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Worst of the COVID-19 crisis was averted despite PM Morrison, not because of him

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison is being hailed as a hero, despite being responsible for a slew of political failures (Image by Dan Jensen)

While the media has been heaping praise on Scott Morrison's leadership of late, it's important to remember who the real heroes are, writes Noely Neate.

IT IS THE ANNIVERSARY of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s so-called “miracle” election win. The one that was handed to him by Clive Palmer’s advertising money and the Australian media's scrutiny of ALP policies and promotion of the Liberals' no policy platform. And, of course, the media's jihad against “the unpopular Bill Shorten”, where we don’t know why he is unpopular but the media told punters he was so often that it became a self-fulfilling policy.

Recently, we have had the glowing reports of how the PM “stumbled” with the bushfires but has redeemed himself with his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Note, “stumbling” seems to be the euphemism for leaving to Hawaii, not giving a damn and being defensive about not giving a damn. It also means forcing people to shake his hand and making an “ad” initially with a link to the Liberals website to boast how much he was doing to help. To this date, all the announcements of aid still have not even been delivered.

To be fair, now that a by-election has been declared in Eden-Monaro, that area is starting to see some government love. Not so much other areas, but one should never let truth get in the way of a good PR campaign.

So, how wonderful is Scooter for saving Australia from the coronavirus pandemic?

Declares emergency

Back on 27 February, PM Morrison stood there and declared, The risk of a pandemic is upon us.

He didn’t really do anything other than stopping flights from China and a big press conference holding a pretty pamphlet.

Well, didn’t that get media to stop talking about sports rorts?

It's worth noting, every time we hear Scott Morrison brag about “first to declare” — he wasn’t. It was Premier of Queensland, Annastacia Palaszczuk, who did so on 29 January 2020. This matters as it's just the start of Morrison’s penchant throughout this crisis for taking credit for actions prompted by state premiers and chief ministers.

Stopping flights

Morrison stopped flights from China, then at 12 March, he added Italy, South Korea and Iran to that banned list. But not the United States, even though many were concerned about the numbers rising there and those coming into Australia with COVID-19 from the U.S.

By 20 March 2020, Scott Morrison finally announced the closure of our international borders. He also happened to mention that day that most Australian coronavirus cases were coming in from the USA.

The media seemed to forget to blame the PM for that oversight that resulted in extra deaths in this nation.

Going to the footy

Let us step back a bit, though. On Friday 13 March, the PM proudly crowed he was going to watch his beloved “Sharkies” at the footy, even though we supposedly had a ban on events that would come into effect on the following Monday.

Then, of course, he walked that statement back – the nice way our Press Gallery tends to describe dumb statements by the PM once someone smarter talks sense into him – and declared he ‘will not attend the Cronulla Sharks over fears attendance would be misinterpreted’.

Misinterpreted? Yeah, sure

The big one was on 22 March, where PM Morrison pretty much criticised Australians for not taking the virus seriously enough and not socially distancing enough. Therefore, like the naughty kids we were, he was forced to shut down the nation to save us from ourselves.

So, basically, the National Cabinet met on that Sunday night and said they were shutting our states down and giving Morrison this opportunity to be a big man and deliver that news to the nation.

So how good was PM Morrison, taking action to save us from ourselves?

Announcements — shiploads of announcements

So many announcements with a lot of promises from PM Morrison. Always lauded by media, rarely scrutinised, rarely any detail nor viewed through the lens of “reality”.

Let us look at just a few.

$750 Stimulus

On 12 March 2020, it was announced there would be $750 for those on a low income. Of course, we found out that some were missing from this, like those on Austudy and Abstudy. Thankfully, ALP and the Greens included them when it went to parliament — you remember parliament, those rare times that Morrison and his mates go to work.

Maybe the opposition leader should have been included in the National Cabinet, that bi-partisan entity for which the media keep praising the PM. Then it would not have been missed in the first place.

Considering the country was pretty much shutting down, that payment didn’t hit anyone’s account until after 31 March. In fact, for many, it was quite a few weeks past that date.

JobSeeker

Then we had PM Morrison announcing JobSeeker.

Not to be confused with the grubby unemployed on NewStart who don’t deserve anything except disdain from the Government, these unemployed were different. These unemployed had lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Unlike the current “dole bludgers”, these poor people could not expect to survive on $40 a day and the rate was raised an extra $550 per fortnight.

Of course, the Press Gallery did not call out this rank hypocrisy of rebranding a punishing program and upping the rate, which was just due to hundreds of thousand suddenly lining up at Centrelink – run by Services Australia, formerly Human Services – and remembering just how difficult it is to live on $40 a day. They would hit him at the voting booth at the next election, hence very carefully stating this was only until September, hoping they were all back at work before being punted onto starvation rates and hating on him.

It took people far too long to even get any of that JobSeeker money into their bank accounts. I guess we should have known it would be a disaster after the Centrelink website crashed due to overloading — the blame falling on MyGov being hacked.

