In the news … April 2021

In the news banner April 2021

Morrison embraces sexual assault, hypocrisy, as virtue

30 April 2021: In the much-publicized speech to a Christian convention on the Gold Coast, and then at a United Israel Appeal dinner, Scotty from marketing lauded himself for ‘laying on hands’ and excoriated divisive identity politics.

He seems oblivious to the simple truth that touching someone without permission is assault, including sexual assault.  And he appears not to recognize that his politics embraces demonizing significant sections of Australian society on the basis of identity: women, first Australians, migrants, Muslims, the poor, the sick, the elderly, those concerned about climate change … the list is long and deep.

Neither the opposition nor the news media, including those sections of it notionally on the progressive side, have called out these contradictions for what they are: unreconstructed, sociopathic elitism. If not also a creeping neo-fascist totalitarianism cloaked in the mumbo-jumbo of a minority cult (1.1 per cent of Australians identified as Pentecostals in the last census).

It means, also, that Scotty from marketing still doesn’t get it about chauvinist, paternalist, corrosive boy’s club behaviour.  It remains to be seen whether treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s forecast pork barrelling, targeting women, will reverse their abandonment of the Coalition.

Holgate kicks Morrison where it should hurt

15 April 2021: This morning the Guardian revealed that former Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate’s 154-page submission to the Senate Estimates Committee on Tuesday suggested that the Morrison government had persecuted her, at least in part, because she opposed secret privatization proposals.

Holgate alleged that a report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) recommending privatization options for Australia Post was being championed by chairman Lucio Di Bartolomeo, appointed by the Coalition to the board for that specific purpose.

BCG is an American management consultancy aligned with neoliberal economic ideology.  Its recommendations are thought, by the ALP and Greens, to form the basis of making pandemic measures cutting Australia Post services permanent.

Holgate alleged Di Bartolomeo acted prejudicially against her when the issue of luxury watches as bonuses for some of her managers emerged.  The implication is Di Bartolomeo went after Holgate for political reasons.

This is a perfect storm for Scotty from marketing … if the news media pursues the ethics of secretly pursuing an ideological privatization agenda and then publicly burning a ‘Joan of Arc’ figure for standing against an underhanded politicization of Australia Post.

We’ll see how that turns out.

Well played by Holgate, right or wrong.  She seems to be a better politician than Scotty from marketing and his batch of bumbling schoolboy prefects playing at being ministers.

Holgate clever to savage Morrison

14 April 2021: Without taking sides either way, former Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate has been clever to accuse Scotty from marketing of bullying.

With the continuing odium of sexual misconduct and a toxic ‘boys’ club’ culture, the entire government is being watched with a great deal of scrutiny and cynicism.

It may well be that Morrison did nothing more than resort to an aggressive, assertive tone in the comments under question, but surely he is not so naïve as not to know he was being watched for signs of arrogant, bullying behaviours.

It doesn’t seem like Holgate comes across as the most sympathetic of people, but it’s Scotty from marketing who has demonstrated that he seems unwilling or incapable of changing his perceived behaviour.  Given his background in marketing, Morrison must know that perception is everything.

And his case isn’t helped by a rolling series of what could be seen as examples of Coalition incompetence, culminating most recently in the coronavirus vaccination debacle.

Perhaps wife Jenny could suggest to him that aggressive, bullying behaviour is not automatically assumed to be merely assertive.  Instead, perhaps the ABC’s Michael Rowland demonstrated assertiveness in his questioning of Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Dan Tehan this morning, all without being rude, arrogant, loud, or insulting.

It would be easy to see Morrison behaving exactly what the headline below suggests: he still doesn’t get it that swaggeringly arrogant male behaviour isn’t seen as strength by the public.

Morrison still doesn’t get it

8 April 2021: The Guardian news blog reported a question to Scotty from marketing along the lines of: is the government really only trying to ban flirting in the workplace?

The PM responded:

I was recently at a game, and there was an older couple sitting next to me catching the game. They had a much better night than I did that night because they were backing a different team.

