Forget “Front of the Queue”, Scott Morrison is Enabling a Front for Q
Although Morrison hasn't made a Big Lie like former US president Donald Trump, his incessant Little Lies may very well be leading Australia in precisely the same direction
Being a Canadian with no formal schooling about Australia in any way whatsoever I not only can't name more than one Australian prime minister pre-1970s, but I know little more than a few key details about a small selection of them since: Gough Whitlam was removed from office under rather dubious circumstances, Bob Hawke was in the Guinness Book of Records for sculling beer, Tony Abbott ate a raw onion, and Scott Morrison is a serial liar that somehow manages to always be days if not weeks behind addressing any and all crises that come Australia's way. Although the foremost of those is fodder for some other time, it's the latter-most that's the most pressing concern for the immediate future.
Yes, as many people in Australia and even around the world are readily aware, Australia's current prime minister is a serial liar, a well-worn trait that's had more than ample opportunity to be trotted out as cover for bungle after bungle (think bushfires, vaccine procurements, vaccine roll-outs, Omicron, floods, more floods, etc.). But while the common assumption may be that Morrison is simply incompetent and in turn shamelessly lies in order to make up for repeated gaffes in which crisis after crisis have been left to abhorrently fester, such an assumption may in fact be dangerously naïve. Because while many of Morrison's lies and cover-ups are so utterly transparent that they could only be believed and/or ignored by the most sycophantic, it may very well be that Morrison isn't quite as incompetent as he appears but has in fact been allowing said crises to fester, on purpose.
That is of course a hefty presumption and accusation to make, and a seemingly far fetched one at that. Moreover, while the highly dubious characters and belief systems that Morrison more than willingly cavorts with – alleged paedophile-protectors, the QAnon-aligned, end-of-days Pentecostal adherents – do give some credence to the notion of allowing for crises to deteriorate so much as politically possible (more on all that below), they in and of themselves possibly do contribute to the willingness of failing to address crises in a timely manner but probably aren't enough to tip the scales in favour of such.
Nonetheless, the notion of Morrison allowing crises to fester as much as feasible might not be as outlandish as can appear at first sight. To make sense of this notion will however require traversing across a few topics in order to establish the background and foundation to it all, including Morrison's habituation for lying, his religious beliefs and connections therein, his association with the QAnon-aligned, and then finally with the political reasoning and purposes behind why one might purposefully allow crises to fester.
To add another dimension to it all, following all that an examination on how Morrison has been repeatedly nudging Australia in the direction of Donald Trump's United States – which itself has been increasingly mirroring Vladimir Putin's Russia – with the assistance of everybody's favourite Australian-cum-American media mogul.
Feel free to skip to any section/subsection as you like via the Table of Contents (in the side-panel on laptops and desktops, a couple of lines below on tablets and mobile phones [which is visually broken, I know, I'm trying to fix it]).
Otherwise – to the lies!
Table of contents
Pants on fire, fit for the pyre
A Pentecostal pledge
Qultish lives matter
A crack in the ICAC
Millennialist Morrison's mobile messages
The bulldozer unleashes “Wrecking crew” politics upon Australia
Putin on the writs
Sounds of COVID-19, with Fanfare Ciocărlia
Pants on fire, fit for the pyre
A precedence for prevarication
Although a certain international incident can be credited with enlightening many an Australian in regards to the prime minister's loose way with words, Morrison's creaturely habit by no means started with a row about submarines, nor was it initially exposed by it either – not by a long shot.
In fact, while some in the media had been pointing out, here and there, to Morrison's fabulations for some time, it was hardly two weeks after the "I don't think, I know" incident that author and Crikey writer Bernard Keane saw his hot-off-the-press Lies and Falsehoods: The Morrison Government and the New Culture of Deceit hit the bookshelves. And even though the book was inherently outdated by the time it was printed thanks to Morrison's ongoing fabrications, the book quickly sold out of its first print.
It was however about half a year earlier, in May 2021, that Crikey published its "Dossier of Lies and Falsehoods" on its website, a precursor to the aforementioned book in which dozens upon dozens of Morrison's lies and falsehoods are detailed. (Crikey had actually planned on publishing the dossier much earlier but decided to hold off due to their opinion that the dossier may result in unnecessary distraction at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the utmost of attention.)
Moreover, just three days before the 2022 federal election Crikey published yet another collection of Morrison's lies and falsehoods, this one consisting solely of those made during the election campaign. It had no less that 12 when first published.
So what are these numerous lies of Morrison's, and what makes their introspection worth spilling yet another slew of words upon a digital screen?
For starters, and while Morrison's reputation for deception is by now quite well documented, for those not too familiar with his habits – and possibly even for those who are – it may very well be worth conveying a few examples in order to set the precedence for why Morrison lies so much. Because while some of his lies and the purpose behind them may be of the more mundane nature (made to convey the appearance of someone coolly, calmly, and fully in control of events), others may have a more insidious motivation. In short, it may very well be that Morrison's more insidious lies exist as an enabler for his penchant of being a day and a week too late when it comes to addressing not just matters of importance, but matters of importance that underpin the ability for Australians to come to each other's assistance.
Giving a complete and thorough overview of Morrison's aversion to the truth would of course be much too voluminous for present purposes, never mind unnecessary, although a bit of a greatest hits compilation will be more than suitable for depicting the mechanics in which Morrison works.
No time for subpar lies
To give credit where credit is due, it's fair to say that Scott Morrison doesn't restrict himself to picking solely on the little guy but is in fact more than willing to dole out his lies to colleagues on the world stage as well. It's here where Morrison made what is (so far?) his most famous lie of all, exposed by none other than French president Emmanuel Macron himself. Long story short, following Australia's arguably underhanded cancellation of its $90bn conventional-submarine contract with France in order to clandestinely sign up to a nuclear-powered submarine contract (AUKUS) with the US and the UK, Macron was swarmed by Australian media during the G20 summit in Rome where he offered up the following.
I have a lot of respect for your country. I have a lot of respect and a lot of friendship for your people. I just say when we have respect, you have to be true and you have to behave in line, and consistently, with this value.
When then asked by Bevan Shields of The Age / The Sydney Morning Herald whether or not Morrison had lied to him about the secret dialogue, Macron replied
I don't think, I know.
That's not all Macron stated though, having also added that Morrison was effectively trashing Australia's reputation across the globe.
The AUKUS deal was very bad news for France – but not just for France, because I think it's a very bad news for credibility of Australia and a very bad news for the trust that great partners can have with the Australians.
I think this is detrimental to the reputation of your country and your prime minister.
With an all but complete aversion to being accountable for his words and actions, it's become apparent over the past few years that when Morrison's lies and spin are exposed he proceeds to double down and thus reply with more lies and spin in order to avail himself from the mess he'd personally created. In this case, when Australian journalists in Rome "dared" to question Morrison about the words Macron had made only moments earlier, Morrison responded with a baseless claim about the journalists themselves, as if they were doing something else besides their job: "You were getting selfies with him."
That was only the beginning though, because to make matters worse, and even though Macron went out of his way to praise Australians while stressing that his issue was with Morrison himself, Morrison later replied to Macron's statements with complete falsehoods, insinuating that Macron was insulting Australians en masse.
I think the statements that were made questioning Australia's integrity, and the slurs that had been placed on Australia – not me, I've got broad shoulders, I can deal with that – but those slurs, I'm not going to cop sledging of Australia. I'm not going to cop that on behalf of other Australians.
But as Macron specifically didn't sledge Australia in the slightest, and while Morrison responded with nothing more than the exacerbation of his lies and falsehoods, it was actually Morrison's integrity that was being put at risk, and on a rolling basis no less. For as stated in Rome by Malcolm Turnbull, Australian prime minister when Morrison was finance minister,
Oh, he's lied to me on many occasions. Scott has always had a reputation for telling lies. When a prime minister behaves disingenuously or dissembles or is dishonest, it will reflect on his or her credibility, it will reflect on the credibility of their party and the government.
But when you do that as leader of the nation, internationally, it reflects on us all. Deceiving people is bad wherever you do it but when you do it at an international level it has much graver ramifications.
As Turnbull added,
This is shocking, shocking conduct. Scott Morrison can bluster as much as he likes, but he's not fooling anyone … I'll tell you what Scott Morrison has done. He has sacrificed Australian honour, Australian security and Australian sovereignty. Now, that is a shocking thing for an Australian prime minister to do.
Morrison could have taken the hints at this point and just shut his mouth while attempting to salvage what semblance of a half-decent reputation he may have had left (never mind avoid tarnishing Australia's trustworthiness even further), but true to form he couldn't stop himself from doubling down on his lie. Because in an extraordinary breach of diplomatic norms it was shortly after all the aforementioned that a mysterious someone managed to get a hold of a personal text from Morrison's mobile phone and leak it to a handful of select publications, including the (Rupert) Murdoch media's Daily Telegraph and Australian. According to the leaked text, Macron is purported to have asked Morrison, two days before the announcement of AUKUS, "Should I expect good or bad news for our joint submarines ambitions?"
Although the text was dutifully spun by the Murdoch media as evidence that Macron knew the contract was about to be nullified, followed by Morrison oddly suggesting that "claims had been made and those claims were refuted", the text actually proved the opposite – that Macron didn't in fact know what was going on and was curious if everything was on track. Moreover, when Morrison was later asked "Why did you decide to leak that text message?", Morrison not only didn't deny the leak came from him (as Crikey put it, "Morrison's smirk said it all") but simply stated "I’m not going to indulge your editorial on that".
But indulge this for a moment. Because in the attempt to dispel US president Joe Biden's claim of innocence (he claims to have presumed Macron was aware of the AUKUS deal – "I was under the impression that France had been informed long before that the deal was not going through"), a 15-page confidential document – signed by the US National Security Council as well as British and Australian officials – was mysteriously obtained by the Murdoch media's Australian, outlining in detail the way in which France would be notified of AUKUS and of the cancellation of the $90bn submarine contract with France. In short, Australia was not to inform France of the cancellation until September 16th, the very day that AUKUS was to be announced to the world.
In other words, if Macron and the rest of France weren't to be notified of the cancellation of the submarine contract until September 16th, how was it then that Macron's text (made two days prior to the announcement on the 16th) was supposed to imply that he already knew about the contract's cancellation? How could it be that all of France was to be specifically kept in the dark yet Macron was supposed to have known?
"Claims had been made", Morrison had correctly stated. However, no, those claims weren't refuted. Morrison did in fact lie. And not only to Macron, but effectively to all Australians and to the rest of the world as well.
That being said, there is the chance that release of further texts from Morrison's and Macron's exchange could clear the air. As was stated in The Age / The Sydney Morning Herald, "If Morrison had texted back a thumbs-up emoji, Macron might be justified in feeling misled. If it was a thumbs-down emoji, then maybe the French President should have seen it coming."
Well, after a freedom of information application was made by Guardian Australia, which pointed out that since elements of the text exchange had already been made public their full release was unlikely to have an unacceptable impact on the relationship, in early-February of this year Morrison's office refused the release. According to a senior advisor, who presumably replied with a straight face,
The requested documents are communications between the prime minister and the head of state of a foreign government and were undertaken in confidence.
Moreover, it was also stated that
[D]isclosure of the requested documents would or could reasonably be expected to cause damage to Australia's international relations.
After all, it's not as if just a few months earlier the French ambassador to Australia, Jean-Pierre Thebault, didn't unleash in what has been described as being "a nuclear-grade attack – perhaps the most savage speech from a diplomat ever delivered in the nation's capital". Because as he so put it,
This is an unprecedented new low – in terms of how to proceed, and also, in terms of truth and trust.
You don't behave like this on personal exchanges of leaders who are allies. But maybe it's just confirmation that we were never seen as an ally.
But doing so also sends a very worrying signal for all heads of state – beware, in Australia, there will be leaks, and what you say in confidence to your partners will be eventually used and weaponised against you one day.
At the same time, I will tell you, there is something interesting in these leaks. It completely demonstrates that until the last minute we did not know where things were heading to. It completely demonstrates that nothing has ever been told to us. It completely demonstrates that we were concerned about all the questions that we were ready to address and tried to address in order to make the program work as was required for us.
So, the way it was done is a new low. The way it was done is not the direction of building confidence.
Those leaks are not the actions we are looking for, but if it is Australia's answer, it is sad. But once again, we don't say this to Australians. We will not consider that this is the way Australia likes to react and the way Australians behave.
What Morrison demonstrated to the world was the fact that Australia under Morrison can't be trusted with sensitive information, that messages between leaders won't be kept confidential, that it can't be trusted to honour a deal, and that Morrison himself was more than willing to put his personal political interests ahead of any sense of decorum with France and possibly any other country. (It may also be that Morrison and many of his Liberal party colleagues made a hefty sum from the failed submarine contract, but that's another story entirely.)
Finally, and having eschewed the possibility of taking any responsibility for any of his actions and for any of his lies, it was only fitting then that when questioned again by the media about the submarine debacle Morrison smugly deferred any explanation by replying with the suggestion that "it’s important now that we all just move on".
And with that suggestion of Morrison's we shall move on – to the next of his incessant and ultimately nation-destroying lies – although it seems that Australians may not be moving on, what with recent data from Roy Morgan market research company showing that Morrison is the least trusted politician in Australia.
Eclectic lies for electric drives
Moving on to some of the more mundane, it was in early April 2019, less than a week before the Australian federal election was called, that Morrison went on a bit of a rant against not only the opposition's plan for electric vehicles but against electric vehicles themselves. (Note: I'm not a technological optimist in the slightest, and nor do I see electric vehicles as a panacea for our fossil-fuelled modern way of life whatsoever. Nonetheless, while I've never owned an electric vehicle nor any other kind of motorised vehicle, unlike the prime minister I don't argue with the torque they're quite obviously capable of.) As Morrison began, incorrectly describing the capabilities of electric vehicles,
I'll tell you what – it's not going to tow your trailer. It's not going to tow your boat. It's not going to get you out to your favourite camping spot with your family.
Bill Shorten wants to end the weekend when it comes to his policy on electric vehicles where you've got Australians who love being out there in their four-wheel drives.
One of the blatant lies associated with the above quote is Morrison's November 2021 claim that he didn't campaign vigorously against electric vehicles in the lead up to the 2019 election.
But I didn't. That is just a Labor lie. I was against Bill Shorten's mandate policy, trying to tell people what to do with their lives, what cars they were supposed to drive and where they could drive.
Some would call that "projection", making the claim that Labor had made a lie when in fact it was he who was in the act of lying. Similarly, Morrison also made the assertion in November 2021 that the opposition wanted to "force" electric vehicles on Australians.
Labor wanted to force people to do this and I still don't want to do that. You don't get people to do something else by pushing up the price that they are currently doing that is still what Labor wants to do. They want to put up your petrol prices, increase your cost of living to force you to make other choice.
The opposition's policy was however most certainly not a mandate but rather a target for 50% of new vehicles to be electric by 2050. Moreover, and as will be elaborated on below, it can be seen here that when Morrison has one of his lies called out he often not only ignores the exposed lie but doubles down by conjuring up another lie, as is also evident in the following video compiled by Guardian Australia in which Morrison deliberately misleads Australians with a false claim about a purposeful rise in the price of fuel.
Along with Morrison's "factually incorrect statements" (to put it generously) about the capabilities of electric vehicles and by extension the technologies behind them (his ignorance, if not lies, corrected by The ABC shortly thereafter), Morrison also appears to be quite content to contradict himself if it means covering up for his lies. As was quoted and asked by a reporter in November 2021,
In [April of] 2019 on 2GB you said: “What about all these charging stations, how much is that going to cost? I mean if you have an electric car and you live in an apartment, are you going to run the extension cord down from your fourth floor window?”
Now today you are focusing on infrastructure, so you have to admit, it's a fairly big conversion you have made.
As Morrison replied,
Well, what we are seeing is a massive change in technology. Yes, yes a massive change ... particularly when it comes to hydrogen.
Hydrogen is a big game-changer for Australians, it's a big solution for Australia.
Some years ago, when the Labor party was going to force you to go and move to a vehicle where technology had not arrived where we are at now and where it will go in the future.
They wanted to force your choice, and make taxpayers subsidise it. We just had a different view, technology is moving, it will continue to move forward.
Put simply, Morrison tried to excuse his dismissal of electric vehicles with the assertion that the "technology had not arrived", which seven months later apparently had arrived thanks to a supposed "massive change in technology". "[T]echnology is moving", as Morrison put it.
One might find it rather dubious then that 13 days earlier, and in response to the opposition's observation that Morrison's favoured approach to addressing climate change – carbon capture and storage (CCS) – is a technology that doesn't exist (which has been previously written about on FF2F here), Morrison waved around his iPhone in Parliament while stating the following:
I say to the Leader of the Opposition of the Labor Party – what have they got against technology, Mr Speaker? Why do they not have a confidence that, in the next 30 years, that in the world today, Mr Speaker, we will not see technology breakthroughs that will ensure they will be able to crack the case? If that's the case, they should never use one of these. They would never exist. An iPhone would never exist if it was based on the assumptions of the Leader of the Opposition. He wouldn't think any of these things wouldn't happen. We wouldn't have had a COVID vaccine, because it hadn't been developed two years ago, not even one year ago, Mr Speaker, or not much more than one year ago.
That is, Morrison can envision the technological advancements associated with mobile phones, with COVID vaccines, and even with the nothing-but-theoretical CCS, but he somehow wasn't able to apply that same technological vision two years earlier to electric vehicles, even though the technology already existed, was in fact already on the roads. In other words, Morrison is not only loose with the truth, but if anything it appears that he is the one that's "against technology", if anything it's because of him that Australians supposedly "will not see technology breakthroughs", and it's he that is effectively limiting the choices that Australians can make, all of which is topped off with the unsurprising characteristic of lacking consistency when it suits him and only him best.
Fibs for jabs
The list of Morrison's lies goes on and on, and while the ramifications behind his assertion that he never used the arguably racist phrase "Shanghai Sam" in reference to former senator Sam Dastyari were by no means as drastic as those emanating from his lie(s) to Macron (although he repeatedly denied it, Morrison quite readily used the phrase "Shanghai Sam" at least 17 times in 11 different occasions, all readily accessible on video and much of it collected in another Guardian Australia video found here, while also showcased in a Tweet made by Morrison himself), Morrison's lies are sometimes made in order to try to cover up for disastrous decisions made by him and his slipshod government.
