Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck’s disastrous performance this week should serve to remind us of the very long list of government ministers who have hung on until the next muppet comes to knock them off the should-be-sacked list.
Every government has its under-performers but this one has more than its share of absolute shockers; most of whom are, incredibly, still there — or even more incredibly have managed to make a comeback.
It’s probably not surprising that when Scott Morrison won the 2019 election it was almost singlehandedly, given the assortment of losers, incompetents and grubs behind him. (And we’re leaving out the ones who couldn’t even make it to ministerial level.)
So here’s a reminder of some of the dubious stars of Morrison’s ministries.
This week’s award for worst-on-ground was won easily by Colbeck.
A weeks ago few had heard of him, which was a problem in itself given the ongoing crisis in his portfolio during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last Friday at a Senate inquiry he admitted he didn’t know the number of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes. When Parliament resumed this week he still managed to give the wrong number before finally stumbling upon the correct answer.
To top it off yesterday he slunk out of the Senate chamber while Labor’s Penny Wong was replying to his speech. She rightly called him out as a “disgrace”.
Before Colbeck’s incompetence and cowardice this week, Energy Minister Angus Taylor was dubbed the benchmark for scandal. This includes, in no particular order of disgrace: “satergate”, “grassgate” and “Clovergate”. In fact some in the media have now bundled them together into the generic “Angusgate”.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
Taylor’s litany of conflicts of interest, fake documents and general opprobrium made him the minister most vulnerable before the pandemic gave him some respite.
Still the front runner in the scandal stakes. Where to start.
In 2013 he and his wife received two Rolex watches valued at $50,000 from a Chinese billionaire. The next year he took a trip to China for private business interests which eventually led to him being dumped in 2016 by then-PM Turnbull for breaching the ministerial code of conduct.
In 2017 his elderly father admitted he was unaware Robert had made him a company director and used his address for a private business which had been awarded government contracts.
Then there was the matter of Roberts’ exorbitant $37,975 internet bill for which he charged taxpayers.
After helping his Canberra housemate Morrison get the numbers to win the prime ministership, Robert was back in cabinet — but the scandals keep coming.
Most recently as government services minister he falsely blamed hackers for crashing the MyGov website. “My bad,” he said, which pretty well sums up his political career.
First coming to prominence by insulting the former president of Kiribati and accusing our Pacific neighbours of “always” having their hands out for “cash”.
As environment minister she was such an embarrassment she had to hide away during the election campaign. And it’s clear they prefer she stay there despite being demoted to minister for defence industry.
Last month Crikey reported that Price refused to present at a public meeting of the Shire of Carnarvon, where she was slated to appear once she realised a journalist was there.
Replacing Price as environment minister after herself being pushed out of cabinet in 2017 over expense rort allegations.
Ley was the subject of an investigation after she charged taxpayers for a trip to the Gold Coast to buy a $780,000 investment property.
She was returned to the ministry after Morrison became PM and has maintained, as they all do, that she had acted within the rules.
The subject of numerous inquiries over her office’s role in leaking the notorious AFP raid on AWU offices.
Even though her credibility was severely damaged by the whole saga — who can forget her hiding from scrutiny behind a whiteboard — she nonetheless remains as employment minister.
Pre-pandemic, McKenzie was vying with Taylor for worst-on-ground but she won by a nose — mainly because it was so firmly in the trough.
The sports rorts scandal led her to be one of the only ministers actually dumped by Morrison although it was over a technicality for not declaring she was a member of a club which received some of the controversial sports funding.
With rumors of another putsch planned against underwhelming Nationals leader Michael McCormack, a comeback is highly likely.
This week Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar has been embroiled in the ugly Victorian Liberal branch stacking allegations. Known as the most powerful man outside the inner cabinet, Sukkar has long been accused of wielding his power to stack branches — and now we’ve learned also to stack taxpayer-funded electoral offices.
The list goes on. As do the ministers.