By Andy Hutchinson
If someone woke from a 20-year coma and was presented with the career highlights of The Honourable Scott John Morrison MP, how likely is it that they would predict his ascent to the highest office in the land? Looking at the timeline of his career, the stuff he has (and hasn't) done, the things he has said, the decisions he made along the way, it's virtually impossible to understand how he climbed the greasy pole all the way to the top.
Yet there he is: a self-serving shill, a sucking vacuous void in a cheap suit, a dead-eyed mealy-mouthed halfwit who has just two talents - hiding like a coward and dodging the blame. In fact it's much easier to describe the qualities of our feeble prime minister by cataloguing what he doesn't do than what he does.
He doesn't hold hoses, he doesn't read dossiers on allegations of rape, he doesn't fire mates no matter how vile, criminal or useless they are, he doesn't let catastrophic bushfires get in the way of a family holiday, he doesn't understand sexual assault until his wife gives him a tutorial in basic empathy, he doesn't feel any sense of urgency to protect the citizens of Australia when vaccines are needed to slow a global pandemic, and he doesn't think the planet's anywhere near warm enough yet and so in turn he doesn't support measures that might harm the interests of his overlords in the fossil fuel industry.
For many years Australians have witnessed the staggering and ongoing incompetence of our spineless prime minister but now, thanks to a fudged arms deal and a few inconvenient truths at a climate conference, everyone else knows too. The reasoning behind Scott ‘It's not my job’ Morrison's decision to jettison the French submarine deal is obvious and entirely predictable - his paymasters in the US told him to.
Australia has long been in bed with the USA and, the way Morrison would tell it, it's a nurturing and mutually beneficial relationship within which we are equal partners. The reality is that America is a 'john' and we're the meth-addicted crack whore they picked up at a truck-stop. If America wants to put a spy base slap bang wallop in the middle of the Australian outback, then that's what America gets. If they want bases in Exmouth, Darwin and Geraldton too then that's fine and naturally they should get full and complete access to all Australian air force, army and naval bases too.
The only reason the craven Morrison ever went along with that original submarine contract was that its inception (signed for by his predecessor Malcolm Turnbull) pre-dated his ascent to prime minister and he had to go with the flow. Was the original French deal a mistake? Possibly. Is the American deal a mistake? Almost certainly. In any case, we are once more beholden to America and whatever strategic objectives it has in mind for the Pacific region.
The pros and cons of the submarine deal and the AUKUS pact are not the main reason it's such big news. There is an argument to suggest that Macron made such a big deal out of it because he was facing a tough election year and it made him look strong. However, what is an incontrovertible fact is that the way Morrison handled the entire episode, from start to finish, was poor even by the standards of a man who fled his country to go on his holidays during a cataclysmic national bushfire disaster.
He gave the French a few hours’ notice of his decision to renege on a deal that was years in the making, he then lied about it, then lied about lying about it. When Morrison emerged to the world's press with his pants around his ankles and his shrivelled manhood on display for all the world to see, all he could do was deflect, dodge, cower and, when pushed, refuse to apologise.
To see Morrison bumbling around amongst the world's leaders at the G20, searching and failing to find a friendly face, was at once hilarious and simultaneously embarrassing. It called to mind that other international leper - Donald Trump - when he attended the G20. Morrison seems to have no problem at all with looking like a disastrous cretin, he has quite literally made a career out of it, but now his base idiocy has cast shade on us all.
Morrison's train wreck of a diplomatic trip to Rome for the G20 summit and then onwards to Glasgow for the COP26 climate conference has thrown a spotlight on this country's suicidal fossil fuel obsession. An obsession, let's not forget, for a destructive industry that employs a mere 130,000 people (McDonalds employ a similar number) and pays absolutely no tax while simultaneously receiving massive subsidies.
While ‘Scotty from Marketing’ could count on the votes of the naturally arch-conservative regional constituencies to continue subsidising the fossil fuel industry here in Australia, that attitude didn't track so well with pretty much every other nation-state on Earth. Our woeful track record of responding meaningfully to climate change was put front and centre in Glasgow and Australia's reputation on the international stage plummeted as a result.
Morrison might be able to pretend he's prepared to help Australia do its bit with this global problem, but he was trying to peddle his lies to people who understand the emergency and want to deal with it, not his NewsCorp-reading, SkyNews-watching, Alan Jones-loving Trump-Lite supporter base down under.
The half-arsed road map that Morrison announced at COP26 felt like the plans contrived by a predatory boyfriend who's got his girlfriend pregnant and is being forced to take some small measure of responsibility for his actions. Morrison perfectly summed up his government's hollow response to the cataclysmic dangers of climate change by putting the logo of one of his largest political donors - Santos (an oil and gas giant) - on a display at their COP26 stand.
