29 November 2022

It's hard for a bureaucracy to rein in a power-hungry leader

| Chris Johnson
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Scott Morrison

Former prime minister Scott Morrison. Photo: File.

The whole sorry saga that saw a sitting prime minister so bent on ensuring no-one in the country had more power than himself is one best left behind on the dumping ground of spectacular narcissistic failures.

But let us not, as a democratic nation, ever forget the contempt an entitled ”leader” displayed for principles of good governance and for the wider Australian electorate.

In 2020, Scott Morrison was deeply concerned that Greg Hunt might have been thrust into a situation at the height of the pandemic where he as health minister would be effectively running the country.

The then PM couldn’t countenance such a scenario.

He was so concerned about such a possibility unfolding that it hurt him.

So concerned that he ”fixed it” and in a way that only someone who believes they are where they are through divine intervention – a miracle even – would do.

Morrison had himself appointed health minister and it worked a treat.

It never caused a ripple in the community, because no-one in the community had the faintest idea what had taken place.

Hunt and chief health officer Brendan Murphy had been informed of Morrison’s intentions but not when (or if) it happened.

When one senior legal counsel raised concerns, those concerns were dismissed.

The head of the Attorney-General’s Department simply re-informed the public servant of the government’s wishes (government being Morrison) without passing those concerns up the ladder to the PM’s own office.

READ ALSO At least one senior public servant raised concern over Morrison’s power grab

Hardly anyone knew about it in the PMO and the top dog in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet thought the plan was just fine.

It must have felt so good for the PM to have another ministry under his belt.

It obviously did, because Morrison didn’t stop there.

He grabbed Finance along with three other ministries and suddenly the PM of the day was also secretly the minister for just about everything – just in case he needed to be.

The assault on Australia’s democracy was made more sinister by the fact that Morrison developed a taste for not informing the actual ministers affected that they were job sharing with the boss.

Much outrage has been expressed over what Morrison did in 2020 and 2021 in anointing himself minister of ministers, Lord Omnipotent, the Godfather.

Some who were directly impacted by the sham – ministers and department heads – have since condemned the antics, expressing varying degrees of disgust at what went down.

And so has former High Court justice Virginia Bell, who conducted an inquiry into the matter at the invitation of Morrison’s replacement as prime minister, Anthony Albanese.

The inquiry’s inevitable findings – that it was a failure of process and a betrayal of trust – made for an easy target for Labor, and led to a decision to censure the former PM.

The ordeal has helped emphasise how despised a bureaucracy can be when a government leader insists he knows better in all instances.

How redundant a public service is in the face of a powermonger who prefers to keep in the dark the very people who should be kept in the loop.

And how infrequently frank and fearless advice is offered when no-one listens to it.

Morrison stands by what he did, citing unusual and unprecedented times.

As history has shown, and will continue to show, Morrison certainly wasn’t the leader the country needed for those very times.

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Capital Retro1:27 pm 30 Nov 22

It’s less that 50 years ago that the Whitlam Labor government came of the rails: https://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article/beginning-of-the-end

How convenient for the Morrison haters that very few have remembered it (or didn’t know about it).

Well I’m old enough to remember the Whitlam government, The Box and Number 96 (just to give some context) and I fail to see the connection you are trying to make between Whitlam and Morrison.

Unless you are trying to compare two completely useless and failed governments? I might agree with you there…… Or are comparing it to the first several months of Goughs government when he gave almost 50% of ministries to himself. But at least he didn’t hide it.

Capital Retro7:26 am 02 Dec 22

The difference is that a Labor leader can stuff up and still be revered but a Coalition leader is condemned eternally.

I have zero love for Morrison, but this is exactly what every state and territory leader did under so called emergency powers too.

They didn’t secretly have themselves sworn into additional portfolios.

Megsy,
and?

They still actually excercised powers and removal of personal freedoms far in excess of what Morrison did. Yet the people condemning Morrison have a massive overlap of the people who praised those state leaders.

