Saturday 4th of December 2021

a deceitful stinker...


Much has been said about Scott Morrison’s practice of leadership: both his strengths as a campaigner (witness the “miracle” 2019 election) and, increasingly, the worrying dysfunctionality of his government and its governance.

Anyone who watches him in action will see the evidence. He seems reactive rather than proactive, rarely thinking long-term, preoccupied with the immediate. He seldom anticipates emerging crises or imagines what his role in dealing with them should be. He appears unable to develop a significant policy agenda, instead pursuing a series of often-criticised measures designed to satisfy particular interests (of which the “gas-led” recovery — to ensure energy stability and mollify the Coalition base — is one example).

Obsessed with controlling the daily theatre of politics, managing perceptions rather than considering what must be done, Morrison is ill-prepared for the big challenges. When they arrive, there is hesitancy, inadequate planning and eventually a backlash from a disheartened public.

At that point, characteristic tactics emerge. He evades accountability by shifting blame; attributes responsibility to others; flatly refuses to answer questions (sometimes simply asserting “I am the prime minister!”); exhibits passive aggression when in a difficult spot; and gives absolute priority to “managing” problems rather than engaging fruitfully with their causes.

In her September 2020 Quarterly Essay, The End of Certainty, journalist Katharine Murphy captured Morrison’s unusual “shapeshifting” proclivities but regarded his prime ministership as a work in progress, fascinating to watch. A year later, she is incensed by a government that claims to be “trying to do its best” without the “barest hint of remorse, or any sustained interest in learning from past mistakes.” Instead, she says, “we endure these cycles of self-exoneration and thin-lipped irritation. Why are people so mean to us?… It is a disgrace.”

It is hard to disagree with such observations. But, as the late psychoanalyst, biographer and historian Erik Erikson argued in Life History and the Historical Moment (1975), leaders don’t spring from nowhere. They become prominent because their specific traits (product of their life history) coincide with the expectations or demands of a particular historical moment.

The economics writer Larry Elliott argues that the pandemic has made a twenty-year-long structural and social crisis so starkly apparent that it may finally make change imperative. Equally, it can be argued that the assumptions and institutions of that twenty-year “crisis” led to a leader like Morrison.

Above all, we are living in an age of leader-centrism. Gone are the mass parties of the past — the parties within which, despite ideological differences, internal disputes were resolved by moving to the centre. They have gone because the class and community coalitions that sustained them have been swept away.

In their place, we have smaller, professionalised parties with few members. Their financial support comes from interest groups rather than members, they use market research and polling to craft a message, and they rely on leaders to speak for the party, since appeals based on shared beliefs have lost traction among all except an activist few.

Resources have built up around leaders, extending their power and influence. Everything rests on what has become the leader’s key task: to deliver the vote. In media terms, we have arrived at the “retail” politician (can he/she deliver the message?); celebrity coverage; and, inevitably, a preoccupation with leadership battles (often sparked by who is and isn’t “winning” in the polls). This generates the “permanent campaign.”

These developments didn’t happen yesterday; they have evolved over years, reaching a frenetic peak in the revolving-door prime ministerships now so familiar to us. It is a context ideally suited to “Scotty from marketing.”

The diminished pool of true believers can’t be ignored. But none of the parties, and especially neither of the Coalition parties, is capable of reconciling the wishes of their remaining base with what polls indicate majority opinion demands. The scepticism about global warming displayed by many Coalition politicians is not only a matter of individual belief but also a constraint imposed, through preselection processes, by the party membership. Political scientists Anika Gauja and Max Grömping have shown how — from voter to branch activist to electoral aspirants to elected members — the deviation from general public opinion becomes more marked the closer you get to the centre.

The result is an intensification of partisan, adversary politics. The consensus-building essential for meeting major political challenges becomes near impossible. Only courageous politicians, with clear objectives, intent on leading public debate while also able to carry the party with them — politicians like Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and John Howard — can succeed.

The challenge is not only to show the courage to lead — a capacity Morrison has yet to demonstrate, as he continues to heed the naysayers within the Coalition — but also to deploy the vast resources available to a leader in an effective way. The pandemic has induced politicians to take expert advice from beyond their usual networks. They have intervened in economic management and social behaviour to a degree previously regarded as anathema, with largely positive effects.

