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Australia is ruled by clowns Behind their buffoonery lies a crisis of authority

Put the ukulele down (Mark Graham/Bloomberg via Getty Images)


February 23, 2022   6 mins

Of all the absurdities currently plaguing Australia’s political class, perhaps the most revealing is the recent surge in voters Googling “April Sun in Cuba”. For the uninitiated, April Sun in Cuba is a Seventies song by New Zealand band Dragon. It is also the tune Prime Minister Scott Morrison chose to play on his ukulele for the viewers of 60 Minutes during a recent interview at home with his family.

Why would the PM be playing a forgotten Seventies hit on his ukulele in the middle of a pandemic? Well, it must be election time! Australia’s next federal election has to be held in May at the latest, and Morrison’s government is trailing the opposition Australian Labor Party (ALP) by 10 points. The PM’s personal approval rating has fallen 20 points since June, although he is still ahead of his opponent, ALP leader Anthony Albanese, by 5 points.

Accordingly, Morrison has also had to contend with growing ructions within his own party over his performance. Most bizarrely, at the National Press Club, journalist and Liberal Party insider Peter Van Onselen read out private text messages allegedly exchanged between former New South Wales Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, and an unnamed cabinet minister, in which the PM is described as “a horrible, horrible person” and “a complete psycho”. Van Onselen then asked the stunned Morrison for his reaction to the texts, in the process taking Australian politics to a cringeworthy new low.

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In an effort to save face, Morrison has tried to win back some of his popularity by being tough on borders. This is far from surprising since Morrison first came to national prominence when, as Immigration Minister in the Tony Abbott government, he “stopped the boats” of asylum seekers arriving via Indonesia to Australia.

This time, however, Morrison’s target was somewhat different. He and current Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, a close political ally, first detained and then deported Novak Djokovic. But this did not turn out quite the political coup the PM was hoping for: a prolonged legal battle only made the government look even more incompetent than most people already thought it was.

And so, thwarted on borders, the PM and his Defence Minister, Peter Dutton, leapt on another shibboleth of political opportunism: threats to national security. At a Senate hearing earlier this month, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) chief, Mike Burgess, reported that his organisation had uncovered a plot by a rich “puppeteer”, on behalf of a foreign power, to bankroll friendly candidates for an unnamed political party in the upcoming federal election. Although Burgess provided few details, it soon became known that the alleged puppeteer was Chinese-Australian businessman Chau Chak Wing, the foreign country was China, and, perhaps most importantly, the political party was the ALP.

Conveniently forgetting that Chau Chak Wing’s identity was only made public because Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching named him under parliamentary privilege, and that similar allegations were previously made against their own side, the government pounced. Defence Minister Dutton, not renowned for his subtlety, claimed during parliamentary question time that China had picked opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, as its preferred candidate. The ALP, he said, could not be trusted to defend the nation against Chinese aggression. Not to be outdone, the PM called ALP Deputy Leader Richard Marles a “Manchurian candidate”, referencing a speech he gave in China way back in 2019, in which he called for greater cooperation between the two countries, including on defence.

Morrison forgot to mention that the defence cooperation Marles was referring to, which saw Australian troops travelling to China a few weeks before his visit, was a Coalition government initiative from 2015. Morrison was eventually forced to retract his comments, and the government was rebuked by ASIO’s Burgess, who rejected the notion that one side of politics was more compromised by China than the other. But that was not the end of the matter.

To add fuel to the fire, former diplomat Bruce Haigh wrote an article in the controversial Chinese state-run newspaper, Global Times. Haigh, who represents no one, blamed Australia’s current leadership for the sorry state of the China-Australia bilateral relationship and expressed his hopes that, if elected, Albanese could provide a reset. Cue more inflammatory comments from the government and its supporters that China wants Labor to win. Although there isn’t much to distinguish between the government and the opposition’s public statements on China, the contours of the Coalition’s scare campaign for the upcoming election campaign are already pretty clear.

The buffoonery, and worse, of the past few weeks is obviously an indication of an increasingly desperate PM, and government, trying anything and everything to stay alive. It does, however, have deeper roots in the growing void between politicians and the societies they govern.

Australia is often maligned, including by some Australian pundits, as a political backwater, faithfully copying a few years later political trends set in its bigger Anglosphere cousins, the United States and Britain. This characterisation is unfair and historically ignorant. If anything, the flow has often been in the other direction.

Australia, for instance, had the world’s first “third way” government, when the ALP, led by Bob Hawke, came to power in 1983. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, then bright-eyed newcomers, came to Australia on a study trip in 1990 to learn about the ALP’s policies, and later copied its brand of neoliberal centrism in the UK.

A key difference between the two countries is that in the UK, the union movement was defeated in open conflict by the Thatcher government in the Eighties. Australia’s historically powerful union movement was defanged by its own political representatives, via the ‘Accord’, after which unions agreed to restrict wage demands. As a result, union membership plummeted from 51% of the Australian workforce in 1976 to only 14% in 2016.

The ALP was thus untethered from its foundations in the union movement. Already in the Sixties, under the leadership of the urbane Gough Whitlam, it began to attract middle-class voters, especially among university graduates, by focusing on a wider range of social issues, such as indigenous rights. From the Eighties, because union membership was getting smaller, Labor became increasingly reliant on progressive middle-class votes to win elections, turning further away from its working-class roots.

