Australia: Sorry, PM, but you’re just not up to the job

Australia: Sorry, PM, but you’re just not up to the job. By Janet Albrechtsen.

The Morrison government’s biggest failures are twofold. First, it hasn’t understood what good governments do to nourish a democracy, defending basic liberal principles, not only when those values are popular but when they are unpopular too. That is our duty as liberals: to defend values fundamental to democracy so we can hand them on in a healthy state to the next generation so they will learn from our leadership and do the same.

It is that simple. It is also a mammoth task given the challenges to liberal ideas from illiberal forces. I can’t recall the last time a Labor politician spoke about freedom of speech, religion or movement and meant it. I can’t recall a senior Liberal doing this either. And that is why the Morrison government has been a failure as a Liberal government. It is true Labor may be worse. But it will be a fast race to the bottom if we stop expecting Liberals to defend the soul of democracy.

Second, national housekeeping. It seems spending beyond our means is bipartisan policy. Covid demanded some of that spending. But much has been wasteful, thoughtless and political. There is no point bragging about the lowest unemployment rate in years when the country’s borders have been closed for nearly two years.

Tax is not a big point of difference either. Education is the only area where a few Liberal ministers, first Dan Tehan and now Alan Tudge, have shown a point of difference with Labor, fighting for greater intellectual freedom at our universities and reforming school curriculums. But neither of these are Morrison reforms. …

I can’t put my finger on a single important policy Morrison has made his own, where he has chanced his arm in the political marketplace of ideas because he believes it is important to carry people with him. …

He has alluded to liberal principles breezily when the politics suits. As treasurer he cast aside free speech as an unimportant value. It wouldn’t create a single job, he said. As PM, when a brisk wind for religious freedom blew through the party room he backed a religious freedom bill because some things were more important than economics, he said. He wasn’t wrong. But he is not consistent. And that is not the deal with liberal values. When they are under challenge, they must be defended. It takes solid arguments, personal conviction, all the stuff of a leader to carry the day.

When Morrison describes the aspirations of Australians, it’s like reading a Hallmark card. He never braves the harder stuff, the values a democracy depends on to function. Truth be told, I can’t work out what values excite him politically. Except winning. In some ways he’s the Liberal Party’s Kevin Rudd, only less annoying.

Morrison is a mix of middle management and marketing man. One week he’s handing out a bonus to aged-care staff because the system is in crisis. It won’t fix the crisis but may win a few votes. The next week he’s playing apprentice hairdresser for the cameras, washing a woman’s hair. If Rudd, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, Howard or Bob Hawke had done this, I would have said the same: it’s weird and it’s creepy. …

I’d rather a Liberal prime minister who cuts to the chase to defend basic freedom and who can manage the daily housekeeping too. Keeping Labor out of power made sense when the Liberal Party was liberal and competent.

No wonder there’s a plethora of non-left parties springing up.

If you want left and woke government, you vote Greens and Labor. But what if you don’t? If you vote for the Liberal Party you still get woke, only more slowly. So where do you vote against woke? Who will cut the permanent bureaucratic government down to size?