Moments before the end of a flailing government there comes a period when it all falls apart. The bonds that might once have held it together begin to disintegrate. We have reached that point now where its dispatch will feel like a release. It rots from the head.
I've disagreed with Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells about almost everything. She has, nonetheless, always spoken to me openly and honestly, a fierce, determined warrior for her side. Until this week, trashed by an incompetent prime minister who can't even manage to get preselections organised and line his own side up for battle. Her scathing words: "an autocrat [and] a bully who has no moral compass" should be etched on his political carcass.
A corrupt government rots from the top. It grasps at ways of appearing decisive and turning things round, but the roots of failure are embedded deep within the seed of any new initiative.
Take Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's appeal for armoured vehicles. He's been asking everywhere for assistance and so you'd think Scott Morrison might have prepared the way by being ready to offer something up, along with $165 million aid already committed. But no. Zelenskyy asked for Bushmasters so the PM says you have our prayers and armoured vehicles "and we're flying them over there on our C-17s to make sure they can be there".
Really? Into a war zone? A place where the Russian airforce could quite legitimately shoot them down? Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has vitriolically warned foreign governments providing military equipment "will be responsible for their actions".
Turkey won't allow RAAF aircraft to overfly its territory while it's hosting peace talks and Hungary won't have a bar of it either. Moscow warned the EU that sending items of military equipment like jet fighters and tanks would be tantamount to an act of war, provoking "most severe consequences". That's why the Mig fighter jets Poland was offering to give Ukraine would have needed to be flown via Germany before the deal collapsed. Nobody wants to poke a cornered, angry Russian bear.
It's a simple logistical difficulty but it's resulting in Morrison's inability to deliver on his promise without risking plunging this country into war. He spoke before thinking.
It's become a pattern and it's provoking the succession of crises that's enveloping the government.
An announcement of a decision on a new armoured vehicle to equip Australia's Army has been expected for weeks. That it has not occurred reveals exactly how a government in its death throws allows self-interested and personal considerations to dominate proper policy.
By now South Korea's Hanwah should have been chosen to build the thousands of new armoured vehicles required for project Land 400; Phase 3. Military trials have pitted this excellent personnel carrier against (Germany's) Rheinmetall option over an extensive, year-long military trial and evaluation period. Hanwah came out on top but, as with all recommendations to government, there was still wriggle room to allow the politicians to choose their own preference. Defence Minister Peter Dutton was, apparently, emphatic in his choice. Oh, and just by-the-way, Rheinmetall was promising to build in South-East Queensland, Dutton's electoral homeland. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg isn't noted for his deep interest in military matters but Hanwah is constructing near Geelong, meaning votes in Victoria. That's where he's from and he harbours his own undisguised ambitions to take over the party - just like Dutton. This decision has become a personal grudge match.
Rumours have swirled over the past three months. A couple of weeks ago it was assumed Rheinmetall had the contract in the bag, despite also building the 211 trouble-plagued "Boxer" reconnaissance vehicles that form Phase 2 of this project. These have issues like overweight turrets, guns which only fire German ammunition, and tyres requiring importation from Europe. They also come, however, with the huge benefit of being manufactured in an electorate neighbouring Dutton's. But awarding this contract to Rheinmetall isn't necessarily a cost-free exercise.
MORE NICHOLAS STUART:
At the beginning of last month South Korea's newly elected President, Yoon Suk-yeol, made a point of speaking to Morrison (after Joe Biden in Washington but before Xi Jinping in Beijing). It was his fourth call and, for half-an-hour on the phone, the populist, conservative politician made it clear he is about action - actually holding hoses and not standing around talking. He made it extremely clear to the PM that Canberra needs to engage seriously with Seoul if we want his country as an ally. It had suddenly became very obvious that dissing Korea at the start of the election campaign might not be such a good idea after all.
Britain's Boris Johnson knows the power of words and ideas, which is why he's beefing up the BBC's Ukrainian service by more than $7 million. Our politicians - like our forces - don't understand that news is just as much a warfighting "domain" as cyber or space. News is about treating people as participants in a continuing conversation. The decision, years ago, to shut down Radio Australia's Pacific short-wave news bulletins demonstrated we were no longer interested in communicating with the region. Misguided bureaucrats thought deploying a couple of cops, combined with a few visits from Navy ships should be quite enough to keep the islanders happy. Canberra stopped attempting to influence the way locals perceived the world.
Is it any wonder that China has suddenly, swiftly and decisively outflanked any visions of some sort of facile "forward defence" in the South China Sea by negotiating a defence treaty with the Solomon Islands?
Morrison was again left struggling to find a way of spinning events into a plausible narrative. The resulting succession of gagging excuses that sounded more like a death rattle.
He says he's keen for a khaki election. Unfortunately the rest of the world has moved on and is wearing multi-cam's and disruptive pattern material.
Former Liberal MP Julia Banks, a woman who one might normally assume has little in common with Fierravanti-Wells describes Morrison as "menacing, controlling, wallpaper".
It's time to change the design.
Nicholas Stuart is a Canberra writer.
Nicholas Stuart is a Canberra writer.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.