Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s promotion this week of alleged rapist Christian Porter to the important role of acting leader of the House has left many people angry and aghast.
It comes only days after Australia’s conservative media has produced puff pieces attempting to redeem the stubbornly soiled reputation of Michaelia Cash. And indeed, after recent decisions by Scott Morrison to bring back disgraced former ministers Bridget McKenzie, Sussan Ley and the perennially scandal-stricken Stuart Robert.
But no-one should be surprised, because Australia’s present crop of conservatives will almost always try to place the very worst sort of people into the most influential and important roles. It is, more or less, unofficial party policy.
The reasons behind this rather alarming contradiction to its professed policy of promoting only “high calibre” candidates are sociological, political and neurological.
Which maybe wouldn’t matter so much, except this ridiculous phenomenon is screwing both the nation and our kids’ futures.
PARTY POLITICS PUSHES GOOD PEOPLE AWAY FROM PARTICIPATING
As the sagacious author Douglas Adams wrote:
'… it is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarise the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made president should on no account be allowed to do the job.'
It is no accident that psychopaths are more highly represented in political leadership positions than they are in most other parts of society. In general, politics is not for the humble, the gentle of spirit or those prone to pangs of conscience.
You only have to briefly watch our Federal Parliament to realise politics is a blood sport in Australia — as it is in Britain, the United States and, indeed, all the former colonies who imported the adversarial legal and political system. The briefest glimpse of Question Time reveals a rabid level of discourse and debate unbefitting a primary school playground. Many outstanding candidates are consequently repelled by such an arena and fearful of reputational damage.
Moreover, exceptional people are for most of their careers ‒ when they have the most energy ‒ usually busy being exceptional in their chosen field. Afterwards, accumulating the requisite political capital in one of the two political bodies that ever attain political power in this country may seem uninviting. Or they just might not like either major party. Many people don’t.
In this way, our political system weeds out the best and the brightest, such that we end up amassing an assembly of professional debaters ‒ lawyers, union reps and political staffers ‒ with little other life experience. (You can read more about this topic in ‘Political parties deliver village idiots, not village elders' and the other IA articles in that series.)
Nevertheless, good people being good, many will overcome any distaste for our ugly political system and enter politics anyway, for altruistic reasons. And such people do exist in the parliamentary Liberal and National Parties, so why won’t the Morrison Government promote them?
EXPEDIENCY ENCOURAGES BAD LEADERS TO PROMOTE EVEN WORSE PEOPLE
A part of the answer is that many leaders won’t promote those who may challenge them to positions of authority. For example, it is quite conceivable that former PM Malcolm Turnbull promoted Scott Morrison to the position of treasurer largely because he saw him as a gormless buffoon, whereas Morrison is, in fact, a calculating and conniving buffoon.
This means that Morrison is unlikely to reward anyone with a scintilla of vision, purpose or potential into any important position. Instead, craven self-interest will encourage him to fill his ministry with his cronies, along with the corrupt and clueless.
For instance, Morrison’s private goon-squad includes fellow god-botherer and former flatmate Stuart Robert. By reinstalling the unintelligent and venal Robert as a senior minister, Morrison might hope fellow feeling may head off the chance of betrayal.
But loyalty is a weak tool in politics. More likely, Morrison knows where many of Roberts’ other ‒ most likely legion ‒ skeletons are buried and will use this as a trump card to keep the scandal-prone Pentecostal nodding away in the background. The fact Robert is also utterly bereft of any clues is simply an added bonus for the Prime Minister.
Which also largely explains the ramshackle array of Batman villains and circus clowns who comprise the rest of the Morrison Cabinet.
And sad as that is, it’s nowhere near as scary as the last reason Morrison’s Cabinet is bulging to overflowing with dangerous tools.
FEARFUL RIGHTIES PROMOTE FELLOW CROCOCRATS
Lastly, Australia’s conservatives also push useless candidates up the greasy pole because they are fearful and threatened. But don’t pick on them, because it’s not altogether their fault. It’s because their brains are a bit less evolved than other people's.
It all comes down to the amygdala — the so-called “reptile brain”. You see, a few years ago, British scientists found that conservatives have a larger amygdala than progressives. This ancient brain structure, right at the core of the brain and much overlayed by more recent evolutionary adaptions, is heavily involved in emotion processing and is especially reactive to fearful stimuli. In other words, their overly dominant reptile brain means conservatives habitually overreact to anything that appears to be a potential threat.
See a threat? Run! Fight!
Even if it isn’t really a threat...
Which also rather explains why conservatives are conservative — since any change is a potential threat. It is also why they may be scared of immigrants, or people-of-colour, or anyone who they see as outside their safe environment. Their strongest instinct, therefore, is to protect themselves and their way of life, and destroy any real or potential threats or adversaries. Conservatives even have a name for it: the Bush Doctrine, or “pre-emptive strikes”.
This also explains why, in politics, conservatives are quite happy to win by “cheating”, as the late, great Bob Ellis explained in his very first IA column. And why most have no real vision, apart from that related to the accumulation of even greater security ‒ such as wealth and power ‒ and have little love for the less fortunate, whom they perceive as wanting to take away what they have.
It also suggests why conservatives usually reject any accommodation or compromise with their political enemies. Since they instinctively feel that such foes are an existential threat, they should not just be defeated, but utterly destroyed and eviscerated. Or, failing that, totally humbled and humiliated. And what better way to rub your political foe’s nose in it than put people they disparage and despise into positions of power, to rule over them? What better way to parade your awesome power? You could call it hatred, but really it is fear. It’s pathological.
Still, it is little consolation knowing that Morrison and his ilk are not necessarily evil, but behave as they do because they are just a bit less evolved and a bit more... well... lizardish.
Still, a crocotocracy is hardly the best way to run an advanced industrial economy.
With an informed public, this sort of anti-social behaviour would lead to them being dumped at the earliest possible juncture. Regrettably, due to Australia’s media landscape being dominated by Rupert Murdoch, the Australian public is not at all well informed. That Michaelia Cash and Gladys Berejiklian were recently granted glossy colour front pages in weekend metropolitan inserts, lauding their supposed achievements, and alleged rapists such as Christian Porter are given prestigious parliamentary positions with nary a whisper from our press is ample testament to the poor information most Australians receive.
But don’t despair. You know what happened to the dinosaurs…
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.
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