Saturday 22nd of January 2022

an arsehole in one...


Two former political heavyweights from different sides have joined forces to combat the corruption and damaging inaction of the Morrison government. 


Former Liberal leader John Hewson and I have teamed up as joint patrons of the Truth and Integrity Project, a social media-focused advocacy campaign targeting Scott Morrison’s record on integrity matters and climate action in the lead-up to the federal election.




We are also patrons of Climate 200, an organisation driven by Simon Holmes à Court that is supporting candidates committed to strong action on increasing Australia’s commitment to mitigate climate change and embracing a post-carbon economy.

We are both board members of the Accountability Round Table (ART), chaired by Fiona McLeod, SC, which is devoted to the creation of a Commonwealth integrity commission with independent authority and power to call witnesses on matters involving corruption in the political process. This is in sharp contrast to the wretched model, programmed to fail, put up by then attorney-general Christian Porter and taken on by his successor Michaelia Cash. ART’s board includes retired judges, former politicians, public servants, lawyers and academics.

Both of us are troubled by the failure on courageous polities by both the Coalition parties and the Australian Labor Party (ALP). But the yawning abyss of Australia’s grossly inadequate and mendacious response to climate change and the unprecedented levels of corruption at a federal level are the responsibility of government, not opposition.

On climate change Morrison is wicked, Barnaby Joyce pretends to be crazy, while Labor is timid and fearful. Morrison and Anthony Albanese appear to be closer to each other on climate change than they are to Joe Biden, Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron and the New South Wales Coalition and Victorian Labor governments.

We would like to be proved wrong about this and hope for an effective rebuttal.

Advertisements by Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party shout at electors: “You can never trust Labor, the Liberals or the Greens.” Note the significant omission: voting for the Nationals, the back legs of the Coalition horse, would presumably be acceptable.

I had my difficulties with Bob Hawke but he took a very tough line about the mere perception of corruption or a conflict of interest, and this meant that able ministers, close to the prime minister personally, had to resign — Ros Kelly, Mick Young (over his wife’s failure to make a customs declaration about a Paddington bear) and John Brown.

When John Howard won government in 1996, seven of his ministers were soon despatched for minor infringements. Since Howard and Morrison are reputed to be close, I am baffled that Howard has not passed on his advice in this area. Of course, if he did Morrison’s front bench would be threadbare.

Morrison’s is the most corrupt Commonwealth government in our history, the most vindictive and the least accountable, far worse than Bob Askin’s government in New South Wales and Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s in Queensland. Of course some ALP ministers have been shockers — Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald — and one national president, Michael Wilkinson, but not governments, state or Commonwealth.

During the Covid pandemic $20 billion support was given by the Commonwealth to corporations which did not need it. Its electorally based rorting is now legendary and its preoccupation with the very short term means that winning the next election is always the priority, and that saving the planet and considering what this generation leaves behind it is virtually ignored.

Morrison is a very effective campaigner and cannot be underestimated. He certainly has spooked the opposition even though Newspoll puts Labor’s two-party preferred vote at 53 per cent. Morrison’s appeal incorporates what I call “the five rejections”, his opposition, both implicit and explicit, to:

  • complexity,
  • modernity,
  • multiculturalism,
  • science, and
  • expert opinion.

Since 1929, the ALP has won government from opposition at only three elections: in 1972 under Gough Whitlam, in 1983 under Hawke, and in 2007 under Kevin Rudd. (John Curtin came to power in 1941 after two independents shifted their allegiances in a hung Parliament). Every Labor victory followed strong advocacy on contentious issues.

Currently Labor is adopting a “small target”, even “tiny target”, approach and will only announce its policies in the last quarter of the game. It has never worked before and it’s hard to see why it would succeed in 2022. Since Morrison will determine the election date, we can only hazard a guess as to when the final siren will sound (to persist with the tortured sporting analogy).

With extraordinary generosity, Labor, in its anxiety about being “wedged”, has virtually allowed Morrison to set its own agenda. Morrison says, in effect: “I don’t want Labor to raise the issues of setting an emissions reduction target for 2030, setting a price for carbon, questioning AUKUS and asking when the submarines will arrive or where they will be made, or a more humane refugee policy, or restoring progressive taxation to meet the needs of an ageing population, phasing out negative gearing to make housing more affordable, or weakening the Commonwealth public service.”

Labor says: “We never thought of raising these subjects, because we are out of practice in arguing a case.” However Labor has, unusually, taken a strong position on a Commonwealth Integrity Commission.

Morrison is an unusually elusive target. Sean Kelly’s new book The Game: A Portrait of Scott Morrison (Black Inc, 2021) is outstanding, especially on Morrison’s relationship with truth, language and his astonishing capacity to pivot. He rationalises along these lines: “I am an honest person. Honest persons don’t tell lies. Therefore it’s impossible that I could ever lie.”

