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Wren's Week: The Morrison Government is MIA and NZ leads the way once again

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If anyone has any information as to their whereabouts, please keep it to yourself (Images via Shutterstock/Wikimedia Commons - edited)

John Wren takes a look at the reasons behind the Morrison Government's absence and more reasons why we love Jacinda.

Wren’s Week

13/6/19

WHAT HAS BEEN REMARKABLE about the last week is that the Morrison Government has been largely missing in action. Morrison has been absent and there have been few announcements by any Government MP.

Why is this? Well, we learned last week that Morrison allegedly told his party room that journalists are not their friends. This was on the back of the AFP raids on the ABC and News Corp’s Annika Smethurst. The AFP raids have spectacularly blown up in the Government’s face and the outcry from every corner of the normally compliant mainstream media has been impossible to ignore.

Morrison knows that the Government’s electoral win was on the back of a pack of lies and Clive Palmer’s gaming of the preferential voting system. As discussed last week, those lies are now becoming evident. The economy is in freefall (a very far cry from Morrison’s pre-election claim that the Liberals had delivered a strong economy), housing prices are plummeting, retail spending has stopped almost dead, real unemployment is exceeding 10 per cent, climate change is accelerating and the Adani bonanza is down to only about 100 jobs. This, coupled with an increasingly volatile global trade market, means that already the chance of the Government delivering its promised surplus has already evaporated.

So, how best to deal with the tsunami of facts that highlight Morrison’s lies? Don’t do pressers, don’t release communiques, don’t say anything. As Joh Bjelke-Petersen would have said, “don’t feed the chooks”. Any minister who fronts the media is going to be peppered with questions that will only draw attention to the lies. So, best not to front the media at all. Don’t give them anything to write about.

It remains to be seen how long the Government can stay in hiding. They are certainly going to string it out. The Libs say they believe in smaller government. It now looks like they going to deliver no government.

Given the Government has no policies, there is nothing to promote anyway. At best, all they can do is find things to bash Labor with and like dogs returning to their own vomit (thanks, Paul Keating, for the metaphor) they’ve gone back to union bashing. The Libs seized on alleged comments made by John Setka, the head of the CFMMEU, regarding Rosie Batty.

It was alleged Setka had made comments that Batty’s advocacy for action against domestic violence had “reduced men’s rights”. Had Setka made the comment, his position would be untenable. Labor leader Anthony Albanese called for his removal backed shortly thereafter by Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews. Setka then returned fire in an extraordinary press conference alongside his wife, where he denied making the comments and that he had nothing but esteem for Batty and that he would not be resigning.

This has played very nicely into the Liberal Party’s hands. It’s created a division between the Labor Party and one of the biggest, most powerful unions in the country. Grist to the mill for a government intent on breaking union power and loved by the media who throw around the words “militant union” as though being militant is a derogatory thing. Perhaps they think a union should be compliant and just do what it’s told.

Albanese and Setka need to rapidly call a halt to the public fracas. Setka either needs to go or they need to present a united front, or the Government will exploit the fissure and destroy them both.

The only policy the Liberals took to the election was lower taxes (Morrison, of course, lied about the implementation date for them). As the make-up of the Senate has become more concrete, the crossbench senators who hold the balance of power, most notably Pauline Hanson and Stirling Griff, have cast doubts on their willingness to pass the Liberals’ tax cut legislation in its entirety.

Hanson bizarrely wants the Government to build a coal-fired power station in exchange for her vote. It’s a typical Hanson stunt. She won’t get it, but they’ll offer her a “review” (or similar) to placate her before she rolls over and votes with the Government as usual.

The sudden thought that they won’t get their tax cuts through the senate, though, has seen a flurry of MPs and their attendant shills claiming “mandate, mandate”. WA Senator Mathias Cormann was one and former A.C.T. Premier Kate Carnell was another.

What is this mandate that they claim? As I see it, a government can only claim a mandate if they go to an election with a distinct set of transformative policies and that they win the election with a notable majority in both houses. In this case, there was really only the tax cuts policy, which is many years out into the future and obviously the precarious one-seat victory in the lower house and no majority in the senate precludes any consideration of a mandate.

Claiming a mandate is, however, intellectually lazy. If a government has a mandate to govern, then, by definition, an opposition must also have a mandate to oppose. Cormann, Carnell and others are simply petulantly claiming that “we won, so we should be able to do whatever we like without challenge”. This is the authoritarian fascist streak within the Liberal Party’s mindset coming to the fore, of course. It also explains why they also don’t like challenges by the media.

While all this was going on, New Zealand was continuing to be the moral leader in this part of the world. On the same day that Morrison cut penalty rates for many of Australia’s lowest paid workers, he accepted an $11,000 pay rise for himself. Jacinda Ardern announced that the wages of NZ MPs, including herself, would be frozen for at least this year.

She also announced that NZ would be withdrawing the last of its troops from Iraq. There are around 100 NZ troops there operating alongside a bigger contingent of Australian troops. The ANZAC force has been largely in a training capacity working with Iraqi troops developing their skills and abilities. What was remarkable about NZ’s announcement is, in effect, it announced the Australian troop withdrawal as well. Not since WW1 has NZ called the shots on Australian troop deployments (for the record, that was Major General Andrew Russell at Gallipoli).

I’ll be travelling interstate next week so there will be no Wren’s week next week. With the Government in hiding, there likely won’t be much to comment on anyway.

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