MUNGO MACCALLUM. Hollow man starts his honeymoon.

Newspoll has emerged from its grotto and ScoMo’s troops are cheering. The honeymoon has kicked in, and how.

Their messiah has given them a convincing cushion, one that should maintain them in comfort for many months, if not years. Forget those constant predictions of doom and gloom that their bible warned of in the past – those were all wrong. This time the truth has been revealed. Break out the bubbly.

Well, they may be right – there is little doubt that the election has put the coalition on top, and Morrison at the very summit. Whether the punters are really celebrating, or simply relieved that the whole ghastly business is over for three years (barring, of course, deaths, defections and by-elections) may be questioned, but who cares.

The point is that their man has assumed an unlikely dominance, an authority to do just about anything he likes. It’s just a pity that he actually does not want to do anything much except gloat, sloganeer, and create wedges for his opponents.

A serious politician – dare one suggest a statesman – would use the opportunity for a real agenda of reform. He could transform the tax system rather than  simply handing out loot for his mates.

He could move on energy, finally merging economics and science in genuine action on both power prices and climate change. He could fix the health system, ending the death spiral of private insurance to provide an effective national system.

He could move decisively to end the cruelty Peter Dutton inflicts on Nauru and Manus. He could even embrace the Uluru statement from the heart and take a decisive step towards the great goal of reconciliation. And those are just for starters.

That would be the approach of a real prime minister with guts and vision – a Gough Whitlam, a Bob Hawke, a Paul Keating, even a John Gorton. But of course ScoMo won’t, because he is not a real prime minister. He is a failed tourism marketeer who ended up as a political apparatchik as second best, and then schemed and manoeuvred himself to become what even he tacitly admitted was an accidental leader.

He is the apex – or rather the nadir – of a process by which Australian politics have collapsed to its lowest ebb in living memory, a power game devoid of principle and concentrated solely on winning at all costs – what Graham Richardson called “whatever it takes.”

It was not always thus. There was a time not all that long ago when the vast majority of candidates for office stood because they really believed they could serve the national interest. Many if not most were genuinely idealists, hoping their high-minded ideas could lead to policies that could enhance the well-being of a country they cherished.

Inevitably, the hard slog of realpolitik chewed up and spat up a large number; the long climb up the greasy totem poll from branch meetings to cabinet rank turned them world weary and cynical – playing the game became an end in itself.

But the survivors were men and women of substance. And they survived at least partly because they had wider horizons than their party rooms. They did not see themselves as cradle to grave politicians – people who had dabbled in other jobs designed primarily to advance their own interests. They worried about policy more than politics.

It is worth remembering that the founder of the modern Liberal Party, the sainted Robert Menzies, was acutely aware of the distinction between the elected members of the parliament and the backroom machine men. Indeed, he made it a cardinal rule to block pre-selection from those who sought to breach the divide. In the cricketing parlance he loved, their were the gentlemen – the amateurs willing to face the risks and rewards office – and the players, the professionals who staffed the organizational wing.

But when he left, the walls were broken down – nowadays a year or two in the backroom is considered the norm, a step towards the leather benches in Canberra rather than an impediment. And so we have ended up with Scott John Morrison, the ultimate hollow man.

Of course we can’t go back to the Menzies era, and only the terminally nostalgic and delusional would want to. But political progress needs to be tempered with caution and wisdom if it is not to be swamped by what is now known euphemistically as unforeseen consequences and collateral damage.

The most obvious of these have been not the internet, the social media that have become a convenient scapegoat for just about everything, but the rise of the leeches and parasites who rode on the back of the changed environment – the pollsters, the spinners, the touts and spivs who thrive on one liners, gotcha moments and gutter-trawling masquerading as research to offer what they call revelations of character – usually hopelessly out of context and invariably long out of date.

This has demeaned not only Australian politics but the basis of elected government to the extent that a growing section of the population is querying the worth of democracy itself. And as the demands for a strong leader to cut through the checks and balance of the Westminster system increase, mountebank politicians like Morrison and Dutton respond with enthusiasm.

They revel in the idea that they can bypass the cabinet, the party, the parliament itself. They force through authoritarian measures in the name of the catch all of national security and assume untrammelled power in their personal fiefdoms. And all of this to a well  orchestrated chorus from the backbench of “on the side of Australians” – a trope so derisory that even The Australian found it risible.

And in this case Newspoll is part of the problem. And of course it is utterly meaningless. Asking the punters who they would vote for next week when they are still getting over the last election can only elicit the response, come back and ask us in 2022.

The only thing that can be elicited from last week’s figures is that most people have not yet had time to get pissed off with Morrison, and either don’t know or don’t care about Anthony Albanese.

That is, if the polling is even believable – a highly dubious proposition after the fiasco of May 18.And making it headline news in the national daily only demonstrates what a travesty our democracy has become. Australian politics is no longer a contest of ideas – it is a game show.


Mungo MacCallum is a veteran political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy.

This entry was posted in Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to MUNGO MACCALLUM. Hollow man starts his honeymoon.

  1. Wanda Gunawardana says:

    Looks to be a most interesting blog.

  2. John Battye says:

    In a sense you are right. ALP apparatchiks from the far-left have dictated policy to the elected politicians for the last 20 years. Some of the more radical of them left the ALP in disgust at ALP inaction and joined the Greens. And the ALP politicians caved in under the threat of de-selection for election. Or loss of their traditional inner-city seats to the Greens.

