Saturday 4th of December 2021

the wrath of scumo... or when the crème a brûlé...


Scott Morrison’s momentous national security announcement last week should have been a turning point for him and the government. Instead, because he delayed making one tough call, leaving himself open to accusations of backstabbing and deception from a great friend and ally, he robbed himself of a much-needed reset.

A few days later he again squibbed what should have been a straightforward decision involving a senior colleague, on a matter which goes to the heart of transparency and probity.

Both were about trust. Both provided insights into the most troubling aspects of Morrison’s character and management style. Both have left a very bad smell.

The first was the big-bang unveiling of the new Anglospheric alliance – upending decades of diplomatic endeavours in Asia – which included the planned acquisition of nuclear submarines from the US or the UK.


By waiting until the night before the announcement to advise President Emmanuel Macron (Morrison’s office refuses to answer when asked if they actually spoke) he was torpedoing the $90-billion contract with France for conventional submarines, he guaranteed they went nuclear.

The second sounded like a transmission from a parallel universe. Morrison presented Christian Porter’s resignation from Cabinet as industry minister after refusing to disclose names of anonymous donors as the action of a man upholding standards.

As if Australians are mugs, or so worn down by COVID they will cop all manner of questionable behaviour by governments, including politicians receiving anonymous donations from secret sources to pay their personal bills.

At the end of March, Morrison could have, should have, relegated Porter to the backbench until his personal problems were resolved, rather than try to maintain the fiction the issue was fixed by his removal as attorney-general.

The fiction was compounded after Porter released his updated register of interests, then said he could not name donors to a blind trust helping pay the costs of his defamation suit against the ABC and journalist Louise Milligan over the airing of historic rape allegations, which Porter vehemently denied.

Desperate to get some clear air for his major strategic announcement, soon befouled by the French, Morrison had tried to buy time by asking his department head, Phil Gaetjens, to advise on the bleeding obvious – whether Porter had conformed with the ministerial code of conduct.

Then on Sunday afternoon, without waiting for Gaetjens, Morrison hastily called a press conference to announce Porter had upheld those standards by opting to resign from the ministry.

He could have, should have, said Porter’s actions did not conform to the high standards expected of a member of his government and sacked him. But he didn’t. He also said Porter had disclosed the amount he had received. He hadn’t.


Incredibly, when asked whether Porter should remain in Parliament while in receipt of the money (given the disclosure rules which apply to all parliamentarians, requiring them to fess up to everything including freebie footy tickets), Morrison protested that had nothing to do with him because he was no longer Porter’s boss.

Of course. He is only the Prime Minister, the leader of the government and the leader of the Liberal Party.

Perhaps Morrison had been given a heads-up on a poll to be published the following day and went into a blind panic because it showed that while the government remained in a losing position, his personal ratings had slumped. Quelle horreur.

Porter’s case will land with the privileges and members’ interests committee – chaired by the very well regarded, independently minded Liberal backbencher Russell Broadbent – which has the power to determine breaches of disclosure rules.


Government MPs were speculating that Porter might not be in technical breach because he had disclosed receiving monies from a named entity (the trust). Knowing how vulnerable they would all be if this was so, given the turbo-charging of integrity issues by independents, they are now considering changes to the rules to seal the gap.

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus scoffs at this, insisting that Porter is in breach of both the letter and the spirit of the existing rules.

He describes suggestions to the contrary as “bullshit”. If Porter is found to be in breach and refuses to abide by any direction, Parliament cannot expel him, but it does have the power to censure, fine, or even gaol him – not that anyone is saying that will happen.

Once again, like so many other things, it was turning to crème patissiere.


The ongoing Porter saga and the clumsy, slippery way the announcement of the awkwardly named AUKUS was handled – without apology and with the overt insult the French could not be trusted to keep a secret – has dimmed any hope that it could work as another road map out of COVID to an early election.

Over breakfast, Australians watched Morrison standing beside a man who could not remember his name, who looked like he should have stayed in bed, and another man who looked like he had just got out of bed.

Sleepy Joe Biden, fresh from the Afghanistan withdrawal disaster, and Boris Johnson, who has had trouble counting the number of children he has, desperately seeking to create a place for Britain in the world post-Brexit.

One of Australia’s most senior and most respected former diplomats, John McCarthy, who chafes at the overhyping of the deal while not dismissing its importance, is still mulling over its implications. But he seems sure about one thing: none of those three leaders is up to the challenges which lie ahead.

McCarthy says Morrison has limited experience and probably lacks the smarts. Biden is not a bad man but is mediocre, and if Lord North, prime minister from 1770 to 1782 during most of the American War of Independence, is the worst the UK has ever produced, then Johnson is right up there with him.

McCarthy names two leaders he believes would be capable. One, Angela Merkel, has just retired and the other – cue the French horn – is Macron.


Niki Savva is an award-winning political commentator and author. She was also a staffer to former prime minister John Howard and former treasurer Peter Costello.


Read more:


scomo cares about global warming...



Free Julian Assange Now...