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February 4, 2023

Thus Spake Mungo: ScoMo’s damaging distractions

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However strenuously our prime minister insists that he is talking quietly and respectfully to constituents about the real issues that that concern them, the real ScoMo always lurches shoutily into the headlines.

Last week, barely emerging from an estivation all too brief for the weary voters, Morrison the Marketeer flung himself straight into the culture wars, parading what he imagined was his patriotic authenticity but which looked more like just another episode of dog whistling and wedge politics.

Citizenship ceremonies, he trumpeted, would be held on January 26 or never, and what’s more people who attended them were to dress properly – no thongs or board shorts, although he failed to mention whether Chinese-made baseball caps would be acceptable.

And there was to be no conversation, no consultation and definitely no argument. ‘These are my standards, these are my rules,’ he proclaimed flatly, although it would have been nice if he had mentioned them a little earlier, before the 100 odd councils who have other ideas had their preparations so far advanced.

But the point is that while they may well be Morrison’s rules, they are not the law of the land, and if Morrison wants his ukase to be fact rather than rhetoric, he will have to pass legislation to do so.

For the vast majority of Australians—the ones Morrison relentlessly harangues in the pubs which will allow him entry – our national day is essentially an excuse for a holiday and a piss up.

This would be divisive and messy at the best of times, which these most certainly are not. There are precious few days of the parliament left before we break into full campaign mood; wasting some of them on a silly gesture intended to ensure conservative political correctness would be at best self-indulgent and in any case an unnecessary distraction by a confused electorate which is still trying to work out just who he is, and more importantly, why.

For the vast majority of Australians—the ones Morrison relentlessly harangues in the pubs which will allow him entry – our national day is essentially an excuse for a holiday and a piss up. Unsurprisingly they don’t want to lose it, which is why the loaded polls devised by reactionaries generally provide a large majority demanding no change.

This is instantly interpreted as wholehearted support for celebrating the anniversary of the date when Arthur Phillip arrived to found a British convict colony, or, as they prefer to call it, the beginning of the greatest nation in the history of the universe. In fact, the push polls show nothing of the kind; all they say is that most people enjoy an extra day off in summer, and if the date were to be changed very few would make a fuss – except, of course, for those Morrison derides as living in the Canberra bubble, or more correctly the Liberal Party room.

The idea that citizenship ceremonies are to be restricted by fiat, and that they are the exclusive property of the prime minister of the day would be regarded as absurd, quite apart from being essentially undemocratic; citizenship is indeed a precious and valuable right, but it belongs to the people of Australia, not to the executive government, let alone the head of it.

And the fact, if Morrison can be bothered to check it out, is that there are many citizenship ceremonies performed throughout the course of the year; Australia Day is simply the most publicised. As the president of the Local Government Association, David O’Loughlin, has pointed out, some councils have such ceremonies every month,

So yet another of Morrison’s wizard wheezes seems destined to collapse in a heap, yet another distraction from what he keeps telling us are his tireless efforts to serve the Australian people. Of course, it is entirely Shorten’s fault…

There is nothing sneaky about this, nor has it ever been attacked for eroding Australia Day, as Morrison conspiratorially opined. Some of it is just to ensure cooler weather – this is why some councils happily hold their ceremonies on the eve of our National Day, which, incidentally, is the practice Morrison’s government has pursued over the release of the embargoed Honours List and the non-embargoed award of the Australian of the Year.

Morrison the Marketeer knows that this is the best way to attract maximum media exposure, which is no doubt why he flung his challenge to Bill Shorten to stand up for January 26 rather than trying to justify his own hyper-nationalism. Shorten replied calmly that he was not planning to change the date, but he had better things to do than play debating games with the over-excited prime minister.

But the Greens leader, Richard di Natale, took the bait and offered himself and his colleagues to conduct the ceremonies Morrison purported to ban – he had advice from the parliamentary library that under the current rule ceremonies and did not need the permission of the prime minster or anyone else.

This was immediately contested by Peter Dutton, whose spokespud produced an admonitory chat: ceremonies, she said, must be approved by the Department of Home Affairs. The implication was that Dutton remained the final arbiter: the supreme Sebago, the paramount Pontiac, the irresistible Idaho.

But as so often, the assertion was exaggerated. Dutton and David Coleman, the embarrassingly silent Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, can make the process more difficult – for instance, withholding the official list of those eligible for citizenship. But if they want to stymie di Natale altogether, they will have to change the rules, as even Matthias Corman acknowledged and Dutton (and presumably Morrison) should have known – and good luck with that with a few sitting days left and a potentially recalcitrant senate crossbench.

So yet another of Morrison’s wizard wheezes seems destined to collapse in a heap, yet another distraction from what he keeps telling us are his tireless efforts to serve the Australian people. Of course, it is entirely Shorten’s fault; he wants Australia Day as we know it to fade away when he should be standing up for January 26.

And with amazing chutzpah, Simon Birmingham opined sanctimoniously that Australia Day should not be about politics. What a pity he did not tell his leader before he floated his latest lead balloon; it might have saved another wasted week.

But at least it helped mask the report of the Audit Office’s damning assessment of the mammoth grant of taxpayers money to the Barrier Reef Foundation without tender or due diligence and with enormous administrative costs.

That’s why SccoMo needs damaging distractions – to distract from even more damaging ones.

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  1. January 26th 1788, the day we “Celebrate” the arrival of the “First boat people” to the penal colony of NSW in New Holland. The wretched convict nightmare hell hole of Sydney cove, where for 2 long years anyone who dared to venture outside of it, was speared by the inhabitants.
    The Governor Phillip the former “Chilean navy slave ship captain”, being speared himself after resorting to kidnapping a native named Bennelong.
    So all of you are invited to celebrate “First boat people day” with Morrison the man that “Stopped the Boats” that were really actually stopped by the Rudd Govt, before the Abbott govt was even elected?
    But thats all real history.
    Morrisons not having any of that factual truthy stuff, he’s shovelling up regergitated Howard era rewritten history rhetoric.
    So get out all your Chinese made “England at night flags” with the Union Jacks with the English cross of St George, the Scottish cross of St Andrew, the Irish cross of St Patrick and be ever so British, this present Australia day stuff is anything but Australian, it’s a celebration of England, by monarchists, nothing more.

    • Technically historians would tell us that the first boat people were those who crossed from somewhere in Indonesia 40, 50, 60 thousand years ago on wooden rafts. It seems possible that we are, in fact, a nation of boat people.

  2. Yes, you’re probably right, Vince. However I do wish ScoMo would
    extract himself, not only from his ‘damaging distractions’, but the
    country [oz] itself. Why, he could float away to his Monarchist
    England & take his ‘party people’ with him. No?

  3. Yes we were all boat people before the advent of planes to an island at the bottom of the world. If only the Dutch or French had shown more interest who were more congenial towards natives, we may have avoided the genocide by the Brit drunken louts that followed.
    Bluster and braggadocia are so unstatesman like and say nothing of substance. Morrison hadnt even done his homework just blathered ‘my will be done’ about a calendar date for ceremonies that to the battling migrant worker is neither here nor there. Why cant the date of Federation be Oz day? Does it have to be the day the British put their tippy toe onto Australian soil just like Columbus in America where they hold Columbus Day and do reenactments on the day?
    What is wrong in our system that the likes of the Abbots and Morrisons are able to embarass us on the world stage. Buffoonery recently on display in Fiji and Vanuatu which media trumpeted as ‘historic’. It was all good but should have been done long ago before the Chinese have put in savvy supports throughout the Pacific in their strategic practical unassuming way, now it just looks like jostling for recognition.


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