A show about nothing

The long running TV series Seinfeld was supposed to be the show about nothing. Was it the inspiration for the ATM (that’s Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison) Coalition governments? To demonstrate the point, when you have a spare 6 minutes have a look at this TedX talk, you won’t be wasting your time.

As Will Stephen demonstrates, you can make real sentences and keep people’s attention for a period of time without actually saying anything. Stephen freely admits he ‘has nothing, zip, nada, nothing at all to say whatsoever’ and yet, he claims you will feel you have learnt something after his talk.

Morrison also seems to say nothing while waffling convincingly, although that might be a bit harsh as he is very good at blaming the last ALP Government (almost 6 years ago), or that horrible Bill Shorten, the Greens, the Senate or the independents in Parliament for problems as well as appropriating the credit for policies and actions introduced by the earlier incarnations of the ATM Government. Sometimes he scores a trifecta where he can blame a combination of the ALP, Shorten and the Parliament for failures on his watch. And haven’t there been a few recently.

In the same week as the Hayne Royal Commission into the Banking Industry was released to the public, a freedom of information request from the ACTU discloses that the banks and the Treasurer at the time, a certain Scott Morrison, colluded on the letter from the banks requesting the Commission be established and potentially the terms of reference. The ALP claim that Morrison voted against the establishment of the enquiry 26 times and this article by Samantha Maiden in The New Daily claims that Morrison was ‘the ‘last holdout’ against calling a royal commission into the big banks, according to insiders in the inner sanctum of Malcolm Turnbull’s economic team.

You would have to ask who in Liberal Party HQ thought it would be a good idea morally to start up a Parliamentary Enquiry into the ALP policy regarding the ‘cashing out’ of excess franking credits through the tax system. Regardless of the pros and cons of the policy (which is a story for another day), the ‘enquiry’ was established under the leadership of Liberal Party MP Tim Wilson, a former employee of the conservative ‘think tank’, Institute of Public Affairs. According to The Guardian
Wilson is the chair of a current inquiry into the Labor policy, but at the same time set up a website allowing people to register to attend public hearings and send submissions opposing the Labor policy. The site carried an authorisation by Wilson in his capacity as the chairman of the standing committee on economics. The website was privately funded by an undisclosed source.

New evidence emerged on Wednesday showing the Liberal MP had coordinated with the chairman of Wilson Asset Management, Geoff Wilson, a vocal opponent of the Labor policy, to coincide protest activity with hearings of the committee.
The two Wilsons are cousins and Tim has shares in Geoff’s company. Despite the obvious conflict of interest, Morrison did nothing, choosing not to demote or sack Wilson for the breach of ethics, while accusing Labor of throwing “mud” at the Liberal MP for “giving retirees a voice” . Ironically, while the Wilson cousins go around the country whipping up anger in pensioner groups, the ALP policy specifically exempts those already on a pension.

Those with an apparent attention span longer than the average Coalition politician at the ethics training session will remember that on the final Parliament sitting day for 2018, Morrison salvaged the Coalition Government from a defeat by closing down the House of Representatives earlier than scheduled. The action was to stop debate on legislation to allow those imprisoned in the Pacific by various Governments over the past 10 years to come to Australia for medical treatment without having to go to the Federal Court. The (amended) Legislation passed the House of Representatives and Senate in the first sitting week in 2019, despite Morrison playing the ‘trump card’ of tabling Solicitor General advice that cast doubt on the original Legislation passed in the Senate in the dying days of 2018. Unsurprisingly, Morrison unleashed the scare campaign as soon as it happened.

Prior to 2019, there have been two governments in Australia that lost a vote on Legislation in the House of Representatives (in October 1929 and October 1941). Both Prime Minister Bruce in 1929 and Prime Minister Fadden in 1941 advised the Governor-General of the day they had lost the confidence of the Parliament and an election should be called. The elections were subsequently held. Morrison in 2019 had a different response: “Votes will come and they will go, they do not trouble me,” he said.

Tony Wright, writing for Nine media looked at Morrison’s speech at the National Press Club in the first sitting week of 2019 and determined that Morrison really didn’t have anything to promote or discuss theorising that all Morrison had was a booklet as a prop, combined with bluster and a scare campaign. Tactics used in the vote on refugee health on the second sitting day bear this out. So in effect — he has nothing. At least Will Stephen was funny.

What do you think?

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