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Byron Shire
April 18, 2021

Thus Spake Mungo: the hollow men

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Newspoll has emerged from its grotto and ScoMo’s troops are cheering. The honeymoon has kicked in, and how.

Their messiah has given them a convincing cushion, one that should maintain them in comfort for many months, if not years. Forget those constant predictions of doom and gloom that their bible warned of in the past – those were all wrong. This time the truth has been revealed. Break out the bubbly.

Well, they may be right – there is little doubt that the election has put the coalition on top, and Morrison at the very summit. Whether the punters are really celebrating, or simply relieved that the whole ghastly business is over for three years (barring, of course, deaths, defections and by-elections) may be questioned, but who cares.

The point is that their man has assumed an unlikely dominance, an authority to do just about anything he likes. It’s just a pity that he actually does not want to do anything much except gloat, sloganeer, and create wedges for his opponents.

A serious politician could transform the tax system rather than simply handing out loot for his mates

A serious politician – dare one suggest a statesman – would use the opportunity for a real agenda of reform. He could transform the tax system rather than simply handing out loot for his mates.

He could move on energy, finally merging economics and science in genuine action on both power prices and climate change. He could fix the health system, ending the death spiral of private insurance to provide an effective national system.

He could move decisively to end the cruelty Peter Dutton inflicts on Nauru and Manus. He could even embrace the Uluru statement from the heart and take a decisive step towards the great goal of reconciliation. And those are just for starters.

That would be the approach of a real prime minister with guts and vision – a Gough Whitlam, a Bob Hawke, a Paul Keating, even a John Gorton. But of course ScoMo won’t, because he is not a real prime minister. He is a failed tourism marketeer who ended up as a political apparatchik as second best, and then schemed and manoeuvred himself to become what even he tacitly admitted was an accidental leader.

Australian politics have collapsed to its lowest ebb in living memory

He is the apex – or rather the nadir – of a process by which Australian politics have collapsed to its lowest ebb in living memory, a power game devoid of principle and concentrated solely on winning at all costs – what Graham Richardson called “whatever it takes.”

It was not always thus. There was a time not all that long ago when the vast majority of candidates for office stood because they really believed they could serve the national interest. Many if not most were genuinely idealists, hoping their high-minded ideas could lead to policies that could enhance the well-being of a country they cherished.

Inevitably, the hard slog of realpolitik chewed up and spat up a large number; the long climb up the greasy totem poll from branch meetings to cabinet rank turned them world weary and cynical – playing the game became an end in itself.

But the survivors were men and women of substance. And they survived at least partly because they had wider horizons than their party rooms. They did not see themselves as cradle to grave politicians – people who had dabbled in other jobs designed primarily to advance their own interests. They worried about policy more than politics.

Robert Menzies, was acutely aware of the distinction between the elected members of the parliament and the backroom machine men

It is worth remembering that the founder of the modern Liberal Party, the sainted Robert Menzies, was acutely aware of the distinction between the elected members of the parliament and the backroom machine men. Indeed, he made it a cardinal rule to block pre-selection from those who sought to breach the divide. In the cricketing parlance he loved, there were the gentlemen – the amateurs willing to face the risks and rewards office – and the players, the professionals who staffed the organizational wing.

But when he left, the walls were broken down – nowadays a year or two in the backroom is considered the norm, a step towards the leather benches in Canberra rather than an impediment. And so we have ended up with Scott John Morrison, the ultimate hollow man.

Of course we can’t go back to the Menzies era, and only the terminally nostalgic and delusional would want to. But political progress needs to be tempered with caution and wisdom if it is not to be swamped by what is now known euphemistically as unforeseen consequences and collateral damage.

The most obvious of these have been not the internet, the social media that have become a convenient scapegoat for just about everything, but the rise of the leeches and parasites who rode on the back of the changed environment – the pollsters, the spinners, the touts and spivs who thrive on one-liners, gotcha moments and gutter-trawling masquerading as research to offer what they call revelations of character – usually hopelessly out of context and invariably long out of date.

And as the demands for a strong leader to cut through the checks and balance of the Westminster system increase, mountebank politicians like Morrison and Dutton respond with enthusiasm

This has demeaned not only Australian politics but the basis of elected government to the extent that a growing section of the population is querying the worth of democracy itself. And as the demands for a strong leader to cut through the checks and balance of the Westminster system increase, mountebank politicians like Morrison and Dutton respond with enthusiasm.

They revel in the idea that they can bypass the cabinet, the party, the parliament itself. They force through authoritarian measures in the name of the catch all of national security and assume untrammelled power in their personal fiefdoms. And all of this to a well orchestrated chorus from the backbench of “on the side of Australians” – a trope so derisory that even The Australian found it risible.

And in this case Newspoll is part of the problem. And of course it is utterly meaningless. Asking the punters who they would vote for next week when they are still getting over the last election can only elicit the response, come back and ask us in 2022.

The only thing that can be elicited from last week’s figures is that most people have not yet had time to get pissed off with Morrison, and either don’t know or don’t care about Anthony Albanese.

