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 national leader – integrity, conviction, humility, worldliness, compassion or 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 the top job, 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. He looks like a man who arrives at the PM’s desk daily but, once the door closes, pinches himself to prove he’s there. 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 the way he’s sought to defend the catastrophic decisions made by his government during the pandemic (“its not a race”). There’s his performance over the multi-million dollar ‘Sports Rort Affair’ where $100 million was channeled into vulnerable Liberal Party seats against departmental advice, or the car-park pork-barrelling scandal where nearly $400 million was shuffled into Liberal Party seats a day before Morrison called the election. On both occasions, the party was caught blatantly gaming the system to win an election 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. His political strategy is clear – straight from the marketing handbook (or, worse still, Trumps): Appear to give voters what they want and sell them something new before they realise what they ordered hasn’t been delivered. Said he in pathetic defence of the two scandals mentioned, ‘The ministers acted within the guidelines’ (leaving anyone who’s still listening to ask the rhetorical question, so why has he done nothing 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 The State Integrity Commission in NSW that sent mining minister Eddie Obeid and his son to jail for making millions from land scams, 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 federal politics over the past five years (including both examples of the gross misuse of public money 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.
For a blatant example of corporate excess being allowed under Morrison’s watch, you only have to look at the government utility NBN (The National Broadband Network). Last year nearly 4000 of its employees on wages between $100,000-$200,000 pa received a $50,000 incentive bonus for, well, doing their job. That amounted to $77 million at a time when the government owned company has blown its budget out by three times it’s original amount, it’s ranked 32 of 39 OECD counties in terms of its speed, the rollout is well behind schedule and the media is full of complaints about the company’s sub standard services.
How is this evidence of efficient Liberal Party financial management? He can step in and sack the CEO of a government utility for giving away five watches as an staff incentive but he turns a blind eye to this?
The long, sorry list goes on.
But, setting aside party 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 his deputy, Barnaby Joyce’s, bumbling, hillbilly performance 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, we’re in serious trouble.
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 $800 billion, forecast to reach one trillion dollars by 2023. In 2012, government debt was 10% of GDP, today it’s a massive 27% 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, it’s irresponsible to be in so much debt or at least not have a plan to quickly get out of paying a massive $20 billion in interest a year. 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.
Says Morrison in a bid to elevate his credentials in economic management, ”Our economy is doing better than any other country in the OECD, and our employment level is low.” The fact is our country has been going through an unprecedented resource boom for several years that’s pumping billions of dollars in tax revenue into the economy yet, rather than pay down our debt, he’s found new ways to spend it poorly (ie giving away $50 billion to the French after reneging on a submarine deal, or buying $43 billion in defence equipment which will arrive on our shores obsolete). At the same time, his government is literally paying for the jobs that are bringing our unemployment rate down. ”We’re committed to spending billions of dollars on infra-structure”, he says (like that makes a lot of sense when building materials are scarce and over-priced, and you’ve got buckley’s-chance of finding a tradie). As the opposition has rightly pointed out, it’s time for quality, not quantity, spending.
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 by the poor 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, Morrison has proven himself to be an incompetent leader of this nation, and I no longer trust the Liberal Party to help those who deserve it most and deliver much-needed services; I don’t trust either of them to manage the economy.
And these are just some of the 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.
Post Script: I have returned to this post two months later to change my position. I want Morrison and Joyce out – even if it means voting for Labor (I’ve also been hugely impressed by the party’s Shadow Treasurer, Jim Charmers, who I’m confident will become Australia’s Prime Minister once Albo’s out).