2019-20 Bushfires – “Why doesn’t Morrison control everything, this is a national emergency, he needs to act”

2022 – “I can’t believe Morrison was so power hungry”.

The difference here is secrecy. Morrison told no-one – not even the ministers who were supposed to be in charge of those areas.

Megsy,
Once again you aren’t explaining why that’s a bad thing?

Governments at all levels keep things secret around their decisions and how they come about.

If you are saying we need more transparent government at all levels then I would agree.

But Morrison isn’t even remotely the worst example of that in recent memory.

And those attacking Morrison are almost completely silent on the same issue with politicians that are left leaning.

Almost like this has zero to do with anything other than partisan politics. ie. All days ending in y.

It was very clear early on that this man was not up to the job, just like he wasn’t up to any of his previous jobs. In all cases he left others to do the work, whilst he kept the authority and kudos, only acknowledging others’ responsibility for the outcomes when things went wrong. A classic con man of the religious cult kind.

There always seems to be some who link his role as PM to his personal faith.
I’d be interested to know whether they were also critical of Kevin Rudd, who also professed a Christian faith or maybe Senator Wong or is it just restricted to members of the LNP?
By all means, be critical of his parties policies. That’s fair game, but when attacking someone based on their religion, there are serious issues at hand.

It is he who constantly claimed that his religion determined his actions. He used religion as a cover, as a justification and qualification saying he’d been chosen by God for this role. None of the others shoved it in our faces so often, nor did they use it to justify poor behaviour.

I don’t think most people have any problem with religion that quietly guides someone to do what’s right, but that is not how Morrison acted. He used his religion to justify his right to do things that harmed others. He has still not taken personal responsibility for the harms he caused. He completely ignored the damage he did to real people and their distress, showing a complete lack of understanding and compassion, something that does not sit comfortably with what most of us believe is Christian behaviour. His claim to faith contradicted his actions so often, that it reeked of hypocrisy and lies.

His party membership was irrelevant as was his religion, both of which he used only to gain personal power over others. If he was following his religion, it doesn’t say anything positive about that particular brand of religion.

Capital Retro6:31 pm 30 Nov 22

Leviathan Labor legend Graham Richardson used to say getting into a position of political power was achieved by “whatever it takes”.

And you say Morrison hid behind his religion? Get real.

I’m sorry, but you speak twaddle.

You are implying is that Mr Morrison ran the country as if he was religious dictator.

While his faith may have influenced his thinking,
Australia has a secular parliament and Mr Morrison had no powers of control. Every piece of Legislation in the lower house was debated and all everyone voted.
His party didn’t even have control of the Senate.

Are you also forgetting that it was Mr Morrison who allowed the Same Sex vote in the Parliament?

Hardly fits the picture you paint does it?

I’m happy to attack his personal faith because I don’t believe many of his words and actions resemble what I understand to be Christian values. For instance, I find it hard to reconcile his estrangement from the truth with what I understand are Christian values.

It has been reported he often (as in most days) recited bible passages to his Ministers and staff. Not everyone has the same religious beliefs. This is not appropriate in a workplace.

You forget that lots of decisions can be made by the executive & are not overseen by Parliament.

The fact he still thinks he did the right thing speaks volumes for his grip on reality. I was always bemused about his bulldozer analogy and how he thought that was a positive attribute.

HiddenDragon8:25 pm 29 Nov 22

The combination of secrecy and control-freakery might best be seen as a spectacular illustration of politics as a form of psychotherapy for the participants (which it so often is), but at least one of Morrison’s predecessors might be looking down (or up) and thinking that he suffered from hesitation and a lack of ambition –

“Billy Hughes is supposed to have once said that “the best way to govern Australia was to have Sir Robert Garran at his elbow, with a fountain pen and a blank sheet of paper, and the War Precautions Act”

https://pmtranscripts.pmc.gov.au/release/transcript-7422

He wasn’t the messiah…he just thought he was.

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