I regard Morrison’s use of language as purely transactional: “What is the issue I am asked about today? It doesn’t matter what I said yesterday. I don’t even remember what I said then, but right here and now this is the truth for me. It may be a different truth tomorrow.”

“Did it work? If it did, it must be true. If it didn’t, I’ll try something else.”

Morrison creates his own facts and just makes stuff up as he goes along. This is exactly Humpty Dumpty’s use of language. Lewis Carroll scored a hole in one.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”


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an infection...

Scott Morrison’s personality and style has infected the whole government — the sclerosis and the lack of flexibility on general positions is now built-in.



 BY Jack Waterford


Next Thursday, possibly Friday if debate over religious freedom drags on in the Senate, is probably the last opportunity the federal Liberal Party has to rid itself of a leader in Scott Morrison, increasingly looking like a liability without a road to victory that he is capable of describing. After that, parliament rises for Christmas, then the January holidays, and even if extraordinary measures were taken to reconvene parliament, there would simply not be time enough for a new regime to prepare itself for election.

It’s not going to happen of course, especially if the so-called incumbency rule, by which a popularly elected prime minister cannot be deposed other than by a two-thirds caucus vote, is treated as the formal requirement. There are party constitutionalists doubtful whether the parliamentary party can bind future meetings of the party, and who observe that a prime minister determined to carry on after losing a majority in caucus would be in an impossible position out in the electorate.

Be that as it may, there are no obvious challengers on the horizon, even if a significant number of members, possibly a majority, have little faith in the capacity of Morrison to pull off another election win, with or without the direct intervention of God. Their problem is the fear that any replacement, perhaps Peter Dutton or Josh Frydenberg, would be unlikely to be able to retrieve the party’s position, and might well make it worse. Particularly if the deposed Morrison rump — bound to insist even after any sort of defeat both that they had a winning strategy, and were robbed — were in full-scale revolt, leaking and undermining, and doing their best, in tried and true modern Liberal fashion, to fail to turn the other cheek.

It’s not simply a matter of now being too late for anything in the nature of a revolt. The party, as much as Morrison himself, committed itself to the sorts of strategies it is now following, even if some now regret it. The personality and style of Morrison has infected the whole government — including most ministers. The sclerosis and the lack of flexibility on general positions is now built-in. Morrison and a number of other ministers are more than ruthless enough to be able to ditch whole areas of policy or practice, and without regard to anything they have said or done in the past about the folly of going by the new path. They have been trashing a perfectly serviceable brand for far too long to be able to simply deploy it again.

Morrison, who pitched himself as a salesman, and who seems to be able to convince himself of anything, can’t seem to sell a thing anymore. His retainers may have little choice but to nod wisely at whatever he says, but they are finding it increasingly difficult to display conviction, faith, or personal endorsement of what’s on offer.

They retreat to their constituencies gloomy of the government’s chances of galvanising the community, or half of it, around any campaign idea. It may be that Morrison has, with some policies, or recent policy shifts, neutralised some issues which might have actively gone against the government. Let’s imagine, for example, that he has done this in vital constituencies  with his efforts to establish freedom of religion in legislation — perhaps whether or not he can get the support of parliament and the measures put into law. But his proposals were in any event watered down, and if they received some endorsement from some religious lobbies, they created no great enthusiasm. They may well have mobilised some fresh enemies, particularly among those who — though not hostile to religion — simply do not understand what the threat to it was, where it was coming from, and how freedom of thought is likely to be enhanced by the proposed measures.

It has, after all, been the Liberal Party which has long counselled suspicion of entrenched rights, or of legislative efforts to put a hand on the scales when it has come time to balance different rights. It has, after all, been the party which has characterised Labor enthusiasm for the declaration, definition and weaponising of new rights and duties as proof of its addiction to coercion, controls, legislative solutions and intrinsic bossiness.

The skirmishes of the past few weeks are not the campaign proper, nor do they necessarily point at the issues around which the electorate will divide. Morrison is rehearsing a few approaches, and a few areas in which, he or his strategists believe, ground could be gained. But he is carefully watching the media, and the public response, and one can be sure that he will drop ideas that do not seem to take. A good example might be with his new-found fondness for electric cars, his initiatives to establish charging points, and his insistence that technological developments in only the past two years had completely transformed the economic equations about the use of the car and the truck. It didn’t work. Partly because Morrison is incapable of taking a backward step, or of ever admitting that he was once wrong.

Instead, in the usual Morrison style he begins by denying that he ever said anything negative about electric vehicles at all, then, when confronted with clear records showing that he had, he attempts to redefine what he said, to change the emphasis, and to insist that circumstances had radically changed. A bigger man presiding over a U-turn — a John Howard perhaps — might say, “I used to think that. But I have had a closer look at it and changed my mind.” And he might even win some professional admiration, either for his willingness to cut and run, or flexibility, or even ruthlessness once it was clear circumstances had changed. He often did, if never with the style or panache of Peter Beattie, then premier of Queensland.

