16 May 2015

No flies on Scott Morrison

The one sure way to tell that a politician is on the rise is when nothing they do blows back on them. They say clumsy things, they do clumsy things, as we all do - but for those on the ascent, someone else takes the blame. It’s a sweet position to be in, and Scott Morrison is in that position now.

For years, the part of Mr Do-no-wrong was occupied by Tony Abbott. In the Howard government, ministers and backbenchers were castigated for speaking out of turn –Abbott could say what he liked, and did. At the 2007 election, when the Coalition needed all the help it could get, Abbott’s silly pronouncements embarrassed Liberal candidates across the land. When Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull led the Liberal Party they had to put up with Abbott’s often unhelpful interventions; sending him to the backbench either never occurred to them, or did and proved too scary.

Now, the part is played by Scott Morrison.

Morrison had been something of a media tart in opposition, talking big about what he was gunna do. In office as Minister for Immigration, he stopped talking. He refused to comment on “operational matters” of his job that were, actually, central to the very point of his job and notions of democratic accountability.

The Labor opposition missed a big opportunity when they failed to bell him as a secretive creep, giving rise to suspicion that they’d behave the same way if given another crack at government. His behaviour casts doubt on his unverified pledge that he stopped asylum-seekers coming to Australia by boat.

Promising ministerial careers have ended after lesser debacles than the riot on Manus Island last year. Reza Barati, an asylum-seeker inmate, was killed. A Senate committee found the riot “eminently foreseeable” but Morrison, as minister responsible for the detention centre and Barati’s guardian, escaped censure. He escaped censure from Abbott too, of course, but also from the press gallery; it was as though the government could not have been held responsible for conditions in an institution within its purview.

Tony Abbott had whittled down his lavish paid parental leave scheme over time, but he had taken it to two elections and consistently used it as his most tangible shield against charges of misogyny and sexism. Had it been a genuine personal commitment Abbott would have introduced it as soon as possible after being elected. When he finally dumped the policy, Abbott said he was putting more money into childcare.

In 2009 the Productivity Commission recommended that childcare should get the money promised by politicians for PPL. Yet, the credit for averting a policy whose cost far outweighed its benefits went not to the Commission but to Morrison, who stepped up to claim credit for increased childcare resources, promising to work bipartisanly with a startled opposition. The press gallery loves bipartisanship and reported the very promise of better resources for childcare as further proof of Morrison’s effectiveness. Abbott had clung to PPL for too long and Morrison weaned him off it; now we see who’s really running this joint.

When the budget was finally released on Tuesday, the narrative was still alive that the attractive but inappropriate PPL had given way to a simpler, better and fairer childcare system. Hockey and Abbott had the limelight on them. They knew that Shorten would have his go in two days, but nobody counted on Morrison.

It was Morrison who described the situation where women in permanent employment can claim both the basic government paid-parental-leave scheme, and any such scheme their employer might offer, as a “rort”. It's an evocative word, a provocative word, and yet Morrison has largely escaped responsibility for using it.

Abbott used much milder language to describe his shift in policy, but he has worn the full brunt of betrayal and disappointment from those who had been convinced that a man who offered women little might come through for them where they needed it. Mia Freedman does her woman-scorned thing, covering the issues:
  • The strong, confident women surrounding Abbott are there to support him, and he in turn supports them. Freedman, like many women, assumed that he could and would extrapolate beyond them to the women of Australia; she was wrong. The only women who will get a break from Tony Abbott are those who had formed a close personal and supportive relationship with him well before September 2013.
  • The strong, confident women surrounding Abbott aren't what they were. His daughters are spoiled. His wife takes less interest in her husband's career than anyone in her position since Bettina Gorton. His chief of staff has gone to ground.
  • All those points Freedman lists about Abbott acting against women's interests should have shown the inevitable fate of PPL. A government that won't even fund women's refuges but might spend $10.1b on PPL? Dream on.
  • People wanted to believe in PPL, and in Abbott, against all the evidence. When Julia Gillard nailed him on misogyny, PPL enabled him to draw attention to her childlessness and her cuts to welfare payments to poorer mothers.
Freedman is disingenuous on why she allowed herself to be played, what she hoped to get from being played in this way, and what she actually got from it. But this isn't about Freedman; it's about the idea that even after he failed to implement the PPL, even after he dropped it altogether, he still got the benefit of the doubt on childcare.

Recently, however, Morrison is steadily accruing more and more credit.

Morrison was praised for his handling of childcare until days ago. Morrison was a member of the Expenditure Review Committee that signed off the budget. Morrison did a lot of the spruiking in the lead-up to the budget, more than Hockey as many commentators noted. Yet strangely, as the PPL/childcare furore rages, the Minister for Social Services is unscathed. He hasn't gone to ground, keeping his profile up throughout; the vigorous questioning of the press gallery hasn't troubled him.

