Thursday, 13 February 2020
Matters of Public Importance
Appropriately for a government run by an ad man without a plan, the last fortnight has had real a Mad Men vibe to it. They're a self-indulgent rabble obsessed with their own soap operas of personal vendettas without a care for the needs of any of those outside their own little personal bubble. Indeed, parliament's farewell for the departing Deputy Speaker, the member for Page, this week ended up a lot like the infamous Sterling Cooper farewell party for Joan Holloway, except this time it was the member for New England who drove the John Deere lawnmower over the Deputy Prime Minister's foot while important overseas guests were in town. It's been chaos as this divided government without a plan have been mugged by reality. They've got no plan for jobs, no plan for wages and growth, no plan for the economy, no plan for climate change, no plan for energy and—as we saw quite clearly in question time today—no plan for the aged-care crisis. On every front, the pressure on this government is rising as the reality of the challenges facing Australia grows. Now, after seven years of self-obsession and self-indulgence in the ministerial wing, you can just imagine the Prime Minister staring at the blank piece of paper pinned to the wall, Don Draper style, trying to come up with a pitch for an ad that will fix it all.
If there is one thing this Prime Minister knows, it is that when you don't have a plan you rebrand. We've seen some pretty absurd rebrands from marketing teams over the years, such as the new Coke, iSnack 2.0 and the modern Liberals. The Prime Minister's Don Draper-styled rebranding of his secret past as a suburb's rugby union fan into a die-hard Sharks supporter from the shire after his pre-selection was a bit of a stretch. The rebranding we saw today in question time drew a longer bow than at Agincourt, as those opposite claim consistency on government policy, despite having launched 18 separate energy policies in seven years.
But it's the name changes on the sign out the front of this divided government without a plan that have been the most absurd rebrand of all. Across seven seasons of Mad Men, the ad firm rebranded itself from Sterling Cooper to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce before finally settling on Sterling Cooper & Partners. What amateurs! Across the seven years of this coalition of chaos, the ad firm sitting on the government benches has already rebranded itself from the Abbott-Truss government to the Abbott-Joyce government to the Turnbull-Joyce government to the Turnbull-McCormack government and most recently to the Morrison-McCormack government. You can still buy the commemorative mug for that one. Get it now because it's going to be a collector's item.
The current crisis is demanding a new rebranding effort. Will it be the Morrison-Joyce government or the Morrison-Littleproud government? What we know is that after this week the Australian public will be asking—I can't use the Prime Minister's former marketing team in here—what was the point of the three terms of this coalition Australian government? It hasn't been about the Australian people. It's always been about them: helicopters to Liberal Party fundraisers; holidays to Hawaii and the Philippines; travel rorts; sports rorts; talk small government and carry a big cheque; bonk bans; Malcolm hating Tony; the member for New England hating the member for Riverina; everyone hating Malcolm; the Queensland LNP hating everyone else. At every juncture it has always been about them, not the people who elected them to come here to serve Australia.
It's a striking contrast with those sitting on the opposition benches today. The Albanese Labor team are setting out a positive vision of what we will stand for. There will be a choice for the Australian public at the next election. The Leader of the Opposition has already issued vision statements on jobs of the future, the economy and democracy and will very soon issue one on older Australians. In this week it's worth noting the vision statement on the future of democracy, because it has taken a battering under this government. My constituency see scandals like sports rorts—and sports rorts 2.0, the sequel, has an even bigger budget—and they are outraged at a government that is not serving their interests. It's a government that serves partisan interests, not the national interests. It's a government that serves the personal interests of those sitting opposite, not the interests of the Australian public. We need reforms, like a National Integrity Commission, to restore confidence in our democracy. We don't need an advertising campaign; we need substantial reforms to our democracy to restore confidence. This week when we tried to talk about a National Integrity Commission those opposite gagged debate. That really says it all.