On the other side of politics, things were changing too, and again Australia was at the forefront of developments later felt elsewhere. While Britons were astounded when Boris Johnson smashed Labour’s “Red Wall” in the 2019 elections, in Australia the conservative Liberal Party was already taking hitherto safe, working-class, ALP seats in the Nineties — a phenomenon known as “Howard’s battlers”, named after then Prime Minister John Howard. These seats, usually at the fringes of Australia’s major cities became hotly contested swing electorates, the main battleground on which most elections are fought.

In short, as society became disorganised during the shift from the industrial to the post-industrial age, political parties lost their organic connection to society. Unsurprisingly, political party membership in Australia fell from 4% of the population in the Sixties to 0.5% today. Of course, people continue to be involved in political campaigns in other ways, for example by volunteering to help independent candidates. Yet Australia’s parties and politicians have had to learn to appeal to an amorphous mass of atomised voters.

Two consequences of this underlying shift are immediately apparent in the political buffoonery dominant today. First, the personal branding of leaders has become a lot more important than before. No one exemplifies this better than Scott Morrison, a graduate of one of Australia’s most prestigious independent schools, a rugby union fan and former player, and a religious wowser. A few years ago, Morrison completely altered his persona to appeal to his party’s growing working-class constituency. He began to call himself ScoMo, parade a love for his local National Rugby League club, the Cronulla Sharks, and talk often about how much he loved to have a beer with his mates.

The authenticity of Morrison’s new persona was always on shaky grounds, but for a time it did work. He led the Coalition to a surprising win in 2019 because working-class voters often preferred him over his opponent Bill Shorten, a former union leader. But now Morrison is no longer the underdog. Facing a genuine political challenge, he appears to be floundering, so unsure what to do he has been dialling his made-up persona up to 11.

A second consequence is the growing appeal of the politics of fear as politicians desperately search for ways of finding legitimacy. Politics in Australia over the past few decades seems to have become an endless parade of scare campaigns — drugs, terrorism, climate change, Covid-19, China. The point is not that these issues do not merit our attention. It is that approaching them through the lens of fear is often no more than a mask for political ineptitude and for encroaching authoritarianism. The government’s recent attempt to smear the ALP with the “reds under the beds” tag would have been amusing if it were not for the introduction of undemocratic laws under the guise of managing foreign powers’ interference in Australia — legislation that the ALP supported.

With the election still a few months away, there is no doubt plenty more buffoonery to come. Yet Morrison knows that schmaltzy ukulele songs will only distract voters for so long. Even in Cuba, the April sun must set. And when that happens, the void between Australia’s voters and its politicians could prove insurmountable.


Shahar Hameiri is a Professor in the School of Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland, Australia

ShaharHameiri

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Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

“He and current Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, a close political ally, first detained and then deported Novak Djokovic. But this did not turn out quite the political coup the PM was hoping for: a prolonged legal battle only made the government look even more incompetent than most people already thought it was.”
Most people? I remembers thousands of people taking to social media in the English speaking world saying ‘rules is rules’. These are presumably the same people bereft of foresight, logic, common sense and compassion who supported lockdowns (see another Unherd article of today).

Chris Wheatley
CW
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago

You always speak as if everything is clear – only one answer and that is right. No alternatives allowed.

Novak Djokovic, to me, was an issue with different sides.
If you thought that vaccination for Covid was bad (a very small number of people) ND should have been allowed into the country.

If there was a rule for allowing people into the country, good or bad, an exception should not be made for a celebrity. (A much larger number of people).

I try to be fair. I am neither pro-vax nor anti-vax. I am not Australian. But it would have upset me if a clown like ND had been allowed in because of his celebrity. As Nadal said, he knew the rules for coming to Australia and believed he was too important to follow those rules. I would ban him for a year from all tournaments.

Hersch Schneider
Hersch Schneider
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

‘I try to be fair’
‘I would ban him for a year from all tournaments’

BAN HIM FROM EVERYTHING for a dispute between him and the Australian immigration authorities!! What fairness you show!

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Yes, myself and many others right here on this forum have been clear and right on so many things for two pandemic years, that it is hard to be humble… so why don’t you start listening 🙂
From IFR, to lockdowns, to source of the virus, to vaccine corruption, to vaccine mandates, to vaccine passports, to censorship, to government overreach – the conspiracy theorists have been proven right. Some of the worst affronts and frankly crimes against humanity will be buried forever by big money and their control over media.
Further stop letting yourself down so badly. Novak is neither a celebrity nor a clown. Are you maybe thinking of reality stars here? Djokovic is the most successful tennis player ever at this stage and one of the worlds elite athletes. Currently he has been number one for more weeks than anyone else by some margin… and he is still younger in comparison to many of his main competitors.
The fact that he is principled enough to forego this status and the opportunity to be the best ever in history says much for the man and his values. He watches everything he puts into his body always (and also presumably knows the quantity of young males who have suffered pericarditis and myocarditis after the vaccine) and has decided he will not take the vaccine. He has already had Covid… as if that matters. He risks far more from the vaccine than from Covid. FACT. If I were him, I would pay for it to go down the sink, but he is walking the high road.
Further he was accepted by tennis Australia and then sacrificed as a political football.
I am fast becoming tired of stupidity and virtue signalling by many and quite frankly sea-lioning by some.

Bruce Luffman
Bruce Luffman
2 years ago

Well said.

Matt Hindman
MH
Matt Hindman
2 years ago

Sea-lioning is a new one to me.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago

Djokovic claimed exemption from rules that apply to all Australians.