Joe Hockey had hoped a cautious budget might save his political skin. He did himself no favours when Laurie Oakes drew him out on "double dipping", but Morrison could have smoothed the waters had it suited him.

Matthias Cormann and Josh Frydenberg were both accused of "double dipping". The speedy discovery of this by press gallery journalists who are better at catching drops than conducting investigative journalism is suspicious. It was fascinating to watch both men try to deflect the accusation by denying double dipping was even a thing.

Cormann controls a number of party-room votes among WA Liberals and Frydenberg is a player in the Victorian Libs. Both men stood by Abbott in February, both will be key when the leadership is raised again. Watch Morrison praise both men, and their wives (which Abbott hasn't), offering a quid that might yield a quo from these men the next time Abbott goes wobbly.
Malcolm Turnbull earlier refused to back the language his frontbench colleagues Joe Hockey and Scott Morrison have used to criticise the existing paid parental leave arrangements.

Andrew Probyn quotes from Morrison but puts the blame on Abbott and Hockey. Abbott is the head of government, so ultimate responsibility is his - but he is soft on Morrison:
This is policy development by the lowest common denominator - that if the worker in the bakery doesn't get it, nor should anyone else.
This is a lowest-common-denominator government and Scott Morrison is a lowest-common-denominator guy. This should be clear by now, even to press gallery journalists. Some of us were awake to this before September 2013, but never mind that now.
Morrison's charge is that Labor and the unions struck a secret deal to entrench the so-called "double dipping".
Liberal minister takes a swipe at Labor and the unions to rally a base cowed by the public storm over this issue. Almost as obvious as the deal over "double dipping", when you think about it.
Not only is it awful judgment and bad politics at a time the Prime Minister and his Treasurer can least afford it, it may also prove to be a policy of false economy ... This, from the side of politics that spent five years railing against the inadequacy of the existing PPL scheme, proposing instead to give women up to $75,000 (later trimmed to $50,000) for six months leave under Tony Abbott's "fair dinkum" paid parental leave scheme.
My kids are about the same age as Probyn's, but I'm not a press gallery journalist so I was never taken in by Abbott's carry-on. I mean: Abbott. "fair dinkum". Pfft.

Here is the killer:
Tuesday's Budget confirmed the Abbott scheme would have cost $10.1 billion over four years. Its ditching in February amounted to the biggest saving in Hockey's Budget.
The fiscal credit for that saving will be enjoyed by the relevant minister (Morrison) long after the Treasurer who brought that budget down (Hockey) has been forgotten.
Earlier this year, Abbott demonstrated a capacity to lance political boils.

If he truly has changed, he'll be lancing this one early. It's rotten policy and stinking rhetoric.
I must have missed that - did this happen when he was fighting off threats to his leadership? Proof positive of the failure of press gallery journalism is the idea that Tony Abbott has changed. Abbott hasn't changed. The disingenuousness and ineptitude of this government is a given.

Now Hockey, Abbott, and the government, depends utterly upon Morrison as the responsible minister to find a detailed solution to the whole PPL/childcare issue, and negotiate it through the Senate. He is both arsonist and fire brigade, hoping - knowing - that only the latter role will be remembered by a press gallery thirsty for a new hero. There are no flies on Scott Morrison. You can't even see where they've been. His run to the Prime Ministership will not be questioned.


  1. No flies on you Andrew. You tell it as it is.

    I think Abbott would be consumed by Morrison now. I think he would like to go to an early election to thwart him.

    I think there is going to be a bit of biff in coming months.

  2. Brilliant analysis, Andrew (as ever). And profoundly depressing....

    On another topic, when do we expect to see the diplomatic pressure against the death sentence for Tsarnaev? Holding breath not recommended.

  3. Looks like Abbott has kicked off campaigning in Victoria with that big billboard telling drivers to blame the ALP for traffic jams. Not long now. Someone should start sharpening the pencil stumps.

  4. Also explains why Frydenberg was given "Kudos" for his frankness when admitting to something easily verifiable: he's another Golden Haired Boy of the Gallery so even the simplest thing is lauded when he does it, never mind the hypocrisy of his actions

  5. When you point them out this well, even the PG Idjits and political naifs (like me) can see the strings pulling Scombroid Morrison into position atop the rubble of Turnbull's hopes, behind the still smouldering husks of Toady and Shrek. Pretty obvious who's pulling the strings too: Rupert the Scum King, First Horseman of the IPApocalypse, Emperor of the Denialati and Chief Koch Sucker.

  6. For a long time I dismissed the idea of Morrison's ascendancy- just too weird. Abbott's rise was there all along to prove me wrong about that & I didn't see it. Silly me.