It could have been worse. When those newly unemployed finally did get some funds in their accounts in late April, at least they were not going to be harassed by those parasitic job providers as NewStart recipients are all too familiar with. But even though mutual obligations were suspended until 22 May, they still were.

JobKeeper

Obviously, we could not have most of the nation lining up at Centrelink offices and so, of course, we have another brand to promote — JobKeeper. The Press Gallery was agog as this was the biggest amount of money ever tossed around in the nation — in their eyes, PM Morrison was a saviour, offering a $130 billion JobKeeper payment to stave off recession.

This is staggering, historic, eye-watering — the Press Gallery was so impressed. We had no details, mind you. We didn’t even know when parliament would sit to enact the legislation or who would be eligible, but on 30 March, the PM made an announcement.

After weeks of praise to the prime minister for his swift actions in financially saving the nation, some businesses finally had wages reimbursed recently in May 2020.

Not to mention the millions who have been left out of the program. Some like universities and non-citizens by design, others because it was too complicated to actually access or the small businesses just could not afford to float the wages for six weeks when earning nothing.

Ruby Princess

Sounds like a lot of blame to go round there, but billions have been spent on Australian Border Force first under Morrison himself and then under Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, to “keep Australians safe”. Safe from terrorists and obviously those seriously dangerous brown people coming here on their rickety boats — yes, that is massive sarcasm there.

The Government can distract as much as they like, blaming the cruise liner, NSW Health – note: it is never the actual Government, as they are a Liberal state government, so the blame falls on the department instead – but ultimately, when it comes to borders, the Australian Government is responsible.

They have told us they are, over and over again, as their own PR says:

‘Our mission is to protect Australia's border and enable legitimate travel and trade.’

So they can outsource their job as much as they like but they are ultimately responsible.

Therefore, more than 20 coronavirus deaths in this nation are directly attributable to the Australian Government failures of its department.

Note that Peter Dutton has time to play in domestic state politics but not answer questions as to why he allowed the plague ship to dock.

Even if you want to be sycophantic and pretend that ABF is not ultimately responsible for our borders, the fact that PM Morrison himself actually said that cruise ships would be stopped and under the direct command of Border Force sort of blows that rubbish out of the water. Maybe one day it will actually be reported widely so punters themselves know, too.

China

Remember when Julia Gillard suspended the live export trade after seeing the cruelty on that Four Corners report and the Australian media was outraged with how much it would affect our economy?

Sports rorts raises its ugly head again, so he distracts by calling for an inquiry into China, during a pandemic, without international support

There were always going to be ramifications that would hurt us. But again, the media is blaming China, not our own PM’s hamfistedness

I have not even got into the political argy-bargy of Scott Morrison chastising premiers for not opening schools. Trashing teachers, the ones who worked hard to organise online curriculums under difficult circumstances, often while looking after their own kids from home.

It's as though he thought he could still do his back in black surplus rubbish – another announcement the media praised as fact when it was just a forecast – and not have to pay out so much in JobKeeper and JobSeeker if he could just get those lazy Australians back to work.

We also had him sending out Education Minister Dan Tehan to publicly trash Victoria’s premier which spectacularly backfired on him. Though, of course, that was again presented as Tehan being a lone wolf and Morrison reining him in.

With all the lame anniversary celebrations alluding to Morrison becoming a “leader” and gaining credibility during this crisis, it is all still just public relations, media massaging with absolutely no attention to detail.

The only claim PM Morrison can make is complicating every good initiative, making worse where possible and running a good election campaign.

It's a shame someone forgot to tell him that the election is over and it was time for Scotty from Marketing to retire for a while and become Prime Minister Morrison, running the nation to the benefit of all Australians.

Then again, why should he bother when he has a friendly Press Gallery to present his every announcement as wonderful?

It is the premiers and chief ministers of our states who have saved us from massive heartache during this pandemic.

It is the staff at the ATO and Centrelink and all the other public servants in Canberra – that the Government tries to beat up, sack and outsource their jobs to their consultant donors – who have worked hard under unfavourable circumstances to ensure that millions of Australians are not starving now.

It is the staff in our underfunded hospitals who deserve praise, along with better pay and working conditions.

Many parents around the nation should have a lot more respect for teachers now.

It is the staff at the retail stores that stayed open when most were shut down, mostly casuals who have been cut out from JobKeeper who were abused daily by toilet paper hoarders who we should be thanking.

And the cleaners, another group of Australians that get no thanks but should.

But don’t worry people, we will hear more about how wonderful PM Scott Morrison is, how he has “saved Australia” and it will be back to business as usual soon, rewarding the wealthy, handing out contracts to all the financial spivs and letting the vulnerable languish in poverty.

But hey, how good is Scott Morrison?

Read more from Noely Neate on her blog YaThink?, or follow her on Twitter @YaThinkN.

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