MUNGO MacCALLUM. Morrison will not go quietly.

Dec 24, 2018

And so this is Christmas;
And enough is enough.
Another year over
And who gives a stuff.

It is tempting to dismiss 2018 as a dystopian fantasy – a nightmare devised by the feral muppets in Canberra for their own Grand Guignol production beginning in crazed belligerence and whimpering away in unsavoury farce.

At each end we had a rump of deranged Liberal denialists pretending they were still relevant and a rabble of randy Nationals scrambling for cover. The theme for this dysfunctional spectacle was revenge, resignation, rebellion and terminal resentment.

The climax, of course, was the persecution and assassination of Malcolm Turnbull, an utterly futile attempt to contain the deep-seated vendettas which have done nothing to restore lasting peace and even less to arrest the remorseless slide in the opinion polls.

And throughout the annus horribilis serious policy was replaced by partisan hysteria as the lunar right clung to the fallacy that all that was really needed was a big lurch back to the base – the base which had been conclusively discredited by plebiscites, by elections, state polls and even the Liberal gospel – Newspoll, provided by one of the party’s few remaining allies, The Australian.

The organ’s more rabid commentators insist that there is still hope, if only ScoMo can be even more aggro — forget rational analysis or discussion, just shout more and above all, bash Bill Shorten in the most extravagant and hyperbolic terms in Morrison’s admittedly limited vocabulary.

Thus minor and overdue reform to housing policy are sledgehammers, wrecking balls that would destroy not only investors, but owners and renters.

Accommodating medical emergencies for asylum seekers would obliterate border protection policy, inviting armadas of terrorists and paedophiles into our pristine land.

Taking climate change seriously is a dangerous delusion promulgated by self-interested socialist foreigners which would smash what is left of the economy.

And above all, Shorten wants to pay for his reckless insanity through raising your taxes – he will steal your money and feed it to pigs.

Instead of all that, Morrison claims he has an agenda, and up to a point he has; the problem is after surviving the barrage of bluff and bluster, the electorate is either uninterested or unconvinced or both.

His self-congratulation over the economic news is both selective and misleading: while it is true that his government has more or less restrained spending growth, the improvement in the deficit has been purely on the revenue side – more taxes, to put it bluntly.

And these have come not from good management, but from good luck – the fact that companies could no longer avoid their obligations after deducting their losses from the GFC, but more importantly from windfall gains on the prices of resources, principally iron ore and coal for export.

The problem for Morrison’s optimism is that the same prices could just as well come down again – indeed, most analysts believe that a fall is inevitable. And if they do collapse, so will our marginal budget surplus.

And in any case, few voters are concerned with the broader economy – they tend to take it for granted when it is in reasonable shape and only really complain when it drops into recession.

They are far more worried about cost of living issues, the worst of which is the ongoing wage stagnation, for which Morrison’s only answer seems to be that something will eventually turn up. Or not; but in the meantime there are other concerns.

Morrison has tried to scrape off some of his self-inflicted barnacles in the last days, but as so often, his solutions are not only utterly irrelevant to ordinary people, but what would be called, in the folksy idiom he affects, half-arsed.

The embassy in Jerusalem compromise satisfied no-one and infuriated many – even in Jerusalem. The response on religion, supposed to be a simple pre-Christmas fix, turned out to be obfuscation and procrastination. And the reluctant suggestion for an integrity commission was largely about shielding politicians from scrutiny, even before Margaret Cuneen was brought in to ensure total emasculation.

Unsurprisingly, the masses were not enthused. But despite all the evidence – the results in Wentworth and Victoria, however convoluted the spin, can hardly be denied – Morrison is not for turning; even if he had the intelligence or the ethics to do so, he is adamant about sticking to the course.

His boosters have by now tacitly admitted that he is simply not up to the job; instead, they have been reduced to praising him for his energy, his determination, his persistence – E for effort. Like another former Liberal Prime Minister, Billy McMahon, he seems to assume that this, along with the power of prayer, will somehow prevail. Repeated experiments have revealed that it does not.

So 2019 looks like a reprise: more slogans, more insults and more failed stunts, like the forgotten Australian flag lapel pins, the empty blue bus, the plethora of Chinese-made baseball caps.

As a result, Bill Shorten clearly believes that Morrison is all but beaten; it is just a matter of the opposition leader holding his nerve, and as long as his own troops behave, he can rely on Morrison to self-destruct. Well, perhaps; but he would be unwise to stick too closely to his unexpectedly successful campaign in 2016 election.

Then he was not expected to win – the swing was probably at least partly attributable to a protest vote. This time it will be for real: the voters will have to decide, as Morrison once warned them, between “him and me.”

All the indications are that they will choose him; they may have to hold their noses before taking the plunge, but after this last year – indeed, after five long years of covering three more or less awful prime ministers – they are ready to risk Labor and Shorten.

But Morrison will not go quietly – indeed, quiet is a concept foreign to him. So the next few months will be noisy, unedifying and decidedly ugly. The shit storm is not over yet.

And so this is Christmas
And what has occurred?
Another year over
But we’re still undeterred.

Share and Enjoy !

Scroll Up

Receive articles straight to your Inbox

How often?

Thank you for subscribing!