With the Liberal Party now on it’s third Prime Minister in its 6 years of government, every leadership change also signals another churn of Cabinet Ministers. The Morrison Government has five Cabinet Ministers quitting politics at the upcoming election plus former Deputy Leader and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also leaving.
When these resignations and ministerial churn was occurring in the dying days of the Gillard/Rudd Governments in 2013 then Opposition Leader Tony Abbott referred to the new Cabinet as an L-plate Cabinet. This term can easily be applied to the Morrison Government in 2019.
Case in point Environment Minister Melissa Price, MP for the rural Western Australia seat of Durack since 2013. No one had ever heard of until her elevation to the first Morrison Cabinet in August 2018, she had been Assistant Environment Minister for less than a year.
Her appointment made sure Morrison could boast he had 6 women in his 23 member Cabinet (now 7) at a time when the Coalition was being criticized for its lack of female MPs. But Price’s performance as a Cabinet Minister has proven that if there ever was a quota girl it’s her.
The first time the wider public came to know about Melissa Price was last October when she caused a minor diplomatic row when she encountered former Kiribati president (an island in the Pacific) Anote Tong in a Canberra restaurant and said to him sarcastically “I know why you’re here. It is for the cash. For the Pacific it’s always about the cash. I have my chequebook here. How much do you want?”
Price was referring to the tendency of Pacific Island nations to ask western nations, specifically Australia for aid money to deal with the alleged consequences of climate change. Although many believed Price’s comments to be accurate, as a Cabinet Minister it is something she should only think, but not say. This made her the target of Labor’s attacks in Question Time where she could only dispute the accuracy the quotes that were attributed to her.
Last month the Guardian labelled Price the “invisible minister” due to her lack of public appearances in towns affected by natural disasters this summer, with National Party Ministers Michael McCormack and David Littleproud appearing to be taking the lead.
The Guardian article also quoted three environmental groups who claimed they had been unable to meet with Price since her appointment as Minister. Lyndon Schneiders, the national director of the Wilderness Society alleged “She seems to have set a new standard of disinterest” David Ritter, the chief executive of Greenpeace Australia Pacific called Price’s conduct “really unusual”.
Sure these environmental organisations are often the worst economic vandals, but then why doesn’t Price say that’s the reason why she is not meeting with them? This would certainly gain her respect amognst the Liberal Party’s conservative base but when this fits into her overall level of inactivity as Minister it instead counts against her
Last week when the Morrison Government was announcing their funding of the Snowy 2.0 hydro electricity scheme, Price as the Environment Minister, when talking up the project made a major gaffe when she claimed it would power 500 million homes, instead of 500,000. Sure all politicians are allowed to have a slip of the tongue once in a while but it fits a pattern from Price.
With the Morrison Government having reinvented itself as climate warriors with its Climate Solutions funding package, to sure up inner city blue ribbon seats at the election Price is now giving it her best shot to virtue signal her climate change fighting credentials.
In an interview on Sky News with Kirean Gilbert when asked about if climate change was contributing to this summer’s bushfires she replied “There’s no doubt that there’s many people who have suffered over this summer” before adding “There’s no doubt that climate change is having an impact on us. There’s no denying that.”
However the real cause of the recent bushfires has been the high fuel loads caused by the prevention of controlled burning, a policy advocated by environmental and climate change activists. These activists while the fires were burning chained themselves to land clearing tractors to stop them being used for further bushfire prevention.
For Melissa Price as the Environment Minister to not call these activists reckless sabotage of bushfire prevention out but instead agree with them that the fires are climate change induced shows incredibly weak leadership.
Price unfortunately is part of a pattern of promoted Liberal female MPs to Cabinet who have proven themselves not up their responsibilities.
Michaelia Cash now Small Business Minister is also currently in hiding still dealing with the fallout of her office tipping off the media about a Federal Police raid at the Australian Workers’ Union headquarters. Marise Payne as Defence Minister was also accused of being invisible, the same can be said with her as Foreign Minister.
It is of course all very well for the Liberal Party to say it wants more female MPs in the partyroom and in senior positions. But promoting duds such as Melissa Price does this objective no favours. The sooner her under-performance is dealt with the better for the Morrison Government and the country.