Russian multipart novels typically end with a short comic story that recapitulates the entire plot in farcical terms. How lucky we are that Australian politics has taken up that form! A decade on from the election of Kevin 07, our sixth prime minister since John Howard has turned out to be an absolute blithering idiot. ScoMo rounds out the series, not with the mediaeval strangeness of Tony Abbott, the exhausting delusions of Malcolm Turnbull, or Kevin Rudd — last seen as a relentlessly saluting golden cat on the shelf in Richo’s Chinese restaurant — but with plain old-fashioned suburban crapness. Tony’s from Mordor, Malcolm’s from a Six Sigma roleplay at Abu Dhabi University, Kevin’s from space, but ScoMo’s from the Shire.
The measure of ScoMo’s doltishness is that whole fiascos go through to the keeper without much attention. Last week, in the lead-up to the Wentworth brouhaha, the Israel embassy sideswipe and the “white people” vote, entirely obscured two other beauties: Morrison losing control of his own named website, and his use of the Forrest Gump line “life is like a box of chocolates” as a warning against voting independent.
The latter is the more deliciously interesting. Forrest Gump is a grinning moron, the movie version of his life assuring Americans that they would be happier if they were deeply stupid, and knew only one thing: that life, like a box of chocolates, is full of good things*. Different and mysterious, but good. ScoMo, if he thought about the metaphor at all, didn’t understand, which makes the Prime Minister of Australia dumber than Forrest Gump. Makes you proud.
But the altogether more ordinary matter of letting your website lapse. Well, anyone can do it, but if the anyone you are becomes prime minister, these sorts of details jump from being least to most important in your political self-management. It’s the failure to recognise that change in status that suggests a real lack of grasp.
That’s the picture emerging of ScoMo, at the ragged fag-end of this era. Mr Tony was Captain Queeg, eventually needing to be locked in his cabin; Malcolm had a touch of the David Brents; but ScoMo is just a crap boss, removed by an earlier government from his job at the head of Tourism Australia. At least David Brent could play guitar.
The interesting thing about ScoMo’s incompetence is that what you see is what you get. Rudd, Abbott and Turnbull were all “visionaries”, whose self-regarding big picture stuff served as an excuse for incompetence with detail (Gillard is excluded from this because she was utterly competent — mostly in extending neoliberal statism into ever wider areas of Australian life). Scomo claims no big picture. He presents himself as just like your average Aussie, presumably by being not very good at a mid-level job he got by default.
Who can’t identify with that? What Aussie hasn’t crouched in their office/hotspace/breakroom, wondering when they’ll be found out? Who hasn’t left renewing a website till tomorrow, to get home for The Block? Who hasn’t written a presentation on wet ones, pressed against the dashboard, in the morning gridlock (“ordering bulk office supplies is like a box of chocolates…”) only to find it unreadable at the podium? Maybe this is ScoMo’s last chance, do an uber-Howard: not merely “I’m just like you”, but “I’m crap like you”.
“Look,” ScoMo would say wearily. “I’m not up to this job, but you’re not up to yours either. You don’t really know what your supposed to be doing half the time, in between Facebook and Fortnite sessions, and really neither do I. But haven’t you had enough of those wankers who reckon they’re on top of it? Shorten and Bowen wawawawa we’ve got a plannnnnn. Sucks. My plan is to get home early — renewing the office fire insurance can wait till tomorrow — and watch The Block. If that’s your plan too, vote us back in. The Coalition’s like a box of chocolates: a few stale toffee types, a selection of nuts, and no one knows what Montelimar is. Give it a go!”
Who knows? Might hold it at 72 or 73, although even Labor can’t — what’s that Kevin? Another book? Oh, thank you very much. The farce goes on…
*alternatively, he was thinking of the Python sketch about “crunchy frog” chocolates, including the Spring Surprise, where “steel bolts pierce both cheeks”. Given the helpful assistance of both Piers and Bolt to his new government, and the endless comparisons to the Black Knight, such a mental link might have been, as we say, over-determined.
Do you think Scott Morrison is Australia’s Forrest Gump? Write to [email protected] to let us know.