For someone with such strong conservative convictions, it was strange to hear the PM suggest Australians had 'some sensitivity' to adultery, wirtes Tom Minear.
For someone with such strong conservative convictions, it was strange to hear the PM suggest Australians had 'some sensitivity' to adultery, wirtes Tom Minear.

'Why Scott Morrison hasn’t passed the pub test'

OPINION

Now that pubs are back pouring beers, politicians must again face the pub test.

So it was on Tuesday, when Scott Morrison was asked to determine what ordinary Australians would make of the sex scandal engulfing his ministers Alan Tudge and Christian Porter.

"These things happen in Australia," the Prime Minister said.

"I think Australians understand human frailty and I think they understand that people who work in this place are just as human as anyone else."

For someone with such strong conservative convictions, it was strange to hear Morrison suggest Australians had "some sensitivity" to adultery because it was a by-product of human "vulnerabilities and frailties".

Federal member of Parliament Alan Tudge (right) arrives at the 2017 Mid-Winter Ball in the company of Liberal staffer Rachelle Miller, who he was having an affair with.
Federal member of Parliament Alan Tudge (right) arrives at the 2017 Mid-Winter Ball in the company of Liberal staffer Rachelle Miller, who he was having an affair with.

Even if his judgment was correct, it was largely irrelevant to the question he was asked.

Because as Morrison also acknowledged, the issues raised about Tudge and Porter - that they were involved with government staffers - are "very important" questions of workplace safety and the power imbalance between bosses and employees.

"I do take this issue extremely seriously," Morrison said, adding that his ministers were in no doubt of what he expected of them.

He undoubtedly believes in the code of conduct that forbids sexual relationships between ministers and their staff.

And while he is technically correct that the allegations raised do not breach the code, because they occurred before the rules were changed, Morrison's official response to his ministers - a please explain and some stern words at a press conference - is a bit of a wet lettuce.

Attorney-General Christian Porter has denied all allegations. Picture: Gary Ramage
Attorney-General Christian Porter has denied all allegations. Picture: Gary Ramage

Ordinarily, this is where the opposition would step into the breach, but Labor leader Anthony Albanese was unusually quiet.

After telling colleagues the claims were "deeply disturbing", Albanese only asked one question of Morrison in the House of Representatives - whether ministerial standards would be enforced.

Perhaps Albanese was cautious because, as some Labor MPs suggested, the party's position could be challenged if similar allegations later emerged against their own side.

Or perhaps Albanese was simply too busy dealing with Joel Fitzgibbon's resignation from his frontbench, after a blow-up at shadow cabinet on Monday night inflamed Labor's internal war on climate and energy policy.

Any Australian watching this at the pub on Tuesday would surely have changed the channel.

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Originally published as Why Scott Morrison hasn't passed the pub test



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