Alan Kohler argues that today’s political failure is the result of decades of neoliberalism that has systematically hollowed out government processes and talent. True enough.
But we shouldn’t let systemic explanations for the disastrous performance of the Morrison Government lead to us overlooking its peculiar contributions to national failure.
After all, although untested, Labor has made many more constructive policy proposals along the way as Morrison has tried to screw it up, including closing borders, JobKeeper, better quarantine and moving more assiduously on vaccines.
Therefore, we can’t overlook the possibility that Morrison and/or his minders are uniquely mentally incompetent:
Scott Morrison has abandoned a proposal to allow children to drive forklifts after it was rejected by states and territories and criticised as a dangerous “brain fart” by unions.
…But the plan was unanimously rejected by the states and territories, the ACT chief minister, Andrew Barr, said in a statement.
Morrison said on Wednesday that “there are changes that we need to make around the age of forklift drivers, to get quite specific,” to help reduce regulations and increase labour supply.
On Thursday, Morrison said that national cabinet had “agreed to proceed no further with the issue of 16-year-old forklift drivers”.
“We had a good discussion about that today and it is not something we believe, collectively … we should be pursuing at this time,” he said.
What is extraordinary is that this notion saw the light of day. When it was announced in PM&C, was there really nobody to pipe up and shoot it down? Doubtless, they thought it was creative and helped mobilise a community spirit to fight the war on Morrison’s plague. But, really, for a vicious regime that has despoiled common decency at every turn, it was always going to come across as the complete opposite, avaricious and atavistic.
This comes on the heels of PM Morrison announcing a major push to recruit foreign slaves for Australian jobs, on the same day that the US effectively banned travel Downunder.
Then there is the PM’s mounting failure on aged care where he has direct responsibility. On this occasion he has sat on his hands despite industry and union demands that he undertake radical action:
Aged care providers and unions have united to call on the Prime Minister to deploy the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to provide emergency support and assistance to overwhelmed aged care workers at nursing homes across the country. Providers and unions also want the federal government to fund additional direct payments for staff to secure the workforce.
The escalating crisis in aged care has left services around the country reeling, putting care for older Australians at risk due to chronic staffing shortages. Older people are at risk of missing out on essential care because of this. Lockdowns are restricting many residents to their rooms as services work to keep them safe.
With severe staff shortages happening across all sectors, services for older Australians must be prioritised. There are services that older people depend on that are not being delivered simply because there is not enough staff.
Perhaps send in the kids.
The cognitive dissonance also still extends to RATs:
Long before the government’s failure to source rapid antigen tests, so cruelly exposed over the past six weeks, it was boasting about them.
Greg Hunt called a media conference last September to proudly announce that the Therapeutic Goods Administration “at my request” had approved home testing using RATs from November.
The United States had approved home testing in December 2020; the UK in January 2021. As has been usual throughout the pandemic, the TGA has dragged its feet on approvals. At the time its head, John Skerritt, said that was because the government had prevented it from approving tests any earlier: “We can’t formally make an approval decision until we get a signal from the government. It’s a decision for the government.”
At the same time as Morrison and Hunt were delaying home testing, they were refusing to consider sourcing the tests. We now know the Australian Medical Association urged the government to develop a plan to source RATs but was rebuffed.
So the government refused for nearly a year to allow home testing, then refused to try to procure home tests. Typically, it has refused to accept responsibility — Morrison has blamed the states, and the Omicron variant, for the near-absence of RATs from the community. Yesterday he said, in yet another epically long and pointless monologue at a media conference, that he understood people’s unhappiness at enduring “a frustrating and difficult and highly concerning summer”. Nothing to do with him, though.
And what could be crazier than threatening your core constituency with mayhem and death?
Millions of Australians could be left empty-handed when the government’s free rapid test scheme launches on Monday, with pharmacies citing severe supply and cost pressures.
More than 90% of pharmacies could be forced to limit the kits as wholesale prices soar above the slated government rebate, according to industry insiders.
The joint federal and state government Rapid Antigen Testing Concessional Access Program will see millions of pensioners, veterans and low income earners become eligible for up to 10 free tests between now and April.
Pharmacies will be reimbursed $10 for each kit under the plan rubber-stamped at national cabinet last week.
Are all of these debacles just bumbling and lies? Or is there something deeper going on?
One form of personality disorder that might explain such behaviour is “dissociative” or “multiple personality disorder”. It is often mistaken for psychopathy when, in truth, it is a fragmented series of discrete personalities formed from a single, shattered identity.
A dissociative exists in a series of separate fantasy worlds. When inhabiting any given one, the conviction of that reality is complete. Even if it completely contradicts another.
For instance, one personality might conclude that conservative pandemic management is a great plus. The next day another personality within the same person can conclude the complete opposite with equal conviction. So and so forth.
The hallmark of this or some other mental incompetence is the inability to look after one’s own interests. To wit:
Prime Minister Scott Morrison would have wished he was fielding questions about the historically low 4.2 per cent unemployment rate, instead of being hounded about the government’s management of COVID-19.
The jobless rate has not fallen this low since the mining investment boom during the John Howard and Kevin Rudd prime ministerships more than 13 years ago, and rarely at all in the past half century.
Now, just as the pandemic challenges Australia’s supply chains, workforce and health system, the labour market has been shown to be in rude health in December, on the eve of the omicron outbreak.
On the occasions I have spent time in Parliament House in recent years, I have been shocked by its snake pit ambiance. It is a palpable feeling that you are literally about to be stabbed in the back. Re-integrating with civil society takes a long shower and trip to shrink to reconfirm your sanity.
Baffled by the relentlessly poor decisions, denial, unreason, and fantasia emanating from PM Morrison, the nation must consider the possibility that he and/or his retinue have turned the parliament into a raving loony bin.