Michelle Pini: Independent Australia.
So, Scotty the Dictator secretly took over all the portfolios of the key ministers around him.
While this is undoubtedly a disgraceful “trashing of democracy”, as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described it, it is hardly out of character for a man who denigrated his privileged position throughout his prime ministership. Indeed, Morrison even admitted his distrust of “governments” at the first opportunity, in front of fellow Pentecostal worshippers, following the toppling of his ridiculous excuse for a Government.
YOU MADE ME DO IT
The messianic Member for Cook, presenting in his characteristic bellicose, condescending and paternalistic fashion, gave a media conference, in which the following paraphrased points were on repeat:
- I did nothing wrong;
- it was perfectly legal;
- sure, I gave myself powers to do whatever I wanted without telling anyone, but I certainly didn’t abuse those powers;
- I didn’t tell the ministers concerned ‘cos they’re all too sensitive and might have taken it personally;
- you [referring to everyone within earshot and all contained within the ether] were not prime minister, and you never had to deal with COVID [!] so you can’t possibly understand;
- what happens in the PM’s office – including anything discussed with the Governor-General, plus anything else I say or do – stays in the PM’s office;
- I have been very open about everything, but just in case any other shonky decisions are discovered, then I can’t recall them at all;
- the media held me responsible every day, even for “every drop of rain” [?] and so did the Opposition — so really, they made me do it;
- also, the times were “extraordinary” and “unprecedented”, and so I had to do it;
- I’m sorry if you’re upset by my actions, but I’m not sorry for my actions at all and you have no reason to be upset anyway;
- don’t worry your pretty little heads about all this, I did it for your own good (talk about ungrateful!); and
- I’m no longer PM so I’m no longer responsible for my actions while I was PM and therefore I’m not resigning, ever!
Essentially, Scott Morrison took it upon himself – after seeking advice from Attorney-General Christian Porter (who later resigned under a scandalous cloud) and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet – to bestow upon himself, with a virtual rubber stamp from the Governor-General, the power to control all the key ministries, should the “extraordinary” and “unprecedented” times require decisions to be made without Cabinet approval. Without telling the relevant ministers. Or the people of Australia. Or even his own electorate of Cook. Nothing to see here!
Of course, our system of government already has emergency procedures in place.
Most importantly, since both Morrison and Governor-General David Hurley have indicated that Morrison’s latest extraordinary arrangements were legally invoked with just the stroke of a pen, should every other system already in place suddenly and inexplicably fail, this simple pen stroke action could have easily been enacted as required.
Thus, despite his protestations, there was no reason for Morrison to appropriate these powers in secret, or at all. Certainly, there was no justification to hide it from the government or the people.
NO HARM, NO FOUL
Then there’s the matter of Morrison, bizarrely, justifying his power grab by insisting he didn’t use the powers anyway, so no harm, no foul. Except that he did use them. Not only did he use them, but the issue over which Morrison chose to override usual government process, and all the checks and balances that have served Australia through two world wars and the Great Depression and everything since, had nothing at all to do with the pandemic and the “extraordinary” position in which he found himself.
The former PM did not use his self-accumulated dictatorial powers to step in over a health issue or a home affairs issue, or an urgent economic matter that could not be attended to by his existing, but potentially incapacitated ministers. Morrison chose to override a decision by Resources Minister Keith Pitt to decline a permit for gas exploration off the Sydney coastline. There was an election coming up, after all, and such a decision would not prove popular among the constituents in his surfside electorate.
An “unprecedented” conflict of interest.
What is most troubling about these revelations is that our false sense of security in Australian democracy was being undermined the entire time by a despot with a god complex. This undermining was also ignored by those around Morrison who were aware of his bizarre dictatorial behaviour – and there were quite a few – thus enabling this disgraceful trashing of our system of government to go ahead, unchallenged.
Even now, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton does not think this treasonous behaviour requires Morrison’s resignation.
And we haven’t even mentioned the role of the media or the influence of Morrison’s cult in the whole affair.
Whatever happens from here, as Dave Donovan wrote:
‘While the former Prime Minister may have no skeletons hiding in his secret cabinet, it should still be the very first matter a newly instituted national integrity commission chooses to investigate.’
Finally, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese perhaps summed it up best, when he said:
“[Morrison’s] shadow government …is very contrary to our Westminster system; it is unbecoming, cynical and it’s just weird.”