MUNGO MACCALLUM.-Patriotism is Paramount

The pandemic is not an excuse to close down the parliament, it is a vital reason to keep it going.

Parliament is coming back this week – but not as we know it.

For a single brief day a small number of members will be socially distanced around the two chambers, their job to rubber-stamp Scott Morrison’s JobKeeper package.

Any attempt to initiate other business will be regarded as a distraction, almost sabotage – and of course any opposition would be unconscionable. This is the time for sticking together, which for ScoMo means blindly obeying his slightest whim of caprice.

And once his legislation is nailed down, our elected representatives will be sent home to more or less self-isolate for more than the next three months. They are not required, let alone wanted;

Morrison will rule through his so-called National Cabinet by fiat, although this ad-hoc arrangement will have no constitutional authority. Or worse still he will hand control to his COVID-19 Commission of appointed cronies, unelected and unaccountable.

The justification for this descent into totalitarianism is the urgency of the crisis – we do not want any more dithering, we need immediate action and outcomes. Her Majesty’s loyal opposition is suspended for the duration of the emergency, and the same applies to any voices who dare question the government’s infallibility.

There will certainly be none from the Murdoch media, who have made it clear that even the most polite and constructive contributions from the Labor Party, and particularly from its leader Anthony Albanese, are akin to treason – a deliberate attack on Team Australia, by which, of course, they mean Scott Morrison. Patriotism is paramount.

This is hypocrisy verging on derangement – these are the commentators who never rest from piling onto Labor governments in good times or bad, with the claim that they themselves are the ones demanding accountability.

And there are some brave politicians and journalists who are still willing to ask questions, to demand if not transparency, a little more coherence in the often dubious rationale behind the edicts. But this is not what democracy entails; we need a more formal and considered critique.

And it is needed more than ever in the frantic surge of restrictions, orders, and decisions emanating daily from our leader: the pandemic is not an excuse to close down the parliament, it is a vital reason to keep it going.

Some have suggested compromise; a panel of former judges believe that scrutiny can be maintained through an all-party select committee along the lines implemented in New Zealand. And it would be better than nothing. But really, why does parliament have to be closed down at all?

If protecting the members from infection is really the reason, surely I would not be beyond the wit of our bureaucrats to devise a method by which they can meet on line – to continue their work at home. This, after all, is what a very large section of the Australian workforce is expected to do.

Parliamentarians are sufficiently privileged and cossetted as it is – they should be prepared to put up with minor inconveniences to justify their lurks and perks when the rest of the country is being told to suffer tough but necessary measures to keep the place going until we can snap back – in Morrison’s optimistic view it will only be three months anyway, so a few days of remote sittings would be all that was needed to reassure the public that their representatives are as committed as they are to seeing things through.

Morrison has told us that all workers are essential. Well, okay ScoMo – time to put your members where your mouth is.

Mungo MacCallum is a former senior journalist in the Canberra Press Gallery.


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

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6 Responses to MUNGO MACCALLUM.-Patriotism is Paramount

  1. Simon Sedgley says:

    And meanwhile, our healthcare workers, nurses and doctors, ambos, social workers, etc, will be working overtime in hazardous circumstances to save lives. Our politicians are, almost without exception, a disgrace. And Scott Morrison is the lord of the flies.

  2. Gavin O'Brien says:

    I totally agree with you Mungo,
    I am amazed by the lack of public concern at the lack of democratic processes operating at present in this country.We are akin to the Russian model at present .The media news is almost 100% devoted to the impact of the virus, with statistic after statistic of the world wide carnage and little else . Albo is totally silent as anything he might suggest to Supremo Morrison would be seen as treasonous! Morrison in my humble opinion is hopeless , the State Premiers are doing the hard yakka, while he pontificates.
    Stephen, don’t underestimate Albo, he can sit back and just watch Scotmo implode!

  3. Sandra Hey says:

    Scott Morrison is a master craftsman at spending other people’s money, the Sport and Community rorts is small change, getting his hands on some $220 Billon with no oversight of the modelling his special cabinet of 5 persons is using for this massive bailout for the private sector first and foremost, wage earners is the justification. Not for Profit Organisations, some 257,000 of them and Registered Charities, some 55,000 will now be able to claim the $1500 fortnightly wage subsidy from a very low base of 15%. No comment from Christian Porter what this change of policy will cost the taxpayer. It would appear a lot of double dipping going on, some 30,000 not for profits are already
    getting a$100,000 tax free to keep their staff on and businesses open.
    The Australian Tax Office along with the Office of the Auditor General will not have a hope in hell getting answers to who’s pockets this $220Billon spend, ends up in.
    Any Parliamentarians who put their vote and or signature to this $160 Billon bill without having full understanding of the legislation being put before the house this Wednesday, should in the first instance protect them selves by tagging their vote and or signature with the following notation “Under Duress” it is a valid call in a court of Law.

  4. Eric Sidoti says:

    Agreed. A little creativity wouldn’t hurt in thinking through some possibilities. Nothing to stop metropolitan based Federal Senators and MPs using State Parliament Chambers properly spaced and linked to the Federal Chamber, for example. A Comcar drive across town and social distancing on arrival would be minimal risk. May even be poss for regional members using Council Chambers in regional centres (though they may need some upgraded IT infrastructure I guess). A quick call to Parliament House indicates that Committee activity is reduced but various ones are still functioning (including some doing hearings remotely). Would have thought there could be existing mandates allowing for scrutiny of COVID related decision-making etc?

  5. Stephen Saunders says:

    However, Morrison leads Albanese 53-29. Realistically, he’s there for 5-6 years, outside of some quite extraordinary renewal in Labor. Anyone for Sally McManus?

    • Glenda Jones says:

      Sally McManus for PM.
      What a wonderful dream that is. To imagine that we would elect someone who is fair and reasonable, articulate and HAS A BRAIN.

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