That is the Elite Card, not the Person of Principle Card.

Sweden proves lockdowns wrong, Brazil proves them right. Countries differ.

As for the other Covid matters – they aren’t conspiracies, but points of valid debate.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

I used ‘conspiracy’ theory as an irony. They are just theories that have been proven right, but were howled down as conspiracy.
Um, Brazil proved nothing – especially compared to Peru. Are you new to these parts 🙂
Clearly you didn’t follow the Australian sh1tshow with too much gusto – starting with why he got a visa to Australia in the first place. He and his stance were hardly unknown. Sadly though I guess you are one of the ‘rules is rules’ crowd.

Last edited 2 years ago by Lesley van Reenen
ralph bell
ralph bell
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

ND completely kept within the rules (set by the state and Australian Tennis) given before he arrived in the country as did other already playing with an exemption. The rules were then changed on his arrival for political reasons, and he along with others were unfairly deported. A disgrace to my judgement.

Penelope Lane
PL
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  ralph bell

Come on, let’s be factual here and observe the truth.
Djokovic observed some of the rules, but not all. So what you say is true, but not the whole truth. What you say would not stand up in court, since courts require the whole truth.
There was a problem in Australia, in that some of the rules contradicted, or at least had not been properly aligned with, other rules. Tennis Australia and the Victorian government were Gung Ho to get him into the country, while at the same time the Federal government, which has responsibility for borders and immigration, had pre-existing requirements which Djokovic and his advisors breached.
The situation was not black-and-white. It can fairly be said there was fault on both sides. The part LvR wants us to overlook is that there was some real basis to the federal government’s final decision to throw Djokovic out. That basis was the real potentiality for inflaming ethnic minority hatreds between Serbs, Croats, Bosnians and other immigrant communities, who now live mostly peacefully side by side in Australia, but who have not always done so, and who even now have not entirely let go of the ethnic hatreds of their original homelands.
In my view, LvR should not only have been moderated for trying to stir up ethnic hatred and violence in our country through her ill-judged, ill-informed posts. She should also have been reported to ani-terrorism authorities so an investigation could be conducted into whether she is an authentic person, or a trolling front for malicious entities trying to stir up trouble.

Philip L
Philip L
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

A clown like ND? The clown who did more than most in early 2020 to help the purchasing of respirators, PPE and a 0.25 million euro lung imaging device in Serbia. He donated similarly to Nadal’s campaign for Spain and an undisclosed amount to hospitals in Bergamo, Italy. I think you’ve been reading too many newspapers.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Would it equally upset you if he was deported because of his celebrity?

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Unfortunately LvR does believe she is always right. Her record of posting—on anything and everything—attests to this. She even tells you as much in her reply to you here:
Yes, myself and many others right here on this forum have been clear and right on so many things for two pandemic years, that it is hard to be humble… so why don’t you start listening
Because of this unshakeable conviction of her own rightness, normal forms of discussion escape LvR. Use of reasoning and logic are unknown and unexplored realms entirely beyond her ken.
Things LvR says about Australia lack any basis in fact or truth. By her own admission, she formed her opinion about 100% of Australians—yes, the entire nation!—on the basis of what a friend told her on returning from a visit. The impenetrable thought processes here are: what her friend told her must be right because LvR herself is always right, so any friend of hers must be right by virtue of being a friend… and so it goes, round and round in an unbreakable self-reinforcing circle. It’s a bit like friends of Vladimir Putin always being right because they are friends of Putin, who himself is of course always right because his friends say so…
LvR enjoys elite competitive sport, therefore is a big fan of Djokovic. She has drawn her conclusion (singular) about the Djokovic episode in Australia by merging her admiration of him with her visceral dislike of Australians, whom she has accused of being cowardly wimps, submissive and intimidated by authority. So it’s all very simple really, in LvR’s world: Djokovic = good, Australians = bad. The Australian episode = victory of bad over good. At one point while the episode was still playing out, LvR got quite carried away, and began posting incitement to Serbians in Australia and any other Australians who would listen, to stand up and fight (“get a backbone”). LvR was apparently oblivious to the sensitive nature of the politics of some immigrant ethnic minorities in our country (we have Serbs, Croatians, Bosnians, all living side by side here).
An important point emerges from this. LvR comes across, in the tone and attitude of her posts, as Big Mama-san, She Who Knows Best—on everything, all of the time. She Who Knows Best is also, by extension, She Who Must Be Obeyed.
Thus, Chris Wheatley, you have lost before you even begin to try to take her on. She has rendered you, not a free, knowing adult with something worthwhile to contribute, but a Naughty Little Boy who is being obstinate and badly behaved by presuming to question Mother’s Authority. So why aren’t you listening to her?
…stop letting yourself down so badly…
Your fault lies in the fact of your disobedience, not in anything you may have to say. Note that carefully; it is the giveaway mark of the authoritarian personality, masquerading in this case as Big Mama.
This Big Mama is actually pretty practised at her game. She does not give you any ammunition by, say, losing her temper. That might loosen things up and enable some clearing of the air through violent argument, even a shouting match. But no, this Big Mama leaves no chink of vulnerability, because while reproving you, she adds a crude emoticon which gives you to know, just in case you may have been harbouring doubts as to her Universal Benevolence, that she is also a Very Kind and Well-Meaning Mother.
So you are now in a double bind. Not only are you a naughty little reprobate; you also should be feeling very guilty for being so mean as to contradict your Universal Benefactor.
Thankyou, Chris Wheatley, for having the time and patience to respond to LvR with some thoughtfulness and reasoned, considered points. I have written this to support you.
I long ago concluded no one can ever convince LvR of anything through normal discussion. In this respect, she is a lost cause. I even suspect she may be a troll?
But there is a very great need for balancing responses to her posts, if only to inform and alert naive, less well informed, less discriminating readers who may unsusoectingly fall into her trap.
Readers should know that this psychological profile is well known in both psychology and psychiatry. When experienced by young children growing up, it tends to produce schizophrenia and a host of more minor personality disturbances. For an excellent exposition of this, see the film Family Life, produced by the Tavistock Institute psychiatrist R.D. Laing many decades ago, in the 1970s. It remains a classic in the field.