And by exposing long-term structural deficiencies, the pandemic has also revealed much about the dysfunctional institutional configurations in which leaders are now embedded.

At the centre of the federal government is the Prime Minister’s Office, or PMO, which was never intended to become such a major player in contemporary politics and policy. It was prime minister Gough Whitlam who wished to bring the “ideas people” so important to his opposition campaign into advisory roles when he took government in 1972. The new office, designed principally by a young public servant, Peter Wilenski, was intended to shake up the public service, to bring new ideas to the fore.

Having soon decided that the real change needed to happen within the public service proper, Wilenski was influential in establishing Whitlam’s royal commission into Australian government administration. Terry Moran, another young public servant associated with that initiative, later said, “We did not know what we were doing.” Following his own term as secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Moran became a major critic of what the PMO had become.

But subsequent prime ministers were loath to sacrifice a resource that gave them a competitive advantage in the party room and fed into their debates with public service advisers. At first, they were still intent on ideas: Malcolm Fraser had David Kemp, Petro Georgiou and other former academics as key advisers; Bob Hawke and Paul Keating relied on Ross Garnaut, Don Russell and other economists. But they also ensured that the office was led by experienced public servants — Hawke’s office by Graham Evans (from Foreign Affairs), Keating’s by Don Russell (originally from Treasury), Howard’s by Arthur Sinodinos (from Finance and later Treasury) — who could understand and relate to their public service peers.

In favourable circumstances, where leaders remained aware of the benefits of robust debate, it was an effective policymaking network. There could be collaboration, not simply competition.

This began to change during John Howard’s term. The PMO continued to grow, staffed increasingly by party loyalists rather than people with ideas. Even though Sinodinos sustained good working relations with then secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Peter Shergold, Shergold wasn’t always forewarned of important decisions, including the initiation of the controversial Northern Territory Intervention into Aboriginal communities.

Howard’s dissimulation in 2001 about the notorious “children overboard affair” is a notable example of how the office operated. In his book Don’t Tell the Prime Minister, political scientist Patrick Weller described how the PMO and other ministerial advisers facilitated “plausible deniability” by guessing what the leader needed but never conveying the detail, enabling him to deny all knowledge if questioned. Some advisers had become “the ‘junk yard attack dogs’ of the political system,” wrote Weller, “the hard men and the hitmen.”

The trend didn’t abate under subsequent governments of either stripe. Morrison’s office has been less high-profile than some — notably Tony Abbott’s, led by the formidable Peta Credlin. But it has worked to afford Morrison plausible deniability and has been intimately engaged in preserving secrecy when transparency was called for. It beggared belief that Morrison appointed his chief of staff, John Kunkel, to investigate pernicious activity by his own PMO media team, as he did in relation to Brittany Higgins’s claim that PMO staff had briefed against her partner after she made allegations of rape in Parliament House. Kunkel’s circumspect report was sufficient for Morrison to insist that his office had been “cleared,” but it turned out to be a gift for the opposition.

As a haven for loyalists, the PMO and ministerial offices have become training grounds for political aspirants to win attention and favour, paving the way for their own preselection. Armando Iannucci wickedly satirised similar trends in Britain in his TV comedy The Thick of It, but later remarked that he stopped doing the series “because politicians were seeing it as some sort of training manual rather than a warning.” In offices staffed by political wannabes, as Don Russell observes in his recent book, Leadership, the public service becomes “a problem to be confronted and addressed” rather than a source of expertise.

As this trend has deepened, the public service has become increasingly alert to the fact that it is just one voice in the policy domain. It must contend not only with advisers but also with consultants to whom specific tasks are outsourced. On the other hand, it remains the biggest player on the field, and its longevity and institutional memory give it an advantage, if only this can be sustained. The focus on the leader also plays a role here: the secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet has become the pinnacle and coordinator of the public service. Talented incumbents can still effect change: Peter Shergold, for example, managed to persuade Howard’s sceptical Coalition cabinet to support an emissions trading scheme in 2007.

