Leading article Australia

PM damages his brand

13 February 2021

9:00 AM

13 February 2021

9:00 AM

‘Free speech never created a single job,’ a sanctimonious Scott Morrison once informed the nation, forgetting of course that his own job is entirely the creation of free speech. But is the converse true? Could the suppression of free speech end up costing the PM his job? Easily.

At this point in time, Prime Minister Morrison looks a shoo-in to win the next election, regardless of whether it is this year or next. His handling of the Covid pandemic appears to have met with widespread approval, despite the calamitous bungling of quarantine by one particular member of his undemocratic ‘national cabinet’: namely, the Victorian Andrews government and the 800-plus deaths that followed. And his cowardice in not challenging the legality of individual states closing their borders when the opportunity presented itself has been forgotten.

For most Australians, everyday life is now returning to an acceptable level of normality, despite the occasional inconvenience of masks or other restrictions. Many now eagerly anticipate that the vaccine will mean it’s back to business as usual.

Throw into the mix a truly awful opposition led by the mean-spirited, policy-free Anthony Albanese and it’s little wonder there’s a certain smug complacency within Coalition ranks.

Meanwhile, however, dark clouds loom. The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority warns that the worst of the economic and financial damage to be inflicted by the pandemic is yet to come. This is almost certainly the case and, as this magazine was warning back in April of last year, is due primarily to the trillion-dollar overreach of the federal government, offering the largest and most generous stimulus and job loss compensation packages in the world, paid for on the never-never. Tales of the rorting of JobKeeper/Seeker are now legendary, with talkback radio cluttered with frustrated small businesses, farmers and others unable to find workers because so many unemployed people are simply too well off to be bothered taking a job. One supermarket chain has reportedly sold its Nowra outlet because they couldn’t find a manager to run it, despite offering a $100k salary. This is disgraceful. And, in an obscenity that future generations will look back on with disdain and disbelief, at a time of high unemployment caused by the pandemic, the Andrews government paid large sums of money to fly in Pacific islanders to pick our fruit because, apparently, Victoria’s unemployed feel such mundane manual work is beneath them.

When the virus first escaped from its bowl of bat soup or wherever else in Wuhan, and hordes of Chinese daigou shoppers stripped our shelves, we pompously promised each other that now was the time to return manufacturing to our shores to ensure we no longer have to look to Chinese supply chains for everything we consume. At the same time, the Coalition carries on fantasising about net zero emissions, despite having no proven means of getting there. Already, this week we learn that Exxon are to shut their Altona refinery, tossing another 350 jobs onto the scrapheap, and putting at risk the survival of many other manufacturers who rely on their products. So much for those lofty promises of last year. Throw in the ANZ bank refusing to do business with fossil-fuel companies and you really start fearing for the sanity of this country.

One Coalition MP who has spoken much common sense on energy, on jobs and on the pandemic is the Liberal member for Hughes, Craig Kelly. He has warned that commitments to net zero emissions can only come at a cost to jobs, and result in even higher energy bills, and that there is no proof that climate change is an existential threat that requires such drastic action. He has pointed out that in combatting the pandemic Australia had, and still has, an opportunity to be a world leader in the development of the early treatment using ivermectin, a treatment that is increasingly being shown elsewhere around the world to be highly effective yet remains not recommended for use here. Mr Kelly’s Facebook page is one of the most popular in the country.

It doesn’t appear to have occurred to the PM or his team that Mr Kelly may be speaking the truth. Or perhaps they don’t care. Instead, they pander to the leftist advice coming from the Manuka mandarins. Last week, the PM publicly shamed Mr Kelly in parliament because ‘his views differ from my own’, as if holding a different opinion to the leader were a crime. Sadly, silencing dissent is now all the rage, as David Flint points out this week.

The PM’s betrayal of Mr Kelly, much like his trashing of former Australia Post CEO Ms Christine Holgate, is an ominous sign. Ms Holgate has now been thoroughly vindicated. When Mr Kelly is similarly shown to have been right all along about ivermectin, as is highly likely to occur, what happens then? Does the PM apologise? Or will it be too late and, in the light of a deteriorating economy, simply cement the impression of a leader who is arrogant, focus-group driven, prepared to shaft his own people, and wrong.

Good luck winning an election with those brand values.

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