MUNGO MACCULLUM. Our prime minister knows that most of his ministers are past both knowing and caring.

Scott Morrison’s puerile sneer that most of cabinet ministers wouldn’t even know who (NSW Environment Minister) Matt Kean was actually contains a grain of truth.

Not just because most of his ministers are pig ignorant (well, not all of them, and not entirely) but because they realise that there is no point in their knowing anything that their glorious leader has not ordained.

Most of his ministers almost certainly know that Kean is the rational Liberal in the broad church, and if they didn’t before ScoMo has thoughtfully drawn it to their attention.

Kean is the one who accepts the science, acknowledges the urgency of the situation and wants to do something about it. Morrison equivocates on the first proposition, plays down and dismisses the second, and summarily rejects the third.

So even if his ministers disagreed with him (and despite Morrison’s indignant denials, some of them do, and would desperately like to change to a more sensible policy) they can’t actually say so — blind obedience to their leader is part of their job description. There are those who do not know what day of the week it is until it has been confirmed by Big Brother and his talking points. So they might as well move on and get on to the more important business of rorting public money to preserve the votes in the marginal electorates.

Similarly, Morrison also claims that Kean does not know what is going on in the federal cabinet; again true, but nor does anyone else, and that includes more than a few of his ministers. The prime minister likes to make a great play about frank and fearless discussion, consultation, consensus. But in fact his ruling clique, or often just he personally, makes the decisions and announces them, leaving it to the rest of the cabinet and through them the rest of the party to defend them as best they can – and if they can’t, or find them insupportable, to piss off.

Before the last election, he boasted on national television that he would be the one to call the shots, and his autocratic style has only hardened since his unexpected victory. This is government from the leader, by the leader, for the leader. Not quite democracy as we know it, and certainly not the egalitarian and transparent system that Morrison and his sycophants like to spruik (see talking point 101) but just the way it is, and the way it is going to be.

So as his claims of success of reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions to within and below the Paris targets become ever wilder and less credible, there is no-one in the cabinet room willing to refute him, and even fellow Liberals like Kean have to be crushed and demeaned.

As the man said, treason doth never prosper. Here’s the reason: for if it prosper, none dare call it treason. Kean is for the tower, and thence to the chopping block.

Not so but far otherwise has been the reaction to the utterly shameless Bridget McKenzie, who in her earlier career as Sports Minister elevated the fine old National Party pastime of pork-barrelling into an art form, if not beyond. Here Morrison was happy to defend the theft of public funds, offering, among other risible justifications, the line that since those who trousered the ill-gotten loot were happy about it, this meant it was good policy. Well, surprise, surprise.

Even some of the rusted on supporters of the Morrison’ mafia found this a trifle over the top. McKenzie herself insisted that she had done nothing wrong, and from her perspective as a deputy leader of the party of handouts, subsidies, privileges and rorts, she can make a case.

After all when the Nationals were formed as the old Country Party. the whole idea was to provide special treatment for the rural and now regional voters at the expense of the wider polity. It was felt by such seasoned pork barrellers as Earle Page that the bush was getting a raw deal from city based politicians, so no effort was to be spared to redress, or even reverse, the supposed bias.

At times this was fair enough; the tyranny of distance meant that there were times  when extra money and resources were needed to provide a reasonably equitable outcomes for those in the remote back blocks of the sprawling nation. But once the coalition with the majority Liberal Party was set in stone, the heavyweights – Page, and then, particularly, Arthur Fadden and John McEwen – realised that the possibilities of blackmail and extortion could be exploited to the limit if not further.

The threat of leaving the coalition, although seldom if ever a serious one, cowed successive Liberals into submission. Even when Liberal Prime Ministers like Malcolm Fraser and John Howard were in a position to govern in their own right, they regarded the bond between the two disparate forces as sacred.

Thus the Nats (they wisely avoided the abbreviation of the appellation of their former members) could and did get away with malfeasance that would have sunk Libs guilty of the same offences. Labor ministers, of course, would have been and were hung out to dry.

