MUNGO MACCALLUM. ScoMo, ProMo, Status QuoMo

Sep 18, 2018

We still don’t know just who or what the new Prime Minister is, but he is determined to tell us whether we like it or not. Our manic leader is seldom lost for words and this is just as well as he appears chronically short of ideas.

So far almost anything that can be described as a policy is just a reprise of something dreamed up by one or both of his immediate predecessors – plenty of continuity, but very little of the change which might legitimately be expected after the trauma of political assassination.

Apart from calling another Royal Commission, a ploy which he used to deride as a distraction, just about the only innovation Scott Morrison has produced is yet another three word slogan: Strong, Safe, Together. Apart from being all but meaningless, it is pretty hard to justify even in its own terms.

Strong? Well, up to a point. We are not in danger of drifting into recession, but we aren’t making much progress either. The deficit is being wound down, but debt levels – both public and private – remain stubbornly high. Unemployment is stalled at well over five per cent,, so the prospect of real wage rises  remain remote.

And once again we are relying on the unreliable to maintain the balance of trade; mineral prices are up for the moment, but they can, and probably will, fall again shortly. But, as every government politician likes to say, the economy is basically sound – until it isn’t.

And Safe? Not if you believe the endless stream of disasters waiting to engulf us; the threats are constant and lethal. If it weren’t for Peter Dutton’s relentless vigilance, if any breath of compassion or humanity were to escape his bunker, the country would instantly be overrun by terrorists and invaders, probably both. You can hardly feel secure about that.

And Together? Cut it out – it’s hard to get half a dozen cabinet ministers on the same page, and don’t even consider the ongoing feuds in the party room, let alone the angst and disillusionment in the rank and file. Increasingly, the only place Morrison feels strong, safe and together is in the confines of his Hillsong Church or the clubroom of his Cronulla Sharks (who won last week – just. Small mercies.)

Apart from spruiking his ordinariness, Morrison apparently sees his mission in life as shouting at Bill Shorten – that’s what the mad right thinks is a policy. It’s certainly not togetherness.

In the meantime energy, which was ostensibly the trigger for the whole shemozzle, is back on the backburner like just about everything else: Morrison is not going to pursue any form of overriding plan to produce the certainty  for which the industry pleads, but equally he is not – at least not yet — prepared to ditch the Paris commitment or the renewable energy target because he says we’re on track for both, a claim others hotly (in every sense) dispute.

He is, however, spending much time over Phillip Ruddock’s secret report on the need to enhance religious privilege. This, it appears, is what he believes is really important to mainstream Australia. Meanwhile mainstream Australians waits on the front porch with the baseball bats in hand.

They pine, without much hope, for something to break through the torpor that has engulfed the government for the best (or worst) part of five years, but all StatusQuoMo is willing to offer them is a folksy repositioning of his dour treasury mien, and the leaking of ideas previously devised by his predecessor who, it seems from the fleshpots of Manhattan, is not inclined to be helpful.

But then, nor is almost anyone else. Our new leader has spent most of last week trying to hose down the spot fires lingering from the conflagration that allows himself to emerge as a phoenix, but has left the landscape a smoking ruin.

He has been desperately trying to persuade his colleagues not to cross the floor to refer Peter Dutton to the High Court, a course of action which would be applauded by a large majority of the population. And at the same time the monstrous regiment of women, identified by one of his Christian mentors John Knox, has finally decided that it is time to call out both its lack of numbers and its lack of respect within the Liberal Party.

And in both areas Morrison is floundering. He made it known that he wanted a female candidate in Wentworth, his pick being Katharine O’Regan. When she was knocked out in the early rounds of pre-selection, Morrison said it didn’t really matter because the best candidate (Dave Sharma, the second-pick male after Andrew Bragg pulled out in the expectation that Morrison would get his wish) had won – clearly the women were inferior, and he only wanted a woman because – well, because the polls told him it might be a good idea.

In the meantime Morrison was counselling (definitely not bullying) some of the women who had complained of rough treatment around the coup. They were persuaded to shut up for the moment, but only after Morrison guaranteed that their concerns could be met through internal mechanisms. Past experience has shown this promise is as worthless as a Tony Abbott pledge of loyalty. And while there is no sign of a Suffragette wing developing within the Libs, there are some genuinely feisty females who may be prepared to make trouble if Morrison does not make some genuine effort to produce the kind of equality in his party room that other businesses have long taken for granted – even the Labor Party. So since our leader is determined not to do anything substantial on the policy front, it is going to be have to be all about fixing stuff around the edges – perhaps he sees himself as a slightly upmarket Christopher Pyne.

Or perhaps he is simply reverting to his old job – his controversial stint at the Tourist Commission, where he asked the world: “Where the hell are you?” It’s five words, not three, but it might not be the worst slogan: in a few short weeks, ProMo may well be shouting it with increasing  desperation to the oblivious voters.


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