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Morrison repackages on a wing and a prayer

Prime Minister Scott Morrison
Scott Morrison's term as prime minister has been marred by scandals. Photo: Getty
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Repackaging political problems without actually solving them is emerging as a hallmark of Scott Morrison’s brief prime ministership.

Last week it was a “Climate Solutions Fund” to badge a policy that in fact was not coming up with any new – let alone meaningful – solutions to our rising greenhouse gas emissions.

This week it is a record number of seven women in his cabinet, topping Malcolm Turnbull and Kevin Rudd’s achievement of six female senior ministers.

On his way to announcing Western Sydney Airport would be named after a woman aviator – the illustrious Nancy-Bird Walton – the prime minister boasted to the media that his weekend appointment of Linda Reynolds to his cabinet gives the “highest number of women ever in a federal cabinet in Australia”.

“That is something a Liberal/National government has delivered and it is something I would certainly continue should we be successful on the other side of the election,” Mr Morrison said.

The proud boast left one of his long-serving backbenchers unimpressed.

“Wow,” he said.

“Twenty per cent of our parliamentarians are women and we think we can cover it by having 33 per cent of cabinet female.”

By contrast, 46 per cent of Labor’s federal politicians are women and it is set to reach 50 per cent at the election. Its quota system ensures women are preselected not only in marginal but also safer seats.

One of the PM’s closest allies, Special Minister of State Alex Hawke, says this dearth of female representation is a “huge problem” for the party.

Mr Hawke told the Nine papers: “We will suffer as a political movement if we don’t get serious about electing women.”

Mr Hawke’s timing coincided with the Liberals’ highest-profile woman, Julie Bishop hitting out at the men in the party who blocked her run for the leadership even though she was in the best position “to beat Bill Shorten”.

This was a point Labor’s deputy leader Tanya Plibersek pounced on.

“Julie Bishop consistently rated above the blokes, but the blokes couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Julie Bishop,” Ms Plibersek said.

Repackaging is a time-honoured technique for advertising agencies when their clients are looking for new ways to sell their old product.

By marketing himself as a record-breaking nominator of women to his inner circle, Mr Morrison is aiming to at least neutralise Labor’s hard-won quota-driven advantage.

For that to work he will be hoping no one will notice that even at 33 per cent in cabinet, he still hasn’t achieved 50 per cent.

It’s a bit like trying to sell “clean coal,” that was suggested by a lobbyist to his coal conglomerate client a decade ago. An oxymoron that has obviously failed to fly.

One fundamental issue Mr Morrison is struggling to deal with is the turmoil the Liberals have delivered in their six years of government.

Ms Bishop is even more unforgiving, blaming senior ministers Peter Dutton and Mathias Cormann for an unexplained assault on Mr Turnbull “causing enormous instability within the Liberal Party”.

Mr Morrison at the weekend tried to ignore that by attacking Mr Shorten for not naming who his home affairs minister would be.

Mr Shorten’s comeback was devastating: “This current prime minister can’t guarantee from one week to the next who will be in cabinet.”

He said they have had 22 reshuffles since they were elected.

Putting lipstick on this pig is a very hard ask. In five years the government has had three prime ministers, three deputy prime ministers, four treasurers and four defence ministers.

It is hard to disagree with Mr Shorten that this is a revolving door government.

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