Thus Spake Mungo: ScoMo’s chasing his tail down the gurgler

Scott Morrison’s slogan of the week was ‘congestion busting’ – he was in favour of it.

This was hardly surprising, as he had already christened his minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population, Alan Tudge, his minister for ‘congestion business’ – something of a demotion from his complex portfolio, one might have thought, but still a better result than that for the Immigration Minister, David Coleman, who appears to have been frozen out altogether.

In any case, the great marketeer has taken it over, at least for the week, and has been spruiking it through the traffic jams of Sydney and Melbourne. But, like so many of his brain bubbles, this one too is all spin and absolutely no substance.

When it comes to congestion, immigration is only the tip of the tail of the elephant in the room. Some 80 per cent of our congesters are not immigrants, but Australians being born, tourists, student and guest workers, and no one is suggesting their numbers should be cut.

Morrison’s solution to the congestion is, apparently to reduce by some 30,000 the cap on permanent immigration. Last year this was calculated at 190,000. But in fact only a few more than 160,000 arrived (where the hell were they?), so the cap seems hardly necessary. And of course, even if it was reduced more drastically, it would do less than bugger all for congestion – as long as any net immigration continues, congestion will get worse.

But that’s the good news – when it comes to congestion, immigration is only the tip of the tail of the elephant in the room. Some 80 per cent of our congesters are not immigrants, but Australians being born, tourists, student and guest workers, and no one is suggesting their numbers should be cut. And as Morrison has always insisted (well, until last week) that immigration is a net economic benefit anyway.

The problems of congestion come from not the new arrivals, but the lack of facilities to manage them. Morrison keeps boasting about the vast amount of infrastructure in the pipeline, but even when it is delivered, it will be too little and too late. Infrastructure has been a political plaything, announced as ad hoc pork-barrelling on the eve of each election.

What is needed is serious planning on all levels of government – it must entail not only housing and jobs, but schools, hospitals, parks and, above all, sensible transport options – not just more and bigger roads but public trains and busses to actually do something about the congestion.

Morrison’s only other idea is the age-old one of decentralisation – our current prime minister’s version is to restrict the visa of newcomers to keep them outside the congested areas. This is clearly unenforceable and possibly unconstitutional, but it accords with Morrison’s authoritarian instincts. And it sounds tough. Who needs a plan when you have a slogan?

Bill Shorten at least had a plan last week – not a great plan, certainly not an ideal plan, but its mere existence was greeted with some relief. His solution to the long-running stand-off on energy and climate change consists, basically, of Josh Frydenberg’s National Energy Guarantee with ramped up targets for emissions reduction and renewables and the obligatory set of steak knives in the form of subsidised batteries for those who could afford them.

And given that although Frydenberg’s NEG had been passed by the party room and was described by Scott Morrison as the best thing since sliced bread it was eventually canned by the mad right, Shorten is ready to bypass parliament to implement its core elements without legislation if that becomes necessary.

The policy is obviously a compromise, so it is hardly surprising that both the Greens and business have their reservations. But, interestingly, the two sides have the basis of furious agreement; both would prefer something far simpler, more certain  and more efficient: a carbon tax, or if that is a step too hard, some kind of emissions trading system.

Labor’s spokesman Mark Butler has already hinted that this could be in the mix, which has predictably sparked the arsonists of the coalition to start their usual inferno. Angus Taylor, in his standard inflammable mood, calls the Labor policy a wrecking ball – déjà vu from the Abbott years. Time for the Whyalla wipe-out and the $100 leg of lamb.

But given the total inability of Abbott, Turnbull and now Morrison to manage the issue in more than five years in office, the big scare campaign must suffer from a credibility problem. Taylor’s only reply is to ignore climate change entirely and rabbit on about the big stick he will wield on the wicked energy companies and a vague warning of divestiture – an idea that horrifies business across its many boards.

The Labor plan needs a lot of improvement, but at least it’s something – it’s a start. Whereas, after the Victorian disaster, the Liberals are again floundering around behind the blocks.

The only possible straw to cling to is the hope that the Cabbage Patchers’ righteous wrath will now be assuaged and they will be kinder to Morrison when his own poll comes to fruition in the all too near future. But you wouldn’t want to count on it.

As the senior Victorian Liberal deputy leader Josh Frydenberg offered the usual excuses: the result a was all about state issues and had absolutely nothing to do with the federal shenanigans. And, indeed, state Liberal leader Matthew Guy was a political hole in the air, and the sinister presence of state president Michael Kroger lurking around the edges s did not help.

But no more did our prime minister’s rare and unwelcome appearance with his boorish intrusion into Pellegrini’s café in search of a photo opportunity. A loss of this magnitude means that there is plenty of blame to share around, and Morrison will collect a fair chunk of it.

The only possible straw to cling to is the hope that the Cabbage Patchers’ righteous wrath will now be assuaged and they will be kinder to Morrison when his own poll comes to fruition in the all too near future. But you wouldn’t want to count on it, and the immediate indications are that Morrison is permanently on the nose in what the triumphant Daniel Andrews now calls the most progressive state in the country.

The sainted Robert Menzies used to call it the jewel in the Liberal crown.  These days it is clearly a very long way from the mythical base; the electorate has moved on, but Morrison is still running around in ever decreasing circles, and if he continues his destination is inevitable.

6 responses to “Thus Spake Mungo: ScoMo’s chasing his tail down the gurgler”

  1. Tweed says:

    The LNP just talk talk talk and do nothing, Infrastructure? Promise the world pre election and then just disappear off the radar till the next election, it’s just 8 long wasted years.
    Provest just unbelievably voted against a new High school at Pottsville in his own damned electorate?
    Divided the entire community against the National party with a suspect land scam in Cudgen?
    The party members and candidate abuse and insult the electorate?
    Where do they get these electoral suicidal idiots?
    Like Victoria, the LNP need to be taught a lesson by the electorate that they will never forget.
    The electorate need to send the LNP to Centrelink at the next election?

  2. Ron Barnes says:

    Scott Morrisons Headache is getting worse it started with Joyce
    Then Malcom Turnbull Removal and then giving the boot from one of the Liberal Branches in NSW

  3. I’m pretty well speechless – unusual for me. Maybe the parents who raised
    this LNP mob are to blame while Labor just sits there & does as little as
    possible. Shame. Maybe the coming elections should be held at local
    pubs all over & the winning names drawn by a drover’s dog.

  4. Pete says:

    There is a larger elephant in the room here, and in a way ScoMo has pointed to it (albeit unintentionally, I would think) when he commented about limiting inflows of immigrants. All of the problems cited regarding congestion are the direct result of population growth. THAT’s the elephant. The planning we need most is not related to infrastructure; it’s how to reduce human population without causing as much suffering as we’ll certainly incur on our current trajectory.

  5. Allan Wright says:

    Allan, Pelverata, Tasmania .
    All these politicians are just elected Mafia. They all end up on pensions of at least $3500 per week. It is time they serve our country and not themselves. Their pension should only be the current aged pension rate. And means tested at that! All political parties are involved. Too many pigs at the trough.

  6. Ron Barnes says:

    Hay Mungo
    Where are you
    Is there anything wrong are you sick
    Oh ! I Know . You have Joined the Governments 10 day work policy

    If your having a Break please enjoy it as we miss your Thoughts.

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