No Trust, No Faith, No Credibility
“We’ve soundly established that this was a crappy, crappy year, even by Canberra’s standards”
Annabell Crab ABC News
When Scott Morrison first became Prime Minister — 12 long weeks ago, when Wentworth was still the jewel in the crown of the Liberal Party, Julia Banks was still a Liberal MP and Andrew Broad still lounged jauntily athwart the marital moral high-ground — he asked his colleagues to think twice before airing their views.
Before stepping in front of a camera they should, he suggested, ask themselves: “Does this make the boat go faster?”
It should be noted that the PM is a man who can incorporate a nautical reference into just about any discussion. A man to whom the phrase “back when I was stopping the boats” is as appropriate for inclusion in a casual exchange with a beleaguered strawberry picker as it is in a Force 10 gesticulatory cyclone of agreement with Ray Hadley.
Not that Mr Morrison was the first prime minister to adopt the language of the sea when thinking out loud about how to manage his own government’s seemingly inexhaustible gift for tripping over its own tackle.
It was only four years ago (that’s about 36 in Australian prime minister years) that a penitent Tony Abbott, heading for the summer break, vowed to his punch-drunk colleagues that he would spend it “knocking one or two barnacles off the ship”.
Mr Abbott’s subsequent decision to strip down to his budgie-smugglers and slip below the waterline to affix a Prince Philip-shaped limpet mine to the hull of the HMAS Coalition — with pyrotechnically memorable results — is a matter of historical record.
Four months later, of course, the PM’s trimmed his sails and would settle for one single day on which he can announce a budget surplus without some dunderplunken on his frontbench uploading his business card to “Too Cheap For Actual Hookers Dot Com”. A low bar, you’d think, and you’d be right, but one which nonetheless managed to collect the Minister Assisting the Deputy Prime Minister this week, in a development that called into serious question the dictionary definition of the word “assisting”.
I know, I know. In the pantheon of poor behaviour this year, the ignominious end of Andrew Broad — a mid-range National Party chipmunk best known previously for his staunch defence of the family from the various depredations of betrothed homosexuals and Barnaby Joyce — barely makes the top 10.
Before he sinks entirely beneath the primordial ooze of 2018, though, it’s worth asking, tiredly: What the hell is a minister of the Crown doing on “private business” in Hong Kong?
Also: Why would said minister, signing up for a “Sugar Daddy” dating service, not only use his real name but regularly advise the intended recipient of his distinctly Australian amatory style (“I’m an Aussie lad, I know how to ride a horse, fly a plane and f**k my woman”) just how senior and important he was?
I mean, not that we necessarily look for World’s Best Practice Philandering in the ranks of executive government, but it stands to reason that a gent who is incapable of discreetly getting his rocket polished in an Asian financial centre might not be your best bet for, I don’t know, building a very fast train or regulating the dairy industry.
So nautically flavoured strategic advice four years later from Mr Morrison, a leadership figure who is literally only there because Peter Dutton cannot count, was always going to be ingested with a grain of salt.
(We shouldn’t judge, really. Political leaders propelled to temporary greatness by the innumeracy of their peers are as common as cats, and as unreliable of temperament. Some of them, like Mr Morrison, are eager to please but prone to coughing up unexpected hairballs. Some, like Mr Abbott, are better sent to a nice farm. And some, like Mark Latham, could probably have been judiciously euthanased before escaping to interbreed with Pauline Hanson.)
Is it or is it not of similar vein to the minister who went on a private business trip and accidentally attended some meetings where attendees might have thought he was there in an official role, and later claimed $37,000 for his home internet connection?
Is it entirely different from the deputy PM who left his wife for his staffer, complained long and bitterly about the breach of his privacy, and then sold the story to a commercial TV network?
From the MPs and senators who lined up to vote for their own party’s energy policy then decided — in a week of the most bone-headed and directionless political violence — to ice their leader over it?