Scott Morrison’s Prime Ministerial image is relentlessly upfront – making decisions, announcing things and re-assuring Australians that he has it all under control – even if he can’t hold a hose.
Yet that raises a perplexing question – how come he never knows what’s going on, or has gone on, in his government?
In 2019 he announced that the election result was a miracle. Now the miracle is that he seems to take his Prime Ministerial salary, pose for his personal photographer, listen to his god and consult his wife Jenny but never seems to hear anything from anyone else.
Is no-one game to tell him what’s going on; is he getting to be beyond it all like Richard Nixon in those last days; or, too focussed on his beloved Sharks to hear anything from anyone else?
Does he imagine he’s a latter-day Louis XIV who, whatever he did, was told by courtiers that he was magnificent.
Does no-one ever say, at the very least, up to point Lord Copper? Does his staff only manage downwards and never report upwards?
Or is it just old-fashioned plausible denialism aided by periodic reports by his former Chief of Staff, now DPC head, Phil Gaetjens which inevitably find there’s nothing to see here.
The Washington Post kept track of the number of lies Donald Trump told. The best estimate was more than 30,000. Morrison is smarter than Trump, and only occasionally lies outright, but he is a consummate practitioner of evasion – a version of what theologians would call the sin of lies of omission.
The total of such evasions is probably not 30,000 but may well be more than a thousand at least just counting answers to questions in Parliament and media conferences let alone comments on why he got the boot from both the New Zealand and Australian tourist bodies.
The Brittany Higgins case is the most outrageous example of this apparent ignorance. A woman was allegedly raped in a Minister’s office. The alleged offender is allegedly a serial offender.
The matter was discussed with a member of staff who now works in the Prime Minister’s office. The matter was discussed with two senior Ministers who allegedly didn’t think of mentioning it to the PM. The AFP failed to follow regulatory procedure and report the matter to their Minister, Peter Dutton. When they did Dutton, channelling on water rhetoric, said the matter was ‘operational’ didn’t tell the PM.
There are now four cases which have emerged. The ABC revealed earlier what anyone who has anything to do with Canberra knows about Wednesday nights and the culture which contributes to these situations. It was attacked by the Government for doing so.
The Morrison know nothing approach was exemplified by the statement by his staff that the PM had requested advice on the issue from the AFP because they wanted to ensure members and senators had clear guidance about how to act if they received a formal complaint about rape.
Just think about what that means for just a moment. The PM believes that Ministers and Ministerial staff, Members and Senators don’t know what to do about reports of rape and need clarification from the AFP. Duh! At least it’s an improvement on asking Jen – but not by very much.
Morrison did, however, appear to threaten the Opposition with one of the sneering bits of nastiness that periodically break through from his faux folksy persona by inferring that the problem was one common to all the parties in Parliament.
The cultural problem in the LNP Government is possibly exacerbated by the fact that there are so few women in the Government and also because many within the Government are unreconstructed male chauvinists.
But it is very hard to think that a rapist would get away with anything in a party with senior members such as Penny Wong, Tanya Plibersek and Kristine Kenneally – and that’s just the strong front bench women.
Meanwhile, Morrison continues to get free passes from most of the Press Gallery.
The PM should study Plato’s claim that Socrates said: “I know that I know nothing” and that what Socrates meant wasn’t about ignorance feigned or real but something else about character and intelligence.
Of course believing in certainty as a member of the religious elect means Platonic and Socratic nuances probably escape him.
On the other hand he does sound rather more like the Hogan’s Heroes character, Sergeant Schultz, who constantly said: “I know nothing.”