Morrison’s ‘Shonk Doctrine’

The National Press Club speech that promised 'climate action' but no real climate solutions

by David Ritter, CEO

1 February 2020

Morrison is using the climate emergency to try to force through a range of aggressive policies that will hurt Australia and worsen climate change on the basis of a series of dishonest, unreliable and devious justifications.


This week at the National Press Club, Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, outlined his new vision for the nation in the face of catastrophic fires.

Let’s call it the Shonk Doctrine.

Morrison’s Shonk Doctrine combines elements of what Naomi Klein calls Shock Doctrine with a whole lot of our prime minister’s characteristic shonkiness. It is a dangerous combination.

Naomi Klein coined the expression Shock Doctrine to describe the phenomenon of vested interests using moments of ‘shock’ (eg wars, disaster and financial crises) to force through aggressive neoliberal policies targeting ordinary people and the public domain.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘Shonky’ means ‘dishonest, unreliable, or illegal, especially in a devious way’. The example given in the online dictionary is ‘shonky political goings-on.’

In the Shock Doctrine, neoliberal ideology was openly used as the justification for harsh measures. Powerful vested interests claimed there was no alternative to responding to the shock – except to take away from ordinary people and the public domain.

Shock doctrine measures can include getting rid of environmental and community protection laws, selling off public assets, opening up national parks for resource extraction, slashing civil liberties and abolishing progressive taxation systems. In his National Press Club speech, Morrison used the terrible shock of the catastrophic Australian fires to justify a range of things that he wants to do anyway, to satisfy certain business and political vested interests.

But unlike the classic shock-doctrinaires, Morrison hasn’t trotted out any neoliberal justifications for these ultra-radical measures that he proposed. Instead, #ScottyFromMarketing prefers shonkiness. Here are three examples:

Example 1: Morrison tried to flog us more fossil gas.

A bloke trying to sell you gas to avoid climate catastrophe is the equivalent of someone trying to sell you menthol cigarettes as a way of treating your cancer.

Example 2: Morrison deviously used the phrase ‘climate action now’ to describe a range of things that do not reduce emissions – which is the only real climate action.

It’s an ad man trick to try and flog people on fake remedies. He may as well be selling “ice cream for heart disease.”

Example 3. Morrison deviously manipulated a bunch of factoids, stats, claims and weasel words to hide the reality that Australia is one of the world’s most important climate reduction battlegrounds and that we are failing miserably to reduce emissions.

Literally none of the measures that Morrison announced will do anything to address the causes of the climate emergency. The real climate action that is most urgent is to stop burning coal and other fossil fuels as fast as possible and end deforestation.

In the climate emergency, the most radical thing is to do nothing at all – to go on with business as usual.

It is doing nothing that is killing people, destroying nature and threatens civilization. And this week, under loads of shonk, Morrison promised huge amounts of nothing. As the piece-de-resistance at the press club, the Prime Minister openly committed to shonkiness when he said that there was nothing wrong with corrupting a community grants program for partisan political purposes.

According to Tony Windsor, Morrison’s outright shonkiness ‘crossed a line’ and that the Prime Minister had effectively ‘endorsed corruption as an acceptable tool of governance.’

In summary, under Scott Morrison’s Shonk Doctrine the climate emergency is being used to try to force through a range of aggressive policies that will hurt Australia and worsen climate change on the basis of a series of dishonest, unreliable and devious justifications.


This article was originally published on this Twitter thread on Saturday 1st of February 2020.

David Ritter, CEO

By David Ritter, CEO

Hi, I’m David Ritter. It is my privilege to lead the team at Greenpeace Australia Pacific, where we are campaigning for a green and peaceful future for all. On this page, you can connect with me and find out about what I’m doing in my role as Chief Executive Officer.