PM ScoMo's Week Has Been A Disaster In Slo Mo
Scott Morrison's government is in chaos, wracked with internal division and ill discipline.
There's a famous story about Malcolm Turnbull, where former Prime Minister Paul Keating offered words of wisdom to then-PM Kevin Rudd in 2008. Turnbull had just ascended to the leadership of the Liberal Party for the first time, and Keating had some observations for Rudd about his new opponent.
First, that Turnbull was brilliant; second, that he was fearless.
Third, as Fairfax's Peter Hartcher reported, that Turnbull had no political judgement.
It's probably still too early to tell how Turnbull's successor Scott Morrison ranks on those first two measures, but after an utterly shambolic and rather embarrassing week in parliament, it may be that new PM ScoMo might be remembered most for living up to the third metric.
Morrison's government started the week by voting for a racist motion from Pauline Hanson that it is "OK to be white". They ended the week by enduring a walloping in Wentworth, the Liberal vote dropping nearly 20 percent on a two-party basis from their result at the 2016 election.
They started with a bad vote, they ended with a bad vote, and it wasn't much better in between. The good burghers of Sydney's eastern suburbs -- once rusted-on Liberal heartland, but no more -- delivered them a hiding, and while we may not know the Wentworth result for some days, and while the Liberals still have a mathematical chance of winning, either result will be cause for concern for a government racked by division and barely able to paper over the yawning cracks that are widening with every day's news cycle.
Melissa Price harassing a respected former Pacific leader, telling the former president of Kiribati "I know why you're here. It is for the cash... For the Pacific, it is always about the cash" after a meeting in a Canberra restaurant.
An internal Nationals vs Liberals power struggle over farm work visas.
Throwing out into the world, with seemingly no justification or reasoning, a plan to move the Australian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, kicking off a multi-pronged disaster by both clumsily stepping into the Middle Eastern powderkeg and lazily following the lead of the Trump administration, while simultaneously jeopardising a trade deal with Indonesia.
There were also the accusations the Israel move was a cynical ploy to cosy up to Jewish voters in Wentworth, a transparent political tactic that was seen through almost as soon as it was announced.
It was a strategy so clumsy, so immediately poisonous, such an instant backfire, you could almost imagine Morrison as Wile E Coyote with a stick of exploded ACME dynamite in his hand, face blackened with soot.
But not much could top the surreal events of Monday and Tuesday, where the government senators first voted in favour of a Hanson motion that ripped coded racist language from the white supremacist handbook, then gave various excuses as to why they supported it, then eventually backed down and admitted they voted for it by accident because their jobs are just hard sometimes and sometimes it's difficult to keep track of what you're voting on OK?!?!?!
When presented with the opportunity to choose between admitting to supporting racism and admitting they don't know what they're doing sometimes, they chose the latter. Bold choice, and not exactly encouraging when you think these are people paid a minimum of $200,000 a year with one of the key parts of their job being to raise their hand at the right time and sit in the right chair when the bells ring.
Whether administrative error, rogue staffers, bad advice, a combination of all three or something else, it headlined an incredible week for the new government. It's a time when Morrison is trying to put on a brave face and show voters he and his team can be trusted to run the government, but most wouldn't trust them to run a chook raffle at this point.
Some pundits have mused on how the government should have thanked its lucky stars for the royal visit, which grabbed news headlines nationwide and kept the political shambles off front pages for much of the week, especially in celebrity-obsessed Sydney. But the results in Wentworth show just how much of a bodyblow this last week has been for the Morrison government, with votes cast by post or pre-poll -- that is, before this week's disaster -- favouring the Liberals and votes cast on Saturday heavily backing independent Kerryn Phelps.
ABC election analyst Antony Green said neither he nor any political expert he had spoken to had seen such a disparity between polling booths and pre-poll votes, as was being recorded in Wentworth.
Scott Morrison's government is in chaos, wracked with internal division and ill discipline. The walloping in Wentworth might be just the first step in the public venting their frustration at the Liberals -- and no amount of novelty baseball caps from the PM is likely to change that.