Yesterday’s teary press conference, at which Scott Morrison announced Australia will pull its troops out of Afghanistan by September, seemed like the ideal time to address the impact the war had not only on Australians but on Afghans. It’s been a long war, with 41 Australians killed, 39,000 deployed and devastating allegations of war crimes committed by specialist soldiers.
Yet, according to Morrison, “there will be time to talk about those things. Today is not that time”.
It’s a line that’s often trotted out by Morrison and his government: now is not the time — not today and perhaps not ever.
In June last year, Morrison attempted to shift the blame to Labor for robodebt, an unlawful scheme that cost the government $1.2 billion to settle following a class-action lawsuit. When talking about the eye-watering amounts of money, one journalist asked what Morrison would say to victims of the scheme. Many experienced depression, anxiety and changes to their life plans after being relentlessly chased for debts they didn’t owe.
When fires raged across Australia in late 2019 and early 2020, Morrison rebuffed calls to talk about climate change. “I’m focused on the needs of the people in this room today,” he said, before offering his priceless “thoughts and prayers”.
Other Liberal and Coalition members followed suit: Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud said it was “not the time” for a conversation by people who wanted to politicise climate change. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian rebuffed journalists’ calls to open a discussion on climate change by saying “not today”, while Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack accused those of asking about the link between fires and climate change of being “inner-city raving lunatics”.
Of course, the bushfires were the perfect time to talk about cricket, which Morrison said was sure to give communities and firefighters “something to cheer for“. He also wheeled out the line to argue it wasn’t time to discuss a royal commission into the fires.
When Morrison dropped the long-awaited Aged Care Royal Commission’s report last month, he called a press conference with just 30 minutes’ notice, tabling the report during the meeting — meaning journalists had no time to read the recommendations or formulate questions.
In response to criticism, Morrison said there “will be plenty of opportunities to ask questions” — yet to date, no other conferences dealing specifically with aged care have been announced.
Parliamentary sexual violence
When addressing concerns he hadn’t been listening to women following allegations of Parliamentary sexual violence in late March, Morrison — in a sentence that doesn’t quite make sense — rejected the notion he would talk about policies implemented during his time as treasurer, minister for immigration or minister for social services.
“Now is not the time for me to run over whether as a minister for immigration or a treasurer, or a minister for social services, the keen interest I have shown in these issues, I’m not going to do that today,” he said.