Tony Abbott was the best opposition leader Australia has seen since Malcolm Fraser. He had some interesting tricks like munching on raw onions, flapping his huge ears, strutting about in lycra, cutting $500 million from the Aboriginal health budget in his first year in office, knighting the Queen’s husband, being cruel to asylum seekers and encouraging Peta. His treasurer was none other than the North Shore real estate salesperson who brought down the most vicious budget in living memory and had to be subsequently banished to Washington.
It is probably fair to say that, as Prime Minister, Abbott was the equal of Harold Holt. Ah, there’s the pity, because unlike Harold he did not disappear at Cheviot Beach. Tony did not get his cauliflower ears from debating or confessing his sins to Cardinal Pell. During his first term, he was rolled by Malcolm Bligh Turnbull who lead the Liberals to a one seat victory in 2016. In late 2018, Dutton thought he had the numbers to roll Turnbull. Only to have that smarmy charmer Scott Morrison come through the pack to seize the Liberal leadership.
All the while their partners in climate crime, the National Party, could not succeed in keeping it in their trousers, and Barnaby lost the leadership to somebody who is really hopeless. You’d not think Michael McCormack capable of penning a short homophobic article for an obscure Murray River journal of record. The last straw, as they say in the stables, was when an Andrew Broad in a misguided attempt to achieve political stardom ghost wrote an article about his overseas trips for New Idea.
We have reached the stage where Morrison can no longer be certain he has the numbers in the House of Representatives to pass legislation or even defeat Cross Bench legislation so that in early December 2018 the Liberals prorogued the Lower House for the foreseeable future. Morrison has learnt the art of the curved ball, but, as his mentor Trevor Chappell has revealed, it involves bowling underarm.
The Coalition has failed to achieved anything since defeating Labour in 2013. Essentially the combined efforts of Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison have made little or no positive contribution to the Australian way of life, they have done nothing for the little Aussie battler, have stymied all attempts to move towards controlling climate change, saving the Great Barrier Reef, ending our dependence on carbon polluting industries, stagnated our social security system, have been at constant war in the Middle East and Afghanistan and eroded Australian’s faith in the Parliament.
Howard could at least point to his contribution to gun control and freeing East Timor from Indonesian occupation. This latter achievement was accomplished more by overreach and misadventure on Howard and Alexander Downer’s part than anything else. Downer made up for that by taking lucrative payments from Woodside Petroleum and bugging the East Timorese Cabinet room during the discussions on dividing up the oil resources in the Timor Sea between Australia and East Timor.
For a while it looked like Mr Malcolm “Jobsongrowth” Turnbull might turn the ship around, but even as profits rose (as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product) wages growth remained stagnant and the Australian public was demanding more than Macjobs and declining job security. They were growing restless and becoming receptive to Labor’s promise of a “fair go”. They were not deflected by Morrison’s “If you have a go – you’ll get ago”. The Liberals had trickled down on them for too long.
In recent weeks, The Guardian Australia has revealed that the Government has scuttled the Freedom of Information (FOI) system through job cuts and sneaky deals. Another protection against government indifference and malfeasance nominally available to Australians is the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. But a succession of Liberal administrations, particularly since Abbott, have set out to destroy this once strong body. Mike Seccombe writing in The Saturday Paper in the last week of November 2018 in an article entitled “Political Stacking leaves appeals tribunal in chaos” notes that the incompetent Liberal party hacks appointed to the upper reaches of the Tribunal have resulted in a backlog of 53,000 cases awaiting determination.
The Parliament has been prorogued, the courts are too expensive for ordinary Australians to access, the Administrative Appeals tribunal has become a shamble, the FOI system has been neutered, the “anti-terror” surveillance system has been distorted into an East German STASI model of political repression (well beyond anything seen in Britain, New Zealand or Canada), civil society organisations such as the Human Right Commission have been neutered by political interference, the Australian Broadcasting Organisation has been subjected to huge financial cuts and almost daily political attacks, Home Affairs has been converted into a paramilitary organisation and civil liberties are under constant challenge.
This is the legacy of five years of vicious incompetent Coalition government. In Dutton’s rush to strip Islamic State operative, Neil Prakash, of his Australian citizenship they have made this most objectionable man into a stateless person; whom if he wanted to could presumably apply to the High Court to have his citizenship reinstated.
Morrison an incompetent advertising spin doctor heads this bunch of miserables, with weird legal “experts” such as Christian Porter and Peter Dutton, dragging their knuckles, whilst bringing up the rear. Anyone wishing to gain an understanding of how vicious and self-serving Morrison is would be well advised to read Nick Bryant’s 2012 essay in The Monthly. Bryant, the BBC’s New York and United Nations correspondent and the author of The Rise and Fall of Australia: How a great nation lost its way deserves to be read.
Copyright © 2020 John Tomlinson