I struggle with Australia’s current Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.
I should mention, I’ve voted for the Liberal Party my entire adult life. Principles of equality, freedom of speech, equal opportunity, fiscal responsibility, a market economy, self-reliance, and small government all resonate with me.
But I’ve had enough. I’ve never been more disillusioned by our political class and, particularly, our current PM.
My concern begins with his lack of character which I see on constant display in the media. Sadly, there is no evidence in him of any of the traits I admire in a leader – integrity, strength, compassion and vision – as he continually opts for political expedience over public interest. With John Howard – love him or loath him – at least you knew where he stood. Morrison shape-shifts with the political winds and, after three years in power, I don’t have a clue what he stands for apart from holding on to power, an association with the Pentecostal church and his vaudevillian support of the Cronulla Sharks. Please tell me about the inspiring vision he has for our country, convince me he’s ever been the smartest person in the room or brought an original idea to the table, give me an example of one thing he’s done on the international stage that gives us all reason to be proud of him as our leader.
If watching someone under pressure reveals their true character, look at how he responds to being challenged by the media. His default position is denial, blame or a cringe-worthy level of obfuscation. Take, for example, his smug response to being asked about his publicly vilified holiday to Hawaii during the country’s most devastating bushfires, or on the numerous occasions he’s sought to defend the catastrophic decisions made by his government during the pandemic. There’s his performance over the multi million dollar ‘Sports Rort Affair’ or the car-park pork-barrelling scandal. On both occasions, his party was caught blatantly gaming the system and, still, no one’s been held to account, nothings been done to prevent such abuse being repeated. There’s a reason the label ‘Scotty from Marketing’ has stuck. It’s because he’s all spin, no substance, smoke and mirrors – a snake-oil salesman in a suite occupying the highest office in the land. Said he in pathetic defence of both scandals, ‘The ministers acted within the guidelines’ (leaving anyone who is still listening to wonder why he’s done nothing’s to change them).
Take political corruption at a federal level as one issue that should warrant a PM’s attention given it strikes at the heart of the electorate’s red-hot distrust of politicians. Clearly, the sensible solution to its rampant display across Australia would be to prioritise the creation of the much-lauded Commonwealth Integrity Commission which all parties endorsed coming into the last election. Like ICAC in NSW, it could successfully prosecute corruption federally (including federal politicians). But, wait, wasn’t its establishment Scott Morrison’s priority when he won office three years ago? And how’s that working out for us you may ask? Well, last I heard, it had stalled again when the Liberal party proposed a farcical model that would have prevented the investigation of 40 major corruption allegations in politics over the past five years (including both pork-barrelling examples mentioned). And it was arguing that politicians should be exempt from the powers of the proposed body. Like, WTF!! That’s exactly the reason we started screaming for the CIC in the first place – to police our elected representatives and stop the abuse of office that is routinely reported in the media. Why should we put up with a mere slap on the wrist for federal ministers caught using électoral funds for personal gain or them abusing travel entitlements by thousands of dollars when they attend meetings that just happen to co-incide with a football grand final or the Melbourne Cup. They’re not sacked, fined and publicly shamed, but asked only to repay the amount. The latest example of political impropriety sees the ex-attorney general – the country’s highest lawmaker no less who, incredibly, remains in cabinet – receiving a million dollars from a mysterious benefactor to assist in his personal legal case. The long, sorry list goes on.
But, setting aside character and policies for a sec, on a personal level, Scott Morrison still comes across to me as a bully and a bogan, lacking any modicum of class or finesse. I look at him lumbering onto the world stage representing Australia and I’m embarrassed (which reminds me, did anyone see Barnaby Joyce’s bumbling, hillbilly performance as acting prime minister on The Insiders last weekend when he sought to channel Voltaire? Again, absolutely cringe-worthy). If Morrison is our leading statesmen, and he and Joyce represent the best in our political class, well, God help us.
In short, we deserve better.
To see a contrast in leadership, look no further than across the ditch to Jacinda Adern who has articulated a clear vision for New Zealand and continues to govern with strength through compassion, consistency and integrity. She too is a politician – but you sense you can trust her to make the right decisions and to do the right thing – even to admit when she’s wrong.
Not so with our ‘Sco-Mo’ I’m afraid.
Just two issues that drive me crazy about Morrison’s Liberal Party:
Bad financial management: Under Morrison, the Liberals have abandoned the sound financial management and fiscal principles traditionally associated with a conservative party. In its place, we see ample evidence of gross wastage, inefficiencies, a lack of transparency, absence of accountability, and reckless, ill-considered spending.
The Liberal Party has always held aloft financial management as it’s standard. Howard and Costello left us in surplus with $20 billion in the kitty. But remember when Rudd/Gillard wanted to increase the nation’s spending cap to $300 billion and the Liberals – including Morrison – went ballistic, claiming fiscal irresponsibility. And I believed them when they said we could not afford to live beyond our means. Well, 10 years later, the debt under Morrison is now $600 billion (it was actually going to be twice that in response to the pandemic but they couldn’t even get the sum right for the announcement). In 2012, government debt was 10% of GDP, today it’s a massive 25% and the best the government can do to justify it is say ‘that’s still under the debt levels of some OECD countries’. Given our economy’s vulnerability to fluctuations in export prices, its irresponsible to be in so much debt or at least not have a plan to quickly get out of it. We’re handing a huge bill to the next generation (and don’t get me started on the PM’s plans to leave our planet in a better place).
And I get we had to pay our way out of the pandemic in the beginning, but where was the efficiency drive after the first six month splurge? Where’s the road back to surplus? Where was the calibrated policies and the carefully targeted spending that prevented wastage and stopped profitable, multi-national corporations receiving millions of dollars in government subsidies while so many were doing it tough.
And the Liberal Party is still saying there’s no charge to answer, no way to claw the money back. That’s just rubbish.
Favouring the wealthy over the poor: I have long argued in support of the Liberal party’s compassion for the less-privileged and poor, saying it was allowing its position to be subsumed by the Labour Party. And, as I wrote, I believed the Liberal Party when it said responsible fiscal management did not allow it to do more; that it was imperative for the federal budget to remain in surplus ‘just in case’. But this plague has demonstrated there was always more money we could draw on as a country which could be used to help the less fortunate – it was simply not a priority. So now, when I witness “economic initiatives” such as reducing tax for the wealthy that increase the distance between “the haves” and “the have-nots”, and I see the unnecessary hardship being experienced across a broad spectrum of issues, I find the government policies unfair and unacceptable. The rich are getting richer and the poor are staying poor. I see nothing this government is doing to reduce the gap. Underlining this inequity, I’m reminded of the recent debacle where 7,000 welfare recipients were forced to return a $1,000 overpayment by the government (now abandoned due to public outcry) while Harvey Norman handed out board bonuses after pocketing $22 million in Jobkeeper payments. It’s a sad inditement of the skewed government policies (not to mention Gerry Harvey’s moral bankruptcy I might add).
Quite simply, I no longer trust Morrison’s Liberals to help those who deserve it most and to deliver much-needed services. And I no longer trust the Liberal Party to manage the economy.
And these are but two issues I have with the PM and the current government (it’s with considerable restraint I’ve kept away from extending my rant into foreign affairs).
So, come the next election which is due shortly, I will appear at the ballot box to meet my obligations as a participant in the democratic process, and I will sign the register.
But the boxes I am there to tick will remain empty for as long as Scotty from Marketing and that hillbilly half-wit Barnaby Joyce (a story for another time) have any chance of maintaining their leadership of the coalition party and this country.