  7. Abbott is too busy campaigning to be aware of what is going on around him. I believe, he thinks he has it all sewn up.

    Hockey is nervous, but has not worked out yet, who he should be afraid of., Knows he has been hung out to dry.

    Morrison has a grin he cannot remove from his face. Is sure he has conned women with his childcare proposals. Not sure women have bought what he is selling.

    The only question to be asked, who will go first, Abbott calling an election or someone pulling the plug on his PM ship.

    It will not be Morrison. He is too cunning for that.

    Hockey is starting to blame others in his government today. This will increase as time goes on.

    Not working, blaming Labor anymore.

  8. After the budget all the PG hacks were frothing at the mouth questioning Morrison about him wanting to be Treasurer. His denials were one of the first truths that have passes his lips because he has his eyes on the bigger prize. Abbott is a dead man walking and it's obvious that the Right of the LNP are fast tracking Abbott's replacement. Just like when Gillard replaced Rudd and the recent Greens leadership change, the only people who will NFI what's going on will be all those wealth confiscations in the PG.

    Politics is no longer about a greater good, it's now merely a means where people with nothing going for them can make more money than their talent would normally allow.

  9. I have no sympathy at all for Ms Freedman, or for any woman who thought/thinks that abbott (lack of capital delib.) "gets" women in any way other than his personal gratification.

    As for morrison, anyone under whose "watch" this cringeworthy ad was perpetrated can only be described as a man of great taste and distinction:


  10. What a difference a few hours makes.
    Ipsos has Abbott in the box seat. All those never-underestimate-Abbott stories will start to appear.
    An election can't be far away. Tony's tradies are making the sedan chair now.
    It does not seem to matter who is running the show unless enough people benefit directly from budget largesse. Because YOU deserve it. How it must have warmed hearts when Uncle Joe chuckled away that he had seen utes selling for $19,999.
    Will all those utes, computers, desks etc (the list is long) benefit local manufacturers. I don't think we make a lot of stuff anymore. Will tradies take on more people? Doubtful.
    So what is it all about? I think we know it will save a couple of high profile jobs.
    And it will, alas. It will.
    Sharpen the pencils.

  11. Yep, early election here we come. It makes sense after reading the front page of the local rag on Saturday. accused McGowan of abandoning Indi for not coming out and saying she's going to run again, despite the next one being 18 months away. The paper is spruking Mirabella as coming back to save poor Indi from its sins of not voting Lib/Lab. Curiously though, while the front page is accusatory as soon as you look in side the tone changes instantly to one of tact support for McGowan. Painting her as someone who is getting on with the job above such speculation.

    -The Beard.

  12. Freedman is typical. "This government is useless can't do anything right. Wait a minute, here's a policy that's not in the 'right' category, but I benefit enormously. I'll support it! Oh wait, now it's changed, and now it's, well, righter, but I don't benefit so much - hmm, it was always a crap policy anyway."

  13. Mia Freedman who is a rich kid and makes money from employing other dumb rich kids to get the experience of working with her for free.

    She has that facetious bossy mum look on her face that pretends to care about average women but secretly denigrates them at her earliest convenience

    Why do so many offspring from wealthy families not obtain relevant tertiary credentials to enter our media?

    Does money make them work less and all these contacts put them in our faces as commentators?

    It's hilarious to say the least!!

    Hwr opinions are like Mc Donalds..easily digestable and trashy food for the brain

  14. The women around Abbott...what about his gay sister Christine Forster and her relationship with the gay lobby?

    It's farcical when they want Marriage Equality yet have Tim "Freedom" Gay for pay Wilson advocating to discriminate against his own community?

    I'd be insulted beyond belief if I was a gay activist at the stupidity of placing him in his ridiculous role!!

  15. Its interesting to join a few of the dots with our scott morrison and the government in general.

    1 ~ Children in detention. Morrison promises to release children from detention if the cross bench pass his draconian changes to the migration act. He gets it through. The children are still to this day, locked away.

    2 ~ Parents who do not vaccinate children will miss out on day-care rebate and family tax benefits. The vaccination/ non -vaccination is a no brainer issue, however again its children who are held over the chopping block. Vaccinate or the kid gets it ( financially at least).

    3 ~ Childcare funding boost - dependant on last budgets family tax benefits cuts which were blocked by the senate. Who would want to deny the kiddies their childcare ? Too bad if it shafts the family itself.

    4 ~ Childrens public dental health ? Not important...poor kids don't need good dentures.

    What is it with Morrison and children ? See this photo of him with his very white pristine family. Its almost Aryan in its intensity.

    I wonder if Morrison has ever read/ seen the movie " The boy in the striped Pyjamas ?