When discourse between fair-minded people turns to speculation as to who has been Australia's most appalling Prime Minister there are four names that are consistently short-listed - $3 Bill McMahon, fellow goblin John Howard, the feral friar Tony Abbott and Scott Spinocchio Morrison.
Arguing who is the worst of this noxious quartet is stepping into a steaming dollop of dog do and speculating as to whether it was a labrador, great dane or spaniel. A more appropriate take is surely along the lines of "how did we not smell that earlier?" or, more perpexingly in the case of Howard, why did we step in it four times?
However, the trajectory of recent events turns such conjecture into a rhetorical question. We now have a clear winner.
The also ran
"I confess to a dislike of McMahon. The longer one is associated with him the deeper the contempt for him grows and I find it hard to allow him any merit. Disloyal, devious, dishonest, untrustworthy, petty, cowardly - all these adjectives have been weighed by me and I could not in truth modify or reduce any one of them in its application to him."
Paul Hasluck, 17th Governor-General
McMahon usually avoids a place on the podium of odium due to the passage of time and the level of egregiousness set by the other three finalists for munt of the century. McMahon was best known as a self-serving weasel and is remembered mostly from his wife Sonia's split evening gown and rumours that it was she who legged it before Billy Snedden, one time Opposition leader, was discovered sans-metabolism in a Rushcutter's Bay motel room wearing nothing but a fixed smile and a condom, his todger pointing heavenward in tumescent tribute to the best of possible departures to celestial reward. The gossip at the time also had Snedden's son's ex-girlfriend in the frame as a possible candidate for the coital causa mortis. I mention this for two purposes - it's amusing salaciousness and because it's tawdry ordinariness is in stark contrast to the depravity of the L/NP's contemporary private school lager bois whose proud personal brand is rapey "swinging dicks". The sign-in book in the Tory wing of Parliament House now serves as a defacto sex offenders register.
Let's move on.
The English language has embraced many colourful German words - putsch, gestapo, blitzkreig, obergruppenfuhrer and others to which we've become attuned since a certain Aldo Kipfler assumed the role of head tuber of the various spooks and goon squads. The more obscure term "sockenfalter" (a man who folds his socks) brings to mind a certain suburban pettifogger, a man of fifty shades of beige and the physical manifestation of a migraine. John Winston Howard set a standard of calculated mendacity and duplicity so low that arch-conservative and fully Range Rovered member of the squatocracy Malcolm Fraser resigned from the party in disgust.
Howard's pre-selfies duck-face was a fixed expression of sour disapproval and resentment; his 1950s, white picket fence vision of an Anglican Australia where migrants are British and the working class know their place could not be resurrected, with no prospect that his local butcher would doff his cap as John Winston picked up his order of a 1/2 kilo (damn metrics) of sausages for Janette on his way home from his power walk.
Dumb luck (ala the mining boom, Tampa, 9/11) and a talent for lying kept him in the big chair for 12 years and cemented his reputation as a Tory icon.
“He occasionally stumbled over the truth, but hastily picked himself up and hurried on as if nothing had happened.” —Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in prescient anticipation of his acolyte and namesake.
Fast forward six years past a promisingly progressive but ultimately self-destructive Rudd/Gillard/Rudd Cirque du Solipsists and entering stage right came a discordant cackle in a yowie suit, bow-legged from his macho affectations and bike-riders' ball rash. Shepherded by his Amazonian keeper Peta Credlin, an angry, big-haired figure retrieved from a 70s EuroVision demo-tape rejects bin, Abbott trashed convention, decency and the country.
Abbott's legacy is his tearing down of the achievements of others as a substitute for having to conceive of any of his own, a man for whom opposition was so habitual he took it into government. Destructive idiocy has a short shelf-life - Abbott was soon consigned to the stuffed shirt speaking circuit and BoJo's bob-a-job offer to spruik post-Brexit trade in spotted dicks and toads-in-the-hole.
The brevity of what the man himself laughingly calls the "Abbott era" (as if his two years of toxic presence at the helm is akin to a royal dynasty or geological time span - the bozozoic?) does not take him out of contention given his talent for setting fire to his own hair and the nation's self-respect.
The Tories were later torn between leadership options - a psycopathic yam with a fondness for drowning kittens or a prosperity gospelling marketing spiv. They decided by a small margin that a familiarity with duping the punters was what was needed to lead the nation in times of unprecedented challenges and opportunities.
Morrison is maintaining the Howard business model of exploiting any niche for private profit, further enriching cronies and punching downwards but he has added his own weird Je$us Inc. endorsed fervour as justification for his disregard for any responsibility to those outside his rich=righteousness bubble; a righteousness that bristles at scrutiny or questioning.
Morrison settled into the big, green swivel chair through deception and treachery, claiming he came into the top job incidentally with no involvement on his own part. This is the MO that defines him.
Plausible deniability and a portfolio of personas - the artful dodger is never responsible, never accountable, the finger-pointing avoidance of any error is what we could call the Morrison Effect. The Wriggle Room that is the well-resourced Prime Minister's Office carefully crafts his alibis, zealously guards the ScoMo® brand and initiates empathy training as a risk mitigation strategy. And they keep a practised eye on the bus schedule; Canberra's road kill includes whistleblowers, non-partisan public service manadrins, female MPs and abused staffers.
The normalisation of corruption through a schedule of eye-wateringly costly rorts, the squalid, illegal persecution of legitimate welfare recipients and the exploitation of grannies to bolster the bottom line of Lamborghini-driving wideboys and chancers would be enough to set this government's place in infamy but there is no bar too low. The crimes get worse and more frequent, the perps are more numerous and the sleaze and sexism spreads wider and it is Morrison who cultivates that toxic, consequences-free culture.
"I've had plenty of mates who've asked me if they can be my special envoy to sort the issue out with Pamela Anderson"...smirk. Scott Morrison, Nov 2018.
“We want to see women rise. But we don’t want to see women rise only on the basis of others doing worse..." Scott Morrison, 8th March 2019 - hence the presence of such talent as Craig Kelly then?
Omitting "sex pest and potential rapist" from your CV's list of interests and hobbies when applying for a job with the Tories is a rational move given its incluson could be considered tautological when "racist, entitled, misogynistic prick" is seemingly a default essential attribute on the L/NP job application form. Having accusations that the highest law officer in the country is a rapist blithely brushed aside as "I won't hold an enquiry mate...case closed, move along" is quite the misreading of the mood.
Morrison can only empathise when events are filtered through the lens of his own limited experience. He hit the snooze button on the Tudge/Porter wake-up call and here we are.
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There was a 22 year gap between McMahon and Howard, a six year gap between Howard and Abbott and a two year gap between Abbott and Morrsion.
The question now is can the Libs come up with someone even worse than Morrison? History says so and arithmatic says it'll be soon.
The Christian Porter is now out of the running and Spud Dutton's ambitions seem to have been lost in the noise. Ruprecht Shadenfraud our Maggie Thatcher reincarnated Treasurer doesn't have the numeracy skills for organised crime but he has the requisite artiface and the ambition to be a contender for Morrison's tainted crown. Can he maintain the tradition?
Photo: Ruprecht's Twitter feed.
Achievements Of The Coalition Government. Matthew Davis.
Inside the Canberra bubble - Four Corners