Diary

Gadfly
Are you there, God? It’s me, Morrison

It has long been believed that when God speaks, it is only to prophets, poets and madmen. Now we can add Australian prime ministers to that list. While attending the Australian Christian Churches conference on the Gold Coast last week, Scott Morrison revealed that he and Jenny have been called upon to do God’s work.

His speech began with an anecdote involving a direct message from the Almighty Himself, who apparently took time out of spinning galaxies, organising superclusters and heating nebulae to involve himself in the Australian federal election. In the days leading up to the election, Morrison found his faith in himself shaken, he said, no doubt by the demonic polls that had Satan’s spawn (Bill Shorten) in the lead. And so Morrison prayed for guidance, for a sign. That sign was delivered in the form of a picture of a soaring eagle, which happened to be hanging in the art gallery that the PM was visiting at the time. Truly, to see a picture of an eagle in an exhibit featuring the work of nature photographer Ken Duncan is the kind of coincidence that is so statistically impossible, it must be a miracle.

Inspired by the bird of prey, Morrison found strength in biblical verse. “Scott, you’ve got to run to not grow weary, you’ve got to walk to not grow faint, you’ve got to spread your wings like an eagle to soar like an eagle.” It’s a reference to Isaiah 40:31, which is about accepting one’s limits and asking the Christian God for help in renewing one’s strength. In retrospect, this is probably what the prime minister was doing in Hawaii that time when the country was on fire. Or what he’s been doing during the entire vaccine rollout. He’s accepted his limitations, and he’s now hoping God will sort it out.

There were other revelations from the prime minister’s speech, including his admission that when he was hugging people in evacuation centres, he was “actually laying hands” on them. This is a new angle on non-consensual behaviour that we’ll need an entirely new milkshake-based video campaign to examine.

Morrison also took time in his Gold Coast sermon to attack social media, particularly Facebook, as being open to use by “the evil one”. No word yet on whether that was a reference to Craig Kelly’s Facebook page. Identity politics, the PM went on, is “absolutely corrosive”.

“If you look at each other not as individuals but as warring tribes, you know it’s easy to start disrespecting each other,” he told the parish.

This is an insightful statement from the man who, in 2013, as Immigration minister, instructed all staff to refer to asylum seekers as “illegals” and “detainees”. No word yet on whether his dislike of identity politics as a dehumanising force will extend to people in the “cafes, dinner parties and wine bars of our inner cities”.

While it’s easy to mock the prime minister’s faith, especially because it means everything he’s done (or rather failed to do) so far has been part of a divine plan, some commentators have cautioned against such ridicule. Peter van Onselen, journalist and media commentator, went on the devil’s taint that is Twitter and wrote: “I’m not remotely religious, but the mocking of the PM for his religion is only going to see non-evangelical religious Aussies feel for him. Less than one per cent of Australians are Pentecostals but millions are religious and take their faith seriously.”

It’s a fair point. Millions of Australians are religious and take faith seriously. But your humble columnist knows full well how things can go utterly awry if religion is considered taboo when it comes to mockery and ridicule, and would argue there is nothing more democratic, nay, nothing more Australian, than ridiculing a prime minister who thinks he’s got magical healing touch and believes that God is sending him a message through a photo of an eagle. If that offends millions of believers, that’s okay. They’ll just have to forgive me.

Censored and censorious Kelly

Facebook may be the devil’s playground, but even Satan has his limits, it seems. Former Liberal MP Craig Kelly has been stripped of his Facebook page after the social media company accused him of breaching its misinformation policies. The misinformation claim was not in regard to his continued support of his senior adviser Frank Zumbo, who is currently being investigated by the New South Wales Police Force for the alleged sexual harassment of young women, but instead for Kelly’s continued advocacy of alternative theories about Covid-19 vaccines.

Kelly responded to the loss of his Facebook page with the kind of measured and reasonable response one would expect from a man with his obvious firm grip on reality, accusing Facebook of having “burnt and torched and incinerated and obliterated” his page. He then compared the move to “burning books”.

The book-burning reference, of course, is to the Nazis. Kelly’s former television presenter mate Pete Evans has notoriously posted a cartoon featuring Nazi symbols. But while Kelly says Facebook’s decision is “censorship”, he has clearly forgotten the time last year when he demanded the ABC be defunded because a sketch on Insiders made fun of him for a total of five seconds.

Fans of Craig Kelly can find the censored and silenced parliamentarian speaking in parliament with absolute privilege and protection from making false statements.

Lockdown and austerity in WA

Western Australia reacted to a couple of instances of community transmission with a snap three-day lockdown, showing a zero-tolerance approach to both Covid-19 and any interstate performers hoping to appear at the Perth Comedy Festival. The lockdown was initiated after two cases were traced back to a man who travelled to India for his wedding. This came as a surprise, given that up until now the only valid reasons for travelling in and out of Australia have been tennis matches and acting in Marvel films.

The latest case continues to draw attention to the shortcomings of hotel quarantine, despite Defence Minister Peter Dutton dismissing any claims that quarantining is a Commonwealth responsibility.

“I’d love to tell you that airbases or the Christmas Island facility is fit for purpose but it is not,” Dutton said. “The accommodation is quite austere at our airbases. There is not the segregation of facilities such as the mess and where people need to come together in blocks for ... showers or toilets or whatever it might be.” Which raises the question, of course, why such austere facilities are suitable for the Murugappan refugee family, including their two little girls under the age of five, who have been held on Christmas Island for more than two years. 

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 1, 2021 as "Gadfly: Are you there, God? It’s me, Morrison".

A free press is one you pay for. In the short term, the economic fallout from coronavirus has taken about a third of our revenue. We will survive this crisis, but we need the support of readers. Now is the time to subscribe.

Sami Shah is a multi-award-winning comedian, writer and journalist.