Leading article Australia

Pillars tremble

28 November 2020

9:00 AM

28 November 2020

9:00 AM

At what point do conservatives within the Morrison government say ‘enough is enough’? The ever-leftwards drift of the party once led by Menzies, Howard and Abbott shows no sign of abating and our institutions and prospects are, quite literally, the poorer for it. This week, James Allan gets out pad and pencil and scores Scott Morrison’s leadership at the 18 month mark and finds him –   just – a tad better than Malcolm Turnbull; hardly something to raise a glass of bubbly to over the festive season.

Economically, the Morrison government has been a huge disappointment. No other nation in the world has been so profligate in its spending during the pandemic. However worthy the initial impulses of JobKeeper and JobSeeker, with their slick ad man names and logos, may have been, the reality is they were by even the most generous assessment a massive over-reaction verging on panic at a time when cooler heads and a more sober approach were required. Repeated and false claims that the Covid ‘pandemic’ is a ‘once-in-a-century’ event worthy of trashing any prospect of a return to surplus were fatuous even before we knew just how mild the virus would turn out to be. Indeed, we were warning on this page back in March that the corona virus provided an opportunity to ‘re-calibrate’ our economy to a more conservative approach, not a more leftist one. Of course, every death is tragic and sensible measures should always be taken to protect the elderly and the vulnerable, but it is difficult not to conclude that Mr Morrison and Josh Frydenberg were all too easily and readily conned by the leftist big-spending Treasury boffins into betraying basic conservative prudence, rushing instead headlong into quasi-socialism where government knows best and provides for all. Having introduced something that is a little too close to the ‘universal basic wage’ for comfort, the problem for the government will be abandoning it over coming months. Once you sacrifice core values and principles, it is hard to return to them.

And so the cracks start to appear in that one great pillar of conservative rule, the Liberals’ much-vaunted financial management.

Politically, the foolishness of the big-spending approach was tragically compounded with the idiocy of the ‘National Cabinet’, which, as Maurice Newman and Andrew L. Urban point out this week, has seriously damaged and threatened the integrity and workability of our federation. Incredulously, Mr Morrison abandoned the well-proven efficacy of using his own party room to combat the Covid crisis in favour of rule by a group of narcissistic elitist leftist premiers. What, as they say, could possibly go wrong? As we now know, just about everything. In one fell swoop, Mr Morrison exposed the impotence of his own prime ministership, sanctioned the most excessive and unnecessary totalitarian impulses, abrogated any sense of moral leadership (where was Mr Morrison when a woman in pyjamas was handcuffed and frog-marched off in front of her children by Dan Andrews’ masked thuggish police officers? Can anyone imagine for even a nano-second that John Howard would have sat mute during such an outrage?) and at the same time, by financing without caveat ongoing lockdowns, ensured their continuance.

Thus, another pillar, our federation, quakes in the face of leftist onslaught.

And finally, culturally, Mr Morrison has shown a thoroughly disagreeable tendency to not only fail to vigorously defend our institutions, but instead actively work to undermine them. In this, he has not been alone within the Liberal party. The tone was set early this year when a group of Liberal so-called ‘supporters of free expression’ in the Senate proudly passed a motion condemning a tweet by men’s rights activist Bettina Arndt in which she, er, freely expressed her opinion. Shameful hypocrites. Since then we’ve had Mr Morrison disgracefully condemning Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate for, er, doing her job and, most recently, the prime minister rushing out to condemn our elite soldiers for, er, doing their job. Until such time as any specific acts are found to have been illegal in a court of law, all our soldiers deserve the presumption of innocence. What they certainly do not deserve is for the head of government and the head of our armed services to declare them guilty not only as individuals but also as a collective, and start meting out punishment (even to the dead).

If any specific crimes have occurred, they should be subject to court martial and any genuine illegal behaviour punished accordingly. But the idea that a decade after the events, spurred on by a sociologist’s report, the prime minister can determine that crimes have occurred in a situation where the enemy deliberately camouflages terrorists among civilians and refuses to identity itself, is preposterous. The rest of the world must be either collapsing with laughter or shaking their heads in disbelief as the Australian government sets about destroying the viability and efficacy of one of the most elite fighting forces on the planet. Another pillar trembles.

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