We in Australia have had a ringside seat as the American Republic tied itself in knots through Donald Trump’s presidency. Now we are going through our own spectacle, watching Scott Morrison’s ‘coming of age’. I know, who wants to? Not me, and not you. Coming of age is best done in the privacy of your own home, and yet, here we are.
The current Prime Minister has turned our democratic process into a sort of soap opera. Cue the child actor. He arrived as Prime Minister, an unknown, and very quickly he became the story. He has a muddy background, with a sketchy work history, with tales of being sacked, resignations, and missing reports into his conduct. Nothing damning, because it seems to have left no trail. He is also extremely evasive, and a great believer in the ephemeral nature of knowledge. If the question remains unanswered for a day, was the question ever asked?
His preselection to parliament was highly questionable. In the first round he was thrashed, by a margin of 82 to 8. However, the victor, Michael Towke, was then attacked, in a concerted campaign, by The Daily Telegraph. Read the report here https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/nasty-saga-you-nearly-missed-20091025-hem5.html
So Morrison was able, with help from News Corp Australia’s Daily Telegraph, and senior Liberal Party figures, to overturn the local branch’s vote, and was actually preselected, without a vote. He subsequently won the seat. Michael Towke sued for defamation, and News Corp settled the matter. But not before Michael Towke’s career was finished, in politics at least. Remember, Michael Towke was a fellow Liberal. Some have pointed out that he was also Lebanese, and that the party big-wigs did not believe he would be successful in the coming election. A hard argument to run, when he won the preselection battle by ten votes to one.
Scott Morrison’s next steps are better known. He served as a shadow minister, under both Turnbull and Abbott, and the only hint of real controversy was when fifty asylum seekers died in the Christmas Island boat disaster. At the time Morrison publicly questioned the decision of the Gillard Government to pay for the relatives of the victims to travel to funerals in Sydney. When cautioned by senior Liberal colleagues, he showed signs of his adolescent nature, apologising for the timing of his comments, rather than the substance.
This allows us to travel forward in time, to more recent examples of his seeming incompleteness as an adult. When confronted about his holiday in Hawaii, while Australia burned, he dithered, he stayed put, he told us he did it for the kids, he used the “I needed a break” line, and when he returned he gave us the immortal line, “I don’t hold a hose, mate”.
He blundered through the bushfire affected areas, forcing physical handshakes upon the unwilling, in an early sign that he doesn’t understand the concept of consent. He described his use of defence force assets as if they were his to offer, or not.
Think of the picture that is emerging. He gives us stuff, and he presumes to tell us he does it because he cares, notwithstanding that it is ours to begin with. The ‘sports rorts’ affair is aired, and found to be a stinking mess. The only casualty of the affair was his Sports Minister, a woman, and a National. Most of his Cabinet colleagues had been complicit, in accepting what were essentially ill-gotten gains. Not one objected. It was like an illicit night-time feast, in the boarders’ dormitory.
His defence that it was “within the guidelines”, the failure to address the questions, the rejection of the possibility of dishonesty, brings us back to the question, “if a question is ignored, did anyone ask the question?” And, as he was early in his career, he was again found out by an audit office. So he reduced funding to the Auditor General.
It appears that we are dealing with a tragically under-developed personality; a struggling adolescent in a rugby forward’s body. And now that Donald Trump has been consigned to history, Australians are watching Scott Morrison’s ‘development’ into an adult, almost in real-time.
When Brittany Higgins’ rape was reported, he needed to go home and report in, and seek coaching on his next step. How adolescent, that he has to ask, but secondly, that he tells us. The good advice seems to have only partially worked, because he released the advisors in his office to undermine her story, even as he fumbled the ‘will he, or won’t he, meet her?’ question. That question remains unanswered. What could the hold-up be?
His response to the Christian Porter allegations is even more flawed. He does not know what the allegations are, and he definitely does not want to know. He believes Porter, although Porter himself does not know what he is accused of, either. He backs Porter retaining his Attorney General portfolio, until he does not, and then he reduces his workload.
The vaccine rollout was a planned logistics exercise. He had the resources of an entire Commonwealth Government, which includes the Defence Force, the Health Department, the goodwill of the people, and every GP in the country on-side.
He cannot own a date, it seems. Do not mention targets, or dates, or actual vaccines. He has done the classic adolescent’s trick of “look, over there, a monster is eating my homework”. First it was the Europeans withholding supplies, then it was GPs not being prepared, then it was vaccine hesitancy, and then we went back to “Promise? What promise? I never made any promises. I reject the premise of your question. I have already answered that, so I won’t again.”
He has since moved on to getting the state premiers to put their heads on the block. Surely they will fall for it. He cannot take responsibility, he is never wrong, “you must have mis-heard”, “there was never a specific date”.
As we watch Master Scott become an adult, remember his non-apology to Christine Holgate. His words may have wounded her, they were blunt, but she resigned. He will not apologise. This from a leader of a country, who cannot bring himself to say “sorry”, because he is forever stuck in childhood.
And we have to endure this travesty. He speaks for the Government, because, believe it or not, he is the best they have got.
The defining characteristic of a coming of age story is that there is psychological and moral growth on the part of the hero, or heroine, from youth to adulthood. Oh well, you can’t win them all.