At the forefront of these disastrous decisions would be the failure for the Morrison government to secure adequate supplies of a diverse array of vaccines to address the COVID-19 pandemic, a failure that Morrison tried to brush aside by stating that getting (Australians) vaccinated was "not a race". When it became apparent that it was in fact a race – against mass infection, worker shortages, the need to impose lockdowns, business closures, deaths, etc. – and when he couldn't quite pretend this time that he didn't (repeatedly) mutter the damning phrase, Morrison tried to weasel his way out of his self-made disaster by stating that although he did in fact state "it's not a race", it was supposedly made in reference to the regulation of vaccines.
That was a lie, and not just because in the attempt to brush off the belated vaccine rollout Morrison had clearly stated, for one, that the vaccination drive wasn't a race between different states. Moreover, Morrison's first usage of the phrase "it's not a race" was made on March 10th, weeks after the TGA approved Pfizer's vaccine (January 25th) and AstraZeneca's vaccine (February 16th). See the top-left for the dates of each "it's not a race" comment in the following Guardian Australia video.
Although Australia was unlucky in that of the four vaccines that the Morrison government initially procured one was unusable due to giving off false-positives for HIV (University of Queensland), one didn't become available until early-2022 (Novavax), and another got embroiled with issues around blood clots (AstraZeneca-cum-Vaxzevria), the fact remains that the Morrison government didn't secure Australia with a wide enough basket of vaccine options as other countries (like Canada) had done. While the Morrison government didn't even order anything from Moderna until desperation had well set in (by which time all of Moderna's early supplies had been snapped up by other countries), it made an embarrassingly paltry initial order from Pfizer for a mere 10 million dosages in November 2020, belatedly added to with follow-up orders of another 10 million in February 2021 and then another 20 million dosages in April 2021 once it became apparent to the public that the federal government had botched Australia's vaccine procurement.
To make matters worse, and as many an Australian are now well aware, Morrison has a greater fondness for making announcements (regardless of how untrue those announcements actually are) than he does for taking actual action, most indicative with his repeated claim that in comparison to the vaccine procurements of other countries "our strategy puts Australia at the front of the queue". But not only was Australia at the back of the queue, the Morrison government, as preposterous as it sounds, actually turned down a silver platter offering from Pfizer to have an exclusive position at the absolute very front of the vaccine queue.
Pfizer, knowing full well that Australia's island nation status and closed borders provided a perfect opportunity for showcasing its vaccine to the rest of the world, contacted the Morrison government in July of 2020 with an open-ended offer, essentially stating "how many doses do you want?" Rather than snatch up Pfizer's offer, the Morrison government "nickel and dimed" Pfizer over prices, blew off the offer, and then not until four months later (November 2020) did it even bother to order its first batch of 10 million doses from Pfizer, months after several other countries had already placed much more substantial orders.
The Morrison government at the time denied there was ever such an offer, Morrison even stating himself that "every effort" was made to secure vaccine supplies.
What do we know now? We know that in August 2020 the vaccine advisory group advised the government to order as many vaccines as possible from different sources. The government didn't do this. One of the few deals it made was for a large quantity of AstraZeneca vaccines, a company in which a high-level executive was a former senior Liberal advisor and chief of staff. When it came to Pfizer, it appears there was no high-level executive working for them that was an ex-Liberal advisor. Because although it was initially denied, a freedom of information request later revealed that Pfizer was in fact very "enthusiastic" to make an early deal with Australia.
My global colleagues are enthusiastic to discuss this further, and possible opportunities in Australia, at a senior level at the earliest opportunity.
Whereas Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally called Pfizer boss Albert Bourla 30 times, Morrison did nothing of the sort. As absurd as it sounds, senior business figures in Australia turned to former PM Kevin Rudd, who then spoke to Bourla himself "as an Australian citizen who cares for his country's wellbeing" to see if Pfizer could be a bit flexible with vaccine supplies (in light of Morrison's shortcomings). When the vaccine rollout turned into a shambles, Morrison blamed ATAGI doctors.
Fittingly enough the Australian National University decided to name "strollout" – a description of the federal government's vaccine rollout – as its word of the year, while the Washington Post ran with the headline "Australia's vaccine 'stroll-out' shows the dangers of covid complacency".
Although Australians did nonetheless proceed to get themselves vaccinated with some of the highest rates in the world, all of that came in spite of Morrison's shortcomings and failures, not thanks to him. Because the fact remains that had of Morrison and his government put more effort into actually procuring enough vaccines from a wide enough array of suppliers – or even bothered to have taken up Pfizer's offer to be at the literal "front of the queue" – instead of making false pronouncements about how wonderful everything was going, there's a very good chance that the on-time procurement of vaccines – and definitely the actual "front of the queue" offer from Pfizer – would have meant that the eagerness of Australians to get vaccinated would have translated into an extremely early double-dosage status for a vast majority of qualified recipients.
Instead, Australia's vaccination program not only got off to a late start but a very slow start thanks to poorly procured supplies only trickling in for months on end. In fact, when Australia had finally administered its first doses on 21 February 2021 a full one-third of all Israelis had already received their initial two doses, and by the time 50% of Israelis had received two doses on 24 March an embarrassing 0.1% of Australians had likewise received their two initial doses.
In other words, had of Morrison and his government properly done their jobs and ordered enough vaccines – and in a timely manner – the situation in Australia would have been somewhat different. Moreover, if Morrison and his government had of taken up Pfizer's actual "front of the queue" offer then the situation would have been completely different – rather than 3.4% of Australians having reached double dosage by 13 June it's quite possible that 75% of Australians would have reached double dosage by that date rather than half a year later on 13 December.
In effect, since two doses of a vaccine (particularly of Pfizer's Comirnaty vaccine) are extremely effective against severe outcomes emanating from the Delta variant (of which was the predominant variant in mid-2021), had of 75% of Australians been double-vaccinated by mid-June 2021 it's all but guaranteed that Victoria and New South Wales would have never had to have gone through their excruciating lockdowns that began in July of last year.
That is, no lockdowns, no worker shortages, no crippled health care systems, no ambulance shortages, no burned out health care workers, no stripped store shelves, no Murdoch riots, no permanent closure of businesses in the thousands upon thousands, and last of all, many fewer deaths. At most, people in Melbourne and Sydney may have had to endure a bit of masking on public transit and the like.
Instead, while roughly half the country endured months of excruciating lockdowns and all the rest of it, Morrison, ever so fond of announcements rather than action and taking credit when credit isn't due, couldn't help himself from deceiving the country with talk about how great of a job he and his government was doing and, in what was effectively little more than an election-pitch, misleadingly claimed that on top of much else it was his government that had saved 40,000 lives.
[T]he actions we took have saved businesses from bankruptcy, it saved Australians from losing their jobs, from losing their homes. It saved 40,000 lives.
Likewise, Morrison's claim that "the actions we took have saved businesses from bankruptcy" is just as fatuous. Thanks to the failure of Morrison's government to procure enough rapid antigen tests (RATs) in a timely manner (which the Australian Medical Association had been warning it about since September of 2021) half of Australia was plunged into de facto lockdown (which got nicknamed "shadow lockdown") during the initial Omicron outbreak over the summer holiday period thanks to worker shortages (that were more disruptive than the height of Delta) and people simply staying home out of concern for their own safety.
That all resulted in business owners stating that the situation was "more painful than lockdown", declaring a "code red" due to the "Omicron wave more damaging than lockdown", selling their properties in order to pay the bills, and caused business after business to permanently close. It also resulted in empty shelves at supermarkets, food shortages, COVID-positive workers allowed to work at meatworks, ambulance rationing, retired teachers urged to head back to school, even Morrison absurdly suggesting that under-18s should be allowed to drive forklift. And to top it all off, funeral homes that ran out of space for dead bodies.
So sure, Scott Morrison "saved businesses from bankruptcy [and] Australians from losing their jobs", even though during the "shadow lockdown" foot traffic dropped down to lockdown levels, consumers were spending as if they were in lockdown, crimped consumer spending, and by the new year had ANZ declaring that spending had its "worst week since Delta".
All that Morrison counts as a job well done.
So although he was called out for lying by both French president Emmanuel Macron as well as former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, it turns out, as stated to 3AW's Neil Mitchell, that Morrison somehow doesn't believe he's ever told a lie in public life. Furthermore, and in what may reveal Morrison's underlying insidious manner, he blithely dismissed and waved off criticisms of what can be fairly described as a lack of moral turpitude by stating that "people take sledges at me all the time".
So while Morrison doesn't think that his lies – whose criticism of he states as being nothing but slander – affect him politically because he's "making the right decisions" (as stated to Mitchell), one can't help but wonder what these "right decisions" are in regards to considering that one of his most damning lies ("it's not a race") was made in association to his government's disastrous vaccine procurement of which was the overwhelming contributing factor that led to roughly half the country being locked down in the latter half of 2021.
Supposing that not ordering from enough vaccine suppliers and brushing off Pfizer's offer to be at the actual "front of the queue" were somehow the "right decisions" to make, might it be that Morrison is making these "right decisions" for the benefit of some other motive than the interest of Australians? Although that will be examined much more closely further below, according to leaked texts from another Liberal colleague of his (who has also chipped in by stating that Morrison "actively spread[s] lies") Morrison may very well have the mental capacity for such undertakings.
For it was back on the 1st of February, following Morrison's speech to the National Press Club, that Network Ten political reporter Peter van Onselen dropped the bombshell that he was in possession of private texts between then-premier of New South Wales Gladys Berejiklian and an unnamed Liberal federal cabinet minister in which the latter described Morrison as a "complete psycho". Berejiklian described Morrison as a "horrible person" that "is just obsessed with petty political point scoring", statements made at a time in which Australian "lives are at stake" (the 2019/2020 bushfires).
While Berejiklian quickly issued a non-denial denial hours after Morrison's February 1st National Press Club talk by claiming "I have no recollection of such messages", in an interview on April 5th with Leigh Sales on the ABC's 7:30 Morrison stated that Berejiklian "denies" having ever said those words. Which was, in the words of Van Onselen, yet another "out and out lie".
In fact, later that evening political editor Samantha Maiden published an article on news.com.au in which the leaked texts were put on display for all Australia to see.
But that's not the only instance in this particular ordeal when Morrison was described as a liar. Because following deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce's call for the anonymous minister that called Morrison a "complete psycho" to identify themselves, former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins released a text sent by Joyce in which he called Morrison a "hypocrite", "a liar from my observations and that is over a long time", and that he is someone that "earnestly rearranges the truth to a lie".
Unsurprisingly Joyce quickly walked back his comments (essentially confirming he suffers from the absence of a backbone), which was rather similar to the way in which Morrison quickly claimed to have misspoken in regards to his claims about Berejiklian having denied stating those words after the surfacing of the actual texts in which Berejiklian described Morrison as being "a horrible horrible person".
Suffice to say it's a rare case in which Morrison – without any spin – will actually recant one of his lies, but while on a couple of rare occasions Morrison actually had to sheepishly walk back some of his lies there was also that time when Morrison was forced to retract a lie, a lie he absentmindedly made against none other than the hand that feeds him. And it's via this latter case that we start to get closer to the reasoning behind Morrison's incessant lies and his penchant for allowing for the festering of crisis after crisis in Australia.
Although Morrison's modus operandi is quite possibly built around the hoped-for belief that a majority of Australians have by now cynically convinced themselves that all politicians profusely lie and so in turn will all-too-easily dismiss his profundity of lies with no more than a shrug of the shoulders, there are nonetheless limits to how far Morrison can take those lies.
One of those lies entailed another former prime minister, in this case Kevin Rudd. On 7 December 2020, and during parliament in which criticism was being levelled against former prime minister Tony Abbott for having left and re-entered the country on several occasions (effectively taking up scarce quarantine spaces for "regular" Australians), Morrison shot back by stating, without offering any proof whatsoever, that Rudd had done the same thing.
Later that day Rudd called out Morrison's lie (albeit rather politely, stating that Morrison had "misled the parliament"), pointing out that he had not only not left the country but hadn't even left Queensland since March. Morrison, caught out lying, had little choice but to send a letter to the clerk of the House stating "I also apologise to Mr Rudd for the statement and am pleased to correct the record."
Morrison had, apparently, learned a bit of a lesson – don't go about spreading lies about vocal former prime ministers.
There was however another lesson Morrison had to learn, this one being that although he could arguably get away with spouting lies about (nearly) any other politician than Rudd, about various technologies, about his government's policies and boondoggles, and even about pronouncements he'd blatantly made previously on camera, the one line more than any other that he was not to cross was to spout lies about the hand that feeds him. And in Morrison's case, that "hand", of course, is none other than Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.
On 23 March 2021, and under pressure over the manner in which women are treated in parliament house, Morrison was questioned whether or not he had "lost control" of his ministerial staff. True to form he lashed out in his attempt for distraction, accusing the staff of SkyNews of incendiary behaviour. As Morrison put it,
Right now, you would be aware that in your own organisation that there is a person who has had a complaint made against them for harassment of a woman in a women's toilet and that matter is being pursued by your own HR department.
So let's not all of us who sit in glass houses here start getting into that. You're free to make your criticisms and to stand on that pedestal, but be careful.
Whoops. Looks like somebody wasn't careful enough to give their due diligence regarding which news organisation he was making false claims – lies – about. Because for all of those unaware, in Australia SkyNews is a News Corp outlet. In other words, if the rumours about what happened at Engadine Maccas back in 1997 weren't true, they certainly came true on Morrison's ride home later that night when he realised who he'd spoken out against.
To little surprise News Corp immediately replied by stating that not only were Morrison's claims untrue, but there wasn't even anybody under investigation. This all resulted – presumably after Morrison had de-soiled himself – in a hastily-written late night Facebook post (since deleted but screen captured for posterity) in which Morrison, presumably while in complete prostration, stated the following.
In the course of today's media conference when responding to further questions I deeply regret my insensitive response to a question from a News Ltd journalist by making an anonymous reference to an incident at News Ltd that has been rejected by the company. I accept their account. I was wrong to raise it, the emotion of the moment is no excuse.
Suffice to say, alongside Morrison having learned a lesson, it's only fitting then that Australians take an important lesson from this poignant event as well. Namely, that although Morrison may very well be Australia's prime minister, and although he may very well be leaving his mark on the country, so to speak, it may very well be the case that it's another figure out there with an even greater agenda than Morrison's, an agenda that Morrison's proclivities do a good enough job paralleling and which he is allowed to implement as Australia's leading public figure. So long, that is, that he's willing to be an obsequious marionette.
But before we get to that greater agenda that Morrison is dutifully adhering to and assisting to undertake, one last couple of Morrison's lies must first be put on display, lies which have been unfurled in the attempt to provide cover not only for himself but for what has a very good chance of resulting in disastrous ramifications for all of Australia.
Prevaricating for Pentecostalists
It's been said by some that Morrison's biggest lie of all occurred earlier this year, hardly two weeks prior to calling Australia's 2022 federal election. Although one may disagree with whether or not it constitutes as Morrison's most grandiose lie of all, said lie does nonetheless highlight Morrison's ability to pretend to have little affiliation to those so central to his agenda.
To back up a bit before said lie is named, it's been known for some time now that Morrison associates himself with some rather questionable individuals, one of these being Brian Houston, a friend and "mentor" that was mentioned in Morrison's maiden speech to parliament as having greatly assisted him. For those unaware, Brian Houston is the son of the late Frank Houston, Frank not only being a Pentecostal pastor and head of the Assemblies of God church in New Zealand, but also a well-known paedophile who sexually abused at least nine boys.
Brian Houston, for his part, eventually became the leader of the Australian branch of the Assemblies of God church, going on to found the immensely popular megachurch Hillsong Church. More recently, and although rumblings have been ongoing for years, on 5 August 2021 the New South Wales police placed a warrant on Houston (who was out of the country at the time, having somehow managed to secure himself an exit visa just over a week earlier despite Australia's restrictive COVID-19 border policies at the time), alleging that he had been aware of his father's actions since September 1999 but nonetheless proceeded to conceal the child sexual abuse he partook in. Houston stepped down as Hillsong's global leader in January of this year in preparation for defending himself in court.
More recently, Brian Houston took the further step of completely resigning as global senior pastor of Hillsong Church. Nothing to do with alleged protection of paedophilia this time, but rather due to having breached Hillsong's moral code on two separate occasions via his "inappropriate" behaviour with a couple of women. Apparently Houston has little recollection of the events that took place – the blame being placed on alcohol, sleeping pills and anxiety medication – although Houston does recall having recompensed said women with money out of his own pocket.
It wasn't however until after all these more recent revelations (that is, the allegations of protecting a paedophile didn't garner any reaction) that on March 24th of this year Morrison managed to declare himself as being "disappointed and shocked", making sure to slip in that he now attended a Pentecostal church in his own community, ShireLive, and that "I haven't been at Hillsong now for about 15 years". Cue Bernard Keane, author of the aforementioned book Lies and Falsehoods: The Morrison Government and the New Culture of Deceit.
As Keane put it in Crikey, "Morrison has a history of lying when under political pressure", and on this occasion had committed "his biggest lie of all to avoid Houston fallout". Because as seems to have slipped Morrison's mind, Morrison made a high-profile visit in July 2019 to Hillsong's annual conference (which he regularly attended) in which he spoke in front of tens of thousands of congregants.
Moreover, even if he hadn't been to Hillsong for 15 years, it's not as if Morrison didn't try to get Houston invited to a White House state visit. Because that was just gossip, right?
As reported by the Wall Street Journal in September 2019, Morrison was "determined" to have Houston as part of his delegation, a request that was vetoed by the White House. When news of the attempted invite leaked, Morrison prevaricated.
Although it's still unknown why Morrison was hiding the fact that he had tried to get Houston invited to the White House, half a year later Morrison did actually finally admit during a 2GB radio interview that his office had in fact put in a request to have Houston included on the invitee list. When asked by host Ben Fordham if he was aware that Houston was under police investigation at the time (for protecting a paedophile, no less), Morrison prevaricated yet again, stating "they're not things I follow closely".
But as egregious as that 15-years lie was, far worse was Morrison's declarations of concern for the victims of Houston's transgressions.
My first thoughts were with the victims, as they've been rightly described and so I was very concerned.
