This cannot stand.


It would be hard to believe Scott Morrison thought he could get away with this shit, if only he hadn’t been getting away with it for years. The allegations against his Attorney General are horrific, and the thrashing political death spasms of his Defence Minister a darkening wonder to behold, but there are other issues worth keeping in mind.

No, not the ‘Rule of Law’.

I mean the undeniable existence of a misogynist culture, deeply rooted within male privilege, which runs wild within the hot house of Parliament - but which exists everywhere and has forever.

It is not possible to have the culture without the privilege, but that privilege is a function of deep systemic inequities that have operated to the benefit of all men for pretty much all of human history. Perhaps there were explicable reasons for the disparity when men had to leave the comfort of the ol’ Neanderthal timeshare cave and fight sabre-tooth tigers with pointy sticks, but in our time they exist purely to reaffirm political, economic and cultural injustice.

Lads, it’s been a long time since any of us had to fight a giant fucking vampire tiger with a tree branch, and I’d suggest we’ve been coasting on that story way too long.

If it has one purpose left, however, it is to make explicable the inexplicable, which this week took the form of Morrison’s decision to unplug himself and his government from reality.

This cannot stand. Not because it is outrageous, but because for once this Prime Minister’s undeniable facility for dodging any form of responsibility is not up to the task.

He has long been invested not in governance, but marketing. Occasionally it has brought him undone, or at least carried him (and us) to the edge of ruin - most obviously during the bushfire crisis, when his failures were catastrophically apparent to all except perhaps the waiter delivering cocktails to his beachfront Hawaiian cabana. But even his ‘management’ of the pandemic was an exercise in the state premiers and the Commonwealth’s medical professionals managing his delusions of adequacy. Morrison, you will recall, wanted to rush the return from lockdown which all but eliminated the virus in Australia. Most of the deaths in Victoria’s second wave were concentrated in the aged care facilities run by the Commonwealth.

But for some reason he has not yet paid the price of his incompetence. Perhaps it is simply that so much of the press is controlled by his patrons in the Murdoch family, that there has been no prospect of his administration ever having to answer for its corruption and punishing ineptitude.

Even now, Lord Rupert’s vassals take up sword and shield in his defence.

But it cannot stand.

Hopefully not. Maybe not.

In politics it is almost never the crime, and almost always the cover up which brings you down. And Morrison is attempting a passive form of cover up by doing nothing. He has been struggling manfully to do nothing since Ms Higgins revealed the details of her assault in the office of his then Defence Industry minister. I suspect Morrisons’ instincts lead him to do nothing, because he is neither a leader nor a brave man. But the crisis of this moment manifestly demands bravery and leadership.

It is not true that those qualities are entirely gone from our public life. You can find them in abundance if you know where to look – to the unflinching dignity of Ms Higgins for instance, who continues to bear up under ceaseless provocation and calumny…

… Or the survivor’s strength of Grace Tame who must, like all survivors be finding her strength tested by the trauma of this week.

If Morrison were uncertain of the path forward he would do well to seek the counsel of pathfinders such as these women. (And maybe give Jenny a break). But he has not yet done so, because for now he thinks he can get away with it. Men often think that.

But surely he cannot get away with it. Not this time?

Not when a serial apologist like the Herald’s Peter Hartcher can see the obvious truth. As even Hartcher pointed out this week, Morrison is the ringmaster of this goat circus. The membership of Cabinet is his gift to bestow, and the standards his Ministers must rise to, or not, his alone to determine.

…Instead, Scott Morrison has followed the course of least resistance. Go into hiding, then go into denial, then send the minister away on leave, and wait for the whole thing to blow over. This is the standard political play for a standard political scandal.

This is not a standard political scandal. This is not a movie we have seen before. It gave Morrison a chance to lead Australia towards higher standards in politics and towards greater respect for women.

Instead, he has delivered Australia a low-rent production that does everyone a disservice.

Monday will be International Women’s Day.

One wonders what the PM will be doing to mark the occasion.

His fucking job, one would hope.