Caught out in one of the more brazen lies uttered by a politician in recent times, Treasurer Scott Morrison yesterday was unrepentant. Why had he claimed Labor’s negative gearing policy would smash the housing market and wreck the economy when his own department’s analysis showed, at worst, minimal impacts?

I didn’t agree with them. That’s why. My first job was as a research economist in the property sector.

It’s rare that a treasurer rebukes his Treasury, in effect saying they’re a bunch of dopes offering faulty advice. But there it is. One wonders about how badly flawed other advice from Treasury is. How often have they misled treasurers because they didn’t work in the sectors they advised on? One hopes Morrison told Treasury head John Fraser of his deep dissatisfaction with being given such poor advice, and ordered him to take remedial action against the officers involved. A six-month stint at the Property Council, perhaps, in order to straighten their thinking out.

Or perhaps we can look on the bright side: imagine how much money we could save if we got rid of tens of thousands of public servants and just relied on the personal experience of politicians, or the advice from people in the industries subject to government policy? Let mining companies advise on resources policy; let energy companies be the source of frank and fearless advice on power. Dump the Department of Health and let some healthcare companies brief the minister instead. Or get rid of half the Department of Defence and just rely on a few old soldiers.

Like Jim Molan, perhaps.

Like Scott Morrison insisting he was right and Treasury’s economists were wrong because of his former job, Jim Molan’s defence, and that of the government on his behalf, was that he was a soldier who had fought in the Middle East, so that made it impossible for him to be racist or anti-Muslim. The fact that he has called for a ban on Muslim immigration, and shared anti-Muslim propaganda from fascist groups and Russian-operated fake news sites, is neither here nor there.

You have to credit the logic, admittedly. Participating at a senior level in an illegal, immoral invasion of a Muslim country that resulted in so many hundreds of thousands of Muslim civilian deaths that life expectancy in Iraq actually fell significantly, and created a long-running civil war and the most barbaric terrorist group of recent history that makes a point of slaughtering other Muslims as much as Westerners, is proof positive one could not be anti-Muslim. Indeed — what better demonstration of one’s pro-Islamic credentials could invading Iraq be — never mind that we were told at the time the invasion had absolutely nothing to do with Saddam Hussein’s human rights violations and was purely about all those weapons of mass destruction he had.

Better yet, it magically inoculates you against any charge of racism forever — even if you peddle racist garbage (purely for the purposes of debate, of course), you’ve got a permanent Get Out Of Bigot Jail Free card.

Behind the scenes, the Prime Minister’s Office was doubtless desperately urging Molan to take down his social media accounts so that there wouldn’t be any more racist and neo-Nazi surprises from the past. By late yesterday he’d duly complied. But not before the government, up to and including the once moderate Malcolm Turnbull, had confected outrage that anyone should question Molan’s intentions in any way or suggest that circulating racist material was somehow problematic. 

Still, some good came from the sight of the government refusing to dissociate itself from racist propaganda. The Greens took the opportunity to raise Molan’s role in the allied attack on Fallujah in 2004, which left a horrific, sickening toll of deformity and death in its wake. Like so many other atrocities and injustices that occurred in Iraq, there will never be accountability for what Western forces did in Fallujah. Those involved still walk free. Some, like John Howard, Tony Blair and George W. Bush, are no longer in the corridors of power. Some others, though, have only just arrived. 

Peter Fray

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