Although said statement can't be described as an outright lie, it can be described as an unverifiable lie. Because let it not be forgotten that a year earlier Morrison was apparently unable to find concern for the alleged rape of the aforementioned Brittany Higgins without the assistance of his wife's insights, and that for eight years, following the 2014 McClellan royal commission into institutional responses to child sex abuse (in which details were heard about Frank Houston's atrocities), Morrison was also incapable of placing concern for victims ahead of the church and Brian Houston, even after 2015 when the commission referred information on Brian Houston to the New South Wales police in which reasons for investigation were recommended. In short, Scott Morrison couldn't manage to find any reason to be concerned about any of those victims all these years, although with a federal election around the corner somehow managed to find some now.
But while Keane believes that the lie related to Brian Houston and the Hillsong Church is Morrison's biggest lie of all, the far-reaching effects connected to the world associated with the final of Morrison's lies to be scrutinised here could turn out to have the biggest ramifications of all.
Queue the Q lies
As mentioned earlier, Morrison is known to associate himself with some rather questionable individuals, one of these being a long-time family friend who goes by the online handle @BurnedSpy34 (in the name of Burn Notice, a fictional spy hero). @BurnedSpy34, also known as Tim Stewart, is married to Lynelle Stewart, a high-school friend of Morrison's wife, Jenny, who actually introduced Scott and Jenny to each other (via their then-local Baptist church in Sydney’s Maroubra). Interestingly enough, Tim Stewart launched his @BurnedSpy34 Twitter account on the very day that Morrison became prime minister.
So close are Jenny and Lynelle that Jenny was Lynelle's maid of honour while Lynelle was Jenny's bridesmaid at each other's weddings, Lynelle subsequently employed by Jenny as a helper at Kirribilli House (before any security clearance was even received). Although Lynelle was ostensibly Jenny's "household assistant" and thus employed by the department of prime minister and cabinet, the purpose of said position has never been very clear besides supposed caretaking of the Morrison children, seeing how Kirribilli House already has caretakers to maintain the gardens and the home, security staff, as well as a housekeeper / cook. Lynelle, nonetheless, was fortunate enough to pull in $85,000 a year for her "duties" (of which for unknown reasons she no longer held as of December 2020).
However, the issue here isn't with Lynelle Stewart, but rather with Tim Stewart. Because as it turns out, and as reported on initially by Crikey and Guardian Australia, it just so happens that Tim Stewart, as @BurnedSpy34, is none other than Australia's leading QAnon figure. And not only that, but apparently one that has the prime minister's ear.
QAnon, for those unfamiliar, is a discredited political conspiracy theory cum hodgepodge of political movement, cult and ersatz religious group, associated with the far-right primarily in the United States but increasingly overseas as well (Australia is ranked as the fourth largest QAnon content-producing country in the world, behind the US, the UK and Canada). The theory's protagonist is an anonymous internet user posing as a government insider known only as "Q" (as per their supposed "Q clearance", something meaninglessly associated with the US department of energy) who began leaving clues ("bread crumbs") via their various conspiracy theory laden messages ("Q drops") in October 2017 on the message board 4chan (then 8chan then 8kun) for followers to decipher. (Q once referenced Stewart in a drop, which is largely how Stewart rose to fame. Likewise, Stewart's Tweets were listed as "world-class", meaning they were considered to be of high-quality by conspiracy theorists.)
As somewhat of an offshoot of Pizzagate (which was ridiculous enough in its own right), the core of the QAnon conspiracy centres around the belief of an international satanic paedophile ring. Various Democratic politicians, high-ranking government officials, business tycoons, Hollywood celebrities – or in short "leftist elites" – are said to be all in on the satanic machinations, the aforementioned individuals said to be surreptitiously harvesting the chemical adrenochrome from children in order to prolong their lives (while simultaneously kidnapping, raping, murdering, and even eating the bodies of those children). All of this is also linked to a modern remaking of the medieval "blood libel", which itself has its roots in centuries-old antisemitic tropes.
In fact, Stewart believes that former Australian foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop is involved in the paedophile ring, thanks to her having worn red shoes when she quit parliament. As Stewart anonymously told Guardian Australia,
If you want to do your research into the US context, the red shoes are purported to be very much a paedophilia shout out. And there are some extremely odd photos of large groups of men in suits wearing red shoes, many of whom are promoting paedophilia.
That is, wearing red shoes makes you complicit because wearing that particular colour of footwear while performing ritual sacrifices of children hides the stains from dripping blood that would otherwise mar your feet.
The shape-shifting, logic-denying, cracked-out theories and sub-theories go on and on, a key one being that former president Donald Trump was enlisted by senior military officials to run in the 2016 election in order that he could then wage a war against the "Deep State" (aka "The Cabal"), ultimately resulting in exposure of said child trafficking ring via an event known as "The Storm". It's via this event that martial law would be declared, while a string of mass arrests, imprisonments and even executions in Guantánamo Bay would occur (most notably of Hillary Clinton), all of which is a part of the expected end-of-days "Great Awakening" in which the scales will finally fall off the eyes of the masses as the travesties will finally be exposed.
Of course nothing even remotely like any of that has ever happened. Likewise, after the insurrection in Washington failed on January 6th followers of Q ("Anons") not only believed that Trump would be re-inaugurated on 20 January 2021 (and so set off The Great Awakening), but after that didn't happen they foretold several other dates (4 March 2021 being a big one) when Trump, who unsurprisingly is believed by Anons to have had the election stolen from him, would return to his rightful position as president of the United States. None of that has ever happened either of course, but thanks to the flexibility of QAnon and the ability of its believers to adapt the most cockamamie explanations to failed prophecies, the conspiracy continues to evolve and endure. (It of course didn't help that on the dais at the military base where Trump gave his farewell remarks before departing on Air Force One was 17 American flags, apparently a resounding sign considering that – you guessed it – the letter "Q" is the 17th letter of the alphabet.)
Last of all (although one could go on and on with this QAnon stuff and its grab bag of conspiracy theories), many of those involved with the January 6th attempted insurrection were partially or even heavily influenced by QAnon theories, often enough manipulated by non-QAnon individuals on the far-right to aid their goals. The most notable of these QAnon-associated individuals that participated in the attempted insurrection was of course the self-described QAnon Shaman.
All in all, QAnon has been identified by the FBI as a domestic terrorist threat in the US (whose adherents have participated in an array of violent acts, including murders), and while one might have imagined it to have slowly dissipated upon president Biden's inauguration, it's only been growing and strengthening ever since.
Where does Tim Stewart fit into all this?
For starters, jump back a bit to October 2018, when in an address to federal parliament Morrison made an apology to victims of child sexual abuse.
Mr Speaker, today, as a nation, we confront our failure to listen, to believe and to provide justice.
And again today, we say sorry.
To the children we failed, sorry.
To the parents whose trust was betrayed and who have struggled to pick up the pieces, sorry.
To the whistleblowers who we did not listen to, sorry.
To the spouses, partners, wives, husbands and children who have dealt with the consequences of the abuse, cover-ups and obstruction, sorry.
But as he also stated,
The crimes of ritual sexual abuse happened in schools, churches, youth groups, scout troops, orphanages, foster homes, sporting clubs, group homes, charities, and in family homes as well.
"Ritual sexual abuse"? Isn't that a bit... QAnon-like?
For starters, the phrase "ritual sexual abuse" certainly doesn't show up anywhere in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse. What it is is a term historically linked to conspiracies revolving around satanic cults, and suffice to say there are no instances on record of any kind of ritual sexual abuse in Australia.
A spokesperson for Morrison (the liar) later stated that the prime minister had heard the phrase "directly from the abuse survivors and the National Apology to Victims and Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Reference Group", and which is purportedly why he repeated it. But as David Hardaker revealed in Crikey, the phrase never was never brought up with the Reference Group, and if anything the phrase would have been discouraged had of it been brought up. Moreover, the phrase doesn't appear anywhere in the 20-page briefing given to Morrison, which outlined various kinds of language that could be used.
In another Crikey follow-up, this one proceeding the prime minister's office (PMO) offering yet more reasons for usage of the phrase "ritual sexual abuse", Hardaker stated that "it appear[s] the PMO might have been scrambling to reverse-engineer a validation for Morrison's use of the term." Hardaker also made the astute observation that seeing how Morrison looked to his wife Jenny for advice (rather than to public service advice) about the alleged rape of Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins, it's not much of a stretch to think that Morrison would also look to family friend Tim Stewart for advice rather than to public service advice.
One question emanating from all this then is: if the spokesperson didn't concoct a lie themselves, did Morrison feed a lie – yet another lie – to his spokesperson himself? One way or another, and considering Morrison's well-established willingness to lie to just about anybody and everybody, this may not be too far fetched of a notion.
Because along with a trove of other information conveyed by Hardaker, a few days before Morrison's aforementioned speech Stewart let it be known that "I think Scott is going to do it!"
And what might "it" be? Well, use of the phrase "ritual sexual abuse" of course, which Tim had reportedly been urging his wife Lynelle to tell Morrison to use in his speech.
As Hardaker states (along with much else), Stewart, his 22-year-old son Jesse (another ardent follower of QAnon) and all their 20,000+ Twitter followers essentially went berserk when Morrison slipped in use of the phrase. (Both Jesse and Tim Stewart were eventually permanently suspended from Twitter for "engaging in co-ordinated harmful activity".)
Nonetheless, besides a 20-minute video put together in mid-2019 by Stewart's associate Eliahi Priest (a self-styled "Australian activist and whistleblower" who has signed a statutory declaration stating that Tim passed material on to Lynelle intended for Morrison), along with the tranche of revealing articles published by Guardian Australia and Crikey, the story about Morrison and his not-too-distant linkages to QAnon didn't go too far, didn't make too much noise.
Until, that is, Four Corners and prominent journalist Louise Milligan got involved, which is when the blood started to hit the fan.
For starters, come mid-2021, and following an internal leak at the ABC, news started making the rounds that an upcoming Four Corners episode connecting Scott Morrison and Tim Stewart had been delayed if not pulled by executives, some suggesting that the federal government had gotten involved. According to ABC managing director David Anderson this wasn't actually the case, backed up with the claim that it was of his opinion the program was not quite ready for broadcast, that he'd given some feedback, and that he'd then stated that those behind the episode should "keep going" with it.
Turns out that a primary concern was that Morrison hadn't replied to repeated detailed questions from the ABC, management wanting on-the-record responses from the prime minister before the program aired. However, and according to Milligan, over the span of a month Four Corners had nonetheless tried to contact Morrison "more than 20 times", to no avail. It wasn't until the delayed episode became a story in and of itself that Morrison did however decide to give the following statement to journalists on June 4th, before immediately retreating so as to avoid any further questioning.
I find it deeply offensive that there would be any suggestion that I would have any involvement or support for such a dangerous organisation. I clearly do not. It is also disappointing that Four Corners would seek to cast this aspersion not just against me but by members of my own family. I just think that is really poor form.
With the statement made, and after weeks of delays, the episode finally aired on June 14th. (Video and transcript available via the Four Corners link immediately below, followed by a hi-res embed of the episode on YouTube, followed by an overview of the episode via the ABC News article by Milligan et al.)
All in all the highly anticipated Four Corners episode didn't really offer anything revelatory to those who had already been following the story via Crikey and Guardian Australia, other than personal accounts from Stewart's parents and sister about Tim (of whom they contacted the national security hotline twice about in order to express concern about his dangerous behaviour) and their threatening grandson/nephew Jesse. Moreover, by no means did the episode prove that Morrison subscribes to QAnon conspiracy theories or that he is necessarily influenced by said theories.
Nonetheless, and to return to Morrison's reactions to the Four Corners episode, in his attempt to convince Australians that there was "nothing to see here, please move on", Morrison tried turning the furore into nothing more than a culture war by stating that those questioning his relationship with Stewart wanted him to "cancel" his QAnon-enthralled friend. According to Morrison in an interview with Ben Fordham of 2GB Radio, the Four Corners episode was "pretty ordinary".
PRIME MINISTER: I mean, we've all got friends and we've all got acquaintances and people we know who have views that we don't share. But you know what they expect us to do just to sort of cancel people just because they have views different to ourselves? I don't support the views of QAnon. I barely even knew what it was until more recently over the last year or so. So, you know, look, if people are going to have a crack at you because of what people you know think, I think that's really starting to, you know, bit of a longbow.
BEN FORDHAM: Out of interest, are you still close to him or have you given a little bit of fresh air there?
PRIME MINISTER: No, look, I haven't seen Tim for some time, much closer to his wife, who you know, Jenny and I are long time friends of her, I just think it's sort of a bit ordinary to drag other people into, I mean, I'm the Prime Minister, hold me accountable for my views. For people who have known me or have been friends with me over the period of time, they're entitled to their privacy regardless if people don't agree with their views. And I certainly don't agree with Tim's views on those things at all. I mean, he's a Sharkies supporter. I agree with him on that, but not on QAnon.
Jokes-in-poor-taste aside, while Morrison once again prevaricated by stating that he hadn't seen Tim Stewart for "some time" (which means a year, a month, a week, a day?), just because he "doesn't support the views of QAnon" doesn't technically mean that he disagrees with their operation in Australia (more on that later). Meanwhile, and seeing as how Morrison himself is the one that went there, it's not as if Lynelle Stewart isn't involved in all this QAnon conspiracy either. Because as Hardaker stated in his initial Crikey article about Morrison's connection to Tim Stewart, and by extension to QAnon,
A post on Stewart's wife's Instagram points to a website operated by her husband, where followers can read a four-part book called Feeding the Egregore, effectively a QAnon manifesto which explores “oneness with God, the power of consciousness, quantum energy, belief systems [and] the teachings of Christ”.
“The Great Awakening is revealing that dark forces have found their way into the highest levels of influence,” the site explains. “This book helps illuminate the true battle-lines and the insidious nature of this deception.”
Likewise, Lynelle Stewart's Facebook page had linked to a blog post by her husband entitled "The Reason for Treason – a conversation for the Great Awakening".
In other words, wade through all the lies and falsehoods and one finds the most powerful person in all of Australia embroiled in a cesspool of QAnon debauchery.
Which brings us back to Morrison's fitting response to his association with QAnon-aligned individuals, fitting in that he depicts himself as the victim.
I find it deeply offensive that there would be any suggestion that I would have any involvement or support for such a dangerous organisation.
Because in no way is what Morrison refers to as being "offensive" is what is actually offensive here. What's offensive is the fact that Morrison refused to respond to the legitimate questions from the ABC and Louise Milligan 20 times. What's offensive is the fact that Morrison makes jokes about what is a very serious matter, a matter that's torn apart and destroyed the lives of many an Australian (more on that below).
But what's most offensive of all is that it took this long for Morrison to offer the slightest critical word about QAnon (and never mind that it was a half-assed one at that). Because on separate occasions, and for nearly half a year, former prime minister Kevin Rudd and former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull had both publicly been vehemently urging Morrison to condemn the dangerous cult taking root in Australia. Morrison, however, and for reasons which we can all only deduce for ourselves, refused to make even a peep. Not until, that is, the issue finally affected himself.
As Rudd stated just days after the attempted insurrection in Washington:
But to say that Morrison said and did nothing would be much too generous. Because although Morrison couldn't be bothered to speak up for the plight of many an Australian whose families were being destroyed by the insidiousness of the QAnon conspiracy (again, more on that below, although Tim Stewart's extended family is just one example as seen in the Four Corners episode), Morrison has nonetheless given succour to QAnon-like motivations on several occasions, quite possibly in order to establish a base – in a similar manner to Donald Trump's base – which would blindly follow him and which could disseminate various reams of misinformation.
But before we get to that, and having thoroughly established Morrison's lack of veracity far beyond any reasonable doubt, it's also worth pondering over how exactly Pentecostalism, and possibly QAnon as well, affect Morrison's thinking, just as Michael Pascoe has done in the closing to his piece in The New Daily, "What we don’t know: Is our Prime Minister a nutter?"
The unknown is how much further Mr Morrison travels towards the extreme end of the evangelical spectrum where a type of madness does lie, such as believing God wouldn't let serious climate change happen, or embracing Donald Trump to a level that disadvantages Australia, or Middle East policy formed with a view to the Rapture.
Who does Mr Morrison believe will be barred from heaven?
How far do his minority religious beliefs push policy, like the American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo? [Previously-given Pompeo link here.]
What's with the weird Brian Houston thing and the QAnon mate?
We don't know. We can't know if the PM is a nutter or not if he won't honestly answer questions.
Which seems the most logical reason for not doing so.
A Pentecostal pledge
It should go without saying that it's effectively impossible to know what exactly Morrison believes in, never mind what goes through his head when he comes up with all his lies. Because while the incessant lying automatically renders virtually anything he says as untrustworthy, Morrison is, as former prime minister Kevin Rudd describes him, "an ideological chameleon who follows the prevailing winds of polling on most aspects of public policy."
Sure, Morrison likes to paint himself as a regular bloke, a Sharks fan (which is manufactured) with a daggy-dad aura. In response to opposition leader Anthony Albanese having lost 18 kilograms and gotten a new pair of glasses, Morrison countered with the suggestion that he doesn't pretend to be anyone else.
I'm not pretending to be anyone else. We're still wearing the same glasses. Sadly, the same suits. I weigh about the same size and I don't mind a bit of Italian cake either. I'm happy in my own skin and I'm not pretending to be anyone else.
And when you're prime minister, you can't pretend to be anyone else. You've got to know who you are because if you don't know who you are, then how on Earth are other people going to know?
Putting aside that that was yet another lie (about a year earlier he was downing Man Shakes in the attempt to slim down), pretty much half the time he's playing Mr. Dressup for the cameras literally pretending to be somebody else.
Then there was that time he idiotically tried to pretend he was a tradie, nearly blowing out his retinas in the process.
But the most insulting of all of Morrison's caricatures was the time he pretended to have a different personality in order to maintain his power. That came just eight days before the election when, aware that the Liberals/Nationals (Coalition) was significantly behind Labor in the polls, he decided that he needed to portray a new and improved Scott Morrison and so stated – with a big smile on his face cause he's oh-so-genial of a guy – that
I know Australians know that I can be a bit of a bulldozer when it comes to issues. But, you know, over the last few years that's been pretty important, to ensure we've been able to get through some of the most important things that we've had to do.
As we go into this next period on the other side of this election, I know there are things that are going to have to change with the way I do things. Because we are moving into a different time. We are moving into a time of opportunity.
For those who don't have experience with an abusive spouse, parent, etc., this is textbook behaviour of an abuser telling the abused that he can change, but only if the abused was sympathetic enough to give him another chance. He didn't change in light of the bushfires, didn't change in light of the floods, couldn't muster all this humility and empathy when tens of thousands of women were pleading to be treated with decency and for the gender-based harassment to stop, nor could he change at any other time when Australians were in dire straits. But now when he wants to win an election? "I'll change – but only if you change first." All in all, The Monthly called this promise to change "Scott Morrison's most sinister lie yet".
