As has been widely reported former Prime Minister Scott Morrison was sworn in as assorted ministers mostly without his colleagues’ knowledge1. Morrison’s lust for secrecy immediately makes one suspicious. His accumulation of ministerial appointments (health, finance, industry, science, energy and resources, home affairs and treasury) could have passed with little comment if he had been open about them. However, his post-hoc explanation that it was to cover for ministers being wiped out by Covid-19 does not hold water, as several ministers have been sidelined over the life of the Morrison prime ministership (commonly through their own misdeeds), and Morrison did not see fit to acquire their portfolios2.
Leader of the Opposition, Peter Dutton, in his ignorance of what was going on, simply reiterated Morrison’s defence in insisting that ‘doubling up’ would ensure additional ‘checks and balances’ in cabinet during the pandemic, when potential government powers and expenditure were high and the future was uncertain. Patrick Weller, emeritus professor of politics at Griffith University, an expert on cabinet government, called this defence “bullshit”. He added that if that was true why was he not the minister for other portfolios3. Why not foreign affairs, trade, communications, social services, employment and education? Also, why weren’t other ministers (Dutton? Frydenberg? Tudge? Fletcher?) employed to ‘double up’ with those administering some of the portfolios not acquired by Morrison?
The Liberal Party response is fractured, with Karen Andrews calling for Morrison to resign from parliament, while leader of the opposition Peter Dutton has not, simply believing that the media and the government should just get over it and move on4.
At least some of the menagerie at Murdoch’s Sky News have been less keen to move on. Fruitcake Andrew Bolt said Morrison has “embarrassed his party” in a scandal that continues to become “even more bizarre”. “What Morrison did was outrageous … Every Liberal should be ashamed that it takes a Labor Prime Minister of the socialist left [snigger!] to warn them against letting a prime minister centralise power in himself”5.Ludicrously incompetent former Prime Minister Tony Abbott also appeared on Sky News and stated that Morrison’s acquisition of ministries was “highly unconventional, highly unorthodox and shouldn’t have happened”6. Hypocrisy incarnate, former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, also on Sky News, attacked Morrison’s ministerial acquisitiveness, stating that it was a “breach of longstanding norms”7.
Given that these people have been constant supporters of the Morrison government, at least until it was hammered at the most recent federal election, then why have they had a change of heart? It is not like they have any principles, or a concern for longstanding conventions, or even a concern for Australian democracy. This is about none of these; it is about the future electability of the Coalition parties. Murdoch, and many of his ruperters and other minions, realise that the most recent election was devastating, particularly for the Liberal Party, insofar as they lost several safe seats to Greens and Teal Independents. They also realise that Morrison is a constant embarrassment to this party and while he is there, the nefarious nature of his activities while in government will be regularly raised. While the lying, blameshifting, pork barrelling, petulance, corruption, racism and idiocy are all well known and have been listed here before8, it is the proposed enquiries into the pandemic response and the lethal robodebt disaster which pose the greatest possible risk of embarrassment for Morrison. I suspect that the Liberals in parliament will eventually realise that Morrison should go, and will tap him on the shoulder to reacquaint him with reality. Personally, I hope he stays and that the Liberal Party gets covered in the ordure it deserves.