The lobbyist prime minister
It is almost too perfect. Scott Morrison will leave parliament to become a lobbyist, an oily little stain trailing him out of the office. The irony is that this will be the first time he has represented somebody other than himself. He will finally go to Canberra with a purpose.
Looked at another way, AUKUS was a $368 billion pitch to get Scott Morrison a job. It is reported that he will soon take a role at a British defence company. He will not resign until the contract is signed. It is a continuous, unbroken grift.
Morrison is not “going to the other side”. He was always a shill for corporate interests. His approach to defence was always about his fortunes, not the country’s. This year, as he called for an enormous increase in military spending, he was shopping himself to the very companies that would profit most. There is no shame. There is not even self-respect. There is just Scott.
Lobbying is a grub in the political system. It exists to distort democracy. It is grotesque that someone who was once prime minister would hang out his shingle. It is appalling how common it has become for ministers and their staffers to take up work touting for industry.
This week it was reported that nearly 1800 lobbyists have orange passes that give them full access to Parliament House. There is no register for who has these passes or of which politicians sponsored them.
The lobbying code and register are not enforceable. As The Centre for Public Integrity notes, they need to be legislated and breaches need to carry criminal penalties. Ministerial diaries should be published and meetings with lobbyists noted.
In a report released this week, the centre points to a string of recent ministers now working as lobbyists: former Defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon; former Foreign minister Julie Bishop; former Trade minister Andrew Robb; former Defence minister Christopher Pyne, who days earlier had to register himself as a representative of a foreign government.
It notes that one of Anne Ruston’s staff took up as a lobbyist for Airbus nine days after leaving her office. One of Mathias Cormann’s staff began lobbying for Ampol a fortnight after their employment ended. On it goes, like a child pouring bath water from one cup into another.
Morrison the greaseball prime minister will soon be Morrison the greaseball lobbyist. It’s a smaller change than it should be, a final tarnish on the office, a sad expression of a failed politics, unable to attract real talent, bobbing back and forth through the sluiceway of venality and self-interest.
His pass will change colour, perhaps his shoes will get better, but he will remain the spiv he always has been, a travelling salesman driving a caravan of cant and opportunism and now guns and probably submarines. It is terribly sad in the way that realising the country was run for four years by a solipsistic thug is terribly sad.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 6, 2023 as "The lobbyist prime minister".
For almost a decade, The Saturday Paper has published Australia’s leading writers and thinkers. We have pursued stories that are ignored elsewhere, covering them with sensitivity and depth. We have done this on refugee policy, on government integrity, on robo-debt, on aged care, on climate change, on the pandemic.
All our journalism is fiercely independent. It relies on the support of readers. By subscribing to The Saturday Paper, you are ensuring that we can continue to produce essential, issue-defining coverage, to dig out stories that take time, to doggedly hold to account politicians and the political class.
There are very few titles that have the freedom and the space to produce journalism like this. In a country with a concentration of media ownership unlike anything else in the world, it is vitally important. Your subscription helps make it possible.
Select your digital subscription