Crikey

As the country tries to un-Morrison itself, Morrison tries to Morrison the world

Crikey logo Crikey 23.06.2023 13:24:33 Maeve McGregor
Scott Morrison at the opening reception of the IDU Forum in the UK

In the last week or so, Scott Morrison has delivered a concentrated dose of contrived polarisation, outrage, hypocrisy and self-serving warmongering that surpasses his usual penchant for small-t Trumpian excess. 

Addressing the Oxford Union thousands of miles away from his electorate, Australia's first post-truth prime minister declared the easterly winds of autocracy were blowing while much of the Western world remained dangerously fixated on "self-loathing and Western guilt". 

"We are surrendering our optimism," he told those gathered, "frightening our children and forfeiting confidence in our Western model of freedom, representative democracy and a market-based entrepreneurial economy to overcome the many challenges we face, including climate change."   

Nowhere in the deep trenches of this epistemic fog was the right's forever culture war expressly mentioned. But scratch away at the convoluted prose in the speech's pitch for Aristotelian profundity, and the implicit object of Morrison's ire in this instance - the Voice to Parliament - was surely plain. 

To sheet home the point, Morrison appeared to take inspiration from Trump's infamous 1776 Report, noting, by reference to slavery and its abolition, that it would be a modern conceit to judge the wrongs of history by the moral standards of today. 

"Let us also be careful how we judge those now in their graves", he intoned, casting the systemic and intergenerational racism wrought by colonisation in Australia as a leftist fiction removed from reality. 

But as it happens, neither Indigenous peoples in Australia nor their concerns about entrenched disadvantage and the blood-stained prisons of today were the true focal point of his speech. On the contrary, they were merely the frail reed upon which Morrison executed his larger argument, which was that not only should the West instead celebrate its defining attributes of liberalism and democracy, it ought to go to war for them. And soon. 

"Failure to provide a clear and credible deterrent can become an invitation for conflict," Morrison said of Beijing, echoing the recent statements of Henry Kissinger. "This was the tragedy of the 1930s, which Churchill warned against; we cannot repeat that. It will require the biggest shift in investment and cooperation of like-minded countries since the Second World War."

"If we are to prevail, the West needs more true believers." 

It's from this vantage point that it becomes obvious why Morrison did not use his speech to prosecute a classic culture war rant against climate action, feminism or queerness. 

His aim, far more ambitious in scope, was to paint himself to the world as a modern conservative statesman; the would-be protégé of Kissinger's recently reiterated worldview, whose borrowed logic of militarism is, according to Morrison, all that stands between the world and the death of democracy today. 

Presumably lost on Morrison were inconvenient truths regarding Kissinger's tortured legacy for democracy. Kissinger was, after all, the man who enabled genocide in East Timor and East Pakistan, who masterminded illegal bombings in Cambodia and Laos, and whose role in the 1973 Chilean coup d'état and Operation Condor in South America inspired the spectre of prosecution decades after the fact.  

In any event, it didn't matter. Morrison's rhetoric was all a grift, and a grift that served him in two principal ways.

First, by demarcating the contours of a new cold war under the binary banner of a "Make the West Great Again" crusade, he shrewdly afforded himself considerable latitude to silence and diminish those he would define as not sufficiently focused on the virtues of the West. That is, all those the cultural right demonise and denigrate with regularity. 

The second part of his grift was perhaps more self-serving. Morrison, it bears reminding, will reportedly take up a role with a British defence company before long. Not only does that cast his secret two-year AUKUS push in a new light, it inevitably colours his call for a substantial increase in defence spending in the warped shades of self-interest.

In his speech, he directly called on Australia to lift its defence spending to 2.5% of GDP - a sum that would be the equivalent to another $13 billion on top of defence's record $52.6 billion treasure trove for 2023-24. All of which invites the question: was it Morrison the Member for Cook who penned the Oxford Union speech, or was it Morrison the soon-to-be political lobbyist? 

It's in such ways that Morrison shows that his brazen shamelessness both as a minister and a prime minister was never an act. He meant it all. 

And this brings us to Morrison and the secret ministries scandal. This week, while Morrison was overseas spouting off about the importance of democracy, the historic bill to ensure a repetition of his institutional arson can never happen again passed its second reading. 

Marking the occasion, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese noted the nation had seen no evidence of regret or contrition on the part of Morrison, much less a sense of whether he comprehended the gravity of his conduct. 

"What he did [was] a secretive and calculated course of action that was nothing short of a trashing of our democracy," Albanese said. "This is not something that can be swept under the carpet, nor can it be brushed off as partisan politics." 

"With this legislation we work to be worthy of [the Australian Parliament] by ensuring there will never, ever be a repeat or a sequel of this corrosive, undemocratic action." 

Viewed this way, perhaps the greatest irony and hypocrisy of Morrison's stance on democracy, in all its untrammelled glory, is that his own conduct endangered Australia more than China ever has and arguably ever will. 

Indeed, his legacy, such as it is, continues to inspire an uncommon and dangerous devotion within his party, which appears to see little wrong with his casual degradation of democracy in ways that are hardly limited to the secret ministries scandal. 

Yet perhaps more concerningly, and for all the laudable progress the Albanese government appears to have made on the integrity front, there are nevertheless growing concerns it is equally, if not more, secretive than the previous government. 

And therein lies the true danger to Western democracy that comes with a trashing of basic conventions. An emptying of their importance can set a dangerous precedent, and one that beckons a slow but assured death.  

The post As the country tries to un-Morrison itself, Morrison tries to Morrison the world appeared first on Crikey.

vendredi 23 juin 2023 16:24:33 Categories: Crikey

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