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Wren's Week: Morrison at G7, Barnaby's resurrection and NSW loses gold standard

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the G7 Summit in Cornwall (Screenshot via YouTube)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison's trip to the G7 Summit resulted in a series of failures while our nation's COVID-19 situation worsened, writes John Wren.

IT’S NEVER A DULL MOMENT with the inept clowns of the Coalition in government. Three major events and scandals that hit this week all are interlinked. It began with the revelation of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s taxpayer-funded personal genealogy road trip while he attended the G7 meeting in Cornwall, followed by Barnaby Joyce’s shameful resurrection as Deputy PM then a serious COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney.

But first to Morrison’s G7 jaunt to the UK. Despite the Murdoch and Costello media outlets lauding the trip as a diplomatic success, it was by any measure an abject failure. Morrison was shunned by U.S. President Joe Biden largely due to Morrison’s woeful actions on climate change. Biden had four years of dealing with Trump and his supporters. He can see a right-wing evangelical loon coming from a mile away. The best Morrison could achieve was a three-way chat and photo op with UK PM Boris Johnson included.

Many also suggest it was a way of holding Morrison to account — having a third party present to act as a witness, should Morrison try to spin any private conversations out of context which is something Morrison is well known for. In Australia, we call it lying. Out of desperation, the PMO even tweeted a pic of Morrison and Biden with Johnson cropped out to give the impression that the meeting was a one-on-one. Utterly pathetic.

On his way to the G7, Morrison took a long circuitous route through the western English countryside to visit some sites and the graves of some of his long-dead forbears. This was clearly planned months in advance as local historians had been consulted on the whereabouts of the graves. Along the way, Morrison also stopped off at a number of quaint country pubs for lunches and presumably pints of bitter (or cider, the local specialty in those parts). It was effectively a taxpayer-funded pub-crawl through the English countryside. It reeked of rorting and self-entitlement, both Morrison specialties.

But perhaps the worst aspect of it was the display of callous indifference to the hundreds of thousands of Australians who would like nothing better than to leave Australia, visit their relatives and friends in the UK and similarly go on English country pub crawls — but they cannot because Morrison won’t let them leave and they can’t get vaccinated because Morrison botched that, too. Morrison either cannot read a room, simply does not care, or both.

While at the G7, Morrison spoke of Australia’s commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050. This enraged the coal-fetishising National Party – his junior Coalition partners – and was the beginning of the end for the admittedly useless Michael McCormack’s leadership of the Party.

It’s no secret that Joyce wanted his old job back. He resigned his Party leadership over a number of still unresolved sexual harassment complaints. He did, in fact, lose his job temporarily prior to that when he was forced to resign and recontest his seat when his Kiwi citizenship was uncovered. He did resume the Deputy PM job, though, on his re-election.

There is very little talent in the National Party. Most of them are old-school ultra-conservative male country politicians with big hats, beer guts to match and a predilection for RM Williams’ moleskins and boots. Many are little more than coal lobbyists who have long forsaken their traditional rural farming voter bases. And it was this profound lack of talent that allowed Michael McCormack to assume the leadership of the Party. He was the best they had. It must have been a bit like choosing your favourite type of cancer.

The Liberal Party cannot govern without their junior Coalition partners so, despite their relatively few numbers, they wield power far in excess of what they deserve. Despite this power, McCormack was unwilling to challenge Morrison and the moderate Liberals who want real action on climate change. This was his undoing. Joyce, despite his numerous flaws, is combative – especially when he’s had a skinful – and will stand up for his coal benefactors — Gina Rinehart in particular.

Morrison’s comments at the G7, which were in fact a meaningless concoction of weasel words anyway, were enough to push Joyce to challenge McCormack for his old job back. He did. The party room vote was clearly split between the coal-loving retrograde Nats and the more moderate grouping.

Back in his old job, Barnaby wasted no time in taking it up to his Coalition partner, attempting to amend the Murray Darling Basin Plan to take more water from the river system and give it to farmers. It didn’t get up, but it has exposed how brittle the Coalition really is.

Joyce is going to be a real problem for Morrison heading into the next election. He is a polarising figure as evidenced by the vote in his own party room. Voters are increasingly concerned about the Government’s lack of action on climate change and just like the ultra-right conservatives took out Malcolm Turnbull, they may end up doing so with Morrison as well, just to appease their Coalition partners. Get out your popcorn.

And, of course, while all this was going on, the COVID-19 delta variant had escaped hotel quarantine again. This time in Sydney where it has been replicating itself out through the community, first in the Bondi area and now throughout greater Sydney. This outbreak, too, is due to Morrison. He should have built dedicated quarantine facilities across Australia long ago. Hotels simply are not up to it. This leak, like all the rest, can be sheeted back to his intransigence on the issue. Further, if he hadn’t botched the vaccine rollout, the good people of Sydney (or anywhere in Australia) would not be so exposed to the virus.

The media has promoted NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s handling of past outbreaks as “gold standard” (a term coined by Morrison) because she hasn’t yet had to resort to city-wide lockdowns as Melbourne mainly, but also Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane have done. But so far, she has had luck on her side — and make no mistake, luck really does play a significant part. She has also made many veiled snipes on Melbourne and Premier Dan Andrews over the Victorian lockdowns. As such, she has backed herself into a political corner and has been incredibly reluctant to lock her city down. Pathetically, she cannot even bring herself to say the word “lockdown”, rather she has referred to “stay at home orders” instead.

As Berejiklian prevaricates, the virus continues to spread. Every state and NZ has slammed the door shut on travellers from Sydney. This writer hopes the numbers in Sydney don’t continue to rise, but I fear it may be too late. That horse has bolted and we could be in for a wild ride.

Stay safe out there!

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