PM Scott Morrison is the removalist — removing anything that might stop the Coalition retaining Government at the next election, or, at least, the things that could turn the defeat into a rout.
First, he is trying to remove internal differences and ructions. So it was that the Prime Minister dropped the National Energy Guarantee. However, he did so not to win popular support but to appease the climate change deniers in his Government.
He hopes popular support comes with slogans about cheaper reliable electricity or the folksy, "fair dinkum power". That such sloganeering is untrue is irrelevant to Morrison and his Government. The fact the climate change crisis is deepening is also irrelevant to them.
But for a majority of voters, climate change is a major issue. The Great Removalist has merely highlighted his Government’s lack of action on addressing climate change at all. He has shown the Coalition up as being divorced from the wishes of ordinary Australians, once again.
And, of course, other internal barnacles remain. Tony Abbott, slightly more popular than an empty chair, won pre-selection for the seat of Warringah. The Government’s problem with women, or a lack of them, continues and in a related issue, the bullying allegations will not disappear. The women in red, in Parliament last week, made that pretty clear. Are they waiting until after 20 October?
Speaking of 20 October, the Prime Minister, whether willingly or unwillingly, removed then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull from power. That regicide adds to the smell of death about this Government. Malcolm’s revenge is the Wentworth by-election on 20 October.
This by-election shows that the removalist works in mysterious ways. Katherine O’Regan, the woman who was Morrison’s choice for Liberal pre-selection in that seat, lost in an early round of the ballot. Even worse for Morrison, Dave Sharma, the Liberal candidate, might not win the seat, despite it being held by a margin of more than 18 per cent (taking into account a redistribution) at the last election.
Almost four per cent is a normal anti-government swing at a by-election. My fearless prediction is that the swing against the Liberals in Wentworth will be well into double figures — especially now that Kerryn Phelps has announced she will run as an Independent. She is the perfect candidate in Australia’s wealthiest electorate. Phelps will pick up Liberal voters disaffected by Turnbull’s dumping and uneasy about the reactionary smell emanating from the "not so silent deadlies" sitting on the Government’s front and back benches.
The Prime Minister also removed the school funding mess from the political spotlight by promising an extra $4.6 billion to private schools. Or so he thought.
" ... signing any deal that doesn't treat every student and every school with fairness."
He is not alone. Others, including a former NSW National Party member and Education Minister, have condemned the deal outright. Jane Caro captured this when she called the deal "hunger relief for the well-fed".
To quote Rob Stokes, what the Great Removalist has managed to do is to stoke
‘ ... the school funding wars of the past that pitted private schools against public schools’.
Well done Mr Morrison.
Instead of removing the issue from public debate, Morrison has highlighted, unfavourably, the differences between his Government and Labor. In response to the $4.6 billion private education deal, Shadow Education Minister Tanya Plibersek has stressed that Labor will restore the $17 billion the Coalition Government is cutting from schools.
Then there is Newstart. It is such a low poverty level payment that both former PM John Howard and the Business Council of Australia have said it should be increased to a level to provide basic support. Instead, under the leadership of the Great Removalist, the base rate will increase by $2.20 a week to $275.10.
This leaves many Newstart recipients around $150 a week below the poverty line. Rather than removing the issue, Morrison has once again highlighted the inadequacy of his supposedly remedial actions.
Then there is the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. Just like the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory, it took an investigation and exposé by Four Corners to force the Abbott Government into action. Morrison called the aged care royal commission before the program went to air.
He wanted to remove this as an issue in any forthcoming election and, at the same, time give the impression of being a man of action without actually having to do anything, other than announcing a royal commission. Two years is a long way away and Morrison will almost certainly not still be in power.
A man of action might actually implement the recommendations of the 20 aged care reviews in the last 20 years. A man of action might actually announce legislation to mandate staff to patient ratios and give the workers in the industry better pay.
A visionary leader might question whether aged care services would be better run by removing the profit motive from them. But Morrison is a remover, not a thinker or visionary. He is a neoliberal, not a humanitarian, so the "marketisation of aged care" is a natural part of his worldview.
It is also the reason for many of the abuses. Profit comes first, people a distant second. I don’t expect this Royal Commission, set up by a neoliberal Government, to draw that conclusion.
Profit first, people second is also the message coming out of the Financial Sevices Royal Commission. Let’s not forget Morrison opposed the establishment of such a royal commission. It was only once the pressure became too great that he and Turnbull introduced it after removing it from the many targets that could be used to attack the Coalition Government.
Of course, any neoliberal Royal Commission into the Banking Sector is not going to suggest anything other than market solutions, with perhaps a bit more regulation thrown in. Profit first will remain the dominant ethos of our super profitable banks. As for a people’s bank to share the common wealth, forget it.
Mr Removalist has also been huffing and puffing about strawberries. Legislation to increase the penalty for putting needles into fruit has increased from ten years to 15 years. This has nothing to do with deterrence and everything to do with appearance — appearing to do something.
Meanwhile, on average, a woman a week is killed by her current or former partner and, every 11 days, a worker on a construction site is killed. These deaths are systemic issues that to be addressed would require challenges to the rule of capital, so they won’t be touched.
The best gift we can give the great removalist is to remove him and the rest of his gang from power.
You can follow Canberra correspondent John Passant on Twitter @JohnPassant. Signed copies of John's first book of poetry, Songs for the Band Unformed (Ginninderra Press 2016), are available for purchase from the IA store HERE.
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