Yesterday, the generally conservative Peter Hartcher published an extraordinary rebuke of Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The article eviscerated the government’s failings on quarantine, vaccination and its inability to work productively with state-level counterparts.
It drew attention to the government’s inability to learn from the Howard Springs, NT quarantine cabins, where not a single Covid-19 case has leaked out. QLD Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk had been negotiating with the feds to build a similar facility in QLD, but so frustrated was she with Morrison’s incompetence that on Thursday she announced the state would go ahead and build it themselves.
But of course, Hartcher’s headline claim was that, “privately,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian regards Morrison as “evil” and “a bully.” Berejiklian ordinarily keeps any frustration about the federal government to herself; Hartcher, glowing, said this is because she is a “team player.”
Behind closed doors, though, the Premier’s office is reportedly livid about Morrison blaming NSW for federal government failures. In April, Morrison’s office backgrounded News Corp journalists on alleged NSW government failings supposedly to blame for the vaccine “stroll-out.”
“Usually he briefs against her for doing her job with some measure of competence,” Hartcher reports an unnamed source in the Premier’s office saying. “He doesn’t like the contrast – he makes himself look big by trying to make others look small.”
Then last month, NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet lobbied the feds to restart JobKeeper, rather than instituting temporary support payments. Perrottet saw the scheme’s capacity to keep employers and employees together as clearly preferable to simple support payments.
When Morrison refused, according to Hartcher, Perrottet offered to fund the scheme from the NSW budget. They only needed the enabling data from the ATO to do so.
Furious phone calls from Morrison followed, in which he refused to share the data. The federal government ended up bankrolling half the NSW government’s support payments, just so it wouldn’t be left out in the public’s mind.
Morrison may be right to be acting desperate. As you can see below, the LNP’s position is as bad as it has been since the last election.
Morrison’s personal approval rating is 48%, with 49% disapproving. For the first time since March 2020, post-bushfires and that Hawaiian holiday, it is negative.
But when it comes to the next election, one factor that may be even more telling than Labor’s 53-47 poll lead. Morrison now has no significant state-level support while facing critical coverage from Nine Newspapers and even, in one instance so far, News Corporation.
Can Morrison count on the usual pro-LNP media fanfare when the next election campaign begins? This time, it’s not a sure thing.
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Feature image with thanks to @gladysfanart via Instagram.