Not Morrison. By now, as ever, he has convinced himself that there is no contradiction whatever with anything he has said before, and that anyone who suggests otherwise is calumniating, petty, nit-picking, and seeking to disguise her own moral infirmities. This capacity to examine his own conscience and to acquit himself of misleading conduct because he believed in all of his statements at the time he made them might, in his own mind, persuade him of the purity of his intentions. That does not stop its being a self-delusion, and its exposition a deceit. Here in this vale of tears, It would be called perjury in a court of law, at the very least for not being “the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”; as well as for being calculated to deceive.


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moral hazard...

Australia’s net zero plan is a techno-optimist thought-bubble: it has an inappropriate objective, no clear priorities, and no realistic costing.

The Australian government’s Net Zero Emission by 2050 Plan (NZE2050), astonishingly and quite deliberately, ignores the impacts of climate change and the associated social and economic damage of acting too slowly.

Just before departing for the Glasgow climate summit the prime minister launched “Australia’s Long-Term Emissions Reduction Plan; a whole-of-economy Plan to achieve NZE2050”; or “The Australian Way” as the summary version has it. The modelling and analysis supporting the plan have just been released.

These documents were obviously finalised long before the government reached agreement with the National Party to adopt NZE2050 as policy. Hence the costs and implications of this agreement, which we are told are substantial, are presumably not included in the Plan.

Plans, to be meaningful, need objectives.

The stated objective of the plan is to achieve NZE2050 for Australia. This is to be done via “technology not taxes”, with “expanded choice, not mandates”, without requiring “coal or gas production to shut down” or “the displacement of productive land”, with “no loss of jobs” or “any cost to the Australian community”.

The rationale for adopting the NZE2050 objective is unclear other than the implication that, as the world is decarbonising, Australia must react and NZE2050 had become the minimal acceptable response from a developed country.

However, the modelling documentation reveals, astonishingly, that the plan is purely an economic and technological forecast which “does not assess the costs or impacts of climate change or the benefits of avoided warming associated with different global emissions trajectories”.

So it ignores the primary reason for climate change action, namely to avoid potentially catastrophic impacts.

Yet in signing the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, the government committed to do so by contributing to “holding the increase in global average temperatures to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels, and pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5C”.

Unfortunately the science confirms it is now virtually impossible to stay below 1.5C, and probably below 2C. The inadequacy of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change COP process — again demonstrated in Glasgow, not least because of Australian intransigence — means that the world is now faced with the imminent prospect of irreversible, self-sustaining warming. Only extremely rapid emission reductions by 2030 will avoid this outcome; NZE2050 is far too late.

The first responsibility of the government should be the security and prosperity of the Australian people.  The greatest threat to that security now is not China, Taiwan or the lack of submarines, but climate change. The objective of any sensible plan to address climate change must start from an honest assessment of the climate risks and opportunities. That determines the target to be met and the plan to get there, as proposed in the Australian Security Leaders Climate Group “Missing in Action” report.

The government has never assessed those risks, deliberately ignoring the climate science.

Given the damage already inflicted on the Australian community, particularly in rural areas, with climate-related drought, bushfires, floods and storms, to ignore the massive increase in such impacts likely resulting from NZE2050 beggars belief. Likewise it is irresponsible to pretend that there will be no cost to the community, not least because emergency action to reach net zero emissions as close to 2030 as possible will become inevitable as climate impacts escalate.

But the most dangerous aspect of the Plan is its assumption that Australia’s coal and gas industries can expand for decades to come, pouring fuel on the climate fire, until markets dictate otherwise, on the basis that emissions will be offset by technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) and soil carbon, which have yet to be proven at scale.

CCS has worked in the oil and gas industry for decades, re-injecting CO2 produced during oil and gas extraction back into the reservoirs from which it came. But those reservoirs are limited, and rarely near the point of emission. Injecting CO2 into non-oil and gas reservoirs has been attempted for years but proven far more problematic technically, as the WA Gorgon project demonstrates. Most major projects have failed, and CCS will not be available at the scale the plan implies.

Soil carbon works but takes time to become effective, time we no longer have; it is also unlikely to work at the scale required.

Concern has long been expressed over this “moral hazard” around climate change. In short, allowing expansion of fossil fuel use now on the grounds that yet-to-be proven technology will magically appear in the future to solve its emission problem; the danger being that catastrophic climate impacts will get locked in long before that technology eventuates.

That concern, voiced two decades ago, is even more critical today, given the accelerating impact of climate change and the fact that the world must achieve dramatic emission reductions in less than a decade.

For the government to put forward this plan in current circumstances is a complete abrogation of its responsibility to ensure the security of the Australian people, particularly younger generations. This failure of imagination and leadership must stop and a real plan must be adopted, based on facts not deception.


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