    Nowhere was this more evident that in the “Gender Wars” where these far left apparatchiks demanded and got Same Sex Marriage, “Safe Schools” and the Gender Fairy rubbish infiltrating schools to indoctrinate the very young against the traditional Judaeo-Christian Gender Binary.

    This was clearly understood in the Electorate at the May 2019 Federal Election where the strongest swings TO the ALP/Greens were in the Greens inner city enclaves. Conversely the greatest swings AGAINST the ALP/Greens and TO the LNP were in the outer suburbs of the major cities and in regional Australia, particularly Qld.

    These electorates understood the ALP/Greens Gender Agenda very clearly and deserted the ALP in droves as a consequence.

    If the ALP wants to get into Office again, they will have to conduct a radical purge of their membership to purge these radical-left Gender Agenda apparatchiks, and return to supporting the Traditional Gender Binary as supported by EVERY ALP politician, State of Federal – from that Tree of Knowledge at Barcaldine in Qld to the Election of Whitlam in 1972.

    Too many of these apparatchiks, following your “career path”, are now in the Parliaments, and the purge will be painful in the short term, but in the long term, future ALP party members as yet unborn will thank the ALP of today for such action.

  3. A Kessing says:

    Mungo, dear Mungo, still believes in the basic decency goodness of his fellows.
    Long may he have that comfort.
    For the rest of us there is the grim reality that ‘Labor’ is a hollow shell – previously this was a perfect fit for Bill Shorten, the man who wasn’t there, or anywhere.
    We have 3 years to get it right else there might never be a meaningful change of government before the Crapocalypse.
    BTW, are their (sic!) no subbies these daze? – “ In the cricketing parlance he loved, their were the gentlemen,/I>”

  4. Let’s be careful, Mungo, not to repeat the mistake of the American Democrats who have wasted going on three quarters of Donald Trump’s first term in office attacking him personally and may have left it too late to develop their own policies.

    Labor lost on 18 May because Chris Bowen was rude to retirees. The Coalition won because Scott Morrison has an avuncular manner that appeals to voters across a wide range of age and occupation. The PM is in a class of his own in the Parliament and Labor will not beat him man-to-man. It has to be a team effort.

    I did not underestimate Scomo but I did not think he had enough time to turn it around. He was able to kick footballs across Australia and back again because he is physically fit. At the local swimming pool in suburban Perth on a Saturday afternoon Scott Morrison was minding his own business ploughing up and down the lane in a long spell of muscular freestyle. He is to be congratulated for his tumble turns. I tried one once and swallowed so much water the pool had to be re-filled.

    The PM was in Perth for the Liberal Party State Conference. On the news that night we saw Mathias Cormann addressing the conference, saying that Labor lost the election because voters rejected socialism.

    This the big lie that is destroying our politics and needs to be addressed by the ALP, American Democrats and British Labour. It doesn’t help when Bernie Sanders calls himself a socialist, which he is not. Bernie and Jeremy Corbyn are merely harking back to the social democracy of Roosevelt’s New Deal which enacted the most successful policies the world has known.

  5. James Corcoran says:

    Hear hear, thank you again Mungo for articulating my frustration!

  6. Sorry Mungo mate. I have never voted liberal or conservative in my life and live in Point Piper. Most politicians are hollow-persons and hypocrisy rules. Cognitive dissonance and wilful blindness are a fundamental tool.

    Therefore, I had difficulty deciding who you were talking about. Maybe it started with ScoMo yet appeared to morph. Perhaps to the former leader of the Labour Party? Reflection permits wide ranging naval gazing. Yes, a bit wet! If the unmentioned person had read the popularity polls and moved aside like Bill H, maybe the current angst would be moot. Like a larger section of the Australian landscape, I like the new boss – unlike the old boss. His story is admirable and does not include messianic delusions of grandeur.

    Please stop the angst. The Labour Party has likely dodged a bullet with the upcoming recession in 2020 or 2021. I suspect that Australia will not escape as in 2008. Prof Liz in the USA has spelled it out and we can cherry-pick this analysis.

    If AlBo plays his cards straight, maybe Labour can do some good in future elections. I submit that he is as entitled to as many chances as Kim B.

  7. Don Macrae says:

    Speaking of apparatchiks, Albanese. Labor lost the election because they handed leadership responsibility to a man whose personal awkwardness, combined with his and the party’s witless campaign, was a greater handicap then the government’s transparently self-interested incompetence. Their response has been to elect a machine politician and to adopt a small target strategy – or perhaps it’s a no target strategy. Just distressing, awful and frustrating.

  8. Florence Howarth says:

    IMO they have turned off politics. Don’t want to hear. Maybe the big “don’t know”, up to 30% and constant means don’t care. I suspect many can’t tell you who the PM is, let alone the Treasurer. As for Albo, been around for a long time. Has wit but ignorant of him being the Opposition leader. The people are not stupid, just don’t see today’s politics relevant to them.

    I myself am beginning to feel the same way. Lose interest in watching Insiders, The Drum. Can’t even be bothered with 7.30. As for QT, little interest at all.

  9. Frank Alley says:

    ‘Australian politics is no longer a contest of ideas – it is a game show.’ Nail on the head Mungo! And it is what Australians have come to embrace. Tittle tattle, gossip, confected outrage, scandal, trivia is what can be seen on commercial TV. The TV stations have well-trained their audiences to the point that it is now what is expected in our politics. Keep the sentences short, don’t lumber the masses with stuff that needs to be thought about…better to hear about some (gosh, golly) sexual exploits of sportsmen and pollies. Do the thinking for them…in short sentences with simple language. We have been dumbed down. On with the show!

Comments are closed.