When Prime Minister Scott Morrison took a poorly timed week of leave in Hawaii during the 2019 bushfires, it spawned a tidal wave of hashtag outrage.

#WhereTheBloodyHellAreYou? #HawaiiSmoko #HowGoodIsHawaii? #MorrisonFires

The list was inexhaustible, with the propaganda merchants quickly blaming the bushfires directly on Scott Morrison’s absence and, inevitably, his climate policies. While damaging headlines usually revolve around affairs and criminal activities, Morrison found himself at the centre of a scandal for spending time with his family.

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In truth, criticism of Morrison’s decision to leave the country during a national state of emergency was perfectly valid.

The left might not have much class, but plenty of conservatives were unhappy watching their leader walk away from the post when the nation was in a state of crisis and the states needed coordinated leadership. There were decisions regarding military intervention that only the Prime Minister could make and his absence delayed bushfire operations.

Yes, he was legally entitled to holiday leave. No, he should not have taken it.

When you are in charge of a nation, you do not have the same luxuries as ordinary workers. Being Prime Minister is more than a nine-to-five, it is a responsibility. A good Prime Minister would never leave for a holiday during a crisis. They wouldn’t want to. It would be impossible for someone with true empathy and a sense of duty to do so.

Scott Morrison’s faux pas withers into insignificance when compared to Victorian State Premier Daniel Andrews, who tumbled down some steps on March 9th and hasn’t been seen since. It’s now the 11th of June and Victoria has been without their Premier for three months.

Even during a lull of political boredom, an absent State Premier is unacceptable. There is a pretty reasonable expectation from the public that the person holding the top job in the State has to be physically and mentally fit for the role. If they are not, it is the party’s responsibility to replace them with someone who is. This is because their job has national security ramifications.

Victoria has been in a self-imposed State of Emergency which allows politicians to impose authoritarian demands on its people that violate basic constitutional, human, and civil rights. While the people of Victoria are losing their businesses and homes, it is unthinkable to leave the state in the hands of unelected medical bureaucrats.

Relying on the Labor Party to do the right thing and find a suitable replacement for Daniel Andrews is like expecting China to give Hong Kong its freedom. Daniel Andrews is sitting in the centre of a personality cult worthy of a low-level communist dictator. Labor do not want to remove him from power unless they absolutely have to, because they know that he is their best chance of getting re-elected. He is also the party’s ‘get out of jail free card’ that can be slaughtered at the appropriate moment if the tide of public opinion turns against Labor as the Covid pandemic drags on.

There is no point looking to the Liberal opposition in Victoria. As far as any one can tell, Victoria is running a one party system with the Liberals too afraid to criticise Daniel Andrews in case it harms them in the polls. This would leave only the Governor, Linda Dessau, to dismiss Daniel Andrews for abandoning his job and the people of Victoria. The problem is, Dessau is as woke as they come and far from squeaky clean after having been embroiled in two expenses scandals. She is more likely to feather Daniel Andrews’ sick bed than issue him with a warning – which gives Australia a glimpse of the problem a republic has when Prime Ministers and Presidents serve as each other’s moral keepers.

Australian politics is a creature of convention, and there has been a precedent set for politicians who refuse to show up for work.

In 1903, John Ferguson became the only parliamentarian to be dismissed from office for taking too much time off work. Like Daniel Andrews, he was unwell and missed two months of sittings without the approval of his party. Subsequently, his seat was declared vacant under the rules set out in Section 38 of the Federal Constitution.

Labor and their voters viciously defend Daniel Andrews’ indefinite leave, citing union laws (which do not apply to politicians) or going on about ‘how cruel it is’ to demand someone be sacked if they are unwell.

Being Premier is not a position for which the nation has the luxury of feeling ‘sorry’ for its current occupant. It is a legal position that must be filled at all times by someone who is able to do the job. Besides, these are the exact same people who demanded the resignations of former Attorney-General Christian Porter and former Defence Minister Linda Reynolds when they were unwell.

If Australia took its political responsibilities seriously, all three of them should have been dismissed by their own parties. You can no sooner have a Defence Minister unable to mentally cope with stress than a State Premier who can’t get out of bed.

The problem is that our system of government makes it both legally easy and oddly politically impossible to get rid of political leaders – even if they are charged with a crime and wind up in prison. Primarily, the responsibility of removing a dodgy politician rests with the party itself, and is expected to be undertaken in the interests of self preservation. It is reasonable to expect that a criminal or woefully inept leader would be election poison. Unfortunately, politics is rarely ‘reasonable’ and there have been cases in living memory where criminally negligent MPs are left in position by the party because they are publicly popular.

Jack Lang was dismissed as New South Wales Premier in 1932 by the Governor after being accused of directing public servants to break the law. The action, though generally considered to be necessary because of Lang’s actions, was hotly disputed by members of the Constitutional Commission.

Former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was one such member who wasn’t in favour of dismissing premiers or prime ministers – even though on both occasions, the public supported the action. The Commission held that the matter of dismissing a premier should be up to the party, but as been proved repeatedly, the party cannot be trusted to act in the interest of the Australian people – only itself.

MPs, including premiers and prime ministers, can sit in jail for a full year before the Australian Constitution kicks them out of office – unless the party extend leave.

Can you imagine the likes of Thatcher and Churchill taking time off for ‘mental health’ in the middle of a national crisis? Of course not. Forget the duty of their political parties, their own conscience would forbid it.

Technically, MPs can take as much leave as they like. Some have taken entire years off. Their leave is not covered by Fair Work, but rather set out by the Constitution and the generosity of their political peers.

At a time when millions of Australians have lost their jobs, anger is rising at politicians who collect full pay while being absent. Considering politicians cannot be trusted to do the right thing, perhaps they should be given some boundaries to stop them abusing both the taxpayer and their Constitutionally protected role.

Alexandra Marshall (@ellymelly on social media) writes on liberty, philosophy and geopolitics. You can find her on Twitter or read her articles over at her blog. Elly is also an AI database designer for the retail industry, contributor to multiple online journals and a Young Ambassador with Australians for Constitutional Monarchy.

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