In the news …

China panic is more concerning than dictatorial overreach; Morrison confirms he’s a liar; more political instability coming our way.

Chinese panic

Like many others, I have only Western news reports on which to base my judgements about all things China, but it seems the coronavirus has created panic in Chinese corridors of power.

Twenty-thousand infections.  More than 400 deaths.  Building hospitals so fast the concrete surely hasn’t had time to cure.  Cremating bodies en masse regardless of family wishes.  Lodging official protests about editorial cartoons!

These are not measured and deliberate steps by an authoritarian regime, firmly in charge.  Instead, these look like the panicked actions of myriad bureaucrats with no careful, measured, overall direction or planning.

And that’s worrying.  It means that after SARS the hierarchy didn’t develop a disaster plan, and was caught completely unprepared by an entirely predictable disaster in a densely populated country in which the veneer of first world development is still pretty thin in many places.

It also seems like there’s no central health or security authority in charge seeking to at least pretend at competent management and calm.

I’d be much more reassured if China were highly visible working with the World Health Organization to limit the spread of coronavirus while also developing new protocols to address the risk of future pandemics.  That would be evidence of international statesmanship.  China’s claim to leadership-economic, military, and regional-has been undermined by this display of panic.

But China isn’t alone here.  My own domestic news media sources are three parts alarmism, and one part kneejerk politics, with almost no attempt to explain where the virus came from, how it developed, and what the risks really are for us, our neighbouring nations, and the world.

So, what I have been able to distill from foreign news sources is that corona viruses are quite common among animals and humans, but some can be quite dangerous.  SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) is a form of corona virus believed to have originated in civet cats in China.  The current virus, known scientifically quite mundanely as 2019 Novel (for new variant) Coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, may also have spread from an animal to humans, but scientists are not yet certain.

The virus presents with flu-like symptoms, but can escalate quickly to cause breathing difficulties, and escalating to pneumonia and death.  It is thought the spread between humans is by bodily fluids, like the spray from sneezing and coughing, but analysis is ongoing and not yet conclusive.

Measures to prevent the spread of the virus by stopping travelers from China moving to other locations might seem extreme, and, when mixed with hearsay stories of racist attitudes towards people of Chinese appearance, even xenophobic, but such measures are quite elementary procedure for putting in place a crude quarantine.  And flying Australians from China to the Christmas Island concentration camp built for refugees is no less undignified.

What adds to my growing sense of unease about the management of 2019-nCoVt is that the People’s Republic of China did not enact a travel ban of its own accord, and still appears to be in denial about how serious this pandemic could be.

The best reportage I have come across for sheer ‘facticity’ is Al Jazeera’s online report earlier today.  American, British, and Australian journalists could learn something about their supposed vocation here.

PM exposes himself as artless liar

Scott Morrison, rumored by some to be the Prime Minister of Australia, just doesn’t seem to know how to channel sincerity and integrity.

Fresh from denying he was holidaying in in Hawaii while an entire continent looked like turning into a Biblical inferno, the corpulent one stepped into the sports rorts scandal and instantly made it worse.

In brief, The Auditor General had released a report condemning National Party Deputy Bridget McKenzie for using a sports grants scheme to curry political favour in marginal Coalition electorates, and marginal seats targeted for winning from from other parties.  The report left no doubt that this was a blatant case of political corruption.

When an auditor general’s report spells out corruption despite the risk of being targeted for punishment by an extremist government with a record of punishing bureaucrats who don’t toe a political line, the misdeed must have been very clumsy indeed, and impossible to misconstrue for something else.

For a prime minister confronted not just with corruption, but a case so wretchedly incompetent it couldn’t be swept under any carpet, to then commission his own former chief of staff to report on the Auditor General’s report is as good as an admission the corruption finding was true beyond anyone’s power to spin into something else.

And yet that is exactly what Morrison attempted to do: spin the whole thing into not blatant party-political corruption.  Because he’s #ScottyfromMarketing?

Bridget McKenzie was indeed thrown under a bus, but only for the most bumbling of all crimes: being an undeclared member of a gun club that received funding due to her approval.

But Morrison’s spin strategy was even more bumbling than anything McKenzie might have done.  He cited a report by his own political confrere to exonerate McKenzie from pork barreling, but refused to release that report to journalists.