To jump back to Morrison's criticism of Albanese pretending to be somebody else, Morrison is the prime minister, Morrison repeatedly pretends to be somebody else, Morrison apparently doesn't know who he is (never mind how to weld or how to have humility and empathy when needed), and so in turn, "how on Earth are [Australians] going to know" who he is? In short, they don't, and it would appear that they're not supposed to, what with confusion about Morrison's motives quite possibly not being a mistake but rather by design.
Because one thing Morrison hasn't done is be open and honest about his religious beliefs and how they contribute to the formation of his worldviews – which by extension inevitably effects his handling of Australian policies and thus the future of the country and of Australians themselves. That being so, and while the intent isn't to attack Morrison for his faith in any way, since Morrison hasn't been open about any of this it's by default been left up to others to draw conclusions from Morrison's associations, words and actions.
For starters, Pentecostalism, the religion that Morrison belongs to, is an evangelical form of Christianity. Although not a fundamentalist religion, it does nonetheless encourage a kind of "us" and "them" binary view of the world, and with salvation being a central tenet implies notions of the eternally saved and the eternally damned, the righteous and the wicked, the godly and the satanic. In short, it is only born-again Christians that can achieve salvation, and thus not Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, atheists, etc. Likewise, unless you're a Christian, if not a Pentecostal Christian, you're effectively being used by "the evil one". (More on "the evil one" below.) Moreover, a Pentecostal inherently can't be half-hearted about their commitment – one must accept the whole package, which thus defines one's whole life. If Morrison doesn't embody these core beliefs he simply isn't a true Pentecostal.
The Devil plays a prominent role in Pentecostalism, not as an abstraction like other Christian religions but as a highly personal fallen angel, one that has an ability to manipulate nonbelievers and that by extension largely runs the "world". Being baptised in the Spirit (and speaking in tongues) implies that one is conscripted, via daily life experiences, between the forces of good and evil, the spiritual war between light and darkness.
It is however expected by Pentecostals that Jesus will one day return to banish the all-powerful Satan to hell, and with the Devil being on the verge of defeat these events portend the imminent arrival of the End Times (aka The Rapture). Only God knows when these End Times will arrive, the day when Jesus will shuttle all the good (Pentecostal) Christians to heaven while leaving everyone else on Earth to be punished.
What's inherent to all this is that since (in true apocalyptic, millennial tradition) the End Times are upon us, attempting to address human and/or environmental problems is a redundant undertaking. What's the point? Moreover, since Pentecostals believe in divine providence – whatever happens is part of God's plan – this also implies that the world's problems are actually God's responsibility, that issues of poverty and destruction of the planet are beyond human control. After all the Pentecostal focus is on personal salvation, so why be concerned with all that stuff – particularly when you're a believer and so will automatically be going to heaven regardless? (Moreover, since humans aren't capable of fixing problems on Earth and effectively have no agency, one is better off spending one's time with more important things – like growing the church.)
The Australian Religious Response to Climate Change counts more than 41 member organisations, including those belonging to Buddhists, Muslims, Catholics, Quakers, and so forth. To little surprise none of them are Pentecostal, even though they've been invited to sign on. Likewise, 2016 research on Australian Christians found that Pentecostals were the most skeptical about the causes of climate change. After all, since God loves humans they're free to do what they please with the planet's resources, and if there's any problems with global climate God will take care of them.
This is not to say that Morrison necessarily believes any of the above (although, again, he wouldn't be a genuine Pentecostal if he didn't), although some pronouncements of his do at least give credence to the notion that mortal problems can't be solved by mere humans.
Following his invite to the media into his Pentecostal Church during the 2019 federal election in which cameras were able to capture him worshipping (see above picture with hands in air), in late-April of 2021 a video was "leaked" in which Morrison spoke at the Australian Christian Churches national conference at the Gold Coast, an event which he flew to on the taxpayer's dollar and which he stressed was speaking as the prime minister, not as a private citizen.
(Let's be real though. In all likelihood the video of his speech [of which was oddly not released by his office, as they routinely are] was probably "leaked" in a similar manner to how Macron's text was mysteriously leaked. In this case, the idea behind the "leak" would have been for it to highlight Morrison's dedication, incite ridicule from those on the left, attract sympathy from those who in one way or another have also been similarly ridiculed by others for their beliefs or for some other reason, paint those who oppose his beliefs as arrogant, secure his image as Australia's persecuted daggy dad, win votes.)
Along with having pointed out that social media "can also be used by the evil one" to steal the hope of young people (of which calls for us to "raise up spiritual weapons" in response), and that he practices the evangelical tradition of "laying on of hands" on people (praying for someone by touching them, arguably an intrusion on boundaries for outsiders), a key tenet of Morrison's incoherent talk was his belief that he was given a sign by God to do his work as Australia's prime minister (which reminded him of Isaiah 40:31).
I must admit I was saying to myself, “You know, Lord, where are you, where are you? I'd like a reminder if that's OK.”
And there right in front of me was the biggest picture of a soaring eagle that I could imagine and of course the verse hit me.
The message I got that day was, “Scott, you've got to run to not grow weary, you've got to walk to not grow faint, you've got to spread your wings like an eagle to soar like an eagle.”
To suggest that Morrison believes he was given a sign directly from God is no exaggeration, and not just because a few weeks later he proclaimed during his election victory speech on 18 May 2019 that "I have always believed in miracles", God having apparently directly intervened in Australia's federal election.
In fact, and as stated by one-time leading Hillsong pastor Joel A'Bell and his wife Julia in a video that was prepared for an online Pentecostal audience, Morrison believed God wanted him to become Australia's prime minister.
[W]e've known Scott and Jenny [Morrison] for about 15 years. In fact they were in our church as part of our congregation for years before he was prime minister. I remember having breakfast with him. He said, “Joel I really feel like this is what the Lord wants … He wants me to become prime minister”.
Likewise, in a tribute he made to Brian Houston ("Just pay you honour, mate"), Morrison recalled Houston's words: "Use what God has put in your hand." According to Hardaker this not only insinuates that God has a plan for Morrison to lead, but that as a reference to Exodus, Chapter 4 in which God turned the stick in Moses' hand into a snake and so in relation to God's people being set free from captivity, Morrison is cast in the position of Moses.
All in all, when the prime minister sees himself as having a divine mandate and believes that God somehow speaks directly to him – which places Australia in the position of being a borderline theocracy – it's probably a good time to wonder about what's going on with the separation of church and state in the country and what it means to be a secular democracy.
Supposing Morrison does in fact see himself as having been chosen to lead the way to the promised land, what's also probably a good thing to wonder about is what is implied by his oft-repeated mantra "if you have a go, you get a go". Because to little surprise, this philosophy of being able to "have a go" plays rather fittingly with Pentecostal prosperity theology, the notion that material wealth is bestowed upon those that believe in God – working hard and leading a God-fearing life leads to material prosperity. Following that, eternal salvation is connected to the most saintly, that being those with material wealth. On the other hand, being less well-off is taken as a sign of being lazy and immoral, the state of being poor therefore a result of being ungodly. Godliness begets wealth and wealth signifies godliness, while the poor are inherently ungodly and thus shall stay poor.
While all of this fits very well with an individualistic modern age, it makes no critique of consumerist society nor of the modern neoliberal economics that Morrison adheres to. According to these tenets, since poverty can be alleviated by simply working and praying harder, the provision of welfare is seen as anathema and a crass waste of money, the liberation of people from reliance on the welfare state in turn seen as a God-given task. In short, forget having compassion or concern for the disadvantaged or the marginalised, and certainly forget the teachings of Jesus Christ who espoused taking care of the poor and the oppressed.
What also fits well with all this is the Pentecostal phenomenon of the "pastroproneur", the neoliberal approach to faith in which financial growth and entrepreneurial risk-taking are championed. To little surprise, it's hard to find a church (and founder) that fits this description better than Hillsong, the (until recently) rapidly growing megachurch with churches in 30 countries on six continents, its music sung by 50 million people in 60 languages.
However, having been rocked by repeated sex scandals, grifting scandals (in which pastors use worshipper donations to fund lavish lifestyles), and paedophile scandals, the church that Brian Houston ostensibly founded to financially prey on people who needed hope and community – and which Morrison lied about having not attended for 15 years – is now falling apart. As recently stated by Elle Hardy, author of the book Beyond Belief: How Pentecostal Christianity Is Taking Over the World,
In a transcript of a leaked private video conference last week, church leaders acknowledged the obvious: Hillsong is in crisis. I would go further: it is facing catastrophe. Scandals it largely tried to blame on individual shortcomings show a widespread culture that is rotten to its core.
So sure, the creation of alleged paedophile protector Brian Houston – Scott Morrison's "mentor" whose church he lied about not attending for 15 years and who he prevaricated when questioned about having tried to get him invited to the White House – is "rotten to its core". And let's not delve into the Esther Foundation, the Pentecostal-linked rehab facility for girls and young women in Perth that has subjected many females to physical, mental and sexual abuse over a 20-year period, including up to the point in which Morrison visited and personally announced a $4 million grant that had been fast-tracked prior to the 2019 election.
But while none of that necessarily confirms either way whether or not Morrison is in fact – as Pascoe questioned – "a nutter" (he may very well just be putting on an act), it does nonetheless raise several red flags in regards to the overarching direction Morrison appears to be steering Australia towards.
But before that gets examined it'd be worth elaborating a bit more about QAnon, particularly in Australia, in order to get a better idea of that aforementioned direction.
Qultish lives matter
Although the description of QAnon given above is more than adequate, for those wanting to delve a bit further the following video and podcast are recommended as a couple of other good intros.
For those wanting an even deeper look, the podcast QAnon Anonymous comes highly recommended, a personal favourite being the mind-boggling episode connecting Japanese "otakus" of the 1980s (and thus consumer culture of the time), anonymous image boards, anime, the birth of 4chan, hacktivists (which turned into Anonymous) and the law enforcement that upended them, all of which resulted in massive shitposting and led to Pizzagate, the election of Donald Trump, and QAnon.
Yet another worthwhile source of information is the fantastic subreddit QAnon Casualties. So informative can it be that in the two-week lead-up to the January 6th attempted insurrection dozens and dozens of users were leaving messages to one another on the subreddit questioning each other about what they were to do about their father/brother/uncle/husband/etc. that was claiming to be heading to Washington DC for whatever was about to happen, and not only that but were bringing along their guns.
Guys, how do I stop him? You're not allowed to bring guns into DC! I don't want my dad to get arrested!
Suffice to say, for a couple of weeks I was telling everybody I open my mouth to about collapse topics in Melbourne, Australia, "I'm telling you, come January 6th, some crazy shit is gonna go down in DC. I have no idea what's gonna happen, but it's gonna be f*cked up, I can guarantee you that much". (And then when it did hit I was for the most part bored by it all.)
Crystal-ball gazing isn't what the QAnon Casualties is all about though, but rather, and as stated under its About description,
Have a friend or loved one taken in by QAnon? Look here for support, resources and a place to vent. Peruse old posts, settle in and relax. Learn to heal, deal and deprogram. Posts should relate to the direct experience of dealing with Q/adjacent folk. This can include posts with support, info or practical advice. Anyone can comment, but be substantive and in good faith.
To put it mildly, the subreddit is utterly full of horror story after horror story: people who no longer recognise their spouse after decades of marriage; under-18 children who can't move out, subjected to the most craziest nonsense from their parents who happen to be loaded with weapons galore; women told by other readers to "change the locks, now!"
Likewise, on QAnon Casualties and other subreddits (such as Qult Headquarters) one can come across links to article after article (after article after article after article after article) about families being torn apart thanks to belief in QAnon conspiracies (including in Australia). Meanwhile, while followers of QAnon are purportedly concerned about children being tortured and killed by elites and the like (ever seen those people in the streets chanting "#SaveTheChildren"?), not only have they never done nothing to actually save any children, but while QAnon survivalists posing as child protection services are literally kidnapping children and taking them over international borders (while also planning more abductions as well as to blow up COVID-19 vaccination clinics) while others are attempting to burn down their houses with their children inside, others are literally killing their own children.
In once case a Christian surfing school owner, Matthew Taylor Coleman, kidnapped his two-year-old son and 10-month-old daughter in California, drove them down to Mexico, then killed them with a spearfishing gun. According to Coleman, who claimed to be "enlightened by QAnon", his children had been infected with serpent DNA from their mother (who supposedly may have also been a shapeshifter), were going to grow into monsters, and so killed them because "it was the only course of action to save the world".
Coleman also saw himself as movie character Neo, as he'd begun "seeing all the pieces being decoded like 'The Matrix.'" And where, you may be asking, did Coleman become radicalised from? Apparently from his religious community in Santa Barbara, a neo-Christian movement which, according to VICE, is "a new brand of evangelicalism that emphasises speaking in tongues, hands-on healing, and receiving visions."
Ring any bells?
In another case a Liliana Carrillo "softly" drowned her three children because she believed they were going to be subjected to a lifetime of being "continuously tortured and abused" by their father in an alleged paedophile trafficking ring. As Carrillo put it, she killed them to "protect them".
As mentioned earlier, one could go on and on with horror story after horror story (after ridiculous theory after one of the most cracked-out and ridiculous theories yet, the latter of which would be deemed as utterly hilarious were it not for the fact that people in positions of real influence give succour to these kinds of things).
So while QAnon adherents are increasing worldwide and worrying governments across the globe – in France, in Canada (for such things as the trucker protest), in the UK, etc. – the greater far-right movement embedded within QAnon is in fact getting closer and closer to overtaking the US government. And that's no exaggeration, starting off with Trump himself who has not only re-Tweeted QAnon accounts but who stated while president that QAnon followers "love our country" and "like me very much".
Which actually came a few months after Trump made a comment about the "Deep State Department" (to which director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Chief Medical Advisor to the President, Anthony Fauci, could hardly maintain his composure).
And while Fox News host Tucker Carlson called QAnon followers "gentle people waving American flags" a few months after many QAnon influencers called for a dictatorship in the United States, former national security adviser Michael Flynn took a QAnon "oath" on Independence Day 2020, stated just days before president Joe Biden's inauguration that Trump could deploy the military to "rerun" elections in swing states, and then in mid-2021 stated that the US should have a coup like the one in Myanmar.
But more concerning than all that is the actual infiltration of QAnon sympathisers into the very halls of American government (which began in mid-2020 and whose takeover of the Republican party is said to now be "virtually complete"). The most notable of these, but far from the only, is Marjorie Taylor Greene, the congresswoman elected in late-2020 who is not only known for her racist, antisemitic and Islamophobic views, but who prior to her congressional run scrubbed her social media of all QAnon related material. (Greene has a history of promoting QAnon theories, including the statement that "Q is a patriot", the latter of which can be found in this preserved video.)
While Greene's claims – while in office – that California wildfires were started by secret Jewish space lasers may seem harmless enough (and which only added to her array of other claims about 9/11 and staged school shooting conspiracies), what's of even more concern is the recent revelation that on January 17th, three days before Biden's inauguration, Greene texted White House chief of staff Mark Meadows suggesting that Trump overturn his election defeat by invoking martial law.
In our private chat with only [House] Members, several are saying the only way to save our Republic is for Trump to call for Marshall [sic] law. I don't know on those things. I just wanted you to tell him. They stole this election. We all know. They will destroy our country next.
As was also recently revealed, Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, right-wing activist and no less than wife of Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, also texted White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, in this case stating that Biden's victory was "the greatest Heist of our History" and that Trump should not concede. Yes, Ginni Thomas and Clarence Thomas are two different people, but while Clarence has refused to recuse himself from cases related to the January 6 committee, it is not known what exactly the beliefs of this Supreme Court justice are in regards to whether or not Biden fairly won the 2020 US election.
To add even further fuel to the fire, Missouri senator and member of the Senate judiciary committee Josh Hawley has actually undertaken QAnon-tinged questioning, showing just how much the Republican party has become in thrall to cracked out conspiracy theories and their eagerness to spout QAnon-friendly talking points.
Case in point is the now-completed Supreme Court Senate confirmation hearings for Biden's nominee judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Hawley pre-empted it all with a Twitter thread in which he claimed that "Jackson has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes". While Hawley's accusations were of course misleading and taken completely out of context, his comments unsurprisingly spread like wildfire on Internet forums linked to QAnon. As Greene then put it herself,
Any Senator voting to confirm #KJB is pro-pedophile just like she is.
...You are either a Senator that supports child rapists, child pornography, and the most vile child predators. Or you are a Senator who protects children and votes NO to KJB!
Suffice to say this was all nothing more than a ginned-up moral panic, a now regular part of Republican political rhetoric and a new "normal" for American politics in general in which the Republican party is quickly becoming the QAnon party. (Never mind the fact that it's Republican after Republican that gets busted for partaking in paedophilia-related activities, that one of QAnon's primary enablers, Jim Watkins, appears to have hosted child porn domains and brushed off concerns about paedophilia content, and that the other primary enabler of QAnon, Watkins' son Ron, is vying to run for US Congress under the Republican banner.)
Furthermore, and although it's much too broad of a tangent to embark upon here, the opinion that the United States as a democracy is in its final days is no mere exaggeration.
With all this in mind a glaring question to ponder over is what this all might portend for Australia, and what exactly Morrison has been doing about it all.
For starters, although one might presume that QAnon is American-centric and would have little cross-over with Australia, its malleability has allowed for much crossover with Australian anti-vaccination groups, anti-5G groups, sovereign citizen groups, etc. Some of the wackier QAnon-aligned theories posit that Melbourne's COVID-19 lockdowns were cover for thousands of kidnapped children to be trafficked by the deep state in a labyrinth of underground tunnels, while recent seismic activity in and around the city – which were in fact earthquakes – were supposedly the rumbling of gun and artillery fire as the US military attempted to intervene and take control of the tunnels.
And on and on it all progressed, including nooses and even a very life-like gallows at "freedom protests" in Melbourne, replete with calls to "overthrow the Andrews government" and even hang "Dictator Dan" Andrews, the premier of Victoria.
When it comes to politicians in Australia, things are fortunately nowhere near as far-gone as they are in the United States. Although there have been no plots to kidnap politicians (such as Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer), MP Anne Webster did however install security cameras outside of her home due to fear of being attacked after she was accused by a conspiracy theorist of being "a member of a secretive paedophile network".