It was a tone-deaf decision akin to attending a conference on drink driving and sticking a Bundy rum logo on your stand. That Santos logo said loud and clear that Morrison couldn't give a flying fuck about climate change and that he is only going along with it because he is being forced to. Unfortunately, we cannot trust Labor to behave any better - Santos actually contributed more to Labor's election funds in 2018/19 than to the LNP. Morrison might be the mouthpiece of the Australian fossil fuel industry but Woodside, Adani, Mineral Resources, APPEA, Santos, Chevron, Origin, Alinta and St Baker 'donate' nearly $2million a year to the Libs, Nats and Labor. And that's just the official figures on the books - the actual amount is likely to be as much as 10 times more thanks to 'dark money' kickbacks.
The simple fact of the matter is that Australia is getting left behind as the entire planet painfully transitions to renewable energy solutions. The European Union is (thankfully) considering sanctioning Australian goods and services with levies and/or quotas to reflect the out-sized volume of carbon our nation spews into our precious atmosphere. Morrison's key partners in the awkward AUKUS pact have embraced the transition despite having equally right-wing governments. There is no angle, no alternative narrative, no selective viewpoint imaginable in which the Morrison government looks anything other than wilfully ignorant.
Morrison was famously 'let go' by Tourism Australia for his part in the disastrous "So where the bloody hell are you?" campaign - a marketing effort so mind-bogglingly unsophisticated that it could have been written by Benny Hill. However, it wasn't just the fact that the campaign was as stone age as his beliefs, there were huge questions around the procurement process which saw vast sums of money lobbed in the direction of Morrison's network of mates. It's a pattern that has repeated throughout his entire life - he is an agent for whoever ponies up the most cash - a fair-weather prostitute advancing the aims of whichever company pays him the most. He is about as trustworthy as a Glaswegian junkie three days between hits.
Unfortunately for all of us, Morrison moved into politics where he could better make use of his infinite capacity for cronyism and make a career out of championing industrial scale corruption. He is a man who has by all accounts surgically removed his conscience from his body.
He has overseen an immigration policy that violated the International Refugee Convention, criminalised poverty with his creation of the Robodebt scheme, passed the buck when one of his own ministers rorted $100m of public funds to marginal electorates, fought to keep the Great Barrier Reef from being placed on an endangered list because it makes his carbon-spewing mates look bad, done absolutely fuck all to address the vile treatment of women in parliament, tripled the national debt while simultaneously claiming we were "back in the black", cowered inside the parliament building instead of addressing a women’s rights march, abstained from the same-sex marriage vote instead of fronting up and owning his stone age beliefs, and abused parliamentary processes in order to avoid investigations into Christian Porter's $1m blind trust.
Morrison has also worked assiduously to block any attempt at a federal anti-corruption commission for reasons that are staggeringly obvious to absolutely everyone.
The incredible thing however, given everything we know about our worm of a prime minister, is that the opposition has only the narrowest of leads over the government in the latest voting intention polls. Even after making Australia an international pariah with a shockingly poor reputation on the global stage and after personally overseeing one incredulous disaster after another for year after year after year, there are still Australians who will vote for this odious man and his vile crew of self-serving federal politicians in the Liberal and National parties. How far down the rabbit hole do you have to be to consciously ignore this government's disgusting record of bastardry? How low are you prepared to let our nation's reputation sink before you call a halt to this insanity?
In the end it will all come down to money. International reputations are not simply about how you look on the world stage, they are about how trustworthy you are and therefore how viable a partner you'd make.
Morrison threw Macron under the bus and then, when it all went to shit and in order to cool the rosy glow of red burning his embarrassed cheeks, he 'strategically' leaked a confidential text message from the French president which of course made the situation twice as bad. And then, unable to help himself, he decided to put the blame on the Biden administration by claiming that the US knew what was happening all along and they were therefore co-conspirators in the scandal. If Morrison had stuck his tongue out, blown a raspberry and told Emmanuel Macron that he smelled of wee-wee, nobody would have been too surprised. In fact, given everything we know about Morrison, this would actually be a step-up in his diplomatic efforts.
We have the wealth and the skills to be at the forefront of the renewable energy industry and to walk back from our species’ somnambulant suicide, but it will take politicians with a few particles of integrity to get us there. Transitioning away from oil, coal and gas is not (no matter what Morrison, Joyce and the rest of the fossil-fuel cheerleaders tell you) bad news for our economy, for utes, for weekends or indeed for any aspect of our lives. There are only benefits, but those companies that make money from removing stuff from the ground have exceptionally deep pockets and, like the tobacco industry, they are not going quietly.
The global sentiment towards combating climate change has shifted fundamentally within the last two years and there are small signs it is changing in the heartlands of Australia too. An election is coming and even that cancer on society, Rupert Murdoch, has pivoted away from climate change denial. Morrison, Dutton and the other members of his power-obsessed proto-fascist cult should never have been placed in positions of power and they must certainly be removed from those positions as soon as possible for the sake of Australia, for the sake of Australians and for the sake of our entire fragile planet. Perhaps like Murdoch's volte-face, Australia can pivot away from dead-end, dead-useless, dead-headed maniacs like Morrison too. We can only hope.
Feature image: Still smiling, Scott Morrison at COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021. Photo credit: flickr.com
Andy Hutchinson is a regular political contributor. Andy is a socialist, atheist, ADHD, autistic Libran. He is also a local resident, photographer, filmmaker and journalist