Last edited 2 years ago by Penelope Lane
Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago

But this article is revelling in buffoonery! There is no mention of policies at all; it reads like reality TV entertainment for internet addicts. There is no mention of achievements or positive changes made.
‘If you pays peanuts you gets monkeys’; if you turn politics into memes you get a soap opera. No normal human being will survive being publicly ambushed by vitriolic comments they knew nothing about. Decent entrepreneural leaders won’t touch politics with a barge pole and so our best people who might do the best job will never emerge. Respect does need to be earned but it also needs to be grant because no one is faultless.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago

You are right about Australian political trends being ahead in many respects. People should stop patronising, just occasionally, and pay attention.
Consider this quote from Labor politician Kim Beazley Snr in the 1970s and tell me it’s not prescient:

When I joined the Labor Party, it contained the cream of the working class. But as I look about me now, all I see are the dregs of the middle class. When will you middle class perverts stop using the Labor Party as a cultural spittoon?

Stephen Walshe
Stephen Walshe
2 years ago

In this election Australians may choose between the Coalition, who advocated deeply oppressive and damaging Covid restrictions with no clear exit strategy, and the ALP, who are more extreme than that.

Jem Barnett
JB
Jem Barnett
2 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Walshe

Indeed, same here in England. It’s like a choice between being shot or poisoned.

Elizabeth Hart
Elizabeth Hart
2 years ago

Tennis star Novak Djokovic was banished from Australia by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, because he is “a high profile unvaccinated individual who has indicated publicly that he is opposed to becoming vaccinated against COVID-19”, a stance which Immigration Minister Alex Hawke describes as being ‘anti-vaccination’. 
Novak Djokovic is regarded as being ‘anti-vaccination’ because he “has previously stated that he ‘wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine’ to travel or compete in tournaments”. For being an individual wanting to retain his bodily autonomy, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke considered the presence of Novak Djokovic “may be a risk to the health of the Australian community”[1], presumably as Djokovic might inspire Australians to make their own informed decision about the Covid-19 jabs, counter to government diktats.
What does the antagonism against Novak Djokovic for his stance in refusing Covid-19 jabs mean for critical thinking Australians, who have similarly made their own informed decision to refuse to consent to Covid-19 jabs that don’t prevent infection nor transmission, injections which purportedly provide questionable ‘protection’ of very limited duration, against a disease it was known from the beginning wasn’t a serious threat to most people? 
Djokovic is just the tip of the iceberg, with many people in Australia now being discriminated against and marginalised, with many losing their livelihoods, and participation in civil society, because they refuse to submit to the obviously defective Covid-19 jabs.
The Morrison Government’s Covid-19 jab rollout is conflicting with the obligation to obtain valid voluntary consent before vaccination, as detailed in The Australian Immunisation Handbook[2], with millions of Australians being coerced and manipulated into submitting to defective Covid-19 jabs under state government and business/employer mandates, and mandates by other organisations such as hospitality, theatres, football and golf clubs etc.
The lack of valid voluntary consent before the Covid-19 jabs is shaping up to be a massive scandal, along with the discrimination and injustice being meted out to critical thinking Australians who justifiably refuse the defective Covid-19 jabs.
1. Djokovic v Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs [2022]: https://www.judgments.fedcourt.gov.au/judgments/Judgments/fca/full/2022/2022fcafc0003
2. Valid consent – The Australian Immunisation Handbookhttps://immunisationhandbook.health.gov.au/vaccination-procedures/preparing-for-vaccination

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth Hart

We have seen some pretty scary stuff coming out of Australia…including the containment camps (one woman had three negative tests and still had to serve her time) and a particularly chilling account of a woman who is violently allergic to many ingredients in the AZ and Pfizer vaccines and her journey to get exemption. It is almost a worse story than the typical African experience: Sidestepping, obfuscating and inefficiency.
One of the pros of living in South Africa is it is more Wild West and the majority of the black African population don’t want the vaccine and don’t trust its origins and its safety. Besides a chunk of the middle class (who all have money in the bank), who love their masks and the lockdowns – who join sad sack vaccine forums cheering the jabs and the like, most of us are pushing back.

Zoë Colvin
Zoë Colvin
2 years ago

“In the middle of a pandemic”? Surely the writer has noticed we are pretty much at the end.
Morrison is dull & uninspiring. He ought never to have agreed to a national cabinet. His “it’s not a race” remark was foolish. The vitriol he receives from this writer & more generally in the media seems rather over the top in response to this handful of fairly minor flaws. Is it the ukulele that makes this author so bitter – or is it perhaps the outraging aspect of Morrison’s character that he shares with Tony Abbott – his Christian faith – that really inflames his enemies? Being Christian in Australian politics is the greatest crime of all these days, it seems.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Zoë Colvin

Maybe people don’t like Morrison because he is the head of state and blundered around during the last two years over Covid issues. I understand that states have individual powers, but where was his leadership? At the very least he could have informed Australians that the Covid death rate was not 30%. Maybe he could have been innovative and steered conversations to therapeutics? The lunacy of vaccine mandates? On it goes.