Morrison desperately clung on to McKenzie; his latest anodyne remedy was an inquiry to be initiated from one of his favourite bureaucrats Cabinet Secretary Phil Gaetjens, formerly an apparatchik in Morrison’s own office, a crony and a supporter. Gaetjens will look at Morrison’s ministerial code of conduct, a document devised to include loopholes which can absolve ministers of even the most egregious breaches which would never be permitted by private employees.

It did not pass the pub test, but it was not meant to: buy time, divert, distract, and hope for the best. And in the meantime find a comfortable sinecure for McKenzie when the public outrage became overwhelming. Hopeless dilemma: if she hung on it would trash the last vestige of integrity left in this morally bankrupt government. But even if she didn’t, the fact that Morrison and his minions had spent so much time and effort defending the indefensible showed that corruption has now become an intrinsic part of the regime.

Our prime minister knows that most of his ministers are past both knowing and caring. The wider party by and large is happy basking in state of blissful ignorance. The noisy bit of the electorate may carry on, but who cares – as long as the quiet Australians are not roused from their slumbers. So more sedative talking points – that’s all that’s left.

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8 Responses to MUNGO MACCULLUM. Our prime minister knows that most of his ministers are past both knowing and caring.

  1. Charles Lowe says:

    I’m a little surprised that Mungo has taken as long as he has to identify Morrison’s “Great Dictatorship”. Anyone hearing his two word reply to Leigh Sales’ question to him on Thursday 16th May: “Who will determine policy?”: “I will.” could not – yes – that’s COULD not – have had any doubt.

    Nonetheless (thank the Goddess!) Mungo now has. In his inimitable style. (“the Nats (they wisely avoided the abbreviation of the appellation of their former members”)!) And I am grateful for that.

    Mungo might be a little too modest to see his enjoinment as the call to rhetorical arms that it is: “The wider party by and large is happy basking in state of blissful ignorance. The noisy bit of the electorate may carry on, but who cares – as long as the quiet Australians are not roused from their slumbers. So more sedative talking points.”

    Readers of this, one of Australia’s most outstanding blogs, themselves need to take the lead. We all have to be as NOISY as we can possibly be!

    That is our imperative.

  2. Allan Kessing says:

    SmoKo’s alter ego, Mr Shouty, was back in full volume at the Press Club on Wednesday – confident that centrist reasonableness not threatening electricity prices, jobs or the Sainted Budget Surplus would deal with minor problems like a burning nation.
    All Hail Marketing.

  3. Michael Rogers says:

    “I know of no other democratic country that has such a system.”

    Off the top of my head, the United Kingdom*, Canada, and the United States have legislatures elected from single member constituencies. (Somewhat less democratically by a ‘first past the post’ system of voting.) Also the U.S. has no independent non-partisan electoral authorities to conduct elections and draw-up electrical boundaries (although some are ‘bi-partisan’ with equal representation in their controlling bodies of Democrat and Republican party members).

    * In the 2019 U.K. Election the Conservatives won 56.2% of the seats with 43.6% of the national vote while the Liberal Democrats won 1.7% of the seats with 11.6% of the national vote.

    The ‘National Party’** only has Federal House of Reps. seats in NSW and Victoria and has a current arrangement with the Liberal Parties of those states to not contest against each other in selected seats. (They also have joint ‘Senate tickets’.)
    In a country of relatively sparse population and huge distance between population centres, having representatives who live locally and are familiar with local issues is regarded as very important to the electors. It is a prime reason why ‘National Party’ held seats in NSW and Vic are some of the safest in the Federal Parliament.
    (Have a look at the Nationals’ seats in NSW here: https://results.aec.gov.au/24310/Website/HouseDivisionalResults-24310.htm)

    Straight ‘proportional representation’ to elect the House of Reps could easily mean that it could consist entirely of MPs who had never ever been to certain regions of the country.

    Mixed member/proportional may provide for some MPs with local knowledge and connection with regional and remote, but not necessarily (noting also that NZ’s version still has ‘first-past-the-post’). https://elections.nz/democracy-in-nz/what-is-mmp

    Another possibility is the Hare-Clark system (use in the A.C.T. and Tas.):
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hare%E2%80%93Clark_electoral_system

    But again electors living in remote areas of the larger states may not feel as represented as they are with single-member electorates.

