The death of Ministerial responsibility

Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away there was a concept called the Westminster principle of Ministerial responsibility – if you failed in your responsibility you resigned or got sacked.

It no longer applies much in Westminster and almost never ever applies in Scott Morrison’s Australia.

While Whitlam, Fraser and Howard all sacked Ministers (Howard regretted it after an initial deluge) Morrison is a different sort of creature.

The Australian Health Minister, Greg Hunt’s, overall performance is probably the worst of any Health Minister in Australian history.  His performance on the vaccine roll-out – possibly the most urgent portfolio responsibility he has – would have ensured in days gone by his sacking.

But in Scott Morrison’s Australia he is safe. Interestingly his counterpart, UK Health Minister Matt Hancock, has just been sacked. Not of course for trying to take credit for a vaccine roll-out, despite not being in charge of it, but because he was caught breaching COVID restrictions in a very intimate way with a woman who was not his wife.

The fact that Dominic Cummings had revealed that Hancock had sent emails critical of Boris Johnson was presumably irrelevant – just as the fact a Queensland Labor government proposal to have a quarantine facility on land near an airport owned by the Wagner family who successfully sued Alan Jones for millions and the political complexion of the State Government – were totally irrelevant to Morrison’s refusal to countenance the proposal.

The UK equivalent of the only Morrison sacking was Bridget McKenzie resigning for having membership of a gun club her department gave a grant to. This despite the fact that the massive sports rorts were actually run out of the Prime Minister’s own office.

And her exclusion from the Ministry was only temporary returning to it thanks to Barnaby Joyce.

Indeed, you have to ask what on earth you have to do to get sacked from the Morrison Ministry?

Richard Colbeck can only be described as the most irresponsible Minister for Aged Care in Australian history who clearly knows nothing about what goes on his department despite hundreds of people dying on his watch.

Linda Reynolds failed to handle an alleged rape in her office and accused the complainant of being a ‘lying cow’.

Alan Tudge’s car park rorts dwarfed in size and sheer audacity the sports rorts. Angus Taylor and staff produced fake documents to attack the Sydney Lord Mayor.

Michaelia Cash hid behind a white board and wouldn’t fully co-operate with police investigating leaks from her office about a union raid.

Peter Dutton is tough on refugees and soldiers being informed about equity issues but apparently not as much about the COVID outbreak linked with The Ruby Princess. Nor does he seem to even understand his core Defence Ministry responsibility given his and his Assistant Minister’s demonstrated ignorance of the statutory responsibilities of the military.

Christian Porter fought back against proposals to have an inquiry to establish whether he was fit and proper person for ministerial office and the PM supported him.

The Deputy Prime Minister has an unresolved sexual harassment allegation hanging over his head.

On the other hand it is arguable that Morrison Government Ministers actually have very little actual responsibility to start with.

Morrison micro-manages the whole of his government working through the Prime Ministerial staff. They are the ones doing the background briefings such as those designed to discredit former Liberal MP, Julia Banks, in the 48 hours between her informing the PM of quitting Parliament and the public announcement.

It was the PM’s staff who were made aware of the Brittany Hughes rape allegations but apparently never thought to inform him. It was the same staff who went back and forth about the sports rorts spreadsheets.

Yet, like Sergeant Shultz in Hogan’s Heroes the PM ‘knows nothing’.

And when it comes to responsibility for what he says himself Morrison is in a class of his own. When questioned about claims he has made about vaccinations and other issues he simply denies, lies and contradicts himself despite the ease with which modern technology allows us to easily prove disparities from the previous record of his comments.

As a fundamentalist Christian he presumably believes in the inerrancy of the Bible. Those following his pronouncements, in contrast, can only believe in his errancy.

Ultimately, of course, however incompetent his Ministers are; whatever rorts they get up to; whatever lies they tell; whatever allegations made against them which are never properly investigated but just whitewashed or denied; whatever their policy failures there is only one person responsible for their performance, failures and lack of accountability – Scott Morrison.