Zoë Colvin
Zoë Colvin
2 years ago

The choice is dire, & Morrison is, sadly, the least worst option that I can see.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago

Early in the pandemic, Morrison convened a national cabinet comprising all the state and federal leaders. This cabinet operated by mutual consent and agreement from all parties.
I dislike Morrison intensely, but for entirely different reasons. The national cabinet was his initiative and showed genuine leadership. He deserves credit for it. In my book it was the one thing he really got right: bringing all the nation’s leaders together with its public health professionals so we could face Covid united as a nation.
But you have been told this before, more than once, in these pages. Unfortunately, you refuse to hear anything that doesn’t agree with your black-and-white, simplistic, preconceived opinions, which as far as Australia is concerned, are founded on gossip, opinions of friends and similar flimflam, and so are worthless. But you have been told that too, also multiple times.

Stephen Magee
Stephen Magee
2 years ago

Morrison is not the head of state.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Reply to  Zoë Colvin

The National Cabinet gave power without accountability to state leaders, because the JobKeeper cash was coming from the Feds. So you had the likes of Andrews, McGowan and Marshall (I always have to look him up) acting like spoilt kids.

Zoë Colvin
Zoë Colvin
2 years ago

Going now to look up Marshall.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Reply to  Zoë Colvin

The Unknown Premier. Allegedly a Lib.

Penelope Lane
PL
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Zoë Colvin

Morrison does not “share with Tony Abbott” a “Christian faith”.
Tony Abbott belongs to the most conservative part of the traditional Roman Catholic Church. His views are regressive not progressive, and include all the usual anti-s—anti-abortion, gays, women’s rights, feminism. His personality is extreme authoritarian, he went for the priesthood at one point but was unable to take the discipline, and when in power he proved himself unable to respect the shared secular public space that underpins Australia’s political and social life. Notwithstanding his ultra-conservative beliefs, he may nevertheless correctly be described as having a traditional “Christian faith”.
Morrison is an entirely different kettle of fish. Unable to find faith in the privileged, traditional Protestant environment in which he was raised, he migrated across to what is probably the most notorious cult in modern Australian history: Hillsong and its subsequent derivatives, ending in one of its current iterations, the so-called Horizon Church. It calls itself “Christian”, as latter-day pentecostal fundamentalist cults invariably do, but all that glisters is not gold, and the mainstream media make a great mistake in calling him “Christian” and the cult he devotedly follows a “Church”.
Hillsong and its derivatives have their origin in a defective revelation promulgated by a self-appointed preacher without formal recognition from any of the established Christian denominations, even the traditional Pentecostals. The cult has since weaseled its way into the formal evangelical fold by taking advantage of the culture wars and the insecurities of other Pentecostals anxious to find acceptance in mainstream Australia by banding together into an umbrella organisation which now hides a multitude of sins. Throughout all of this grouping now pulses the repulsive heartbeat of Trumpian American extremist cultism, an influence that is entirely alien to homegrown Australian culture and religion.
The Hillsong cults preach the so-called Prosperity Doctrine, which teaches that God loves rich people, and rewards them with even more money than they already have, while condemning the poor as being undeserving, punished by God for their supposed deviance from obedience to the divine Word. This Word is channeled exclusively through the mouthpiece of the cult’s divinely ordained preacher and no one else. Only those belonging to this exclusivist and excluding cult are destined to be saved and go to heaven after death. The rest of us, including all other religious and spiritual people together with the atheists and agnostics, are destined for eternal damnation and will burn forever in hell. Hillsong worships the Mammon, the God of Money, who is known to be one of the principal servants of Satan. Unsurprisingly, it also has a track record of financial mismanagement and sexual misconduct.
Mr Morrison believes all of this cult’s teachings. He ostentatiously parades his Sunday handwaving and Jesus chanting, in the mistaken belief he has something spiritual to teach the Australian people. He has confessed to “laying hands” on unsuspecting victims during prime ministerial tours, without asking their prior permission. He has been photographed attempting to force a prime ministerial handshake on an unwilling protestor in a show of false harmony put on for the press’ benefit. Morrison is incapable of separating Church from State, and is consequently an enemy of open democracy. For all these reasons, he can not be said to hold a “Christian faith”. Jim Jones also claimed to be a “Christian”, remember? That was before his false preaching induced a mass murder-suicide event in his followers.
Morrison is a living menace to the future spiritual health of Australian society. He displays all the deviousness, dishonesty and untrammelled lust for power that one might expect from a devotee of such a cult. Like Trump. he has great charisma and powers of persuasion, obtained through selling his soul to the Devil,
I am a progressive Christian working out of the teachings of Dr Rudolf Steiner, a modern initiate in the western tradition. There are many others—progressive Buddhists and progressive representatives of other religions and spiritual paths, as well as progressive Christians. Among traditional churches, the Uniting Church has progressive attitudes and is very popular. This sort of progressive spirituality is loved and accepted in Australian society equally with secular agnostics and atheists with progressive views. This contrasts sharply with the extremist Morrison cultists and their fellow travellers, who are widely distrusted and reviled.
True Christianity is inclusive not exclusive. It teaches love, not hate. It extends a hand to those in need, and does not reject them. It respects the other person, it does not despise or revile them.