    ** As ‘Australia’ is not a unitary state, political parties are separately constituted in the various states and territories. As far as the ‘National Party’ is concerned, the situation is as follows.
    A.C.T. No ‘National Party’ is registered.
    NSW. ‘National Party’ is in formal ‘coalition’ with the state ‘Liberal Party’
    N.T. No ‘Liberal’ or ‘National’ party but a ‘Country Liberal’ party, MPs of which sit in the ‘National Party room’ in the Federal Parliament.
    QLD. The ‘National’ and ‘Liberal’ parties amalgamated in 2008 to form the ‘Liberal National Party of QLD. (Noting that when elected to the Federal Parliament, LNP MPs distribute themselves between two separate ‘Liberal’ and ‘National’ party ‘rooms’.)
    S.A. The ‘National Party’ has no formal connection with the state ‘Liberal Party’ and currently does not contest in Federal elections.
    Tas. No ‘National Party’ is currently registered although a few (unsuccessful) candidates styled themselves as ‘Nationals’ in the 2019 Federal election.
    Vic: Same arrangement as NSW.
    W.A. No formal arrangement with the state ‘Liberal’ party and the W.A. ‘Nationals’ have a separate Senate ‘ticket’. No representation in the current Federal Parliament and in the past W.A. Nationals MPs when in opposition have sat on the ‘cross-benches’.

  4. Russell Curtin says:

    I thought you going to break into a bit of Heny Lawson’s “Past Carin’.:

    The situation now seems as even more depressing.

  5. Lorraine Osborn says:

    Autocrats and their courts, over time start to become ridiculous and dysfunctional. History shows the knock on effects of this does cause a lot of collateral damage. Iannucci’s splendid film, The Death of Stalin, showed the nadir reached when the king dies. The unfolding catastrophe in Australia because of decades of LNP malfeasance is now being overseen by the current government. ScottyFromMarketing and the Liberal Party are like Trump and the GOP. Many know he’s frightful but they won’t challenge him and his court in order to keep in power whatever the cost. There is also a distinct lack of personal courage and strength of character present BTW.

  6. Sandy Macdonald says:

    Mungo…I suggest very few people have heard of Mr Kean, including me…..so after his comments I went straight to Dr Google…according to Wickipedia his claim to fame is an unfortunate exchange of texts with a female Liberal colleague some years ago…all a little embarrassing.

  7. Rob Stewart says:

    A key aspect of dragging the McKenzie saga out is the messaging to the demos that they don’t count and that they are powerless to stop the rorting. The Pyne and Bishop appointments were an exemplary case in point, all within the “rules” apparently. The first rule is that there are no rules. Labor feigns its outrage but there’s no shortage of examples of outrageous rorting on their side as well. Handing out the public’s money to your mates will continue on as ever.

    The go to move now is to flick an “independent” assessment to a public servant. That’s interesting because didn’t Scomo tell the APS recently that its job was to shut up and just do what it’s told to do, by that I mean implement the Government’s policies. That would be a tough enough job if the Government had any – policies. No doubt Gaetjens will do a fearless and honest assessment of McKenzie’s behaviour. I have no doubt he will be totally objective. Why wouldn’t he be – just look at his background as Mungo has pointed to. I’ve got a hunch though. I just think that everything will be found to be within the “rules”, phewww! But, a little while down the track McKenzie will be offered a plumb posting somewhere, possibly a second tier ambassadorship, to get her out of the way. And if that happens it will be just another case of public money being used and abused for political purposes. We live in a kakistocracy.

  8. James O'Neill says:

    Frankly, it is very difficult to raise much sympathy for the situation Australia finds itself in, let alone the misnamed Liberal Party. The electoral system rewards the National Party with their 4% of the vote with massive over representation in the House.
    The Liberals have benefited mightily over the years from this system as well.
    I know of no other democratic country that has such a system. Most European countries, and New Zealand have a form of proportional representation and while not flawless the seats in parliament at least reflect their electoral support.
    One illustration of the effects of this appalling government can be seen in the level of internet technology where Australia continues to slide down the rankings and is now 68th in the world. They have no one to blame but themselves.

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