I heard something the husband said to the wife what she had said, and he said, “We can’t say that anymore.” I went, “That’s what we were talking about” it wasn’t angry, it wasn’t dismissive. It was respectful, it was positive and I think that’s the sort of conversation that we have to have in our relationships, in our communities, in our homes, in our clubs, in our churches, wherever you happen to be.

We’ve got to have these conversations and people need to understand in our own workplaces what is OK, what’s not OK. People just want to know.

I think in many cases, we’re dealing with unconscious behaviour and we want to help inform that behaviour and I think people will happily change their behaviour if they were aware that some of their unconscious acts could be leading to that sense of hurt or dismissal with their fellow Australians.

Let’s step through that piece by piece.

  1. Morrison seems to be admitting that his only real contact with ordinary Australians is at football matches.  A very poor substitute for a rich and full experience of Australian lives and attitudes.
  2. ‘We can’t say that anymore’ is acknowledgement of ‘new rules’, not a depth of understanding about ethics or what is innately the right thing to do.  It is an appalling abrogation of personal responsibility.
  3. How can it be respectful or positive if all it does is acknowledge rules imposed by someone else?
  4. ‘Conversation’, in this context, appears to be a euphemism for indoctrination, or brow-beating, or even outright threats.  Like fascists or Stalinists explaining to people how to correctly represent a new doctrine imposed from on high.
  5. ‘Unconscious behaviour’ is yet another excuse for reflexive bigotry, as if it had ever been OK in the first place.

No.  Scotty from marketing doesn’t get it.  Like a true sociopath, he just doesn’t understand that he has no moral compass, no appreciation of ethics, and no unscripted understanding of the horrendous nature of the bigotry he represents and supports, whether it’s sexism or some other ‘unconscious’ prejudice.

Nothing changes: Morrison likes it

7 April 2021: If an answer needed about the coronavirus vaccine rollout failures, it’s pretty simple: under Scotty from marketing, nothing changes.  Ever.

The Guardian carries stories this morning about banking culture and Robodebt.

Banks are right back to the dishonest, fraudulent, target-driven practices that were condemned in the banking royal commission.  No impetus to change, no one watching right now, hence back to ‘normal’: whatever they can get away with.

Ditto for Robodebt, the illegal income averaging scam that fraudulently generates ‘debts’ to the welfare system.

We should expect this to be a deliberate strategy: Scotty from marketing cries crocodile tears, swears things will get better, and sits out the news cycle, allowing everything to continue as before.

This will be the way of it with the Canberra #MeToo moment as well.

Should we be surprised if it were established that money and other resources intended for vaccine rollouts had instead gone into pork barrel projects favouring marginal Coalition seats?

What makes it work that way?  Short attention spans by the Canberra Bubble journalists, and lack of care in a wider Australian society obsessed with narrow, mean-spirited selfishness: ‘If it don’t hurt me, why should I care?’

This is who we are now.

Women in Trojan horses to save the Liberal party?

2 April 2021: All the talk about quotas for women in the Liberal party assumes just stacking the party with women will automatically change the party’s toxic culture.

The question has to be: how will women, who must rise through the party’s specified toxic culture, not adopt that toxicity as the only path to preselection and success in politics?  Are we to believe, naïvely, that women are inherently less ‘nasty’ than men?

Another question: do we expect quotas to work with women candidates pretending to adopt the Liberals’ toxic culture, and then bursting out of their disguises to reform the party?  Like Greeks springing from the Trojan horse of legend, to massacre the Trojans?

And will there be quotas for staffers too?  After all, party employees make up a significant part of the toxic culture, as illustrated recently by revelations about one masturbating on an MP’s desk, and being stupid enough to not only film the act, but to also distribute the video to colleagues.  Former Liberal Craig Kelly’s staffer Frank Zumbo has also made headlines for alleged sexual misconduct.

On the question of quotas, University of Canberra Associate Professor Chris Wallace proposes gender quotas instead.  Men or women, to balance out any imbalances that might arise.  The 40/40/20 model is interesting: 20 per cent on merit only, to address the argument that merely imposing quotas might see unworthy candidates being handed preselections.

One might argue that the recent Andrew Laming scandal evidences that even traditional chauvinists, who precisely align with the Liberals’ toxic culture, are mediocre non-entities.  How would a preference for women change the mediocrity hazard?