Last edited 2 years ago by Penelope Lane
Zoë Colvin
Zoë Colvin
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

On what evidence do you base your allegation that Tony Abbott’s personality is “extreme authoritarian”?

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Zoë Colvin

He takes church authority unquestioningly on everything. Total obedience to ecclesiastical authority. This extends even to such doctrines as papal infallibility which are of very recent origin and are questionable even to many devout Catholics. This in turn has meant that, while in office as prime minister, he showed himself to be incapable of open-minded discussion on subjects such as birth control, abortion. gay rights, separate Catholic education, male leadership over women—any area where substantial public opinion came in conflict with conservative Catholic doctrine.
From this inability to listen with an open mind, to genuinely ask questions, hence to engage in fruitful discussion embracing a possibility of change—from this came his approach to government: lay down the law as he personally saw it, demand others tow the line, expect the public to follow his Catholic lead regardless of their own religion, morality or ethics. That made him a theocrat, not a democrat. A theocrat holding what is supposed to be a secular office.
We now have his corresponding number from the Protestant side, who is even worse! Woe is us!
Morrison’s opposite number, the Leader of the Opposition, Labor’s Anthony Albanese, is also a Catholic, but of a very different type. Amiable, sociable, modest, flexible, tolerant, but also thoroughly moral with strong ethical principles, he has a problem being heard over the Morrison shouty evangelical noise.
Another thoroughly problematic Catholic to watch is George Christensen. So extreme is he, even his own rightwing party became tired of him.
Evangelical fellow-travellers with Morrison in senior cabinet positions include Alan Tudge and former minister Christian Porter, both of whom have become embroiled in sexual scandals.
Our only hope for a moderate, middle of the road, broad-based government is to choose Labor, or a Labor–Green coalition, at our next election, due any day now, at the latest before May.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Reply to  Zoë Colvin

Abbott was the only liberal Liberal of recent memory.
Never mind the extreme anti-Catholic bigots who always had it in for him.

John Hicks
John Hicks
2 years ago

Not difficult to find that PM Morrison did NOT attend a “prestigious independent school” but a State School requiring high academic achievement criteria for enrolment. The school motto “Truth and Courage” may also have eluded the author who selectively emphasises the weekly “gottcha” moments in Australian politics as representative for his headline grabbing “Rule by Clowns.” One such moment omitted is that irritating journalist of 2016 who insisted Shorten answer his question, “What is the cost of your Climate policy?” Shorten’s inability to answer on a number of occasions was the reason why ALP true believers doubted his competence. Fortunately the Australian electorate can still be relied upon to discern reports from journalists seeking answers from those seeking headlines.

Brendan O'Leary
BO
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Reply to  John Hicks

Yes, the “prestigious independent school” comment seemed odd but I didn’t have time to look it up.
In contrast, the Labor politicians who would replace him, first Shorten and now Albanese, did indeed go to prestigious independent schools.
The most common sneer against Morrison is “Scotty from marketing” because he did actually have a job outside politics and the law.

I’m no fan of his but “Scott played a ukulele and someone sent an email” and “Boris ate a cake” look like ridiculous issues internationally at time of geopolitical crisis.

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago

Even though I am not sufficiently conversant with the level of detail regarding Australian politics to make a wise comment, I can tell from a single reading that this piece is biased and unfair–to clowns!
Clowns provide a useful service to society: they thrill us, they make us laugh, they scare (some of us) sometimes, but being a clown takes real skill, often many skills: juggling, mime, reading a crowd, riding a unicycle….It is an art.
Not everyone can be a clown. It takes, I suspect, long years of practice and training to be a good one, but any idiot can be a politician, and this article proves that.
A quick footnote on NDj–and a shout out to Chris Wheatley: NDj is not a clown, he is an elite athlete a professional tennis player. Apparently you meant this as an insult, but see above. My understanding of what happened is that NDj cleverly interpreted the then-existing rules to find a way to, quite literally, go to work.
NDj came across looking somewhat reasonable, he is a bit of a nutter on some things, but hey, he may be the GOAT in tennis; the Australian poo show did not look reasonable at all, though like clowns, they made the whole world laugh at, not with, them.
I’m jabbed, but it’s wrong of governments to force this on everyone. Weren’t many of us taught at school not to be bullies?

Philip L
Philip L
2 years ago

Morrison is one of the memorably unhinged faces of the last two years. The antipodeans have been a near constant reminder we don’t have it so bad.

Colin Black
CB
Colin Black
2 years ago

An interesting and, in so many ways, a true but depressing picture of the federal political scene in Australia. The situation at State level in most states is little better. Just one correction – I am pretty sure that Scott Morrison attended Sydney Boys’ High School. This is not an independent school but a New South Wales academically selective government school. He would have had to pass an entry examination to be admitted.

Finlay Bruce
Finlay Bruce
2 years ago

An academic doing a hit job on Morrison, without mentioning the alternative PM who likes to be called Albo, and is a leftover student radical from the 70’s. No surprise he doesn’t get a mention.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 years ago

The kakistocracy isn’t just an Australian problem.

