Politics

MUNGO MACCALLUM: Morrison Government instability and chaos

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison (Screenshot via @ScottMorrisonMP)

The Coalition Government has now gone into minority and the result, as PM Scott Morrison threatened, will be horrific!

Emergency warning: off the streets, go to the storm shelters immediately, it is too late to flee — save yourselves as best you can.

We have, we have been reliably informed, been plunged into instability and chaos. Many of us would regard this as business as usual — it has, after all, been the pattern for months, if not years.

But our 30th (and counting) Prime Minister says you ain’t seen nothing yet. The apparent ascension of Kerryn Phelps has meant that any hope of safe and steady government has been and gone after Wentworth.

Scott Morrison’s fledgeling administration has now gone into minority and, as the leader warned, threatened and even promised repeatedly during the campaign, the result will be horrific. And he should know — he is not just a politician but an advertising man, so we can trust him implicitly. Fasten your seat belts and hang on to your hats.

This was his story until last Saturday. But then suddenly, it was all about back to work on Monday, delivering what matters to the Australian people, not being distracted by the Canberra bubble. That’s all over, nothing to see here.

Time to put it behind us and move on. After all, Julia Gillard governed in a minority for nearly three years and she only had 73 members while Morrison has 75, with the promise of at least two more committed to sticking with him on no-confidence motions. Instability? What instability?

Well, perhaps the bit between ScoMo’s slightly protruding ears. His tirade on Saturday night included the admission that Liberals have been angry and, obviously, some 20 per cent of them were very angry indeed. But Morrison offered nothing to appease them; instead, he decided to be angry himself and proceeded to shout ritual abuse against Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

It was a performance curiously reminiscent of former PM Malcolm Turnbull’s petulant outburst after the 2016 Election, a performance that did Turnbull no good whatsoever. And speaking of which, the mad right has no doubt at all whom to blame for the debacle: it was all Turnbull’s fault. Just because he was ousted in a vicious and shambolic coup, there was no need for him to do what he always said he would and leave the Parliament.

After all, when he knocked off former PM Tony Abbott, Abbott stayed around — and look how well that has turned out. If Turnbull had any sense of loyalty (unlike the plotters and insurgents who undermined, sniped and wrecked until they destroyed him) he would have stayed around in Point Piper and campaigned for Dave Sharma.

Given the clear mood of the electors of Wentworth this would almost certainly have damaged Sharma’s campaign further, but so what? Someone has to wear the obloquy. And it wasn’t going to be Morrison, although if anyone could be accused of damaging Sharma’s campaign it had to be him and his dysfunctional colleagues.

Even the dumbest pollster must have discerned that two very serious issues in the affluent suburbs are climate change and asylum seekers. Morrison completely ignored climate change – which 40 per cent of the electorate named as their number one concern – and floated the idea of revisiting the New Zealand solution (albeit under draconian and possibly unconstitutional restrictions) to move some of those stranded on Nauru.

But even if his solution was workable, and it probably isn’t, it would merely scratch the surface. NZ Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern has offered to take 150, but that would still leave nine-tenths of the victims behind, with no obvious salvation in sight.

Anyway, it was only an idea — as was the wizard wheeze to move the Australian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This thought, says our Prime Minister, emerged from the planet-sized brain of Sharma himself — but it had absolutely nothing to do with the by-election or the fact that Donald Trump had announced similar policy a few months earlier.

No one believed either assertion — even Sharma admitted that he only started thinking about the suggestion after Trump moved. And for Morrison to say that this could move the peace process forward was ludicrous: West Jerusalem was always envisaged as the capital of Israel, but the only feasible site for a Palestinian capital under the two-state solution would be East Jerusalem and, neither Trump nor, crucially, Benjamin Netanyahu and his theocratic Government would ever entertain the notion. For them, Jerusalem is their indivisible and eternal city given to them by God and others can only be allowed grudging visiting rights.

And of course the idea was manifestly against Australia’s national interest: the blow back from Indonesia, alone, has made it clear that there could be considerable economic and political damage from Morrison’s thought bubble. And it won few if any votes in Wentworth anyway: hard-line Jews were going to vote Liberal anyway and moderates were more likely to be repulsed by Morrison’s cynical shenanigans than wooed.

Instability and chaos — but that wasn’t meant to start until next week. And that was without even mentioning the Pauline Hanson and the 'it's okay to be white' fiasco, the superfluous Environment Minister Melissa Price insulting the former Kiribati President Anote Tong in a Canberra restaurant and the Father of the Year, Barnaby Joyce, offering to graciously take back the leadership of the Nationals if they really insisted — it would be churlish to refuse them.

This is not responsible government — indeed, it is not government at all. This is vaudeville, slapstick, the Keystone Kops without the subtlety and sophistication. And now this unrepentant mob is gearing up for a custard pie fight over religious privilege.

Morrison must be tempted to simply write the end of 2018 off as an aberration and hope that by the new year, his party will have purged itself of the massive amounts of shit on its collective liver and be ready for a bit of good news — at least as far as the economy is concerned. Then it can all be cleared up before the real election, where the incomparable Dave Sharma can be returned to his rightful place and normal transmission can be resumed.

Well, he can hope. But science tells us that entropy always increases ... the tendency is for chaos to get steadily worse, not better. Fortunately ScoMo the ProMo is not too hung up about science — this is why he told the farmers to pray for rain rather than acknowledge the reality of climate change. So the power of prayer may be his last, best and only chance.

Nothing else is working. If you really want stable government, go and live with the horses — they make more sense than the Coalition.

Mungo MacCallum is a veteran journalist who worked for many years in the Canberra Press Gallery. This article was published on 'Pearls and Irritations' and is republished with permission.

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