Anyone in their right mind would recognize instantly that even his political flunky couldn’t sanitize McKenzie’s vote buying spree enough to put to rest the reputation for political corruption, and by lying to a room full of journalists he exposed himself as a man with not a shred of ethics or integrity.  Just adherence to the Goebbels doctrine that if you tell a lie, even a whopper, often enough, people will start to believe you.

Unfortunately Morrison doesn’t seem to have enough grey matter to realize Goebbels’ advice works only if you can control the news media.  And in Australia right now even the Murdoch propaganda machine, usually reliably willing to distort all semblance of truth in the Coalition’s favour, is ridiculing the prime minister for being a pathetic liar.

So, instead of putting the whole matter to rest, Morrison ensured three things:

he has destroyed any credibility he might have had for telling truth;

he has exposed himself again as a little man without any leadership credentials (imagine Rudd, Gillard, or even Abbott being so dumb they’d go anywhere near a press conference like that one); and

he has shown himself an adherent of the school of corruption which sees sin or failure only in being caught, meaning any integrity he might have projected has been blown away.

The worst trouble for Morrison is that he tried this snow job routine at a time when his credibility ratings are freefall.  And for a petty purpose that removes his chances of pulling the same stunt again when it might really count.

And that might come sooner than he thinks, with trouble brewing in the National Party, and a Peter Dutton who seems to have swapped his imitation of a potato to that of Muttley from Whacky Races.

Have we really avoided Joyce v2?

The news this morning said Australia avoided the all-singing, all-dancing, daily disaster that would have been reinstalling a perpetually drunken conspiracy theorist as leader of the National Party.  But barely an hour after the laughably inept Michael McCormack was re-elected, with his likely political assassin, David Littleproud, as his deputy.

Is this a script for a new comedy show?  No.   It’s an old, long-running comedy show called the National Party.

That sounds really patronizing and unkind, doesn’t it.  Unfortunately, if people keep electing representatives with all the intellect and creativity of an office stapler, what they’ll get is laughed at and ignored in Canberra by their MPs, who don’t care about drought and bank loans and the exodus of the young.  Because they are all in the pockets of the coal industry, which is not known to care much about anything alive so long as there are still profits to be made from destroying the planet.

So, rumour has it that McCormack won today’s leadership vote with an unconvincingly small margin; the Nationals don’t make the exact numbers known.  Leaving aside for a moment the delusions of grandeur that fuel Barnaby Joyce’s ego, the rumour of the narrow margin alone will drive another leadership spill against an incompetent, unlikable leader.

And that’s not good news for the prime minister, who will have to navigate instability in the Coalition as well as public contempt for his leadership credentials.

In fact, Morrison might have to manage quite a bit more.

A little while ago I heard someone ask: ‘Why are Dutton and Corman so quiet recently?’

Indeed.

Peter Dutton was never one to shy away from cameras and shock jock radio programmes.  But he seems to have been working at re-inventing himself, from potato-faced, totalitarian Gestapo chief to something less severe, snickering like cartoon character Muttley about his rival’s misfortunes.  Dutton lost the Liberal leadership to Morrison by 45 votes to 40 in 2018.

Following the media fuss about Coalition instability due to endless leadership challenges, Morrison was able to push through a new party rule that any leadership spill must have the support of two-thirds of the parliamentary party.  That’s about 65 votes.  In other words, you need to have iron clad numbers from the start.

No prizes for guessing what Dutton has been doing this infernal summer.

Morrison’s standing has faded dramatically since the unexpected election victory gave him a seemingly unassailable victory.  Events since late October have unmasked him as not much of a leader, and not much of a human being either.  He used to lead Dutton at least in the latter stakes.  Not since his unforced sports rort self-outing as a liar and patron of corruption in the Coalition.

1 thought on “In the news …”

  1. We have a conservative leadership going on and the far right is underground atm (probably plotting AB separation. First step ridicule Trudeau for $800 in yoga and spa costs. Problem is this guy dialed up 10s of $1000s in misused transportation like military helicopters for personal use! I’m sure old time pols were not as ethical as portrayed but the definitely had better message control… not that is seems to matter to voters until they are bitten on the nose.

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