Yet the public service’s capacity has been eroded by three things.

First came the fracture of the political centre, as former Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Martin Parkinson argues in his recent book, A Decade of Drift. This was an outcome of the intensification of adversarial politics, which reached a crescendo with the disastrous battles over climate policy in 2009, the subsequent defeat of legislation that demonstrably worked, and the incapacity since then to reach the degree of consensus necessary for effective action on this and other policy imperatives.

Morrison was only a bit player in the last (failed) attempt to achieve consensus on emissions abatement, the National Energy Guarantee, which brought Turnbull down. But he artfully manoeuvred through the ensuing chaos to claim the prime ministership.

Second was the incremental diminution of the public service itself by under-resourcing, privatisation, and the outsourcing of key roles to the private sector and favoured consultants, which were managed with contracts veiled by “commercial confidentiality.” Paring back costs was the aim, but the latitude to act without scrutiny, and to reward mates, was an additional benefit.

Morrison has taken advantage of such developments, pouring money into private firms (even, for instance, outsourcing the initial management of the pandemic vaccination rollout) and refusing to answer questions, or even provide details, about the work being done. Combined with more manifestly dubious grant distribution enterprises — the sports rorts, the car parks in marginal electorates — these decisions encourage the perception of a system open to malfeasance.

At the heart of the efficiency drive imposed on the public service has been a blindness to the factors that make for innovation and flexibility. A degree of redundancy is needed within complex organisations to provide the capacity to change when required. Consider, for instance, the startups and tech giants fostered in Silicon Valley in the late twentieth century. Their “innovation hubs” brought together creative, ambitious individuals; all ideas were encouraged, some leading to enormous advances, others failing. You might conclude that the proponents of failed experiments were “redundant,” but learning from failure also fed into future success.


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scumo's control over women...

Tess Lawrence is not known for holding back when holding forth. In this first excerpt from a longer treatise she calls out Prime Minister Scott Morrison, accusing him of both implicit and complicit coercive control over women in Australia, including female cabinet ministers as well as complainants of alleged rape and other forms of sexual assault and harassment.


Content warning: This article discusses rape and institutional political psychosexual violence.

Scott Morrison’s coercive control of women

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has burgeoned into a political psychopath.

His flaccid leadership and the gross logistical incompetence he’s displayed whilst mismanaging the accumulation, distribution and access to coronavirus vaccines for the comparatively small population who inhabit our vast continent are just two reasons why his tenure is doomed.

There are other crises that warrant immediate attention despite his continuing attempts to suffocate public debate. One of them is Morrison’s ‘woman problem.’ His misogyny and contempt for women have long been stripped bare. They are self-evident; two-faced on the one coin.

The government’s shrewd appropriation of last week’s National Summit on Women’s Safety was an indictment of the continuing irrelevance of the Liberal National Party when it comes to self-examination and institutional reform.

The lack of public advocacy by LNP female cabinet ministers and their appalling political subservience to the ‘father’ of the nation is galling, when it comes down to cleansing Parliament of its sleaze and sleazebags and rehabilitating the House of ill-repute it has become.

So is this. Mere days before the summit, Morrison and his desultory flunkies turfed most of the recommendations made by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins for the Australian Human Rights Commission.


Today the Morrison Government voted against 49 of the 55 recommendations made in the landmark Respect@Work report by @Kate_Jenkins_ . 

These reforms would have had a real long term impact on the lives of all Australian women ensuring safer and more equitable workplaces. (1/2)

— Brittany Higgins (@BrittHiggins_) September 2, 2021



Many good and wonderful women attended the summit and participated in good faith. Many more should have been there. The paltry 48 hours assigned to the summit was cruel insult. As was Morrison’s keynote address. He is a study in hypocrisy.

His twinkling eyes belie a smarmy paternalism. We have watched him slither from autocrat minister to prime minister, snatching the wattle crown with stealth from more politically agile expectants after the Turnbull spillage.

Morrison’s coercive control stem from Christian Sharia

Afghanistan’s Taliban are shameless in their overt control over women, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s insidious coercive control of women stems from a fundamentalist white man’s version of Christian sharia that deems women, like animals, are mere chattels owned by men and the state.

