My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for today

by ray goodlass

Morrison’s hypocrisy exposed

Recently I was struck by the hypocrisy exhibited by PM Scott Morrison when he addressed the Business Council. In his speech he loudly attacked other political parties for pursing the politics of panic, when evidence clearly shows that he follows exactly the same approach.

One clear example will suffice before looking at Morrison’s modus operandi in more detail. He hammered the argument that now is not the time to discuss the links between climate change and the early arrival and ferocity of the recent bushfires. He went on to   accuse those who argued this was exactly the time of “pressing the panic button”. Yet only a few months earlier, during the federal election, he claimed that those advocating a rational approach to mitigating climate change would ‘end your weekend’ and ‘confiscate your ute’. As well as being a blatant lie that surely is also pressing the panic button.

The prime minister in fact relentlessly pursues the politics of panic.

As the Guardian Australia perceptively wrote, “Scott Morrison can’t attack Australia’s political circus and pretend he isn’t its ringmaster”.

During his address Mr Morrison had two messages. The first was that the government is managing the economy by ‘Not Panicking’. Related to the first message was the second: the Coalition has decided to provide a new round of stimulus spending by bringing forward spending on infrastructure, while at the same time ‘Not Panicking’. The government is ‘Not Panicking’ because it is ‘Not the Opposition’.

So the point of the prime ministerial was expounding was not so much what he was not doing, i.e. panicking, but what Labor and the Greens would be doing if anyone was ever foolish enough to allow them back into government – panicking, of course.

Morrison’s approach is to latch on to underlying voter anxiety and profit from it. He often tells us that he knows we are anxious, and sick of the noise in the ‘Canberra bubble’, but he wants us to direct our anxiety to his political opponents, not the government.

So he says, with great persistence, that he knows we are worried, but we don’t have to worry, because Daddy is here, he won the election, and he’s ‘Not Panicking’. This is also where his ‘Daggy Dad’ masquerade comes into the picture. In essence he says “Hello, I’m Scott, and I’m not panicking”. On anyone else it would come across as quite ridiculous, but it works for ScoMo.

Clearly Morrison is a fully rusted-on part of the circus he decries, and a significant beneficiary of it, not a disinterested observer, or a prophet who will save politics from itself, as he so often claims to be. Morrison is pure politics.

The second point is the economy isn’t doing that well, and while Morrison likes to present the Opposition as economic panic merchants, recent history shows it was a Labor government, not a Coalition one, that kept Australia out of recession during the global financial crisis.

So what the government is doing to ally our fears about Australia’s sluggish economy, is to gradually introduce a series of policies that added together are in effect pressing the panic button, but without it being obvious: tax cuts, low interest rates, drought spending, a grab bag of infrastructure spending, and most recently, half a billion thrown at aged care, all  while still maintaining the surplus. And of course, the need to maintain a budget surplus is the greatest panic button of all. Superficially it is made to sound like economic responsibility, when in truth it is exactly the opposite.

Australians, however they vote, are more likely going to care more about whether they have a job than whether or not the budget is in surplus, however much ScoMo presses that panic button.

Most recently Mr Morrison is pressing the panic button on allegation of Chinese spying (“Morrison deeply disturbed over spy claims”, DA 26 November). This is an easy one for him, because as all insecure leaders are wont to do, he can press the fear of foreigners xenophobia panic button.

So Mr Morrison, while claiming not to panic, is doing just that, and so once again is channeling his hero Donald Trump, who rode to victory in 2016 panicking the American people about hordes of criminal Mexicans who could only be stopped if he was elected and built a wall.