MUNGO MACCALLUM. A fairy story.

Oct 22, 2018

It started as theatre of the absurd, but by the end of the week it had become an increasingly improbable fairy story.

The tale of how the coalition enthusiastically endorsed Pauline Hanson’s motion applauding American white supremacy and then retreated in panic to rescind it has to be one of the more bizarre episodes in a government which has completely abandoned coherent policy in a desperate scramble for survival.

It was, intoned the  Liberal senate leader,. the robotic Matthias Corman, an administrative error. When Hanson’s motion appeared on the senate notice paper three weeks ago,, ”we” decided to oppose it.

Well who was that “we?” Obviously not the party room, which was told to support it. And presumably not the Attorney General, Christian Porter, who told parliament the fiasco was “a fair cop;” his office waved it through the system without “escalating” it to him. So while Corman apparently knew what was going on, few if any others did.

And Corman, it should be noted, celebrated the news that the coalition supported Hanson with a congratulatory tweet from the cabinet room. So he could not have been too fussed about his administrative error.

Corman is not an impulsive man; it has been said that he needs an interdepartmental report before he is prepared to fart. So was he really so negligent? Was Porter so ignorant? Did no other minister discern that any motion from Hanson required careful handling, and one legitimizing a racist slogan was politically lethal? As the obedient coalition senators filed in to vote, did none of them actually consider what they were voting for?

Well, perhaps some of them did: a number of coalition backbenchers including at least one former minister (no prizes for guessing Eric Abetz) were quietly defiant: they thought it was okay be white, and that proved they could not be racists, so what was all the kerfuffle about?

And this was presumably why it was so urgent for Morrison to pull whatever could be salvaged from the wreckage by recommitting the motion, this time to oppose it. The Wentworth by-election was becoming critical, and the doctors’ wives of Vaucluse, as that group of namby-pamby do-gooders are known in Liberal Party campaign quarters, must be hosed down.

There were already reports that some of Queensland’s young Nats were morphing into young Nazis; it would certainly do no good for the old Libs to be found in bed with Pauline.. So the somersault was performed, and we were told that this was always the intention.

If that was in fact the case, it involved so much incompetence, stupidity and blind inattention that Morrison’s mob needs to be put out of its (and our) misery ASAP. But if the original idea was, once again, to suck up to Hanson and attempt to wedge Labor, and that the backdown only came after the fear of losing a by-election, the situation is even worse – so Morrison’s mob needs to be put out of its (and or) misery even more quickly.

Just an administrative error, said Corman, and Porter, and, belatedly, Morrison. Well, that’s their story and they’re sticking yo it. But I doubt if it will all end happily ever after.

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