Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s pandemic strategy is fast unravelling. Despite forming a “national cabinet”, Morrison has opted to keep as low a profile as possible, while allowing state premiers to run amok with lockdowns and border closures. When High Court action was launched against border closures, Morrison ducked his responsibility for the federal government to take part in defending constitutional law.

But, if Morrison thought that giving premiers free reign would see the voting public heap all the blame on state governments, he was sadly mistaken. While the backlash is growing against premiers, the prime minister is copping it, too. Voters fed up with lockdowns and vaccine mandates blame the PM as being too gutless to take a stand.

A growing coalition of Morrison’s own MPs agree.

Maverick Queensland MP George Christensen has joined a growing group of rebel backbenchers threatening to vote routinely against the government until Scott Morrison agrees to overturn state vaccination mandates, putting the Prime Minister’s political agenda at risk.

Mr Morrison faces an expanding Coalition rebellion after five government senators crossed the floor on Monday to vote with Pauline Hanson to try to overturn mandatory vaccination rules in the states.

But the pledge from Mr Christensen widens the revolt to the lower house and threatens to further reduce the Coalition to minority government and force Mr Morrison to rely on the crossbench to pass legislation.

As always, parliamentary politics is a numbers game. Just one government MP in the lower house would force Morrison to turn to Labor or the Greens for support on every bill. In the Senate, two rebel government senators — Gerard Rennick and Alex Antic — are joining the rebellion. Independents Bob Katter and Craig Kelly are considering abstaining from votes until Morrison moves to bring state leaders to heel on mandatory vaccinations.

In the Senate, the Coalition would need the support of Labor or the Greens to pass legislation if the two rebels — senators Rennick and Antic — held to their word […]

Other Coalition senators who crossed the floor on Monday to support One Nation’s anti–vaccination mandate bill included Matt Canavan, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and Sam McMahon, while Liberal senator Eric Abetz abstained […]

Senator Canavan said vaccine mandates were “unAustralian”.

“Everybody should have the right to work and provide for their family and no government, in this free country that I was born in, has the right to take away people’s right to work and provide for their family,” Senator Canavan said […]

Mr Morrison has been critical of the mandatory vaccination laws imposed by state governments but will not back legislation that would effectively overturn their ability to impose them.

The One Nation bill would have prohibited states, territories and businesses from discriminating on the basis of whether a person was vaccinated. But it would also have prohibited the federal government from striking a funding agreement for public services with a state that imposed mandatory vaccinations.

The Australian

The latter provision, in particular, has Morrison arguing that the bill “would seek to centralise power more in Canberra”. While this is true, and it is also true that federalism and state’s rights are (or were) basic Liberal party principles, those principles have for decades been adhered to mostly only when it suits.

In the meantime, the raft of legislation that is a key part of Morrison’s pre-election strategy — new religious freedom protections, voter identification reforms, a federal anti-corruption commission, a low-emissions technology fund to help achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century and a legislated Aboriginal voice to parliament — stand in jeopardy.

In many cases, such as “net zero” commitments or a “voice to parliament”, the government might be well rid of them. Pandering to the culture-war left is alienating the Coalition’s base every bit as much as gutlessness on vaccine mandates.

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Rebel MPs Hit Morrison Over Vaccines
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Lushington D. Brady

Punk rock philosopher. Liberalist contrarian. Grumpy old bastard. I grew up in a generational-Labor-voting family. I kept the faith long after the political left had abandoned it. In the last decade...