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Gadfly 202

By Robert Macklin


What’s the point of a target if you have no bow and arrow?

The thought occurred as we drove past the archery course beside Streeton Drive, Weston shortly after Scott Morrison delivered his latest announcement on climate change.

We were heading to the coast after the Canberra lockdown was lifted so there was plenty of time to chat about this latest manoeuvre from the Prime Minister to remain in power. And like all the others, it was bereft of substance, responsibility and morality. In other words, it was a con trick.

He has built quite a list of such devices since he shoved the hapless Malcolm Turnbull out of the Lodge. Remember that gawky arm around Malcolm’s shoulders as he said ‘This is my leader,’ while his own supporters were counting the numbers.

Then in short order came the Sports Rorts and the even bigger car park grants to Coalition and marginal seats in the lead up to his ‘miracle’ election. The revelations of Brittany Higgins brought us the endless Phil Gaetjens investigation into who knew what in the PMO; and the plethora of inquiries into workplace harassment which will never result in meaningful action.

Next came the opening scene of the Christian Porter saga with his vigorous denial of a sexual encounter with a young debating partner; Morrison’s refusal to call a real inquiry to sort the matter out; and Porter’s final departure from the ministry (though not the Parliament) with the revelation that an anonymous slush fund had been set up to pay his legal fees. Even then, Morrison used his numbers to prevent a referral to a parliamentary committee to inquire into it.

But the most telling con job has been the pretence that his government is fair dinkum about establishing an anti-corruption commission that actually exposes corruption among politicians. Publicly, the flim-flam operation initially proposed by Christian Porter when he was Attorney-General has been laughed out of court. The distinguished former judge of the Victorian Court of Appeal and a director of the Centre for public Integrity, Stephen Charles QC, said, ‘It would hide corruption, not expose it.’ But it’s hollow laughter since the very idea of a corrupt government is the stuff of nightmares. Literally.

I still vividly recall exactly that from the early 1990s when I was trapped in Belgrade during the war that marked the dissolution of Yugoslavia. I was sending reports to my newspaper that angered the Serbian government of the day; and was suddenly in a world where a knock at my 12th floor hotel door could have had the most unhappy consequences. There was no appeal to the kind of justice we have taken for granted in Australia.

Until now. Just ask Bernard Collaery, Witness K or Witness J.

Of course, Morrison is not Milosevic (despite their physical resemblance) and Australia isn’t Serbia then. Even Serbia now isn’t Serbia then. But corruption is a disease like Covid. It enters through the mouth and is transmitted the same way; it spreads exponentially and if unchecked can create new variants fatal to the entire body politic.

The only viable weapon is the truth serum we call science. But today’s clamouring media outlets can overwhelm resistance with the jabber of the crowd. And the Morrisons with their announcements from the seat of power hold sway.

They talk of net zero targets and it sounds as though they’re serious…until you notice that there’s no bow and not a single new arrow in the quiver.

www.robertmacklin.com


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