Although there are no known overt followers of QAnon in Australian government (there is however at least one running for Clive Palmer's United Australia Party in the 2022 federal election, there's the independent Riccardo Bosi who has used Twitter hashtags related to QAnon lost his attempt in the 2020 Eden-Monaro by-election, while there's also a Liberal Senate candidate who thinks Bill Gates is behind COVID-19 as well as a sovereign citizen running in Dunkley who has already declared himself the winner), there are however those such as retiring Coalition MP George Christensen (no relation) who espouse that Donald Trump had the election stolen from him. Moreover, it should be noted that Morrison has repeatedly done little to nothing to rebuke members of his government from espousing false information and even conspiracy theories.
According to Elliott Brennan, a United States Studies Centre research associate who has been studying government responses to conspiratorial thinking, governments must address these issues not as silly imports from the US but rather as "a fundamental threat to the social fabric of the country".
There doesn't appear to be a government in the world that has not underestimated the threat these conspiracy theories pose. Unfortunately, this attitude has allowed their reach to creep into elections and within the institutional halls of government. That has been very clear in the United States and Australia.
When it came to Craig Kelly (then Liberal member for Hughes but now leader of Clive Palmer's QAnon-infused United Australia Party, and who now hires neo-Nazis as bodyguards) peddling snake oil treatments for COVID-19, Morrison repeatedly failed to publicly rebuke him. Why? Ostensibly because Morrison's razor-thin majority in government couldn't withstand the loss of Kelly's vote, suggesting that for Morrison his job was more important than the health and safety of Australians. That is, supposing Morrison even would have rebuked Kelly had of he had the votes to spare.
Likewise, when it came to Christensen parroting Trump's claims of having had the election stolen from him, Morrison again refused to condemn his MP, stating
You know, Australia is a free country. There's such a thing as freedom of speech in this country and that will continue.
Never mind that that isn't actually true seeing how Australia doesn't have a constitutional right to free speech, but either way nothing was stopping Morrison from exercising his "free speech" by condemning Christensen.
Nevertheless, while it would appear that Morrison may have once again been more concerned about possibly losing the vote of yet another MP and thus his slim majority in parliament, perhaps there was more to all this than meets the eye, what with all those meets with Trump.
It should go without saying that Morrison is quite the fan of Donald Trump, what with he having praised Trump's priorities when stating in mid-2019 that "we do share a lot of the same views", followed by his late-2020 acceptance of a US military decoration for his "leadership in addressing global challenges" (which former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull described as being "a bit fraught" and "questionable", expressing disappointment that Morrison didn't tactfully refuse it – which even Dolly Parton did, twice).
But significantly more dubious than all that was Morrison's refusal to condemn Trump for inciting the attempted insurrection on January 6th (stating little more than describing the events as "terribly distressing"), something other leaders across the world emphatically did. When Morrison was asked if his remarks constituted a responsible reply from a world leader, Morrison hid behind the excuses of not wanting to comment on matters in another country: "I think what's more important now is not for me to be providing lectures to anybody", "it is not for me to offer commentary on world leaders", and "I don't do that, out of respect for those nations".
This reluctance for Morrison to condemn Trump's actions should come as no surprise to Australians, what with he often being called by various publications "Trump-lite" thanks to his incessant paralleling of Trump's words and policies.
- Morrison proposed to move Australia's embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv after Trump did so
- a week after Trump declared to the U.N. General Assembly that (emphasis mine) "The future does not belong to globalists, the future belongs to patriots" Morrison began to echo Trump's populist pandering by decrying "elites" while denouncing "negative globalism that coercively seeks to impose a mandate from an often ill-defined borderless global community"
- shortly after Trump held aloft his "Trump digs coal" placard Morrison brandished a piece of coal (shellacked, to keep his hands from getting dirty) in parliament, telling others "This is coal, don't be afraid, don't be scared, it won't hurt you"
- following the party of Trump going gangbusters with voter suppression, gerrymandering and official stacking, as well as their successful blocking of key parts of the Voting Rights Act (all used to disenfranchise Black and Latino voters, who tend to gravitate to voting Democrat), Morrison's government proposed what has been repeatedly described, word for word (including by former PM Kevin Rudd), as being "a solution in search of a problem": voter ID laws. Seeing how the 2019 federal election saw a mere 20 cases of suspected multiple voting referred to the Australian Federal Police (none of which were even prosecuted), said law has been described as "a clumsy uptake of culture war themes now current in the United States", "a backdoor assault on [Australia's] democracy", "an exercise in American 'Trumpism'", a bill that "may discourage turnout and no evidence it will prevent fraud" (says a description of a statement by the joint committee on human rights), "would diminish the voting rights of all Aboriginal people", "an outright display of discrimination against the vulnerable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples", and as something that "contradicts and compromises a cornerstone of our electoral system: compulsory voting" .
- closely resembling Trump's "some very fine people on both sides" remark in regards to white nationalist protesters in Charlottesville, when it came to anti-vaccine activists, sovereign citizens, and a grab bag of other conspiracy theorists protesting in Canberra, Morrison stated that "Australia is a free country and they have a right to protest", and after pointing out that the federal government supported mandates for nothing more than aged care and disability workers, as well as health workers in high-risk situations, stated (emphasis mine) "All other mandates that relate to vaccines have been imposed unilaterally by state governments. They have not been put in place by the commonwealth government ... so I understand their concerns about these issues".
Simply put, and although he may not overtly be a part of the alt-right, Morrison is most certainly aware that in a tight election he does in fact need the preferences of those further to the extremes. In other words, he's more than willing to pander to those of Clive Palmer's United Australia Party and Pauline Hanson's One Nation with coded messages while attempting to not alienate moderates of the Liberal base.
Meanwhile, and even after bushfires, floods, a global pandemic, etc., fortunately enough Australians have for the most part eschewed the false promises of populism (essentially simple solutions to complex problems) that voters in other parts of the world have been gravitating towards. Nonetheless, an extremist culture is most definitely being cultivated in Australia, particularly via the Murdoch media that gave succour to Donald Trump in the 1980s and which has ramped up the far-right propaganda in the United States in recent years.
Part and parcel with attempts to invigorate extremist ideologies in Australia has been the proclivity for the Murdoch media (along with other media organisations) to allow political leaders to bluster their way through mistakes and blatant wrongdoings, while refusing to demand they explain themselves and apologise, never mind handing in one's papers. Forget resigning for failing to declare a teddy bear, for "forgetting" to have received a bottle of wine, or for (horror of horrors!) declaring that a television was black and white when it was in fact colour, because Australian political leaders now get away with profusely lying, (allegedly) raping women, accepting what are effectively unmarked paper bags with more than a million dollars in them, doing who knows what to women and then paying them off half a million dollars in recompense, rorting hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer's money to all but guarantee re-election, and much, much more. That is, blatant corruption with a strong parallel to Trumpian corruption.
For Morrison (and company) a key goal then is to do away with any semblance of transparency as well as stymie any attempts to establish a mechanism to root out wanton corruption, in the process painting anyone who supports such a thing as being motivated by hatred and prejudice. It's for these very reasons that Morrison has tried to implement the most watered-down and useless iteration of an anti-corruption commission as he can possibly get away with.
A crack in the ICAC
Back in December 2018, shortly before the 2019 federal election and not even a month after calling such a thing a "fringe issue", Morrison promised to establish a federal anti-corruption commission. After the Coalition government missed its own 2019 deadline for draft legislation, in November 2020 it finally managed to unveil its proposed body for a Commonwealth Integrity Commission (CIC).
It didn't take long however for various publications, like Crikey, to point out that "not merely will it pose no threat to bent politicians, it may even help crooked ministers evade scrutiny". Guardian Australia, while relaying the descriptions "toothless tiger", "sham", and "feather duster", elaborated upon five code problems inherent to the proposed commission:
- There won't be public hearings
- The definition of corruption is too narrow
- It sets a high bar to even start an investigation
- It deters, instead of encourages, whistleblowers
- The attorney general has powers to keep information from [the] commission
But never mind publications, because several legal experts across the country also chose to chime in about the shortcomings to Morrison's plan. According to professor and lawyer specialising in Australian constitutional law, Anne Twomey,
This is a shamefully inadequate system, which appears designed to protect the corrupt from investigation.
That this would be a problem would be due to the degree of corruption rampant in federal government. As stated by former NSW Supreme Court judge Anthony Whealy, QC, also chair of the Centre for Public Integrity,
Our political culture is now at the point where MPs and parties think they can get away with serious allegations without serious action. A National Integrity Commission with strong powers and a broad jurisdiction is urgently needed to investigate allegations of misconduct.
None of that would be rooted out with Morrison's plan though, for as also stated by Whealy, Morrison's plan would result in the "weakest watchdog in the country".
I think the inference is that they don't want scrutiny and that, of course, therefore means that accountability and transparency and honesty are at risk.
And as Whealy also stated,
The government is the only major supporter of its CIC bill – it cannot proceed in its current form. The proposed Commonwealth Integrity Commission will not be able to do its job – it will not be able to investigate most cases of corruption, and it will keep everything hidden from public view.
Which was no exaggeration, seeing how even the Australian Federal Police Commission warned of "serious deficiencies" in the draft, pointing out that due to its setup of rendering harsher scrutiny upon law enforcement the system would effectively be a "protection racket" for government MPs.
With all that in mind, after having taken nearly two years to simply publish his proposal for a commission, Morrison then failed to introduce the legislation to parliament thanks to the pushback received from not only the opposition Labor party and many legal experts, but some of his own backbench MPs as well. But of course Morrison wasn't about to admit to any deficiency to his plan, instead quite absurdly trying to shift blame onto the Labor opposition and others and refused to admit that his failure to introduce an anti-corruption commission was a broken promise.
No, it is not.
I am not going to introduce a kangaroo court. I am not going to introduce a policy that I don't think is in the nation's best interests. It would be corrupted by a Labor Party that's more interested in playing politics with this issue than addressing the real issues.
I put forward a detailed plan, a detailed proposal, which the Labor Party rejects. I have honoured my proposal. The Labor Party don't support it. That is where the issue rests.
But of course the whole point of an elected government is to legislate, not wait for opposition parties to agree to proposals. In terms of Morrison's description of a "kanagaroo court", he stated the term again, this time in reference to the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
I have seen the lives destroyed by a commission such as that which becomes a kangaroo court and goes around and seems to operate through politics and shaming people.
However, even NSW Liberal premier Dominic Perrottet was quick to interject and offer support for the watchdog, stating that the NSW ICAC "plays an important role in upholding integrity and confidence in politicians and in public servants in our state" and that one shouldn't "undermine confidence in our integrity agencies". When asked if Morrison went too far describing the NSW ICAC (which opened up an inquiry into former premier Gladys Berejiklian, who later voluntarily resigned) as a "kangaroo court", Perrottet replied "Absolutely. I would disagree with that." (Shortly thereafter Perrottet even boosted the funding for NSW's ICAC.)
But even more pertinently, Morrison's notion of a "kangaroo court" was complete nonsense, seeing how an ICAC is a legal process that doesn't make findings or pass judgement and therefore in no way amounts to a court. (It instead passes on a brief of evidence to the Department of Public Prosecutions, they then deciding whether or not to press charges and proceed to court.) In other words, it's an investigative body whose job it is to uncover corruption and then bring it to the public's attention. (Speaking of a kangaroo court you might want to check out Shane Dowling's website Kangaroo Court of Australia, and particularly the category on Scott Morrison, which delves into heaps of other dodgy shenanigans which you won't find in this post – such as the one about Morrison getting "sacked as Managing Director of Tourism Australia in 2006 because of fraud and theft", the one about how Morrison "left as the head of Tourism New Zealand in a hurry in 2000 with similar complaints about his performance and conduct", etc.)
During a parliamentary review NSW ICAC commissioner Stephen Rushton clarified the matter by stating that Morrison's description wasn't only misleading, but untrue.
To those buffoons who have repeatedly described this commission as a kangaroo court, I would say three things.
First, it is deeply offensive to the hard-working staff of the commission. It undermines the institution. Second, there are vast differences between the functions of the commission and a court.
Those differences are readily accessible, and there has been much written about those vast differences. To describe us as a kangaroo court is not just misleading, but untrue.
To make an uninformed comment that this commission is a kangaroo court has a real capacity to undermine the commission's work, and just as importantly, public confidence in public administration.
Morrison of course retorted with his usual sidestepping of the issue, singling out the "buffoon" comment with "I'm not easily offended. I think you’ve learned that about me". Furthermore, he then doubled down with his warping of the understanding of Australian institutions by stating that
If we are going to so disempower our elected representatives to do things about what is needed in their communities, then what is the point?
We can't just hand government over to faceless officials to make decisions that impact the lives of Australians from one end of the country to the other. I actually think there's a great danger in that.
It wouldn't be Australia anymore if that was the case, it would be some kind of public autocracy.
Putting aside Morrison's absurd warning about a "public autocracy" (should Australia do away with the "public autocracy", the "faceless officials" – and thus independent regulators – of the High Court and Federal Court as well?), it apparently just wouldn't be Australia if elected representatives were to have their wanton corruption disempowered, seeing how that would put an end to the jig of Morrison and his political colleagues. Because if there's anything that Morrison utterly despises it's accountability and by extension transparency, which is the very reason why his model for an integrity commission was so weak – so that corrupt MPs can avoid scrutiny.
In return Morrison has also stated that should he win the 2022 federal election he wouldn't revive the issue unless, nonsensically, the opposition Labor party backed his proposal without any amendments. Or as he so put it,
I'd prefer there was mutual agreement on this, but this issue has been heavily politicised – not just by the Labor Party but by the independents.
All of which begs the very obvious question: Seeing how virtually everybody – various publications (and not just Crikey and Guardian Australia, but also The Sydney Morning Herald as well as The Age), various legal experts, Labor opposition MPs as well as Independent MPs, even the Australian Federal Police Commission – but Scott Morrison (and those like his treasurer Josh Frydenberg) is in support of a proper ICAC with actual teeth, why exactly is it that he's so afraid of prying eyes, particularly when he's never seen any wrongdoing in his party?
Unlike the bill brought forward by Independent MP Helen Haines for an Australian Federal Integrity Commission (which one of Morrison's MPs even crossed the floor to support, suggesting at least one of them isn't corrupt), Morrison's version of an ICAC wouldn't be retrospective. That is, it wouldn't have the ability to go back and investigate the dozens of controversies that have arisen in the past few years. In fact, an analysis by Guardian Australia found that of the 40 recent political controversies, Morrison's proposed version of an ICAC would only be able to investigate two of them. Haines' version on the other hand would have had much more thorough retrospective capabilities, which is exactly why Morrison didn't want it to go through.
For starters, the kinds of investigations that would be held under an ICAC with teeth would look at abuse of taxpayers' money, such as all the recent rorting ("rort" being Australian slang for "to swindle or dupe"), otherwise known as pork-barrelling. By the more detailed and relevant definition pork-barrelling is the appropriation of government money by a political party in order to target money to a representative's district in order to hijack elections (which may very well qualify as the Coalition version of Republicans gerrymandering districts in the United States), which is something that the under-investigation former premier of NSW Gladys Berejiklian actually claims as being not illegal.
But as stated in a Sydney Morning Herald / The Age opinion piece by Stephen Charles, QC, board member for the Centre for Public Integrity,
Pork-barrelling is not only political corruption, it is a breach of the rule of law and an assault on our democracy – in that it is an attempt by an unpopular government to entrench itself in power by the misuse of public funds.
The establishment of a national integrity commission is directed at whichever party may be in government in Australia, to investigate and expose corruption in the interests of the community, and to prevent any government from engaging in the egregious misconduct committed by the Coalition at the last election.
According to Charles, political corruption in programs like the $100 million sports rorts fund, the $660 million commuter car park scheme, and the $184 million Safer Commuter Fund (set up in 2016) alone add up to $944 million in misappropriated funds. (Not to mention the dodgy $500,000 recently paid out to former Liberal staffer Rachelle Miller for something done by somebody [but oddly enough not by education minister Alan Tudge] did but which the Morrison government refuses to elaborate on.)
All in all Morrison has displayed a rather Trumpian/"Trump-lite" approach to politics, what with his desire to undermine the rule of law by not simply refusing to set up a meaningful federal integrity commission, but by trying to establish one that would purposefully fail to hold him or any of his political colleagues to account.
To add to the seriousness of the issue, on May 18th, just three days before the 2022 federal election, 31 retired judges from across Australia came together to compose an open letter to party leaders in order to make a rare election intervention in regards to the establishment of a strong National Integrity Commission.
As it stated, in part,
Despite recent criticisms of anti-corruption commissions, the widely accepted case for a well-designed national integrity commission remains impregnable. The federal government enters into contracts and makes grants worth hundreds of billions each year. This is public money, held on trust for the nation as a whole, to be spent in the national interest and not for unethical political purposes or illegitimate private gain.
Where billions are to be spent and significant power is available to dispense it with little oversight, greedy people with convenient consciences and powerful connections will ensure that, with the manipulation of their influence, they will obtain illegal or unethical advantage to the detriment of the interests of the general public. And they will do so by means which only a specialist anti-corruption body will have the skill and power to detect. ... Without the commission we envisage, the right of Australians to have their taxes employed for the maximum national advantage will not always prevail over the corrupt exercise of power...
We are retired judges who believe that a national integrity commission is urgently needed to fill the gaps in our integrity system and restore trust in our political processes. Nothing less than halting the serious erosion of our shared democratic principles is at stake. Such a body, if properly designed and led, can be entrusted to act fairly and in accordance with natural justice while having the powers necessary if corruption is to be effectively challenged. ...
We urge you to use your influence in the next Parliament to ensure that a strong, effective and independent National Integrity Commission is established as a matter of urgency.
All of which, as has been readily shown, Scott Morrison and his political colleagues – for some reason – disagree with.
With all that in mind, there is however one other more recent issue which even an ICAC with teeth may not be able to investigate, one other thing that Morrison refuses to comment on and in what is now well-established-form chooses to hide from Australians.
The phone texts between him and his "red-pilled" mate Tim Stewart.
Millennialist Morrison's mobile messages
In what appears to be an outcome that has all but completely flown under the radar, back in October 2019 Guardian Australia filed a freedom of information request for text and WhatsApp messages between Morrison and Stewart. In March 2020 the prime minister's office (PMO) refused the request, stating
The prime minister is the head of the national government and your request presents a significant challenge to the day-to-day execution of his duties … the time that could be spent potentially processing your request would be a substantial and unreasonable diversion with the performance of the minister's functions.
