This above all - to thine own self be true. And fix the NDIS!
Updated: Apr 6
"Excuse me, Miss. The dog ate my homework." And other unlikely explanations.
Like many of us (I suppose) I have been reading about and listening to the former Prime Minister of Australia with sorrow (genuine) and disbelief. As his bizarre fairy tale about secret ministries shifts again and again from one delusional and self-serving fantasy to the next -- each one just as implausible and just as transparently false as the first -- I almost feel sorry for the man.
The emphasis in that last sentence is, of course, on "almost".
Watching this desperate man's media conference last week was painful and embarrassing -- for him. This, I thought, is what a deer must look like, caught in the headlights of an approaching truck, as the erstwhile 'Monarch of the Glen' crosses the A837 at Ledmore Junction in the remote, far north west of Scotland. Startled, uncomprehending, doomed.
Except that, in the case of Scott Morrison, the slow motion car crash that has finally destroyed his already ruined political reputation was about as close to self-inflicted political road kill as any career could get.
Hubris will do that to self-proclaimed miracle workers. Every single time.
But here's an odd thing.
He is, he told us, the man who didn't hold a hose. He didn't phone Pfizer. He didn't weigh the optics of a flood plain photo shoot in the balance of his pre-election posturing and decide it might not play too well in Woop Woop.
But he did acquire -- it transpires -- four additional ministries, although without telling any of his co-Ministers. Told no one. Did nothing at all with three new Ministries. Forgot about two.
How might one describe that?
Strange? Surprising? Unlikely? Unbelievable?
Some folk know how they'd describe it.
David Littleproud, Nationals MP, called it "pretty ordinary" by which he means terrible.
Peter Dutton MP, Mr. Morrison's successor as leader of the Liberal Party, called it "inappropriate" and an "error of judgement".
John Howard, former Liberal Prime Minister, said there was no justification for it.
Tony Abbott, another former Liberal Prime Minister, said it was "unorthodox" and "unusual" by which he means what the facts tell us: never before in Australia's history.
Keith Pitt MP (one of the unaware co-Ministers) was "kept in the dark" and "shocked".
Karen Andrews MP (another of the unaware co-Ministers) called it "totally unacceptable" and demanded Mr. Morrison resign from parliament.
Stuart Robert MP -- genetically programmed to see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil when it comes to Tories -- called it "unwise" and a "lack of judgement".
Barnaby Joyce MP -- Barnaby FFS -- said he "fervently disagreed" with it. Fervently!!
Pause for moment. Dwell on that list. Those are Mates. Speaking in public. On the record.
But according to the miracle worker they are all wrong. Every single one of them. Wrong. Not one of them understands. Far less, therefore, mere mortals like us: the voters of Australia. We couldn't handle the truth (with apologies to Aaron Sorkin's A Few Good Men).
As any common or garden megalomaniac would say in his own defence, there was
a clear expectation established in the public’s mind [that] I, as prime minister, was responsible pretty much for every single thing that was going on, every drop of rain, every strain of the virus, everything that occurred over that period of time.
As Malcom Farr wrote in an excellent article in The Guardian this contradictory over-assertion of secretive, unaccountable power in the person of the Prime Minister is now "part of Morrison’s burden-of-office plea for victimhood". From Master of the Universe to 'snowflake' in no time, we are disingenuously asked to believe by the dissembler-in-chief.
So far, so thoroughly delusional.
Personally, I am wholly disinterested in whatever character flaw there is inside this odious man that leads him to believe -- as one assumes he must -- he can gaslight an entire nation. I also don't give a shit what this small-minded former government man -- who told his flock, "we don't trust in governments" -- will do with his sad little future. Although I bet he'll believe in his government pension when he disappears over his dismally monetised near-horizon.
I do, however, worry about the damage his tiny mind and giant ego have done to the very idea of democracy. I am concerned that his secrecy, deceit, contempt for his colleagues and voters trashes the relationship between people and their elected government.
I also wonder what kind of wild-eyed conspiracies this incompetent joker of a former Prime Minister has breathed back into life among the anti-vaxxer, sovereign citizen, big steal, Big Foot, fake news idiocracy that wanders the backwoods of Outback looking for somebody / anybody and something / anything to scream about, rage against, defile and debase.
And here's another odd little thought. Based on my bizarre fetish for the study of literature.
As I listened to the ex-Prime Minister droning on and on through his self-justifying, carefully crafted non-denial denials and non-apology apologies; ducking and diving, weaving and wandering; always slightly off-topic in his calculating manner; not answering reasonable questions, I could not help but think of Polonious, the "scheming, backstabbing, hypocritical" father of Ophelia in William Shakespeare's Hamlet.