That is, if the polling is even believable – a highly dubious proposition after the fiasco of May 18. And making it headline news in the national daily only demonstrates what a travesty our democracy has become. Australian politics is no longer a contest of ideas – it is a game show.


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14 COMMENTS

  1. So true again, Mungo. The bunch all sport
    a hole-in-the-head & since they’re for real
    gutter bums the hollow man need not feel
    he needs to be believable. That’s the way
    ScoMo manipulates. How did he get thus
    far? We let it happen. The buck stops with
    us – like it or not. The ‘people’ were far too
    busy wanting to be millionaires or thinking
    the world owed them a living. High flying
    in repose & taking ‘thy self’ so seriously
    the Country was left to look after itself.
    ‘A fool. I met a fool in a forest of gutted
    words.’

    • We let what happen Stefanie!! The election is done over … the majority voted as as they did , end of story. Do you honestly think that labor and the greens would be managing this country any better ?
      Voted labor and the greens for 20 years , not any more they have lot the plot entirely!!! Most normal living Aussies are concerned about power costs , food costs , childcare costs , fuel costs , homelessness…etc

      Labor and the greens are absolutely obsessed with
      Gender, race , identity politics, global warming ,refugees..labor when you come back to the working Australians, and the greens get back to your grassroots!!! Only, then , maybe, will get the trust back from the normal Australian voters ..

      • Do you honestly think that labor and the greens would be managing this country any better ?

        Yes, I honestly do. You could delete the words “any better” from your question, and my answer would again be “Yes”.

        When (if) Scomo begins to manage something other than his image, I’ll reconsider, but my answer would 99% certainly be “Yes”. But how long will it take? Or don’t you care?

  2. Mark May Why do you say That They are in the opposition got Booted because of The Mining industry has more power because of their export dollars than any meer voter or party

  3. Mungo – I wish I could write like you. Our minds work the same way (even if that is a little twisted), but when I read your words my response is “that’s what I think”, but I can’t articulate those thoughts as well as you.

    I have long believed we have “crossed the Rubicon” in politics. In the end, we get the politicians we deserve, but the calibre of those drawn to politics or chosen to be in politics is in terminal decline. .

    We do, without question, recruit in our own image and from our “ideological tribe” and this means that as the touts, spivs and gutter-trawlers tended to become greater in number, they, unsurprisingly, welcome into their ranks only those who display the same gormless and intellectually vacuous views. This happened slowly at first, but has undoubtedly accelerated. And as Frank Herbert opined – power attracts the corruptible and that has never been more true than it is with the present LNP government and it is less true, but still somewhat true for Labor as well. How is it that Labor “people” can take jobs in or consultancies with Crown Casino or, as the once credible, but now repugnant Anna Bligh, take a job covering up or at least excusing the sins of the banking sector?.

  4. I don’t know about the rest of you & [note]
    I cannot support Labor or the LNP…
    however I’ll not ‘leave’ the country my
    family helped build – fought for in two
    world wars & may have to do it all
    over again due to stupidity & apathy.

  5. Completely agree with Mungo’s analysis and description of the Morrison Govt They are contemptible! An interminable three years is ahead of us.

  6. Barrow – a normal Aussie voter is one who is having
    problems with the ‘abnormal’ politicians & their
    mates from all over splashing cash into the 2 party
    game of catch-me-if-you-can. This ‘cross my palm
    with silver & I’ll give you what you desire’ has got
    to stop. A real Aussie voter would raise the Eureka
    Flag [I’ve done that in the past] & demand that
    the dudes & dags who run this country step down
    & go & get a real job – builder, teacher, scientist,
    nurse, painter, writer, cleaner etc etc. I’m talking
    about those who work for a living – look after
    friends & family & don’t lie. I won’t support the
    gambling rorts – the land sell-outs – crooked banks
    & the death tax scam pre-election to name a few.
    Pollies? Gutless predators drunk on coal & gas.
    I watch the company I keep.

  7. I read, and reread to confirm, barely a fact if you discount some Menzies history, all of it opinion, and when it comes to the spiv and one-liners, the three-second grabs, isn’t this just response to the nature of modern newsmaking? I’ll give a fact, and a memory.
    Solar panel makers in Australia? There’s one and it employs under 60 people. The rest may play a part in design and marketing but the manufacture is not here, indeed, with a little sleight of hand the design ends up elsewhere as well.
    And a memory of reconciliation from the beginning. I played a game of pool in a pub, the only white robot in a little ab confab. The elder said to me: ‘it’s coming back to us’. That was before the famous Midnight Oil song. I knew what he meant, the country, and at the time thought good. Reconciliation will go on until another word is needed for it. And Mango, you talk about one-liners.
    I won that game and chalked my cue as I was egged on, lost the next.

  8. The Port Pirie project costs $20 a week to respondents at half their energy costs, so that’s $40 a week for power, and that’s before battery. Oh gawd, have to go, my level of power acceptance low, have to recharge , I I I aaammmm slooooooowinggg –

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