How can a prime minister declare a national security crisis then do nothing about it? That’s what Malcolm Turnbull just did regarding the east coast energy crisis. In his own words:
“security is the first responsibility of every government. That is, national security and energy security…What Australians want is a result. They want energy security, energy that is affordable, and we need to meet what we agreed to in Paris.”
Then, after a month of doing nothing we got this:
I have directed the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission to monitor the wholesale gas market in eastern Australia using its inquiry powers.
Barely were these words out of our discombobulated PM’s mouth yesterday when the perpetrator of the great energy steal, Santos and GLNG, confessed to the market that it is ripping gas and cash from Australia at far higher rates than previously thought.
Australians are entitled to expect some consistency from their leader. A sense or proportionality is surely required too. If the energy crisis is one of national security – and it is given gas powers everything from hospitals to tanks – then how can the issue be palmed off to a withdrawn bureaucracy to sit on like some monstrous egg?
It can’t. Not if one has a full grasp of one’s faculties. It’s roughly the economic equivalent of declaring a national emergency to manage an infectious disease outbreak then appointing the Health Department to study it for three years before issuing any vaccine.
This pattern of behavior has defined the Do-nothing Malcolm Government. On virtually every issue it promises reform then backtracks just as quickly, courting and raising expectations then dropping stakeholders cold, leaving the act of governing a twisted and bloodied mess.
We’re rich and can afford to make these mistakes. So we’ve become inured to them in the past seven years as the caliber of government has deteriorated.
But we’ve now reached such consistent levels of dysfunction that we look past just about anything.
Yet the level of ineptitude on display in the gas crisis is not simply the result of institutional constraints or perversity. It also derives from the individuals that lead the nation. On that basis, what’s going on here is so far short of “normal” that it might be considered pathological.
Either Do-nothing Malcolm is knowingly an accessory to grand resource kleptocracy or his judgement is so impaired that he simply should not be in charge.
If I were a Coalition strategist, I would be plotting for a new leader post haste, one that at least approximates having what we might roughly call a moral centre.