After Guardian Australia then appealed the decision to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), on March 30th of this year, and following a two-year freedom of information battle, the acting commissioner of the OAIC ruled that the PMO must process the request and so was ordered to go through Scott Morrison's mobile phone for any text messages he'd exchanged with his QAnon mate Tim Stewart. Unless the ruling was appealed to the administrative appeals tribunal, the PMO had until April 29th to respond to the request.
In the meantime, and as quoted by Josh Taylor of Guardian Australia (who submitted the FOI request), freedom of information expert Peter Timmins said that although the federal election wouldn't allow the PMO to stop processing the request, if Morrison lost the election it's quite possible that the new government wouldn't have the records to process.
The caretaker period doesn't stop the clock ticking. But if for example, we have a different prime minister there by the time this issue is moved ahead, it's very unlikely that records of [that kind] will be passed to the new prime minister, which would mean that you've run into a dead end.
In a subsequent Twitter thread Taylor said he wasn't holding his breath in regards to anything coming of it all, and so on April 27th, in the midst of the election and in contravention to what had been ordered by the OAIC, the PMO stated that it would not release any text messages between Morrison and Stewart because, as it claimed, the texts were not official government documents and so didn't fall within the scope of the freedom of information law. As stated by a senior adviser to the prime minister,
Your purported request relates to documents that, if they existed, would not fall within the meaning of “an official document of a minister” as they would not relate to the affairs of an agency or of a department of state.
Yes, the decision could be appealed, but as stated in the relayed quote by Timmins, were Morrison to lose the federal election the information could very well be lost forever (supposing they weren't surreptitiously deleted long ago, which Taylor is also well aware of).
All in all, and to go along with the dozens of investigations that Morrison has been trying to keep away from the prying eyes of a meaningful ICAC, it appears that Morrison is hiding possibly even more damning information from Australians, this time about his dealings with Australia's most prominent proponent of the QAnon conspiracy.
Because yes, if the aforementioned Californian who was radicalised by "a new brand of evangelicalism" did in fact "ring any bells" for you, perhaps you've already drawn some parallels of your own. Because the fact remains, the End Times and Rapture of Pentecostalism in which it is believed that Jesus will one day return to banish the all-powerful Satan to hell has more than a striking resemblance to The Storm and The Great Awakening of QAnon in which the Cabal / Deep State / child trafficking ring (Satan) will be defeated by Donald Trump (Jesus) and result in imprisonments and even executions in Guantánamo Bay (hell). In short, it looks like the Australian prime minister is a believer in millennialism, just like his mate Tim Stewart, a mate who he's exchanged many texts with but whom he refuses (via the PMO) to follow an order by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (what he might call "faceless officials" of a "public autocracy") to release those texts.
What is Scott Morrison hiding?
We may never know, but while we can put together a few more words and actions of Morrison's to deduce what exactly the overarching direction is that he all but certainly is nudging Australia towards, what we do know is that Scott Morrison must be making somebody very, very proud.
The bulldozer unleashes “Wrecking crew” politics upon Australia
Although it would be easy to laugh at Morrison for being a "nutter" or a "buffoon", it's quite possible that he's neither of these, and not by a long shot. While he's readily aware that he needs the votes of the religious right in order to maintain his party's standing (as does Trump, who has absurdly stated repeatedly that the Bible is his favourite book), it's hard to imagine that he's not aware that an ICAC is not a court of any sort but nonetheless describes an ICAC as such in order to cynically convince misinformed voters and thus maintain the lack of accountability and transparency necessary to perpetuate the shady and corrupt actions that he and his political colleagues partake in.
Nonetheless, while many voters appear to believe that "Scotty from marketing" is merely after the photo op (such as the suggestion that Morrison delayed providing relief for flooded Lismore until he was able to exit from his COVID-19 quarantine period and so line up for the cameras, coinciding with the nickname "SloMo"), it also appears that the opposition Labor party effectively treats Morrison as a buffoon, noticeable via their incessant claim that "With Scott Morrison it's always too little, too late", and more recently via a Tweet made following a Morrison campaign stop.
It was initially pointed out by an ABC News cameraman that a particular sign at a factory Morrison visited in Townsville was covered up prior to his arrival, ostensibly to avoid any awkward photographs.
Labor was quick to reply, essentially claiming that Morrison is incompetent.
How sweet it would be if Morrison actually was merely incompetent and that his political plan was little more than to cover up mistakes. Because on the contrary, what the Labor Tweet should have stated was something more like the following:
If you mess up, you've successfully played dress up.
Yes, on occasion Morrison and the rest of the Liberal party can most certainly screw things up, made plainly obvious with the recent Solomons failure. Nonetheless, a much better reading is that Morrison hasn't been accidentally committing mistake after mistake, or waiting for the ideal photo op, but rather has been going out of his way to deliberately wreck the resilience and cohesiveness of Australian society. Although it was intended for that to be explained here in a much-too-brief manner, we fortunately have the excellent thread by David Ritter, CEO of Greenpeace Australia Pacific, to better elucidate things of which will be relayed and elaborated upon here.
For starters, Ritter begins by mentioning Thomas Frank's 2008 book The Wrecking Crew, a book in which the author "coined the idea of 'wrecking crew' politicians who – perversely – deliberately or recklessly seek to govern badly in order to advance an extreme ideological agenda".
Although the book centres around the conservative movement in Washington, DC, Ritter highlighted a Crikey Talks interview with "correspondent-at-large" Guy Rundle. As described in the write-up to the interview, in a section entitled "Abbott's and Morrison's wrecking crew" and which is worth quoting at length,
Rundle has often provided analysis on the idea of a political “wrecking crew”, politicians implementing “purposefully destructive policy”. He explained how this idea came from the United States, where “Democrats criticised Republicans for not doing government well, when in fact they weren't trying to do it well”.
“This idea became relevant in Australia in 2013 with the Tony Abbott circus that rolled on under various proprietors. The Abbott years were a mix of ideological fantasy and agendas, but if you look at what they did to the carbon tax and renewable energy, this was an attempt to make it absurd.
“This sort of politics had never entered Australia before; we had never had that US tradition of being absolutely anti-government, the idea that the government is the enemy.”
This idea carried on into the Morrison years. As Crikey consistently reports, the current government has brought lies and falsehoods into standard practice.
“With Scott Morrison, sophism has come to the centre of politics. He uses words however he wants and there is no criterion of truth. This leads to a politics of dismay, and no one can find a way out.
“Lying as a strategy … undermines the capacity of any truth. Truth and lies are not symmetrical; rather a lie is a counterfeit truth, and there is bias towards truth in any discourse.”
Ritter then links to a Crikey piece specifically on "wrecking crew" politics in which Rundle states that
“Wrecking crew” government seeks to govern so badly, per the interests of those governed, that the very machinery of such government is so damaged that it cannot be restored, even if the voters make it pretty clear they want it back.
Ritter then explains that the very premise of "wrecking crew" politics is to damage and discredit the very idea of politics. In effect people lose their belief in the merit of government to do useful things, even so far as to lose their belief in the idea of the public good. Moreover, there's hardly a better opportunity for advancing this agenda than via disasters, so meticulously explained in the next book Ritter conveys, Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine.
Following a Tweet in which Ritter describes Morrison's "deliberately bad (or wilfully blind)" approach to warning about floods and storms, Ritter then relays a piece in The Saturday Paper describing the Morrison government's sluggishness to react to northern NSW floods.
As Ritter then states, "if the implicit ideological aim was to wreck the reputation of government, then the failed response may have succeeded on those terms." Along with this Ritter points to a piece in The Sydney Morning Herald in which the conclusion is drawn by people in the area that "the cavalry won't be coming".
Ritter then relays a couple of Guardian Australia articles, one depicting a drop in people's confidence in the government in light of the floods, the other giving an overview of descriptions and photos of people whom government services had failed.
Next up Ritter quoted a Newcastle Herald piece, stating that Morrison had "softened people up to reduce expectations of how much help could be expected, stating that 'there can never be enough support in natural disasters'". (While that's actually technically true, and will become much more pronounced as we descend over the far side of Hubbert's curve, there is of course a difference between running short on resources and withholding them, the latter of which the Morrison government partook in.) Although Ritter doesn't mention them in his thread, the Morrison government's failure to order enough vaccines and failure to order rapid antigen tests in a timely manner would fit in well with the notion of a lack of support during a natural disaster, i.e. a pandemic.
Ritter then points to a piece about subsidies given to fossil fuel companies which he says could instead be allocated towards emergency services and community resilience, followed up with a Conversation piece about "shared responsibility" in which "the trauma of natural disasters becomes 'compounded by confusion, inaction, political blame games and a lack of resources' with 'individuals and vulnerable communities left to pick up the pieces'".
As Ritter then explains,
So what are the aims behind the deliberate incompetence of wrecking crew politics? It is grim. Defining a “new normal”. Breaking the idea of shared public goods. Slashing services. Privatisation. Militarisation. Fossil fuel extraction just keeps on going. Here's some more detail:
First, wrecking crew politics drives an agenda of cuts in government services. The logic is as government services fail, people cease to value them, so politicians feel able to cut them; rather than expanded, supported & properly funded services that enable effectiveness.
If the government is seen to be unreliable, then those who can afford to do so will hire private protection and private rescue services. This is already commonplace in the USA:
Following mention of a Guardian piece detailing how private fire crews in the US protect the insured and not the public, Ritter points out that those unable to afford private services would have little recourse but to defer to over-stretched charities. Case in point being the GoFundMe page that Peter Dutton initiated to support flood survivors.
This all facilitates privatisation, as weakened government services become ripe to be sold off – with guaranteed public income streams to private providers. And of course, if privatisation happens, the aim then becomes profit making – not the delivery of effective public services.
Forcing a de-facto tiered system then feeds a vicious cycle, further corroding principles of universality, the public good, and obscuring the truth that everyone benefits from greater equality.
Following a link to a review of the book The Spirit Level Ritter points out that "there are plenty of extreme ideologues who would also like to fully privatise emergency services", then pointing to a speech Morrison gave back in 2015 in which he stated that welfare must become a good deal for private investors.
That all being said, "one area of government that Morrison does want to expand is the military, and with it, the militarisation of Australian life". Ritter then points to an interview Morrison gave in which he warned Australians to "prepare for a new normal" thanks to "the defence force moving in". Following the recent floods, rather than expansion of climate adaptation, strengthening communities or slashing emissions, it was military expenditure that was expanded.
While the floods were then used to "attack the significance of laws and regulations in keeping people safe", it is implicit to wrecking crew politics that "nothing must interrupt profitability for fossil fuel corporations". To close things off, Ritter then relayed the fact that Morrison's recently handed down budget nonetheless reduced annual climate change spending.
Ritter did then have one last link to drop in his Tweet thread, that being mention of The Juice Media's piece on the recent floods –
– although one imagines that had of his thread come a month and a couple of days later he may very well have wanted to drop their season 2 finale instead.
A day after that season 2 finale came out Ritter dropped a second Twitter thread about "wrecking crew" politics, this one centred around his argument that "rorting is core 'wrecking crew' behaviour". Ritter begins by stating that
The crucial point here is that government resources and institutions exist to serve the public good – rather than the partisan interests of political parties, or the private interests of politicians. It is vital that our politicians understand and respect the distinction.
As eminent Australian corruption fighter Tony Fitzgerald said some years ago, our “system takes it for granted that political power will be exercised by people who know how to behave properly and can be trusted to do so”:
While rorting tends to be taken by the public as an aberrant lapse in expected standards, Ritter questions whether or not all this recent rorting may actually have been "part of a wilful wrecking crew behaviour".
When seen this way, widespread rorting is revealed as contributing to an extreme, deliberate and ideologically driven effort to permanently malform how Australia is governed.
It's all part of fostering a dog eat dog, winner takes all kind of world, one in which "truth doesn't matter if you can get away with it. Sounding familiar?" Ritter then lays out several dot points in which he describes the ultimate aims of rorting, which are described as being part of a deliberate approach as well as corrosively anti-democratic:
- Concentrate power
- Reduce transparency & accountability
- Diminish norms of public integrity
- Capture public resources
- Poison the idea of the public good
Ritter then goes on to list several articles detailing various instances of rorting (some of them mentioned up above), followed up with a Monthly article by Nick Feik in which it's questioned how Australia has gotten to the point where obvious misuse of public money is hardly even registered as a scandal.
Likewise, mention is made of Anne Tiernan's piece in Griffith Review in which the Morrison government's "flagrant abuses of and disregard for traditions and conventions" mean that this could become "normalised as the way politics is done".
"And that takes us to the crunch", according to Ritter.
The ideological functioning of widespread rorts accompanied by an attitude of impunity is to normalise the capture of public institutions and resources for private and partisan gain, destroying public trust and the very idea of the public good.
Remember, the aim of “wrecking crew” politics is that the whole idea of government is damaged and discredited. People stop believing in the power of government to do helpful things – and may even stop believing in the whole idea of the public good.
While Ritter then relayed some of the same comments from former judges as given above, he then points to a Guardian Australia article outlining how the Morrison government actually cut funding to key integrity bodies whose very purpose is to hold the government accountable.
To little surprise, Ritter then relays the fact that in January of this year Australia's ranking in Transparency International's global Corruption Perceptions Index dropped to its lowest level ever.
That ranking was followed up a month later with a report stating that along with Austria, El Salvador, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Mozambique, Russia, Senegal and Slovenia, Australia, as "one of the world's most significant decliners" and whose "deteriorating score indicates systemic failings in tackling public sector corruption", was one of nine countries to watch on the 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index.
Along with a few closing words that's "all" Ritter had to say, but while that sums up the brief summary of the "wrecking crew" politics that Morrison and company have been unleashing upon Australia, it by no means encapsulates all that Morrison would like to see eventuate in Australia, and is possibly just a portion of the means to the end.
Putin on the writs
The writs have been issued for the 2022 Australian federal election, an election occurring at the same time that war has hit the fields of Europe (to be more specific its largest breadbasket) for the first time since World War II, the outbreak of war courtesy of Russian president-cum-dictator Vladimir Putin. While the two events are by no means directly related in any way, it would be folly to think that there couldn't be consequences emanating from the imminent election that could contribute to what can be described as the "Russification of Australia". To explain that will require going off on a bit of a tangent, all of which will make everything that's been written about Morrison above make all the more sense.
To begin with, you may recall that Donald Trump quote cited earlier (which Morrison parroted with his talk about "negative globalism") in which he stated to the U.N. General Assembly that "The future does not belong to globalists, the future belongs to patriots", and that the word "patriot" was inexplicably emphasised. You might also recall mention of Marjorie Taylor Greene having stated that "Q is a patriot" in a deleted but preserved video, which is actually rather similar to how both father and son, Tim and Jesse Stewart, both appeared in an episode of the American podcast Patriot Transition Voice, something that has also been deleted but thankfully preserved. (Thanks to Crikey, if you'd like you can check out the 10-minute condensed version here, or the entire hour and a half version here.)
Although the word "patriot" doesn't inherently imply anything concerning, it has however been taken up quite wholeheartedly in recent years by the far-right. Here's how the Anti-Defamation League describes it.
A collective term used to describe a set of related extremist movements and groups in the United States whose ideologies center on anti-government conspiracy theories. The most important segments of the “Patriot” movement include the militia movement, the sovereign citizen movement and the tax protest movement. Though each submovement has its own beliefs and concerns, they share a conviction that part or all of the government has been infiltrated and subverted by a malignant conspiracy and is no longer legitimate.
Which, unsurprisingly, is rather par for course with all the Donald Trump, Marjorie Taylor Greene – and to a lesser degree Tim Stewart – QAnon kind of stuff.
But in a largely forgotten and very quirky piece of history, it turns out that it wouldn't be too far fetched to say that a certain Russian apparently "owns" all those patriots. I'll let author Jeff Benedict describe the situation, quoting at length from his book The Dynasty.
With all of the [New England] Patriots' success, [owner Robert] Kraft found himself in positions that other NFL owners couldn't relate to. In the summer of 2005, Kraft accepted an invitation from [Citigroup president] Sandy Weill to travel to Russia with Rupert Murdoch and the CEOs of IBM, Intel, United Technologies, ALCOA, and International Paper to meet with president Vladimir Putin. Weill was attempting to stimulate commerce between the United States and Russia. Afterward, as the American business leaders posed for a group photo with Putin, Weill encouraged Kraft to show his Super Bowl ring to the Russian leader.
Kraft retrieved it from his pocket and handed it to Putin.
Putin admired the ring's size and its 124 diamonds. “I could kill someone with this ring,” he said as he slipped it on his finger and made a fist.
Taken aback, Kraft said, “You could kill someone without it. You were the head of the KGB.”
The group laughed.
As Putin removed the ring, Kraft put out his hand. But Putin slipped the ring into his own pocket.
Perplexed, Kraft looked at Weill, who subtly shook his head from side to side, signaling Kraft not to say anything. But Putin was stealing his ring. Kraft couldn't believe it.
Putin bade the group farewell and left with a number of his associates [three KGB agents]. Days later, while Kraft was in Europe, word of the incident leaked. The Associated Press reported: “Russian President Vladimir Putin walked off with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft's . . . Super Bowl ring.” Within twenty-four hours, the story escalated into what the Boston Globe referred to as “an international incident.” The Russian government took the position that the ring was a gift. Russia's leading business newspaper reported that although gifts to Russian presidents were normally kept in the Russian state treasury, Kraft's Super Bowl ring was deposited in the Kremlin library. Meantime, the Russian embassy in Washington declined to say whether a request had been made to return the ring.
Kraft soon got a call from the White House. The specter of Russia's president stealing jewelry from the owner of America's highest-profile sports team was detrimental to the already shaky diplomatic relations between the two superpowers. The Bush administration suggested it would be in the country's best interest if Kraft put an end to the controversy by stating publicly that he had intended the ring to be a gift.
But the ring had not been a gift. Kraft's name was inscribed on it.
Kraft wasn't happy. After hanging up, he begrudgingly decided that under the circumstances he would honor the Bush administration's request. Myra supported his decision. Later that day, Kraft issued a formal statement, acknowledging that he hadn't initially intended for the ring to be a gift, but had changed his mind when he saw how much Putin liked it. “At that point, I decided to give him the ring as a symbol of the respect and admiration that I have for the Russian people and the leadership of President Putin,” Kraft said.
