The first political victim of the alleged parliament house rape scandal is almost certainly going to be Defence Minister Linda Reynolds. Not just because she should be demoted for her appalling mishandling of this sordid episode but because her demise might suit Scott Morrison politically.
After all, when was he ever so quick to publicly rebuke a minister for anything? One would hope it was because he now appreciates the gravity of the issue — but you can’t help but think Reynolds was not in the ministerial protection racket.
(Note previous Crikey column on the corrupt rorters, duds and muppets which make you wonder just what you have to do to be sacked from a Morrison cabinet.)
Put a fork in them, the election is almost done.
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Let’s recall that before the pre-Christmas cabinet reshuffle there had been strong speculation that Reynolds would be outed from Defence in favour of Peter Dutton. Many could not understand why Dutton would swap his powerful Home Affairs portfolio given he has his own uniformed militia in the form of the black-clad Border Force.
There are many theories on these scenarios — it is Canberra, after all.
The first thing to note is that the right has been undermining Reynolds she was appointed, an appointment some claim was purely for gender balance. (Which overlooked the salient point that she was the first woman to every reach the rank of brigadier in the Army Reserves.)
In barely disguised sexist dog-whistling they describe her as “weak”, not strong enough for the portfolio. (Similar comments were made about her predecessor, Marise Payne.) So they wanted her out and Dutton was the name most mentioned as a replacement.
First the militia issue. Not content with the entire armed service under his charge, there was a theory Dutton would move Border Force under the Defence portfolio. While there might be some advantages there’s no doubt Dutton likes amassing power.
Or the move could be a pathway to an exit from politics. He has little left to prove after his remarkable comeback in the seat of Dickson in the 2019 election which many had said he would struggle to retain sitting on a mere 1.7% margin. But despite an intense campaign against him he retained it with a swing to him of nearly 3%.
And call me cynical, but what better portfolio for a post-political career than Defence which has always proved the lucrative stepping-off point for ministers — including most recently and obscenely Christopher Pyne.
And the prime minister probably would be happy to give his former leadership rival whatever he wants if it led to his amicable exit from the next Morrison government.
It will be interesting to note the reaction to the inevitable ousting of Reynolds given she is a woman. So it’s not just insensitive males like Morrison who couldn’t understand former staffer Brittany Higgins’ plight?
For those who criticise the PM for his constant “Jen and the girls” defence — and frankly it is beyond nauseating — the sad thing is that he is probably being genuine. As genuine as Scotty From Marketing might get.
There are so few women in his inner circle that he might need his wife as adviser. An article on Morrison’s “Inner Circle of Trust” by The Australian’s national affairs editor Simon “Bunnings” Benson in December 2019 attracted little attention for the lack of any woman on the list close to the PM.
Even Malcolm Turnbull was criticised for relying on his just as intelligent and accomplished wife Lucy for advice. He cited her often as well.