Scott Morrison and Polonius. Long-winded, say nothing men bereft of ideas; incapable of uttering truth, doomed to express the platitudinous certainties of so-called common sense as the self-appointed spokesmen (and such people are invariably men) of the so-called silent majority.
The only reason those majorities -- in fictional Denmark and tired, browbeaten, exhausted Australia -- are sometimes silenced (rather than silent) is because men like Five-Ministries Morrison and Ophelia's father never know when or how to shut the fuck up and listen. When they talk, no one else can get a word in edgeways.
Polonius is the self-deceiving, self-deluded personification of male certainty deployed by Shakespeare as the polar opposite to the Prince of Denmark, the epitome of uncertainty.
There is dramatic symmetry in the fact that Polonius (supposedly the man of unimpeachable honesty and openness) is hiding behind a curtain (spying) when Hamlet (the most uncertain character in literary history) fatally stabs his girlfriend's father, wrongly certain it is the Prince's very own fratricidal uncle, stepfather and usurper of the crown lurking in the shadows.
No-action man, Un-action man and Bad-action man all undone by what Jacque Derrida called undecidability (although he was a French Post-Modernist so what would he know about certainty? Joke).
It is with deliberate literary irony that Shakespeare gives to the character most lacking self-awareness in the Danish court one of the best known lines in all of Shakespeare's plays. It is about self-knowledge and truth, delivered by a doomed liar to his departing son (Laertes).
This above all - to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
To thine own self be true. I do wonder.
If neither Polonius nor Scott Morrison could be honest with themselves nor open and transparent with the people they were speaking to, how do either of them think that we might trust a word they say? Remembering, of course, that only Mr. Morrison is real.
There was indeed something rotten in the State. And I'm not talking only about Hamlet's Denmark. That was made up by a long dead English playwright. We, however, live in a real country -- Australia -- where what our leaders do or don't do, say or don't say, matters.
If we are to restore trust in our elected representatives and rebuild the foundations of our fragile democracies we need politicians who know they must speak truthfully and act accordingly. And for our part -- ordinary citizens and voters as we are -- we must be more engaged, more active, more involved.
Our lives are not their play things.
There are bastards in this world. If they do not know how to behave -- it is us must keep them honest. For their own sakes. And for ours.
You may wonder -- of course -- why I've spent time writing these words. If you've reached this far into what I've written you may also now be asking if there were not at least the famous 57 varieties of other more important things you could be doing with your day.
There probably are.
The simple truth is I am tired of these nincompoops and their wasteful, petty feuds; their games and power plays. They were supposed to be running things that matter in the lives of everyday, ordinary people like those my colleagues work with every day.
The NDIS for example.
While Scott Morrison was playing Musical Mystery Ministerial Chairs with his under-informed Cabinet colleagues, the NDIS became more and more difficult for people in need.
New -- often bad -- systems, processes, rules, guidelines and long delays progressively undermined the NDIS Act. They were built up over years. The opposite of choice and control were instituted through a planner framework clearly no longer fit for purpose.
That was neither reasonable nor necessary -- not for the overworked, under resourced people who work in the NDIA, not for participants, families, carers or providers. It was bad for Australia.
While the Ministers for everything and nothing were fighting like ferrets in a sack, thousands upon thousands of people with disability were forced to live with the consequences. It has been unreasonable, unnecessary and so, so wasteful.
The Cabinet comedians could have fixed the NDIS any time they chose in the last nine years. But by design and accident they made a mess of things for many of the people we support.
The NDIS is now more complicated, more bureaucratic, costlier to administer because its Agency has been turned into a distant, complex, inflexible administrative nightmare for many people. Even with the changes now flowing from the Tune Review (at long last).
Over the last two years and more NDIS plans have been cut. More people we support than ever before are taking their concerns to the AAT even though they know those processes will add more stress long before solutions are identified.
It is all so regrettable. So wasteful.
The NDIS dodged the proverbial bullet when Australians voted to end the circus presided over by Many Ministries Morrison and his band of pirates. I'm not making a party political point here. I am simply angry and concerned about the mess those incompetent, many titled Ministers left behind for others to clean up.
We deserved better because we are all paying for the NDIS. It's our NDIS. All of Australia.
So Prime Minister Albanese and NDIS Minister Shorten ...
We understand you are not miracle workers. We know you have no magic wand to wave. And we do not believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden beneath a magic money tree.
But we are tired of waiting. We have had our fill of government directed inertia and piss poor institutional leadership. We are keen to get started on the mammoth repair job.
So, help us.
Fix the NDIS.