As if all that wasn't absurd enough, you get one guess as to who was the man standing between Kraft and Putin when Putin took "ownership" of the Patriots. That's right, none other than the man who Scott Morrison takes his marching orders from himself, Rupert Murdoch.
What makes this all the more quirky is that one part of the American arm of Murdoch's media empire, FOX News, is not only openly downplaying the seriousness of the far-right QAnon conspiracy (host Tucker Carlson has defended supporters of QAnon while also supposedly unable to find QAnon on the Internet) as well as going along with the far-right "patriot" movement (Carlson has also created a documentary entitled Patriot Purge which is a revisionist history of the January 6th riot at the US Capitol), but is blatantly siding with Russia (see Carlson asking "Why do I hate Putin so much?") to the point that the Kremlin is actually urging Russian media to use Tucker Carlson clips in order to justify its invasion of Ukraine to Russians. (Likewise, while Republicans have for years now been pushing the "Great Replacement" theory espoused by the mass murderer who recently killed 10 people in Buffalo, Carlson has been the loudest of several Fox News hosts pushing the theory.)
That's by no means to say though that the Murdoch media is the only entity in the United States spreading Russian propaganda, exemplified with the recent article by The ABC (which Morrison refused to debate opposition leader Anthony Albanese on in the run-up to the election, in part possibly because he knew The ABC wouldn't feed him the questions ahead of time as the Murdoch media's SkyNews is said to have done for the April 20th debate) entitled "Russia was once enemy number one in the US. So how did Vladimir Putin infiltrate the Republican Party?"
To take it one step further, it's not just the Murdoch media and the Republican party spreading all this Russian propaganda in the United States but of course the Kremlin itself via its disinformation campaigns. For a good overview of how these disinformation campaigns work one can listen (or watch, if that's your thing) to the amalgamated version of a 2018 "three-part Opinion Video documentary" (original New York Times page here) that breaks down the methodologies in which the Kremlin (more specifically the KGB and its successor the FSB) destabilises other nations, replete with a few historical examples. Although it doesn't go into specific detail, the video gives an overview of how the Kremlin used its methodologies to foment the discord that allowed for Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, as well as how other countries (particularly those bordering Russia) actively work to inform their populaces of disinformation campaigns being unleashed upon them, something the West apparently doesn't do very well, if at all.
(For the record, no, I'm not a fan of The New York Times, but just as the video itself states that RT [formerly Russia Today] can put out 80% factual information while slipping in 20% disinformation [which is the modus operandi of RT], The New York Times is just as capable of putting out valid material worth perusing over as well. This is one of those instances, as rare or not as it may be.)
Put these three together – the Murdoch media, the Republican party, and the Kremlin – and what we get is the Russification of the United States, something that has been occurring to a lesser degree to other nations as well.
But before we get to defining this notion of Russification and explaining how it applies to Australia, it's key to point to the way in which Morrison – like Trump – has championed himself as standing up to Putin. In his recent interview with Piers Morgan, Trump stated that Putin only invaded Ukraine because Biden was in power, and would have never done had of he been in power.
I threatened him like he's never been threatened before. I told him [Putin] what our response would be and he said: ‘Really?’ And I said: ‘Really’.
When it comes to Morrison, he too likes to puff up his chest and sound like a tough guy (which, remember, he wasn't willing to do when it came to condemning Donald Trump inciting the January 6th attempted insurrection).
Australians always stand up to bullies, and we will be standing up to Russia.
Putting aside the nonsense stated by the Russian embassy in return, is that really true? Or is it perhaps true for all Australians except for Morrison? Because as The Monthly put it, "the Australian government does not always stand up to bullying. In fact, the Morrison government is often the one doing it."
To be more specific, according to recent comments by longtime Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells (video of speech here, transcript here), Morrison is "an autocrat, a bully, who has no moral compass".
And those comments of Fierravanti-Wells are by no means the disgruntled musings of an aggrieved outgoing senator. Because although former prime minister John Howard claimed that Fierravanti-Wells' issues came down to nothing but "personal grievances", Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie came to Fierravanti-Wells' defence and stated that Morrison is "probably one of the most unpleasant men I've ever had to sit in front of – he is a bully, he is intimidating, and that's the truth of the matter."
Then there was Liberal MP Catherine Cusack who pulled off a double whammy by not only calling Morrison a bully but by stating that the Liberal party is "the party he has ruined" and that "I myself cannot vote for the re-election of the federal Coalition government", partly due to what amounted to her distaste for Morrison's wrecking crew politics (the failure to provide assistance for flood victims, for which she is resigning from the Liberal party for).
But Scott Morrison's brazen attempt to fund flood victims in a Nationals seat and exclude flood victims in a Labor seat that I happen to live in was just too much. I cannot deny we are all overwrought here, witnessing so much suffering. My bullshit tolerance levels are at zero. So to see the self-serving ruthless bullying that has increased inside the Liberal party spill over into public policy and the poorest most vulnerable Australians who lost everything in the floods are the targets of this outrageous abuse of morality and power is simply intolerable.
Jumping back a bit there was also former Australia Post chief executive Christine Holgate who said that Morrison's dressing-down of her during a parliamentary question time in which he called for her resignation was "one of the worst acts of bullying I’ve ever witnessed" and an "utter disgrace".
Last of all there was Senator Pauline Hanson who also described Morrison as a bully, but as we have no desire to platform Hanson here on From Filmers to Farmers in even the most slightest of positive lights you'll have to go looking elsewhere for that criticism of hers if you so desire.
There's more that can be said about these bullying-related behaviours of Morrison's (and there will be further below, although the recent debate on Channel Nine may have publicly shown Australians for the first time how belligerent and nasty Morrison can be under pressure), but for the time being it's pertinent to point out that Morrison-the-bully does in fact have character traits similar to Putin-the-bully he's apparently standing up to, and, as absurd as it sounds, that Morrison is in fact attempting to push Australia in a similar direction as Russia.
Drawing a parallel between Morrison and Putin, and even more so Australia and Russia, does of course seem counterintuitive, particularly in light of the fact that Australia sent 20 bushmasters to Ukraine (although only after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy requested them). But although a direct comparison may be difficult to digest, when we take into account what is happening to the United States – with assistance of the Murdoch media (which also exists in Australia) and Donald Trump (who Morrison, as has been argued, is the "lite" version of) – with how Australia has been arguably becoming more and more like the United States – which itself is becoming more like Russia – it starts to make a little more sense.
All of which brings us back to the notion of the Russification of the West, which will be explained with the aid of writer Umair Haque's piece "This War Should Be a Wake-Up Call About the Russification of the West". (FYI, his other material is also quite recommended.)
For starters, and while pointing out that this is a spectrum and not a binary, by Russification Haque is referring to the nations of the West taking on the social, political, economic, and financial traits of Russia, which translate into regress, destabilisation, fracture and division.
What is Russia? Politically, it's an authoritarian society – and increasingly, a totalitarian one. Socially, it's a society which failed to develop what we'd consider modern institutions – a functioning rule of law, equality under it, justice, a robust democracy, and so forth. Instead of such institutions, Big Lies and propaganda rule in their place. Economically, it's a society in which the gains flow to a tiny number of oligarchs – while the vastly unequal economy has stagnated for the many, indebted. For the masses, better living standards are a dim and distant prospect – but for oligarchs, at least until very recently, times had never been better, sailing from Barcelona to the Cote d'Azure. And culturally, all this is underpinned by a failure to develop modern values – Russia is a place of misogyny, bigotry, spite, and backwardness, in which everyone from women to minorities to ethnic non-Russians to journalists and intellectuals are openly hated and persecuted.
Russia, in short, is a failed state. And like many failed states, it’s on its way to becoming a fascist state. Putin’s vision is of a Christan Fascist empire, which is what his favourite philosophers proclaimed to be the answer to Russia’s long-standing woes...
If you haven't been noticing the United States skewing towards all that the past couple of decades or so, and more so the past few years, and even much more so the past few weeks, frankly, you haven't been paying enough attention – even worse if you haven't noticed rumblings of such things occurring in Australia over the same period of time.
While we're not going to re-hash here the kinds of things that went on during the Trump years, the Supreme Court draft recently leaked by Politico reveals that constitutional protection for reproductive rights, Roe v Wade, could be disappearing in the near future. And as no exceptions would exist for pregnancies caused by rape or incest, atrocities like those of women raped by Russian soldiers in Ukraine would result in women forced to give birth to their aggressors' offspring.
Following the repeal of Roe v Wade, expect access to contraception (Griswold v Connecticut, Eisenstadt v Baird, Carey v Population Services International) to also disappear, same-sex marriage (Obergefell v Hodges) to be a thing of the past, interracial marriage (Loving v Virginia) to be jettisoned, and sexual freedom between consenting adults (Lawrence v Texas) to kiss its ass goodbye. Such are the goals of today's Republicans, increasingly equivalent to a Christian Taliban.
Even before an article appeared in VICE about an American data broker selling location data of people who visit abortion clinics, women across social media had already began warning each other to delete any data apps from their phones used to track their periods/cycles, delete any fertility apps you may have been using, to either not bring your phone with you to an abortion clinic or at least remove the battery prior to getting there (turning it off isn't good enough), and to use a VPN, turn off location sharing, use encrypted messaging apps (Signal should be the recommended option here), and to overall just minimise one's online presence.
In Australia the Murdoch media was quick to respond in kind to the leaked draft, publishing a supportive article in The Australian entitled "Abortion rights: End of Roe v Wade to return authority to the people".
A few day's prior to Politico's leak an anti-abortion rally was held in Brisbane, attended by Queensland Coalition senators Amanda Stoker and Matt Canavan as well as One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts and retiring National-cum-One Nation MP George Christensen. (Retiring MP Christensen is only contesting the unwinnable position of third One Nation senator due to the Coalition's unwillingness to disendorse him. By switching at the last minute to the One Nation party Christensen will thus technically leave parliament not by retirement but by losing a race, thus bestowing upon him the ability to grift Australian taxpayers for a $105,000 severance package.)
When asked, Morrison defended Stoker's attendance at the rally with the mealy-mouthed justification of "It's a free country".
Morrison was asked at least twice about his views on the matter, but avoided giving a straight answer, stating that "it's an issue that can deeply divide this country".
I don't want to see the disruptive, divisive debate that we've seen over decades and decade and decades [in the US] take place here in Australia. I don't intend to bring it into the agenda, because I think it can be a very divisive and polarising issue, and I wouldn't recommend it being part of our national debate.
I think this is an issue that can deeply divide a country. And in this country, no one is making any changes on this matter. It's not an issue in this election nor do I think it should be. And so I think the responsible thing is to ensure that we focus this election on the things that matter to Australians.
But even if Morrison had of been more direct with an actual condemnation of Stoker and had come out in defence of a woman's right to choose, would anybody actually be gullible enough by now to believe anything he would have said? Similarly, although the five justices in support of overturning Roe v Wade may not have categorically lied, they did nonetheless previously indicate they would give deference to the nearly 50-year-old precedent to protect abortion rights. All of which was meaningless.
Shortly afterwards, Morrison resurfaced his plan to introduce his religious discrimination law without changing the sex discrimination act at same time, something that would provide few protections for LGBTQ students (from such things as parents having to sign contracts that homosexuality is "sinful") while providing no protection for the expulsion of trans students from schools. In terms of nominating a time-frame for the gay student expulsion ban Morrison stated that "You pass one and then you pass the other because one triggers the other. One triggers the other, that is what is set out in the legislation." According to an associate lecturer at Monash University and discrimination law expert, there is no such thing as some kind of trigger. Unsurprisingly, Morrison had once again simply lied.
Suffice to say, what Morrison is (desperately) trying to drum up is an American-styled culture war, for the purposes of fostering division amongst Australians and benefiting from the polarisation. Meanwhile, Morrison's deputy PM Barnaby Joyce has been working to shift the Overton window by preferencing the far-right party One Nation second and stating that "The party of 10, 15 years ago is not the party of today. Things change. Mollify."
At the same time, "moderates" such as New South Wales Liberal treasurer Matt Kean plead with Australians to not vote out federal "moderates" (by replacing them with independents), pointing overseas to "the Republican party ... [that] has now become the party of Trump, the party of Putin sympathisers and anti-vaxxers" as an example to avoid. However, the Republican party didn't become radicalised because of a loss of moderates but because it was systematically hijacked by extremists, similar to what is happening to the Liberal party courtesy of Morrison and other Liberals such as his Pentecostal sidekicks Alex Hawke (Morrison's factional fixer in New South Wales) and Stuart Robert ("Brother Stuie"), as well as members of the Coalition partner Nationals such as Barnaby Joyce, Matt Canavan, the departing George Christensen, etc.
Much like the climate science-denying and trans-scapegoating Republicans, the Coalition already partake in these views and platforms. If said "moderates" such as Dave Sharma and Trent Zimmerman truly were concerned about the Liberal party not becoming Australia's "party of Trump, the party of Putin sympathisers", then they'd all immediately denounce Morrison and his increasingly extremist colleagues. But they don't, choosing instead to place the onus on Australians for abandoning them, in turn becoming enablers of the extremists they supposedly warn of that are continually shifting further and further to the right thanks to the inactions of the gormless "moderates". (According to Ian Macphee, Liberal member for Goldstein between 1974 and 1990, the Liberal party of Menzies and Fraser is now beyond reform: "The rot is set in too deep; the need for a total restart too great.")
According to Professor Marion Maddox of Macquarie University who was quoted in The Saturday Paper, the reason why Australians have become so complacent with the waning of the separation between church and state – remember that Australia currently has a prime minister that without permission of others practices laying on of hands, claims to have won an election thanks to a miracle, takes the painting of an eagle as a message from God to continue persevering when all seemed lost, attempted to get his prosperity gospel mentor Brian Houston an invite to the White House – is because it was normalised by former prime minister John Howard and his treasurer Peter Costello (now chairman of Nine Entertainment Co., which includes The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age).
The reason it doesn’t seem like such a big deal now is because Howard and Costello normalised it … way back in the 1990s.
They, particularly Howard, perceived that what are often called the mainline churches, like the Anglicans, Uniting Church and the Catholics, were at that time very strong critics of significant aspects of Howard's program – on human rights, on environment, on economic issues, on Indigenous rights.
Howard thus did what was needed to nudge the heads of the mainstream churches to "keep their noses out of politics and get back in their box" while also opening up a path for the likes of Pentecostals.
[T]he third prong was to cultivate the more neoliberalism-friendly strands of the Christian family – the Pentecostal tradition particularly – that were more open to the message of individual aspiration and less interested in looking for structural causes of inequality and injustice.
A recent example of this growing extremism in the Liberal party is Morrison's hand-picked (with the assistance of fellow Pentecostal Hawke) faux-candidate of wannabe bigot-with-a-national-platform Katherine Deves (who has praised and promoted a far-right forum linked to the deadly Christchurch mosque attack) in the seat of Warringah, who not only has no chance of winning her riding but who was chosen over other candidates who may very well have stood a chance against independent incumbent Zali Steggall. In effect, Deves serves as a dogwhistle to the likes of reactionaries, transphobes and Pentecostal-like conservative Christians in ridings other than hers at the expense of "moderates" who in turn are placed at risk in their seats (the aforementioned Sharma, Zimmerman, as well as Bridget Archer, etc.).
But as questioned in The Saturday Paper,
[A]t what point does aligning the party with the religious right become an electoral liability?
Such considerations are weighing on moderate minds in South Australia. Several of those who spoke to The Saturday Paper this week referenced what has happened to the Republican Party in the United States, where conservative Christians, Pentecostals in particular, have moved the party radically to the right, opening up fertile ground for conspiracists such as QAnon and leaders such as Donald Trump.
That is, QAnon followers have used religion to lure unsuspecting Christians, while at the same time Christian pastors (particularly evangelical pastors) have been preaching QAnon-aligned ideas to their congregants.
The continuous attempts to rile up manufactured outrage in the political spectrum via things such as Deves' cookie cutter answers (gotta wonder how many times they shot that piece before they got it right) to the cookie cutter questioning by the Murdoch media belies the utter transparency of what's going on (never mind the fallacy in what Deves has stated).
To add fuel to the fire, it's not as if Morrison doesn't hold some very odious perceptions of, and attitudes towards, women. For that we only have to look at the way that Morrison leans on the scorned woman trope, framing empowered women who "dare" to criticise him, or who take a different stance from his, as emotionally unstable.
Long before Morrison stated "I know Connie is disappointed" (in regards to the aforementioned speech by senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells), when it came to then-MP Julia Banks deciding that she wasn't going to contest the 2019 election Morrison deceived her into giving him 24 hours time before she made her announcement, time in which the PMO backgrounded the press and others, suggesting that Banks had an emotional breakdown due to the recent coup (which saw former PM Turnbull replaced with Morrison). As Morrison stated,
I'm supporting Julia and I'm reaching out to Julia and giving her every comfort and support for what has been a pretty torrid ordeal for her.
But what Morrison was insinuating wasn't true in the slightest.
All in all, Morrison treats woman as if they're too emotional, too fragile, too mentally unstable to deal with politics, relying on sexist stereotypes to dismiss their concerns.
It should come as little surprise then that when women (and men) protested across the country against violence against women, Morrison not only refused to attend any event or even accept a petition with nearly 100,000 signatures, but instead responded by suggesting they all be glad they weren't getting shot at.
Which brings us back to the notion of the Russification of the West. As Haque also states,
[Putin] thinks the West is degenerate and feeble – and attacks its “gender freedom,” among other freedoms. For a Christian Fascist, little things like equality and justice and truth and freedom are impurities, threats. They represent a democratic social order – whereas the Christian Fascist wants a totalist, hierarchical social order, of the pure above the impure.
Now think about the West. You'd by lying and I'd be lying if either of us said a lot of that isn't also beginning to happen in the West.
Likewise, Australians would be lying if they tried to pretend that Morrison – with his plan to resurface the Religious Discrimination Act as well as his attempt to divide Australians via fostering bigotry in Australia with his captain's pick of Deves – wasn't trying to take Australia in this same direction as Putin's Russia. Again, although it's incorrect to surmise that Morrison follows the lead of Putin, there is no doubting that Morrison does however follow the lead of Trump who himself follows the lead of Putin. Different path, same result.
As Haque continues,
Over the last few decades, the West has grown savagely unequal – a whole lot like Russia. It's most advanced in America, which once used to be famed for a healthy middle class, the “American Dream” – but now the dream is dead. The American economy is basically a tiny number of ultra-rich billionaires, and a vast underclass. Why don't we call them oligarchs? Only because they're not Russian.