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
2 years ago

“[I]n the UK, the union movement was defeated in open conflict by the Thatcher government in the Eighties. Australia’s historically powerful union movement was defanged by its own political representatives, via the ‘Accord’, after which unions agreed to restrict wage demands. As a result, union membership plummeted from 51% of the Australian workforce in 1976 to only 14% in 2016.”
Let me pose this idea: Whether or not we can credit the Thatcher government with taking out unions (that represented private interests?), globalization would have done much of the work. Even in the United States membership in unions representing private interests has plummeted, whereas membership in “public unions” — the teachers unions and such — has remained buoyant.
Why would that be? Because labor unions lost bargaining power as labor was off-shored. At the same time, the public unions live off of tax receipts, and the work of public employees is way less susceptible to off-shoring.

Val Colic-Peisker
Val Colic-Peisker
2 years ago

A good article, mostly spot-on analysis. However, government fear campaigns are really scary because many people, if not most, fall for them. Such a simple time-honoured way to rule, by fear. If 100% literate, well-off and pretty well educated population (at least if we count years of schooling) cannot see through them, who can? Democracy is indeed in crisis, and not just in Australia. And I cannot resist mentioning the stupidest of all PM’s stunts, washing some poor woman’s hair in a hair salon a couple of weeks ago. I could not believe my eyes, hoping it was a ‘deep fake’ to be démenti-ed. But It wasn’t.

David Zetland
David Zetland
2 years ago

What a fascinating article. This is a very clear and compelling explanation on what’s happened to democracies in the last 20 years.
In short, as society became disorganised during the shift from the industrial to the post-industrial age, political parties lost their organic connection to society. Unsurprisingly, political party membership in Australia fell from 4% of the population in the Sixties to 0.5% today. Of course, people continue to be involved in political campaigns in other ways, for example by volunteering to help independent candidates. Yet Australia’s parties and politicians have had to learn to appeal to an amorphous mass of atomised voters.”

Ludwig van Earwig
Ludwig van Earwig
2 years ago

You think Australia is run by clowns? What about the islands a couple of thousands kms to the east? (where I live)
To his credit, Morrison has pushed back against the wokeism that’s infected all Australian institutions. Whereas the NZ government is pushing through some insanely woke legislation while everyone is distracted by Covid. Rather than addressing the country’s existing serious problems (legacies of the neoliberal makeover of our institutions in the 80s and 90s, and of intergenerational welfare), Ardern seems intent on leaving her own legacy of problems.

Katalin Kish
Katalin Kish
9 months ago

The scariest consequence of this is Australia’s fake law and order hidden behind fudged crime statistics.
Learning that trying to report crimes is a waste of time at best irrespective of how serious a crime is in theory, people give up trying to report crimes. Since our police never had a duty of care or accountability to anyone but to their associates in reality, while always had a monopoly on what is a crime, if police refuse to investigate a crime, it never happened.
Australia’s crime-hiding is so successful, Melbourne was voted as one of the top 5 most liveable cities in the world in 2023, in spite of a crime epidemic spilling into even our most expensive suburbs. And, no one dares mentioning bikie crimes in Melbourne for good reasons.
While people new to Australia might find open admiration for violent criminals e.g. Ned Kelly or “Chopper” Read odd, it takes experiencing being blocked repeatedly from trying to report crimes punishable by 10 years in jail/worse as a public servant witness to such crimes in inner-Melbourne, seeing Victoria Police officers subsequently participate in the very crimes in broad daylight that they blocked from being reported to realise, how bad Australia’s actual lawlessness is.
If witnesses to serious crimes cannot bear the burden of silence, they can expect Victoria Police force them to fight at court in admitted silencing attempts. If the hapless crime witness is lucky, they will spot Victoria Police‘s entrapment/framing attempts, realise that seemingly pointless, bizarre crimes at absurd scale they start experiencing are to discredit crime witnesses/victims, because why would anybody do such a thing?
Examples of this in the 21st century include cyber-crimes using technology not known at the time to civilian experts, e.g. smart-meter hacking from 2011, car-electronics hacking from 2015, iPhone hacking from 2016, Faraday Cage penetration from 2022. Criminality is so risk-free in Australia, gangs entertain themselves with terrorising crime witnesses for many years in both physical and cyber-space without any risk of prosecution. It is the witness turned victim who has to fear law-enforcement as well as public opinion, thugs committing heinous crimes grow old without any trouble.
When trying to find ways to defend themselves against debilitating cyber-crimes, the witness/victim is dismissed, ridiculed, humiliated, patronised and treated like a raging lunatic by civilian experts, because they are assumed to have imagined the cyber-crimes, and thus they are deemed unreliable about all crimes.
It took the Optus hack and the Medibank hack in 2022 for our Minister for Cyber Security Clare O’Neil to discover that Australia had no dedicated cyber-crime fighting entities or resources – about six months into being our Minister for Cyber Security. Her own incompetence has embarrassed Australia greatly as she find it necessary to make speeches about hackback and Australia to become the world’s most cyber-secure country by 2030.
Since our authorities missed out on decades of incremental learning about tech used in crimes, Australia is, and likely remain a playground for cyber-criminals, including insiders from the Australian Signals Directorate moonlighting in cyber-mercenary roles alongside bikies like the MEEHANs.
People may live for decades in a city like Melbourne in blissful ignorance of Australia’s actual lawlessness.
I am one of those hapless crime witnesses who knew nothing about Australia’s lawlessness 1988-2008 living within a 10 km radius of where crimes against me started in 2009. I never called the highschool-dropout IT Helpdesk Assistant stalker ex-coworker from the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) a friend of any kind. He added me to his already extensive list of concurrent targets, when I became an e-commerce world champion in my postgrad studies while working as a Business Analyst at the VEC. Last cyber-crime about 4 hours ago, last bikie visit to my home overnight. I stopped trying to report any crimes in 2018.

