“When the people smugglers see me, they see a brick wall,” boasted our great war leader.
Well, up to a point; they certainly see someone as thick as a brick and far less transparent and straightforward. But most Australians see him more like a hole in the air – a political vacuum feverishly trying to present himself as authentic by relying on the constant repetition of the mantra he adopted from Alan Jones, “fair dinkum.”
Scott Morrison’s half hour on Christmas Island was not the most expensive photo opportunity on record; the ritual forays to be snapped with the troops in the Middle East cost more. But the touchdown in the normally ignored territory was unquestionably the most pointless.
Not only did ScoMo have nothing to announce – he had absolutely nothing to say, other than the obligatory swipe about how Bill Shorten was endangering the nation. And perhaps that was just as well, because the true cost of his vicious and optimistic campaign to persecute asylum seekers is now starting to emerge.
Morrison initially said it would cost $1.4 billion (yes, billion) to make the Christmas Island detention centre viable. This included new Guantanamo Bay style maximum security prisons for those who failed Peter Dutton’s character test, if that phrase is not a contradiction in terms. But it now transpires that providing adequate medical care for the evacuees – none of whom had even made preliminary applications for it at this stage will require many hundreds of millions more.
The extra money for doctors will no doubt please the long suffering inhabitants of the remote settlement, but it is unlikely to cover the special needs of the traumatised evacuees, assuming they arrive – Morrison says the fewer the better, thus admitting that the whole exercise my well be a monumental waste.
And this does not factor in the cost of air transfers, both from Nauru and Manus to Christmas Island or the likelihood that the most vulnerable of them will have to be airlifted to Perth anyway, as has been the practice for ailing locals for many years. Either this, or leave them to die – which would probably not worry Morrison or Dutton much, but which would definitely not be a good look before the forthcoming election.
But for our former Treasurer, money (taxpayers money, that is) is no obstacle as long as it keeps his ridiculous scare campaign going. The real objective – the only objective – is to keep boat people off the mainland, partly because if they touch our sacred shores they may demand the rights to which they are entitled by international law and have in some cases been confirmed by Australian tribunals but also because he sees it as a test of his macho.
Having lost the parliamentary vote, he is determined to render it ineffective – to deliberately subvert the democratic will of the nation. Thus he chose to ignore the advice from his department that a simple amendment to the legislation guaranteeing that the evacuees could come to the mainland but must be returned to the detention camps on Nauru Manus after medical treatment has been completed would solve the problem.
But that would still constitute a defeat in Morrison’s distorted worldview, where there is no such thing as defeat. Or, for that matter, honesty. At best, his approach to asylum seekers is paranoid delusion – at worst, and far more likely, it is a deliberate scare campaign which goes far beyond his normal parameters of mean and tricky, and into the world of straight out lying.
And naturally, he has form. Even his own Treasury admonished his government for an earlier (and still ongoing) scare campaign on negative gearing – the wrecking ball, the sledge hammer that would flatten the economy. When Treasury quietly pointed out that it wouldn’t, the Treasurer himself, Josh Frydenberg, snapped back that he had far more reliable advice from the real estate agents and the land speculators that it would.
Such is the desperation of a flailing government. It has not only lost all sense of honour or decency, but of any last vestige of purpose or direction. Climate change policy has been effectively abandoned, but Morrison – and now even Tony Abbott, for heaven’s sake – are now pretending that they take it seriously, while determinedly doing nothing, the policy they have pursued for the last ten years.
Morrison has suddenly discovered the importance of women, including them in every available photo opportunity – but he doesn’t want to advantage them over everyone else, by which he presumably means men. So, in the interests of falling in line with the opinion polls, he includes an extra woman in cabinet, leaving just five left on the backbench, with the near certainty of fewer after the election.
This not just policy on the run – this is not policy at all, And now Morrison is recklessly and irresponsibly talking about recession, or rather the likelihood of it if Labor becomes government, This, of course, ignores the fact that the last Australian government – perhaps the only Australian government – that kept the country out of recession was a Labor one, during the GFC.
Not just another scare campaign, and one clearly against the national interest, but sheer, blind, panic. And the most obvious and recent manifestation of it can be found in Frydenberg’s seat of Kooyong. The announcement that the humane human rights advocate Julian Burnside will run for the Greens in his electorate along with the centrist former Liberal Oliver Yates has led to demands for a cool million smackeroos to fund the Treasurer’s campaign, presumably at the expense of far more vulnerable seats.
This is Kooyong, the safest Liberal seat in Victoria, the ancestral siege of the sainted Ming, the party’s founder, Sir Robert Menzies. Menzies called Victoria the jewel in the Liberal crown and regarded Kooyong as its brightest facet. Now Victoria is called by its Labor premier Daniel Andrews the most progressive state in the nation, and Kooyong itself is considered at risk at an election in which the loss of a single seat will end Morrison’s majority.
No wonder ScoMo is marketing himself as an insuperable barrier, a fantasy construct as ineffective as Donald Trump’s border wall and even less convincing..