The tawdry sex scandals plaguing the Morrison Government are drawing attention to its deeper and far more serious problems, writes managing editor Michelle Pini.
RECENT Morrison Government sex scandals have made Australia an international laughing stock: a nation seemingly ruled by a chaotic collection of sexual miscreants and misogynistic onlookers.
However, while stories of Liberal MPs hiding in bushes to perv on women, using social media to stalk and harass them and the Parliament Chamber to conduct their sexting “business”, plus Liberal staffers masturbating willy-nilly around Parliament may have provided a momentary distraction, they have also, paradoxically, drawn more attention to the deeper issues afflicting this Government.
Because, as we all know, sex “sells” and prior to the ongoing stream of tawdry revelations, this Coalition Government may well have been known as the most scandal-plagued administration ever, but voters seemed to have short memories.
Fiascos such as "Watergate", "sports rorts" and even Robodebt, while shocking, were also quite complex and public attention was quickly diverted onto other matters. Morrison also managed to take the credit for the measures of the National Cabinet resulting in Australia’s relative escape from the wider consequences of the global pandemic, which also afforded the Government a period of grace from its earlier assorted mismanagement and rorts.
Scandals involving sex, however, capture public attention in a far more immediate way and resonate with a wider audience, and once attention is focused, it is possible to notice what else is wrong. And let’s face it, there are not many things that can be said to be going right for Morrison and his crew at the moment.
LIES AND COVER-UPS
Following so closely behind two separate instances of grave criminal allegations, the onslaught of salacious titbits emanating from the Morrison Government, has further served to categorise it in the public imagination as one certainly lacking any shame, if not also completely devoid of morals.
As we foresaw, Morrison’s conscious decision to ignore the concerns of Australian women – epitomised by his blatant refusal to deal with the rape allegations against Christian Porter or the Brittany Higgins’ rape allegation involving a Liberal staffer, or even to engage with the March4Justice protesters – is the choice that has alienated him from many voters, regardless of political affiliation.
As time has marched on, the PM, instead of taking steps to rectify the situation, has instead chosen to double down, defending Porter’s claimed “right to due process”, effectively pretending Brittany Higgins’ rape never happened and, as the plethora of lewd stories involving staffers and MPs created more and more pressure and uncertainty, opted not to act at all.
Formerly a master of distraction, Morrison has, of course, tried to deflect focus from the rape allegations, seemingly to no avail.
RESHUFFLED DECK CHAIRS
His only concrete action, if it can be called that, has been to simply reshuffle the deck chairs of his Cabinet in the hope we would all be assuaged.
Of course, there is scarcely any new blood in the latest rehash, just a game of musical chairs in which all the ministers and members – even disgraced ones like Linda Reynolds and self-confessed upskirter, Andrew Laming – get to keep their seats and/or get new portfolios.
IPHONE PICS AND ELECTORAL FALSEHOODS
Laming, incidentally, at the same time as he was begging for privacy while he sought to “be better” through the now clichéd Liberal Party empathy training, was also busy closely guarding the privacy of a network of 30-odd Facebook pages created under the guise of “community and education groups”.
While the details are still apparently being investigated, this latest revelation appears not to relate to Laming’s previous stalking and harassment activities, but to electoral misdeeds “for the dominant purpose of influencing the way electors vote in a federal election”.
Let’s not hold our breath waiting for the PM to sack him even now, of course, because the Government’s one-seat majority trumps all else.
But the people are not completely stupid. They can see that nothing has changed. That there will be no consequences, no matter how distasteful or deplorable the actions and regardless of the severity of the crimes levelled against Morrison's ministers or staffers.
But while the Prime Minister has chosen to ignore the large, dark cloud hanging over Christian Porter – the man who held the position of the highest law officer in the land – there is no getting away from the fact that no one is buying the Government’s claims of upholding the “rule of law” by refusing to hold an inquiry. Women aren’t buying it. Their partners and families aren’t buying it. And now, even industry leaders, from whom the Government may have once expected to glean support, are also not buying it.
Porter’s demotion from the position of Attorney-General to Minister for Industry, Science and Technology is as confusing as it is ineffectual. If he is not the subject of an inquiry into criminal allegations, why is he being demoted? And if there is any doubt, why is he permitted to stay in the Ministry?
According to an AFR report:
‘Executives, including Microsoft director of start-ups for the Asia-Pacific, Emily Rich, said the industry would reduce its engagement with the Government due to his appointment.'
And their reasons?
‘…Aside from the shadow of the unresolved rape allegations, Mr Porter lacks experience in technology and would be too focused on saving his political career and a defamation fight over the ABC’s coverage of the allegations, to properly lead the sector.’
In the meantime, adding to the PMs woes, is a stagnant legislative program primarily concerning industrial relations "reform", of course, plus the end of the JobKeeper payment and what may have been his Government’s saviour, a vaccine rollout that has morphed into a complete shemozzle.
And Morrison has reacted to the mounting pressure in his usual way — with anger, denial, lies and even misleading Parliament.
As always, there have been the usual dog whistles, the expected virtue signalling and the outright "attack" defence from this Government, but in the end, at least so far, most of us are just shaking our heads and hoping for an early election.
This is an abridged version of an editorial originally published as part of the Independent Australia weekly newsletter. You may read the full version of this article online in the IA members-only area.
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