Of course, all regimes and governments exercise greater coercive control over women than men. Institutional bullying of women in particular is endemic in the construct of rule and religion. Democracy and the Westminster System alike are founded on the coercive control of women, are they not? In the West we learn how heroic women died in the fight for suffrage. They did us proud. My generation has betrayed them. How so?

Elsewhere and everywhere millions of faceless, nameless women continue to die from the catastrophic realities of simply being born female; remaining third class humans within their family household, the notion of voting or standing for any kind of parliament or public office not even a secret fantasy. We all have a shared history, a shared humanity, a shared inhumanity.

What is our Prime Minister doing about it in our own backyard? Bugger all.

We know enough of Morrison’s past and present to call out his patriarchal authoritarianism.

He is publicly steeped in evangelical, biblical primitivism and the subversive, oppressive white tribalism that fuels racial and male gender supremacy.

The latter marches alongside the latent new dawn of pan aryanism now insinuating its emergence from the darker marginalia of history into the stark daylight of global reality; the memento mori of those black and white Pathe’ newsreels replaced and repurposed with full blown glorious technicolour that capture scenes of terrorism, murder and butchery most foul.

Yet blood shed by all nations is as the same crimson shared on humanity’s own Pantone colour chart, regardless of gender.

Morrison’s laying of hands one thing – what of that other kind of laying on of hands?

Morrison may indeed possess healing powers when it comes to his religious laying on of hands upon unwitting constituents enduring hardship.

But it is his failure to adequately address allegations of the unwanted laying on of multiple hands of another kind by male parliamentary predators within the Liberal Party that renders him liable to being described a facilitator and enabler of such creeps; at the least, a bystander.

Then there’s the many allegations of historical and contemporary rape made against other politicians and staff – not all members of the Coalition either.

Morrison’s remit is Parliament and Australia entire; whether polity or populi. Time and again he has manhandled these allegations. He has weaponized them. He has turned that rapid fire assault rifle on the accusers themselves, forever trying to suppress their speech and control the public and political narrative.

His tolerance of what may yet prove to constitute criminal behaviour is disturbing.

Remember how he contemptuously nominated his bestie Brian Houston to be in Australia’s entourage and a guest at President Donald Trump’s White House state dinner?

Houston, we have a problem!

But hey, with Pastor Brian Houston, we had a problem.

Royal Commission cited Houston over father’s sex abuse.

The New Zealand-born founder of global behemoth Hillsong Church, Houston, Morrison’s religious guru and mentor was cited by the Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse for failing to inform police that his own father, Pastor Frank, was a self-confessed child abuser.

That failure dogs the son of the paedophile preacher man to this day. It dogs Morrison too.

Note: Houston was recently charged by NSW police with the alleged concealment of alleged child sex offences. In the United States, Hillsong continues to be mired in sexual scandals as well.

Sources say Oz big bizzo threatened boycott White House dinner if Houston attended

It was Wall Street Journal’s Vivian Salama who broke the story about Morrison’s failed attempt to secure Houston an invite to Pennsylvania Avenue. And yet before Salama’s scoop, there was loud rumour in diplomatic circles that Trump had given Morrison and Houston the finger.

Now I have learned from former White House insiders that they were not the only ones who didn’t want this episode in the life of Brian to cause political fission. I was told that powerful Australian business interests didn’t want a bar of Houston either.

Of course, Houston had visited Trump’s White House before and after Morrison’s visit but the intervention by some from big bizzo was uncompromising. Some were said to have threatened to boycott the state dinner if Houston attended.

I quote one member of the group who asked not to be identified:

“We don’t want to be in the same room as Houston, whether it’s the White House or the Lodge – let alone sit at the same table with him.”

Further, I was told by a former White House staffer that some of those White House dissidents are also amongst the group of business powerbrokers that recently approached former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to intervene in the lack of vaccines debacle in Australia.

White House rebuff kick in the goolies for Morrison

The fact that even pussy grabbing Trump knocked back the megachurch’s Pastor Houston in this instance was a kick in the goolies for the embarrassed and embarrassing Morrison.

