The COVID-19 pandemic could have been an opportunity for Morrison to show leadership but ScoMo is only a "notional" national leader, writes executive editor Michelle Pini.
WHEN YOUR heart’s not in it, it’s hard to get anything right. And Prime Minister Scott Morrison just isn’t invested in the business of governing.
Sure, he is interested in the notion of being PM and all the status and the perks that this implies, but when we get down to the actual work required, well, there are other things he’d rather do. This is because his philosophy on leadership, like many of Morrison’s policies, is notional at best.
THE NOTIONAL PM
In a reactionary move after criticism over his lack of leadership (based on the fact that he was in Hawaii living it up) during the bushfire crisis, the PM announced a $2 billion bushfire recovery fund. However, during Senate Estimates, where the truth about many of his Government’s promises seem to surface, it emerged that this was only a “notional fund” and that only $2 million had actually been allocated. This, despite the fact that many victims are still homeless, three months after the worst bushfires ever seen here.
This isn’t the first or only time the current PM has demonstrated his complete ineptitude for the important role with which he has been entrusted. In fact, it would be safe to say that when it comes to leadership, the PM should’ve stuck to marketing, where notions such as those of a better lifestyle and happier times form the basis for advertising campaigns and sales strategies but are not necessarily based on reality.
A SURPLUS NOTION
At IA we have not put much faith in the sacred “surplus” mentality. It seemed to us to be a frivolous goal when wages are stagnant, Newstart is woefully inadequate and so many people are hurting.
Nonetheless, against all evidence to the contrary, the Morrison Government was elected primarily on this idea of better economic management — a notion based on the promise of a surplus combined with magical, life-changing tax cuts for all. Of course, this would never benefit the unemployed, the homeless or the elderly, but neoliberal notions rarely do.
As managing editor Dave Donovan pointed out from the budget lock-up back in May last year, when the great surplus “back in the black” notion was being sold as a done deal:
‘Predicting the future is a fraught business, especially in the field of finance. And in the case of this Budget, there are several reasons to believe that getting the Budget “back in the black” by next year ‒ let alone paying down the debt by 2029-30 ‒ are based on some heroic, if not downright foolhardy assumptions...
... In fact, there is every reason to suppose the budget will not return to surplus next year under a re-elected Coalition Government. This is a pre-election Budget and, as such, it is filled with promises it is never likely to keep.’
On the other hand, when it comes to the business of predictions based on scientific facts, both the bushfire crisis and a pandemic such as the current coronavirus outbreak were foreseen by scientists and health professionals.
Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has not provided the stimulus that this PM and his Government need. Instead, the opportunity the Government has taken is the self-serving suggestion that the surplus would not eventuate (as we already predicted) because of the bushfires and the coronavirus, which “could not be foreseen”.
Except that a forward-thinking proactive government would at least have some notion; it would have at least been across the scientific warnings of the effects of climate change and the likelihood of a pandemic. Failing some notion, a reasonably competent, if not a forward-thinking government would have acted swiftly and decisively.
Instead, we have seen a wishy-washy, wait and see approach, which has put Australia further at risk from contagion and will likely bring our economy to its knees.
The $17.6 million stimulus package announced on Friday is too little too late. The promised surplus was never going to happen and this half-hearted stimulus package will hardly make a dent in the economic disaster we are seeing unfold.
But that’s okay, it’s not ScoMo’s fault since he couldn’t have foreseen such a notion. The only people who could have predicted this, according to the Morrison Government, are casual workers, who get paid so much they should have put money away to deal with it. And the media have largely bought this nonsense — just like the "back in the black, but in the future" nonsense.
The COVID-19 pandemic could have been an opportunity for Morrison to prove his critics wrong. It could have been an opportunity to exercise leadership.
When it comes to governance, notions are extremely important. Having some notion about the kind of country we want Australia to be and then planning for possible contingencies accordingly, should be foremost in the thoughts of any leader.
In the case of Scott Morrison, however, there are no notions of note. Indeed, this is why, like his self-concocted nickname, ScoMo is only a notional national leader.
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