Beyond their haughty dismissal as minor political fascinations, what's the thread running through (i) last year's White House exclusion of Scott Morrison's Hillsong pastor Brian Houston; (ii) the secrecy used to hide the Prime Minister's Hawaii hightail during the bushfire crisis; and (iii) his office's active involvement in the allocation of sports grants before (and after) the 2019 election was called?
Politics trumps truth? Party interests will always come before voters' interests?
Certainly these unpalatable conclusions can reasonably be drawn. But by themselves, they do not make the Morrison government unique, nor even his side of politics.
Honesty and political-speak have always been unhappy flatmates, which explains why even some clear-cut "porkies" do not occasion automatic eviction. Voters have priced in a degree of spin, and reluctantly accept what might favourably be termed "artifice" in the method and timing of information releases.
A recent stand-out in this genre was the then-treasurer's breezy 2018 response, when asked if he harboured his own leadership ambitions. "This is my leader, and I'm ambitious for him," Morrison fired back, draping his arm around the besieged Malcolm Turnbull to affect extra meaning.
Word of Morrison's ultimately successful tilt emerged shortly after.
His numbers men were already working the phones.
Still, voters wear such subterfuges as minor irritants. What else could he say, some would argue.
By bluntly ignoring the damning public servant evidence and extensive email traffic of the sports grants... Morrison is resetting the bar.
But what about repeated wilful deceptions - lies obscuring corruption or going to a minister's competence and personal probity? These betrayals have always had a counterbalance of last resort.
Because it is a dismissable offence, deceiving Parliament has long operated as the public's last line of defence - and it was a bar under which even that verbal contortionist, Tony Abbott, would not attempt to limbo.
"Misleading the ABC is not quite the same as misleading the Parliament as a political crime," he told The Sydney Morning Herald in 2003 to explain why he'd lied to Lateline's Tony Jones.
Of course, you might argue that a common thread in the above controversies is that they are all old news - mere flotsam and jetsam given the tsunami-like wave of COVID-19 threatening public health and the economy.
Here again, you'd have a prima facie case, even if it does lay bare the marketing genius of Morrison's "quiet Australians", the virtue-signalling of whom co-opts them as unwitting agents in their own manipulation.
Perhaps though the deepest take-out, as the government angsts its way towards a surplus-consuming stimulus package, is that its integrity budget has long since dropped into deficit and the Parliament seems powerless to respond.
By bluntly ignoring the damning public servant evidence and extensive email traffic of the sports grants program adduced in a Senate inquiry, Morrison is resetting the bar.
Forget his patois about a self-referential Canberra media bubble. This degradation is important. Systemically so.
Rules are one thing, but good-faith parliamentary representation stands on a plinth of systemic and institutional conventions, held together by mutual observance and public trust.
Trust that even if politicians twist and shimmy when caught in a lie, in the end they will answer questions in Parliament truthfully, especially during inquiries.
Trust that the rules provide voters with a safety net of protection.
Trust that the public service is professional, conscientious, scrupulously impartial, and determinedly above politics.
Trust that the executive still answers to the Parliament and that the Parliament, with all of its rules, powers and conventions, still guarantees the peoples' interests.
Ordinary Australians might not care about the PM inviting his oddball pastor to an exclusive White House dinner, or perhaps even that this man was vetoed by the Trump administration on character grounds. The Trump administration! Character grounds... priceless.
But they do care if it is covered up, and they want to know why. They do care if, upon the story emerging via a leak to US media, the PM and his office flagrantly lied about it - pillorying journalists for peddling "gossip" for months. Five months later, it has turned out to be true. Dead true.
Similarly, they may not care that the PM's office lied to journalists and stalled on the PM's sudden unexplained absence during a Christmas of horrors in five states.
But they do care that their PM left the country and tried to hide it, because it shows his office knew he was abandoning his post during a clear and present national emergency.
And on sports grants?
OK, many will indeed be sick of the messy ins and outs of this egregious pre-election scam, in which vast millions were skewed to partisan advantage. But they do not like the defunding of worthy community projects, the obfuscation, and particularly the Prime Minister's utter refusal, once exposed, to accept any moral or procedural failings.
Prime ministers set the tone, the very culture of their administrations.
If there are differences between Morrison's leadership and that of his predecessors, they are these.
Truth telling has become unfashionable, and its corollaries, fudging and lying, a cultural marker.
And the authority of the Parliament, and therefore the people, to get at the facts, has gone backwards.
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