He’d tried in vain to keep a lid on the fact that Houston’s name was on his intimate dance card, once even preposterously asserting that to do so would constitute a threat to national security.

Morrison and Houston were both humiliated by the knockback. I understand our US Ambassador Joe Hockey sided with the business power brokers. Surprise, surprise. Australia now has to endure the historical ignominy of inviting Houston to represent Australia in the first place over arguably worthier invitees.

But wait, there’s more, in less than a fortnight, SloMo is off to the White House again to attend the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue Leaders Summit. President Joe Biden will be doing his darndest to get some sense out of Morrison on the subjects of Covid 19, climate change, cyberspace and oh, yeah, something about a free and open Indo-Pacific. Did someone mention China? No mention of the increasing violence towards women or the disintegration of Afghanistan and particularly the plight of women.

But out of earshot of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan, Morrison will be discussing the implications of the Houston fracas.

Houston episode forensic insight into ScoMo’s psyche

The point is, this White House-Houston episode gives us important psycho-forensic insight into Morrison’s tolerance laissez-faire attitude and mindset about the proliferation and subject of sex abuse in general.

It exposes a worrying personal and political diffidence towards the many historical and contemporary allegations of rape, sexual harassment, insult, abuse and violence made by women – and directed at women within and beyond parliamentary precincts.

It shows too, how Morrison puts his mates first and Australia second. He does this time and again.

Note: Here we must also cite the Coalition’s failure to implement critical aspects of the Royal Commission’s recommendations, specifically the Redress Scheme.

Does Scott Morrison really treat men against whom allegations have been made differently to their alleged victims? Yes. His biases favour males in general and they include alleged male perpetrators.

The siring of daughters has clearly done little to prompt him to be either friend, mentor, protector or prime minister for womankind. We are the last among equals and our Indigenous sisters are the least among the last.

The barbarians at the Holgate

Consider the outrageous bullying and egregious cowardly attack under the protection of parliamentary privilege upon then Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate, by Scott Morrison.

On the morning of October 22, last year, Ms Holgate appeared before Senate Estimates where it was revealed Australia Post had gifted $3000 Cartier watches to four employees, as a bonus for (it has since been revealed ) securing contracts worth several hundred millions of dollars.

In feverish delight, Morrison seized the opportunity to put the boot in to Holgate in Parliament, once again displaying his capacity for demeaning women, going so far as to cast aside common sense let alone natural justice and the law:

“She has been instructed to stand aside, if she doesn’t wish to do that, she can go.”

It was a repugnant abuse of power and parliamentary privilege by a Prime Minister who is accustomed to maintaining a political harem of proudly compliant female ministers who lack the moral and political fortitude as individuals or even as a group, to seriously denounce and indict allegations of bullying and sexual abuse within their own party, even within their own cabinet.

Morrison’s notorious corporate slut-shaming and bullying of Holgate is forever documented in hansard and the ugly saga of the barbarians at the Holgate is far from over. Holgate recently received a $1million payout from Australia Post.

Morrison’s outrageous presumption of the woman’s guilt was out of order, given he did not have the facts at sleight of hand. It was an act of political psycho-violence against Holgate; part of a behavioural pattern, coercive control.

He bloody well knew that Australia Post had a history of dishing out opulent bonuses, including those made to Holgate’s male predecessor Ahmed Fahour.

Mathias Cormann, Onan the Invisible v CEO Holgate

Revelling in his power and toxic masculinity, Morrison proceeded to demean and vilify Holgate in the people’s house. In our name. Not only was he her accuser but also the jury and sentencing judge.

But there had been a long-time plan afoot. Months earlier, he’d sent in his bovver boy Communications Minister Paul Fletcher to politically stalk and undermine Holgate.
Go-fetch-her-Fletcher was only part of it.

There was the sneaky skullduggery of Onan the Invincible, former Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, he who was the regurgitator in 2014 of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s offensive “economic girlie man” slur. How is it okay for a minister to use the word ‘girlie’ as an insult?

The Government needn’t have bothered paying for actors for this ‘play like a girl’ ad– it simply should have featured Mathias Cormann and his ‘girlie man ’insult. After all, there’s no copyright on sexism:


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