The Laming fiasco also illustrates that the present structure of the Liberal party poses the most serious barrier to quotas: individual branches have the power to preselect candidates.  The parliamentary party might be able to lean on some, or all, but there’s no guarantee the branches will listen.

Back to the question of quotas: what about minorities too?  First Australians, migrants, Muslims, Jews, LGBTQ+ … ?  Does the mediocrity question apply any less here than to men or women?

Is there a danger that bureaucratizing political parties will introduce the same deadening ineffectiveness we see in the public service, as a result of formalized rules of nominally ethical virtue that turn out to be Stalinist censoriousness and a timid conformity that crushes all creativity, innovation, and professional excellence?

It seems that we might be better off with an integrity commission with wide-ranging powers.  Those powers might include standing aside MPs and staffers under investigation for misconduct.  Such powers might also include referring cases to the solicitor general, a non–party–political office, for prosecution or other censure.

Do powers have to extend to unseating elected MPs found guilty of misconduct, and firing staffers under the same circumstances?  Or would that effectively make democracy conditional on the powers of unelected officials?

The point is that none of the answers proposed to address toxic political cultures are without serious shortcomings.

A simple quota system might at least have the political virtue of appealing to women voters, who make up a narrow majority of all voters.  No guarantees about that, though.  There is scant evidence that women will automatically vote for women candidates.

In the meantime, all the talk from the Liberals about inquiries and investigations are merely delaying tactics, particularly since there are strong signs that Scotty from marketing just does not understand why macho shithead behaviour is so out of tune with community standards.  Morrison still hopes the entire issue of toxic culture will just go away.

And nothing changes the reality that voters choose those macho shitheads, often without having any clear idea about the personality and character of the candidates they vote for.

Perhaps a greater transparency about preselection candidates is what’s needed, shining a light on just who the people are that want to pursue politics.

Seeing leaders for who they really are?

1 April 2021: The Guardian recently quoted Australian of the Year Grace Tame saying: ‘Now that our collective focus has extended beyond economic disruption to issues of morality, we are seeing leaders for who they really are.’

Tame might have lived up to her name and put too soft a spin on the issues at hand.  Anyone who did not see all the ugliness, dishonesty, corruption, bigotry, and patriarchal sexism of the Coalition line-up before the rape and sexism scandals had very selective vision.  All that recidivist hatefulness has been on display for eight long years.

What does that say about the ethics and trustworthiness of the voters who maintained the Coalition in power for almost a decade?

One answer might be that until very recently, the regional Win network broadcast the Murdoch neo-fascist propaganda that is Sky News free to air for country Australians.  Not that the replacement content, from Costello’s Nine Entertainment will be much less biased.

But surely not even this die-hard conservative audience could have missed the lies and duck-shoving of the Coalition about the coronavirus vaccine roll-out.  Are we really to believe the blame for not meeting a target set by Scotty from marketing is completely the fault of the states?

***

Morrison did make a surprise decision to demote Christian Porter and Linda Reynolds, but he has little room to move as Andrew Laming causes enormous problems for him by behaving like a monster; he can’t sack the man from the parliament without going into minority government.

Not acting more strongly on Laming, however, may be the final straw; the Coalition is on very shaky ground with women voters, and cannot pretend he’s changed his stripes while continuing to act like an arrogant crime boss.

Appointing Amanda Stoker to be Assistant Minister for Women might seem politically opportune to Morrison, seeing that she is a member of the Queensland LNP’s Christian rightMorrison is himself part of a wider Christian right in the Coalition.

But Stoker has a history of seeking to undermine rape and sexual abuse claims on Australian university campuses, climate change denialism, and support for the tobacco industry.  Plus, she was appointed as George Brandis’s replacement when he retired, and has not yet faced an election.

The PM is not an intellectual giant, but he must know Stoker represents a risk in her new portfolio.  The mood in the nation is not for his or her kind of reactionary approach to social and environmental issues.

Perhaps what Tame should have said is that the evidence points to an unwelcome conclusion that there are no leaders in the Coalition administration.  Just self-serving mercenaries.

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