A Rogues’ Gallery
Rape at Parliament house, sex in prayer rooms, male prostitutes, staffers masturbating on desks – what the hell is going on? This government, led by the most religious Prime Minister we’ve ever had, looks like a Viagra-fuelled party scene from Animal House right now. If this was the management of a fish and chip shop you wouldn’t let your daughter pick up the dinner.
Corrupt and feckless governments often reach a moment of critical mass when the sheer volume of daily scandals prove too much for the camel’s back. ‘Scotty from Wanking’ (as he is now known on Twitter) may have weaselled his way out of taking responsibility for sports rorts, robodebt and trips to Hawaii, but the allegations of sexual impropriety are coming in daily right now, and the ‘I don’t hold a hose, mate’ shtick is demonstrably wearing thin.
When moments of truth arrive it’s wise to take a step back and ask, David Byrne-style, ‘well, how did we get here’. Since 2013 Australia’s coalition government has blessed us with one onion-chewing weirdo, an underwhelming millionaire who couldn’t name a single AC/DC track, and the coup de grace in Scott Morrison, a coal-waving Pentecostal extremist who tripped and fell upwards into the job; the kind of guy who has to consult his wife to find out that rape is bad.
But that’s just at the top. Take a walk down Misery Lane and let’s review the horror show of humanity that congregates Canberra’s corridors.
Down the ticket is normally where you find the freaks, crooks and chancers that make representative democracy such a shit sandwich, and Australia’s class of ’21 doesn’t disappoint. Take Craig Kelly, former furniture salesman and owner of Australia’s largest portfolio of chins. Kelly called the downing of MH17 a ‘price that we have to pay’ and has warned that ‘people will die’ if Australia implements more renewable energy. Conspiracy (and pie) loving Kelly has really found his happy place during the Covid pandemic, pushing ineffective vaccines and calling masks child abuse, a claim too rancid even for Facebook.
But scrap that, Kelly resigned from the Liberals last month and now sits as an independent. Let’s enjoy the conservative normality of George Christensen, who in light of recent developments may be regretting his 2013 championing of the death penalty for Australians convicted of sex crimes. No stranger to the horizontal disco himself, Christensen took 28 trips totalling almost 300 days to the Philippines between 2014 and 2018, often visiting Angeles city, a town so synonymous with sex tourism it’s mentioned on its fucking Wikipedia page. Christensen was reportedly a big spender at Ponytails Bar, a brothel – apologies, ‘adult entertainment’ venue – where it appears he met his wife. Such lasciviousness hasn’t stopped the Member for Manila from espousing hard right conservative talking points such as corporal punishment for drug dealers, and once calling Greenpeace ‘terrorists’. Naturally, both he and Kelly are climate change deniers.
There are many other stories to tell. These two charmers are just the Mick and Keith of a much bigger band of men (they’re almost all men) trying to drag Australia back to the good old days when white males ran the place and housewives did the ironing.
Sadly, time – and a desire to retain my lunch – precludes a longer look at Barnaby Joyce, the pro-bonking, anti-abortion, anti-marriage equality human tomato, who told Johnny Depp’s dogs to bugger off whilst on a break from fathering children. It’s the front benches where the serious egos are at, and Morrison’s team of F-graders does not disappoint. Cash, Reynolds, Taylor, Tudge, Robert and Sukkar were all this week described by the incomparable Laura Tingle as ‘walking wounded’, but those near the summit are no less damaged.
They say every bunch of roses has a prick, but Australia’s three most senior politicians are a veritable rosebush of cruel egotists, who wake with a smile each morning and think ‘how can I use my power to hurt someone today’.
A British politician was once memorably described as having ‘something of the night’ about him, and the phrase could have been custom coined for Peter Dutton, Minister for Home Affairs, relentless accumulator of power, and a man who revels in cruelty so openly that you worry he may leave to star in the next James Bond movie. Dutton is the singular driver of Australia’s illegal offshore detention policy, designed to be so awful to the unfortunates caught in its web that others considering a desperate boat trip to Australia choose to stay in mortal danger at home. When one detainee set himself on fire, Dutton first response – the first thing that he said – was that the man still wouldn’t be getting to live in Australia.
Detainees have sewn their lips shut, guards have traded sex for favours (luxuries like showers!), filmed the encounters and then circulated the videotapes. Unlike those rascally other boys in Canberra, Dutton likes his sexual depravity at arms length, once suggesting that women claiming they had been raped on Nauru were ‘trying it on’. The offhand arrogance it takes to dismiss sexual assault claims without evidence like that is no doubt coming in handy as events play out in Canberra this year.
Always a close contender for that prestigious ‘Australia’s Cruellest Man’ title is Attorney General Christian Porter, scion of Australia’s debating teams, author of the murderous Robodebt debacle, and a man who relatively recently was happy to suggest that people accused of rape shouldn’t be allowed to live in Australia. Porter returns from leave next week to resume his $370,000 a year salary while doing a part-time job, unencumbered by a number of regular duties courtesy of his defamation case against the ABC.
As AG, Porter has overseen a series of unprecedented secret trials, so it’s not a surprise that when faced with allegations against him, he didn’t take the simplest route to exoneration – an inquiry. Instead, we must prepare ourselves for the grubby spectacle of a sitting Attorney General fighting a personal legal battle against the national broadcaster, in relation to historical and unprovable accusations of anal rape. That’s just in case you needed another illustration of how much of a cesspit Australia’s government has become.
And standing astride this clown-show in his ill-considered budgies is Scott Morrison, a weird, dishonest, self-interested and craven relic from another age, caught in a cultural vortex and chronically unable to meet to the moment. As the allegations of sexual impropriety have stacked up, Scomo has stepped up to the microphone and landed himself in yet another pile of stinking horseshit every time he’s opened his mouth. Women marching? They’re lucky they’re not being shot! Sexist culture at parliament? Well Sky News is just as rapey, so we’re even.
Every fish rots from the head and Canberra’s head bloater is no exception. Scott Morrison’s $190,000 empathy black-hole is so darkly comedic you almost want to like the man for resembling a bigoted Chauncey Gardiner. Yet at a time when the Liberal party has just suffered the worst state election defeat in Australian history, and clinging to a wafer-thin majority, this series of sex scandals may have sounded the death knell for the Prime Minister. Morrison, many have concluded, is incompetent, unqualified for the job, so far past his political use-by date you wouldn’t feed it to the dog.
Cultures don’t breed in a vacuum. The atmosphere of poisonous misogyny within Australia’s parliament has bred in a petri dish of entitled, sexist, self-interested and retrograde white men assembled by the Prime Minister himself, and now the PM finds he’s unable to do the job, stuck in all the shit he’s flung at people these last few years. It’s not a coincidence that the government is so badly missing its own Covid vaccination targets when the Prime Minister has to spend so much of his day discussing people wanking on desks.
As the political noose tightens and the Prime Minister twists and turns like a twisty-turny thing, it’s worth reminding yourself that this government is supposed to be managing the worst pandemic in a century, record debt, wealth inequality and crippling unemployment. Instead Morrison fronts the press each day, mortally wounded, unaware or unable to accept that the weight of scandal will soon prove too much. Morrison will go, or perhaps there will be an election. But we’ve crossed the rubicon.
Here’s a happy thought. A change of government might offer us a ‘buy one get several free’ deal. Racists and sexists overlap. Misogynistic politicians are often also climate deniers. Climate deniers tend to be incompetent. Incompetent leaders usually preside over a terrible work culture. Those in charge are always the last to know when the party is over. Just try and keep your dinner down as the final scenes play out.