And why doesn't the former Australian – now American – oligarch known as Rupert Murdoch, who peddles Russian propaganda, not have his assets seized? Because he's an oligarch with an American passport rather than a Russian passport?
Otherwise, although the consumer-driven "American Dream" was a fantasy from the get-go (predicated upon cheap and plentiful supplies of fossil fuels, predominantly oil), and while true that Australia doesn't have as comparably large of an American-style underclass of working poor (which even a former chief economist of ANZ recently warned against), Australia is nonetheless increasingly heading in that direction, no help thanks to Australia having one of the fastest rising rates of income inequality in the world (which itself is no thanks to the modern monetary system of fractional-reserve banking and interest-bearing debt).
What do skyrocketing inequality and falling living standards do? They make people desperate. Afraid. Fearful. And most of all, stupid. Their minds stop working. I say that sympathetically. If, like most Americans, you're constantly on the edge of poverty, never sure where your next month's rent will be made, never able to save – you too would be driven into a state of anxiety, despair, and rage.
So social attitudes begin to change as societies experience rising inequality and falling living standards. The average person begins to lose trust in institutions and systems, of all kinds, from government to media to education. They begin to rage at those very institutions. And soon enough, they turn to conspiracy theories peddled by demagogues, which scapegoat others – usually minorities – for the woes of the pure of blood and true of faith.
Although QAnon followers aren't limited to the lower end of the financial spectrum, people closer to the edge of financial straits and thus desperation are nonetheless significantly more vulnerable and prone to believing the kind of scapegoating explanations that conspiracy theories often provide as they look for a sense of security in a time of upheaval, instead getting all-too-easy answers to complex problems. And it's of no course of no help that QAnon is festering at a time when a pandemic has led to increased social isolation and in turn increased mental health issues.
Although the head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, Mike Burgess, has stated that the agency is currently focusing on people "who are indicating that violence is appropriate" (which may very include the aforementioned Riccardo Bosi, who is running in the seat of Greenway in this 2022 federal election and who has repeatedly called for billionaires, politicians, justices, those in the media, etc., to be hung), Burgess' additional statement that "at this point in time, I would say QAnon is not high in our focus there" doesn't mean that QAnon followers wouldn't and couldn't ultimately be manipulated and thus used by those such as Bosi, the Proud Boys, or even those outside the country, to undertake acts of violence.
As stated by Joshua Roose, senior research fellow at Deakin University,
Conspiracy theories have been around for hundreds of years, and really you've got to look at the conditions that give birth to them. We're in a period of extreme lack of trust in politicians, of economic downturn, and of polarisation. It's in that context that people can come along and make these grandiose claims and find traction because people are looking for something to believe and for something to belong to.
These issues are not going to go away, they're only going to get bigger. We're at a really critical juncture in our democracy and if governments don't reach out and engage people and put more effort into social cohesion and developing trust in institutions, we will see lots more to come.
Of course, the "skyrocketing inequality" that Haque speaks of increases the loss of "social cohesion and ... trust in institutions". Although inequality is by no means an inevitability (although I'll stress again that it is most certainly inevitable with our modern monetary system of fractional-reserve banking and interest-bearing debt, explained in the two FF2F posts on the 2015 Greek financial crisis given below), at this very moment it is however being highly exacerbated by large corporations gouging the public and reaping record profits during the current pandemic.
Meanwhile, there's no doubting that Australia's (and the rest of the world's) current "cost of living crisis" is being largely driven by the various causes behind the current supply chain crises as well as recent shortages of fossil fuels due to Russian sanctions. However, it's also just as true that energy shortages had already begun prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and not just because of COVID-19 induced shut-ins: on top of other reasons an overly-cold 2020-2021 European winter required more natural gas for heating while hurricanes in the US knocked out refineries, both of which strained supplies that haven't had a chance to fully recover.
Were the Labor party to succeed in this week's federal election and do its part in increasing the $20.33 minimum wage by 5.1% (equal to roughly $1) there is however a good chance that any benefits derived by low-income earners from an increase in their wages will soon be eroded by across-the-board inflation, just as the late-March cut in the petrol excise has been eroded by continually rising petrol prices, rising food prices, rising rental rates (now that foreign students and other travellers are returning), rising rental payments (due to the recent interest rate hikes, which will be increasing further for at least the rest of the year), etc., all of which won't just be hitting low-income earners.
It's appropriate to point out here that since Morrison is effectively against raising the minimum wage so that low-income earners can ostensibly maintain their "real wages" (in light of inflating prices), this will also exacerbate levels of inequality and thus "social cohesion and ... trust in institutions", etc. To make matters worse, while New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern took a voluntary 20% pay cut during the pandemic, Scott Morrison has seen his $140,000 backbencher pay continually increase to the $550,000 he hauls in today, which of course doesn't include things like the $181 he's allowed to claim for meals every day.
At the same time that Morrison is effectively against raising the minimum wage, his government needlessly gave billions of dollars to profit-making multi-million dollar companies via its JobKeeper program. At least $38 billion (about $4,000 for every Australian household) of the $90 billion program went to companies where turnover did not fall below thresholds.
- a Pentecostal church in NSW that had a 3,260% increase in profit received $660,000
- Margaret Court's Pentecostal church got $500,000
- Seven West Media got $47 million
- Crown Resorts got $291.2 million
- Pokies giant Aristocrat Leisure got $16.14 million
- Qantas got $885 million
- Star Entertainment got $157.4 million
- a private school linked to a group once described as an "extremist cult" got roughly $9 million
- Louis Vuitton got $6 million
- Gucci got nearly $5 million
- Harvey Norman got $22 million, although without an explanation gave back only $6 million
Scott Morrison and the rest of the Coalition government then decided that large businesses would be able to keep their financial support secret, even though New Zealand and the UK made theirs public. When senator Rex Patrick called for the public naming of companies that received JobKeeper payments, senator Pauline Hanson "sided with the looters" by stopping a bid for the largest 10,000 companies to reveal their JobKeeper wage subsidies. When treasurer Josh Frydenberg was warned in mid-2020 that billions of dollars were haemorrhaging to 950 profitable big business, he turned a blind eye.
Frydenberg excused the looting of Australian taxpayer money by calling it "an economic lifeline which helped keep around a million businesses in business and 3.8 million Australians in a job", while in regards to companies paying back their the unqualified-for windfalls Morrison simply stated
I'm not into the politics of envy. If there are some companies that feel that they want to hand that [money] back, great. Good for them.
In the meantime, 11,771 welfare recipients were issued debt notices from Centrelink to pay back $32 million in COVID wage subsidy ($1,049.85 from this school teacher, $2,500 from this single mother, etc., etc.).
All in all, JobKeeper's greatest accomplishment was not so much to save a few businesses and a few jobs but to make the rich richer, and it's no surprise that Morrison, energy supplies aside (which we'll now turn to), has no desire to see the minimum wage raised. (It's worth remembering here Morrison's Pentecostal-aligned prosperity theology which believes that being less well-off is a sign of lazyness and immorality and that the provision of welfare is therefore seen as a waste of money.)
Returning then to across-the-board inflation, Nafeez Ahmed, one of the most well-versed writers and authors on systemic collapse (see the FF2F review of his book Failing States, Collapsing Systems: Biophysical Triggers of Political Violence here), has just revealed that major financial institutions are currently preparing for social breakdown and civil unrest due to rising energy and food prices that will also be affecting well-to-do middle classes.
In the meantime, and as could be stated by people in any number of jobs but in this case stated by a Taxi driver in Australia facing increasing operating costs that aren't being matched by increases in fares,
Our incomes are hopelessly out of date. We've got to work 70 hours a week to earn minimum wage. It requires legislative change.
Problem is, what's going on can't be fixed with legislative change since what's being faced isn't a problem but rather a predicament. Difference being, a problem is something that has a solution while a predicament is something that has to be dealt with. To be specific, the predicament that Australia (and the rest of the world) is facing, and which may have just been given a bit of a jolt by the current pandemic, is the collapse of industrial civilisation – or in other words the beginning of the end of our modern ways of life of which are based on copious supplies of highly-concentrated energy (aka fossil fuels).
Those who have been reading this blog's sporadic posts the past few years will already be readily aware that we've most likely reached peak oil and thus the ability to continuously grow economies with the associated increasing supplies of fossil fuels, something that is occurring at the same time that EROI levels are continuing to plummet. Moreover, while the world is currently in "overshoot" (as William Catton warned about in his fantastic 1980 book Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change), 2022 happens to mark the 50th anniversary of the ground breaking Limits to Growth report, marked with the recent publication Limits and Beyond: 50 years on from The Limits to Growth, what did we learn and what’s next?, edited by another writer and author on collapse, Ugo Bardi.
Moving on, since money is effectively a proxy for energy, less energy will mean less ability for the creation of various goods (no matter how much money the world collectively has), implying an inherent decrease in living standards. There is of course a fair amount of chaff that could be eliminated since much of our "living standards" are consumer-oriented, but nonetheless our infrastructure and societies in general are predicated upon steady (if not increasing) supplies of cheap energy.
All of that implies an array of predicaments (to put it mildly) and ultimately an inevitable decrease to "living standards".
Furthermore, putting aside the effects of the significant food shortages that will be hitting the world later this year (look to portions in what is likely to be FF2F's next post for more on that) as well as the all-but-inevitable #OlympianVariant that may very well kill between half a million and a million Australians (also elaborated upon in a planned-for upcoming FF2F post), whoever wins the upcoming federal election is likely to face a world of economic problems the likes of which Australia has quite possibly never seen before.
If Labor were in fact to win the upcoming election there's no doubt that every petrol-shortage problem, every COVID-19-related problem, every food shortage problem, and every economic problem during its scheduled three-year tenure will be scapegoated by Morrison and/or his by predecessor and political colleagues to the Nth degree as the supposed ineptitude of Labor politicians (when in actuality the Liberals would have fared no better) with "you can't trust Labor with the economy" kind of idiocies.
Following what would all but certainly be a resounding defeat of the Labor party at the subsequent 2025 election, the Liberal party, shifted significantly further to the right (the religious – Pentecostal, evangelical, extremist – right) and emboldened to a much greater degree than before (coupled with what may very be the return of Donald Trump as president of the United States), will proceed to shape Australia in ways that although not yet as advanced will to a large degree parallel those that are continuously unfolding in the United States.
As Haque sees it,
Different Western nations are at different stages of Russification. America's the most advanced – there's a very, very real chance that it continues tipping into the hardcore authoritarianism and fanaticism of the last decade or so. Britain's newfound nationalism, its lunatic obsession with Brexit, its relentless scapegoating of its neighbours, its economic division into haves and have-nots – all that's Russification, too. I can't do every country in detail – you judge your own for yourself, now that I've given you a way to think about it.
Yes, based on everything you've read in this post, judge for yourself: how far along the path of Russification is Australia, and is that something you'd like to see happen to Australia? Because make no mistake about it – what's been happening in the United States was by no means something that happened merely with the election of Donald Trump. As stated by Anna Davidson, OzSAGE member, director of the Port Stephens GP Super Clinic, and if you use Twitter an Australian you should really be following for excellent COVID-19 information (to go along with Dr David Berger and Professor Raina Macintyre, and especially the all-rounder Mad Fucking Witches), the long game is being played here in Australia just as it has been played in the United States.
What can be safely said though is that Australia is fortunately not as far along as the United States in its degree of Russification, and not just because Australia's voting system is nowhere near as bad as the decrepit American system, nor has it been utterly gerrymandered to rig the results. Secondly, whereas Australia has the likes of Morrison's marionette Katherine Deves (Morrison himself being the marionette of Rupert Murdoch), the United States has Marjorie Taylor Greene who recently successfully defeated the attempt to block her re-election on the grounds that, as per the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, had "engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof". In response she was as eager as she could be to show off her fascist credentials via her flirtations with Fashwave.
As Haque then sees it, "Our societies in the West are in the process of being Russified – and one of the West's great challenges this decade will be undoing its own Russification."
The West has work to do. Derussification will be a long and hard process. It means building societies which are, fundamentally, more equal. So that people believe in systems and institutions again. So that trust is regained, and confidence is restored – in the West, by the West. That won't be easy. Some nations are bound to fail – America, for example, probably really is going to become another Russia, turned fully medieval by the GOP, joining Putin's Russia on the path of Christian Fascism. But will the rest of the West finally, now, wake up – and understand that becoming Russia was never a very path to be on?
France recently managed to squeak by – for now. As was stated in The Times the day before the French election, "If Macron is given his second mandate tomorrow, France will have five years in which to reinvent itself – or that may simply be five years to prepare for when the dam finally bursts."
Similarly, should Labor win this federal election Australia will have three years to reinvent itself, a period of time in which it must accomplish two things if it doesn't want the dam to burst. The first thing that must be done in order to avoid the dam bursting is that it must establish not only an ICAC, and not only an ICAC with retrospective powers, and not even an ICAC with retrospective powers with teeth, but an ICAC with retrospective powers with the kind of teeth found on the fish that patrols the waters around Australia.
As an extension of that Morrison and his political colleagues who have corrupted Australian federal politics like none other ever have (former PM Rudd has stated that he disagreed with former PM John Howard but that he wasn't corrupt) must be properly investigated (at arm's length, so that the commission can't be directed or influenced by parliamentarians in any way) and then held accountable to the full extent of the law in order that the message be sent to those with similar ambitions that the corruption – and Russification – of Australia won't be tolerated.
Because there will be others with similar ambitions, be it to "merely" grift off of Australian taxpayers and decimate its systems in which Australians are able to look out for one another, or to embed into its systems of government and society the examples of Russification we now see occurring in the United States. And the reason why we know there will be others comes courtesy of a thankful reminder shared with us during Concetta Fierravanti-Wells' aforementioned speech.
To keep it short, in 2007 Fierravanti-Wells supported a conservative ally, Michael Towke, as candidate for the federal seat of Cook. His rival, among others, was Scott Morrison, who he beat 82 to 8. That, as has been said, "set off one of the dirtiest campaigns in living Liberal memory", whereby Morrison and his supporters smeared Towke by claiming he had broken a litany of party rules. The ballot was overturned by Liberal headquarters who backed Morrison, the safe seat then handed to the future prime minister.
It's been claimed that Morrison used Towke's Lebanese background against him along with rumours (in the wake of the 2005 Cronulla Riots) that he was Muslim (he was brought up Maronite Catholic), two people involved in the ordeal having signed written testimony attesting to all of the above.
Following the re-emergence of the story due to Fierravanti-Wells, Towke ended his 15 years of silence on the issue and stated the following.
Amongst many unedifying tactics used to unseat me from my preselection victory for Morrison, racial vilification was front and centre and he was directly involved. Racism is divisive, creating hate and hurt, and should have no place in Australian society.
Morrison of course denied all of it (he also offered to sign a statutory declaration attesting to that, but then backed out), Towke then standing by his words in conversation with Ten Network while joining the chorus in describing Morrison as "a compulsive liar". Towke also stated that an unnamed cabinet minister texted him stating that he believed him.
This person is a minister of the crown, this person I've never had contact with before, this person sent me a text message, and it's like, “Hey, Michael, this is XYZ – obviously in confidence along those lines – just want you to know I believe you, do what you feel you need to do, just be careful.”
As Towke also stated,
It suited him [Morrison] to play the race card, I guess when you get to parliament and become the prime minister you are not an operative any more. You've got the seat you want, you may not have to sort of lower yourself down to those tactics.
I'm not saying he's a racist. I don't know him well enough. But he has certainly used racism, Islamophobia, bigotry, with refugees, and families of dead refugees with migration policies, and is being dumped on by his own side.
That is, Morrison will do and say whatever it takes to get what he wants.
Supposing, that is, that any of the accusations are in fact true.
But whatever it is you believe, there are a few things than can't be denied. Because the fact remains that back in 2007, following Towke's win over Morrison, the Murdoch media's Daily Telegraph published four stories that sought to trash Towke's reputation, the false claims eventually resulting in Nationwide News Pty Ltd (News Corp) offering Towke $110,000 to buy his silence, which he refused, Towke eventually agreeing to an out of court settlement of $50,000 without a confidentiality agreement. Following that, in 2010, the Liberal party secretly refunded Towke $33,000 in legal costs associated with the preselection.
To sum it all up, David Hardaker couldn't have put it better.
While the Almighty might have had a plan for Morrison, Murdoch's Daily Telegraph was the power on earth that made it possible for Morrison's destiny to be realised – setting up a relationship which neither party, surely, has forgotten.
In other words, although it would me a massive stretch to suggest that Rupert Murdoch / News Corp pre-planned back in 2007 to install Morrison as Australia's prime minister, it is however safe to say that Murdoch has no shortage of politicians who owe him a favour or two and who would be more than willing to take up the mantle of being the next in line to push onwards with the Russification of Australia. And unless certain elements in Australia were to change, give it enough time and it will undoubtedly happen. (In terms of Morrison, he's even admitted that he's "just warming up".)
The supply chain crises we've recently seen are only the beginning, and will only get much, much worse as we continue over the far end of Hubbert's curve. Likewise, the current pandemic, of which is all-but-certainly in nothing more than the "eye of the storm" phase, will likely only be getting much, much worse as well before it gets any better. Both of these, via various avenues, will only fuel increased levels of extremism, of which will fuel the emboldenment of the far right.
That all being so, the second thing that must be done in order to avoid the dam bursting is none other than the banishment of the Murdoch media from Australia's shores. That of course would be no simple task, a task which would also be much too broad of a tangent to elaborate on in this current offering. (Suffice to say, if your interest has been peaked you might want to check back in to this blog – or even to subscribe to it – if you're interested in hearing more.)
So while the banishment of the Murdoch media from Australia's shores is another story for another time, in the meantime there isn't a single thing more important that Australians need to do at this current moment than the following:
Send Scott Morrison – the liar from the shire – to his political grave.
Sounds of the Pandemicene, with Fanfare Ciocărlia
No, this post didn't delve too deeply into SARS-CoV-2, but nonetheless it did mention it just enough in order to qualify for another instalment of the "Sounds of the Pandemicene, with Fanfare Ciocărlia" series. And what a lucky outcome that is, because Fanfare Ciocărlia, with Canadian guitarist Adrian Raso, happen to have recorded none other than the one song that encapsulates Scott Morrison's political tenure more than any other possibly could. That's right – Charlatan's Waltz.
Charlatan's Waltz can be found on the album "Devil's Tale", available on Bandcamp or wherever else you purchase and/or stream music from.