divine rights ....
Remember what the last election was about? According to the prime minister it was all about trust – about whom we could trust to bring back fair dinkum, grown up honest government and the high standards that go with it.
Well, Tony, we’re still waiting.
Most obviously, of course, there have been the expenses rorts – hardly news, really, although the scale of the snout-in-the-trough outbreak, particularly among Liberal politicians, is somewhat exceptional.
This is the kind of petty pilfering all Australians understand; there would be very few of us who have not tried to inflate an otherwise legitimate claim over the years. And we know what happens if we get caught: a very severe reprimand at least, with a warning that next time the penalties will be more stringent: job loss, or even criminal proceedings.
But not for Tony Abbott and his mates. The worst that can happen is that if they get sprung (usually by the media, rather than the system) they have to refund the loot.
So, be in it mate; usually you’ll get away with it and if you don’t, at least you’ve had an interest-free loan from the taxpayers.
Abbott could fix this, but won’t; he thinks the system is working just fine. This is bad, but neither crippling nor new; other governments have been equally complacent. Far worse is the system of secrecy Abbott has introduced to cover up a lot of what his ministers are doing, and in particular Generalissimo Scott Morrison.
Last week we belatedly discovered that there had been an “incident” at the Manus Island camp. Morrison reluctantly confirmed that much, and a report that Australian medical personnel had been evacuated, later contradicting himself. But that was all; the incident, he said, had involved Papua New Guinea authorities, and that was that.
So why couldn’t we be told? “Operational” matters. But how? Apparently the Australian military were not involved, and if they had been, how could an honest account of an incident at Manus Island bring aid and comfort to the enemy, even assuming there was one? Silence. And more silence. Apparently simply calling something “operational” is sufficient justification for burying it forever.
Equally useful weasel words are “national security” and “commercial in confidence” And just in case these prove insufficient, John Howard used to fall back on the all-embracing get-out that some questions were simply “inappropriate.” Abbott’s iron curtain is proving to be even less penetrable.
If that’s the way he wants it, so it will be. But by setting it up, he has automatically abandoned trust, along with the honesty and standards already considered irrelevant. If he doesn’t trust us with the facts, why should we trust him with the policies?
Abbott promised to run a “grown up” government. Obviously he believes that he and his ministers are the grown ups, and that they should treat the electorate as retarded children. And like most of his policies, this one has a very short use-by date. It might work for a while, but sooner or later there will be tantrums. It will end in tears.