Aussie Life

Aussie life

19 March 2022

9:00 AM

19 March 2022

9:00 AM

Prime ministers rarely lose elections by bungling a single issue. An obvious benefit of the four-year term is that if you screw up in one area you can atone in another, so the trick is to get your big gaffes out of the way as early as possible. When Scott Morrison became the second-most famous person, after James Cook, who should never have gone to Hawaii, he looked, for a while, no less dead in the water than his peerless Pommy predecessor. But although the cost of those 2020 bush fires is still being paid, the modest human and economic impact of Covid on Australia compared to most other countries may yet reflect well on Mr Morrison, as may his leadership of the international community in demanding an investigation into the pandemic’s provenance. Come May, his refusal to yield to Xi Jinping’s subsequent trade bullying might even be looked back on as Zelenskyish.

Indeed, the conflict in Ukraine may do more than anything else to negate the impressive gains made by Mr Albanese in recent polls. The only good to have come out of Putin’s murderous campaign is that, unlike every other news story of recent times, it is something about which all politicians and pundits seem to agree. And while a bi-partisan consensus on the possibility of WWIII breaking out in either Eastern Europe or the South China Sea persists, it would be electoral suicide for Albo to be less than supportive of Aukus and of Scomo’s defence force spending spree. But nobody ever won an election by agreeing with their opponent, however violently, so at some point very soon Mr Albanese will have to find chinks in something other than his opponent’s ever-thickening armour. And meanwhile, in addition to standing up to bullies, Mr Morrison must be on his guard against what could be called a last straw moment. That is, doing or saying something which, while not of itself enough to change made-up minds, may serve as a fulcrum over which a significant number of still-un-made-up minds could be tipped.


Paul Keating’s last straw moment, for example, might have been the televised revelation that he had once referred to Australia as ‘the arse end of the world’. For Tony Abbott, it could have been his decision to award the Duke of Edinburgh an Australian knighthood. And for Malcolm Turnbull, presenting a group of obscure Barrier Reef alarmists with a cheque for $400 million. From very different corners of the pitch, all three men kicked the same own goal: they showed that in at least one respect, they were out of touch with the lives of the people on whose votes they depended.

So let’s stay with footy. At time of writing, the Morrison government has not acceded to the request of Rugby Australia for funding for its bid to host the 2027 Rugby World Cup. To anyone who’s followed the story this might seem an unconscionable betrayal. Isn’t this the same government, after all, which sent a delegation to the last Rugby World Cup? Didn’t all those Coalition and ALP pollies come back from Japan shouting about the huge economic opportunities any subsequent RWC host nation would enjoy? Didn’t the present government echo those sentiments? And wasn’t I, as a rugby fan myself, delighted to hear that thanks to the tireless lunching – sorry, lobbying – of RA chairman Hamish McLennan and ex-Wallaby captain Phil Kearns, Australia is now the 2027 hot favourite? Yes, I was. So why was I also pleased to hear, last week, that the Morrison government is now considering withholding the paltry $150 million the impoverished RA needs to lodge with the competition’s organising body to secure the 2027 hosting rights? Well, partly because the world has changed since the last Rugby World Cup, and our corner of it has changed more than most. And after two and a half years of bush fires, pandemic, mouse plague, Chinese trade embargoes and floods, there are many sectors of Australian society whose claim to that $150 million of taxpayers’ money might be considered to gazump Rugby Australia’s. But it’s mainly because, much as I enjoy rugby union, I know that for most Australians it is an elitist Anglo code kept alive by private schools, and one which now has a lower participation rate and attracts much smaller crowds and viewing figures than either NRL, AFL or even soccer. Data which will not have gone unnoticed, we can assume, by the season ticket-holding Sharks fan in the Lodge.

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