous that at the very same time, there were rumblings of an early election!

Which begs the question: Why would the PM choose to go to the polls early if everything is so well managed?

We put this question to ALP National President Wayne Swan, who told IA:

“The PM is angling for an early election but he may not necessarily get it — going early to maximise the favourable effects of COVID while escaping the disastrous long-term ramifications.”

This view was echoed by IA columnist Professor John Quiggin, who said that an early election means:

"Economic and climate issues would be obscured by the continuing effects of the pandemic and Morrison could ride on Australia's successful performance during the pandemic.”

Professor Quiggin added:

“After the election, Morrison could recalibrate climate policy in time for the November Glasgow Climate Change Conference (COP26), implement the legislated tax cuts for high-income earners and bring in spending cuts to balance the budget.”

As well, Morrison’s bellicose rumblings against China, appear to have been based on the misconception of a returned Trump Administration. The resultant strained relations with China, which have already negatively impacted trade in a number of Australian industries, will likely only worsen now that Morrison has been wrong-footed by the election of Biden.

Certainly, both Morrison and Frydenberg have turned the conversation towards an end to stimulus spending and a mighty push back towards austerity.

In addition, there's that niggling question of another type of economic "reform", which this Government has doggedly pursued. And, despite earlier noise of Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter and ACTU Secretary Sally McManus playing nice, an industrial relations war now seems likely.

Mr Swan explains:

“If Morrison calls an early election it will prove positive his hidden agenda, which is to rip the guts out of industrial relations protections.”

As to whether an early election is imminent, Professor Quiggin says:

“Biden's election has upended the climate part of the [early election] strategy and the Government's surprisingly poor performance in the latest Newspoll casts doubt on the whole idea that an early election would be an easy win."

Meanwhile, far from exhibiting any signs of feathers being ruffled, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese reiterated in an email to IA:

'Labor would be ready to present [its] alternative to the Australian people whether an election is held in 2022 ... or if the Prime Minister decides he doesn't have confidence in his own capacity to actually last a three-year term.”

This editorial was originally published as part of the Independent Australia weekly newsletter. These editorials are usually only available to subscribers and 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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