Katalin Kish
Katalin Kish
9 months ago

The scariest consequence of this is Australia’s fake law and order hidden behind fudged crime statistics.
Learning that trying to report crimes is a waste of time at best irrespective of how serious a crime is in theory, people give up trying to report crimes. Since our police never had a duty of care or accountability to anyone but to their associates in reality, while always had a monopoly on what is a crime, if police refuse to investigate a crime, it never happened.
Australia’s crime-hiding is so successful, Melbourne was voted as one of the top 5 most liveable cities in the world in 2023, in spite of a crime epidemic spilling into even our most expensive suburbs. And, no one dares mentioning bikie crimes in Melbourne for good reasons.
While people new to Australia might find open admiration for violent criminals e.g. Ned Kelly or “Chopper” Read odd, it takes experiencing being blocked repeatedly from trying to report crimes punishable by 10 years in jail/worse as a public servant witness to such crimes in inner-Melbourne, seeing Victoria Police officers subsequently participate in the very crimes in broad daylight that they blocked from being reported to realise, how bad Australia’s actual lawlessness is.
If witnesses to serious crimes cannot bear the burden of silence, they can expect Victoria Police force them to fight at court in admitted silencing attempts. If the hapless crime witness is lucky, they will spot Victoria Police‘s entrapment/framing attempts, realise that seemingly pointless, bizarre crimes at absurd scale they start experiencing are to discredit crime witnesses/victims, because why would anybody do such a thing?
Examples of this in the 21st century include cyber-crimes using technology not known at the time to civilian experts, e.g. smart-meter hacking from 2011, car-electronics hacking from 2015, iPhone hacking from 2016, Faraday Cage penetration from 2022. Criminality is so risk-free in Australia, gangs entertain themselves with terrorising crime witnesses for many years in both physical and cyber-space without any risk of prosecution. It is the witness turned victim who has to fear law-enforcement as well as public opinion, thugs committing heinous crimes grow old without any trouble.
When trying to find ways to defend themselves against debilitating cyber-crimes, the witness/victim is dismissed, ridiculed, humiliated, patronised and treated like a raging lunatic by civilian experts, because they are assumed to have imagined the cyber-crimes, and thus they are deemed unreliable about all crimes.
It took the Optus hack and the Medibank hack in 2022 for our Minister for Cyber Security Clare O’Neil to discover that Australia had no dedicated cyber-crime fighting entities or resources – about six months into being our Minister for Cyber Security. Her own incompetence has embarrassed Australia greatly as she finds it necessary to make speeches about hackback and Australia to become the world’s most cyber-secure country by 2030.
Since our authorities missed out on decades of incremental learning about tech used in crimes, Australia is, and likely remain a playground for cyber-criminals, including insiders from the Australian Signals Directorate moonlighting in cyber-mercenary roles alongside bikies like the MEEHANs.
People may live for decades in a city like Melbourne in blissful ignorance of Australia’s actual lawlessness.
I am one of those hapless crime witnesses who knew nothing about Australia’s lawlessness 1988-2008 living within a 10 km radius of where crimes against me started in 2009. I never called the highschool-dropout IT Helpdesk Assistant stalker ex-coworker from the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) a friend of any kind. He added me to his already extensive list of concurrent targets, when I became an e-commerce world champion in my postgrad studies while working as a Business Analyst at the VEC. Last cyber-crime about 4 hours ago, last bikie visit to my home overnight. I stopped trying to report any crimes in 2018.
My comment with the same content (I fixed one typo in this version) disappeared in seconds on 26 June 2023. Let’s see if my second attempt stays.
(Visible at 14:11.)

Last edited 9 months ago by Katalin Kish
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

This article explains a lot about the last two years. Also…

“in which the PM is described as “a horrible, horrible person” and “a complete psycho”.”

hmmmm

Billy Bob
BB
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Australian politics has always been volatile. Morrison must be one of the first PMs in a long time to actually serve his term, most are usually knifed in the back a couple of years in

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Untrue. Australia was extraordinarily stable for decades. Especially when you consider the 3-year maximum federal election cycle.
32 years and 12 elections from 1975 to 2007 saw only 4 PMs: Fraser, Hawke, Keating, Howard. All but Keating (Brown to Hawke’s Blair, but much better than Brown) served two or more full terms and faced at least three general elections while PM.
The revolving door started with Rudd/Gillard/Rudd 2007-13.
Abbot then won 2013with a landslide despite a fierce media campaign declaring him “unelectable” on zero evidence. The fierce campaign continued after his election and his party, spooked by polls, knifed him and put in the media’s favourite (not that they would have voted for him) Turnbull – who promptly lost almost all Abbot’s majority first time he faced an election.
Turnbull in turn was knifed and so Australia has Morrison, who still pays far too much attention to polls and faces the same fierce media campaign of ambushes and gotchas that used to work so well.
But at least he won an election from PM, despite the media, yet again, declaring him brown bread, toast, yesterday’s man etc while (literally) cracking the champagne on election night 2019 for the now-forgotten Bill Shorten.

Last edited 2 years ago by Brendan O'Leary
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago

That’s true, I was referring to the last 10 years or so, it was just poorly worded on my part.