Scott Morrison was originally elevated to the Prime Ministership by pretending not to be a candidate, and then by swooping in on the prize when it came down to a choice between himself, and a man almost universally loathed by the electorate. Voters were actually relieved that it was won by ‘Anyone But Dutton’ Morrison. He came through as the Steven Bradbury of the Liberal Party.
The man he ‘released’ from politics, Malcolm Turnbull, was a walking, talking ‘stuffed shirt’. He was liked, and even admired, but the more we got to know him, the more we understood that politics was a ‘vanity project’ for him; one always felt that he was pleased that he had achieved one of his life’s goals, but that it was not quite up to what he had expected. He had not listened when he was told that if one lies down with dogs, one is prone to get up with fleas.
Scott Morrison will always be remembered for that awkward moment, when he put his arm around Turnbull, and responded to a question about his own ambitions for the top job – “This is my leader and I’m ambitious for him!” As we all know, Morrison replaced Turnbull two days later. That blokey image of affectionate support can now never be excised from our collective memories.
Morrison, having achieved his own Holy Grail, then spent eight months showing us why he was particularly unsuitable for the role, with a series of gaffes, misjudgements and ‘daggy dad’ routines. These included his blundering into the foreign affairs area, with no consultation and less judgement, when he announced the decision to move our Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This alienated most of the Muslim world, seemingly to send a message of ‘support’ to Donald Trump.
The Government continued on its merry way, with Morrison attempting to run his own version of “outside the beltway”, where he, the ultimate insider, a former public servant and Liberal Party State President, tried to convince us that his interests were with ordinary citizens, rather than with Canberra and its internal workings.
During this time some of his political appointments were almost beyond belief. His Environment Minister, Melissa Price, was particularly hapless, once accusing an ex-president of Kiribati of merely being in Australia for the hand-outs. She did, however, manage to sign off on some important approvals before the election, such as the Adani mine.
Now that might sound strange for an Environment Minister, because she was putting all her energy into matters pertaining to mining approvals, when many of us thought she might try to alleviate the extreme concerns for vanishing wildlife, or even their habitat, or casting her eye over the Murray Darling river system, or even the Great Barrier Reef, but no, first things first. Sign off on the mines, then look to the environment. Melissa then did a vanishing act; she was invisible for the entire election period, and she was quietly replaced in the portfolio after the election, although her leader vowed she would be kept on, thanks to her sterling efforts in the portfolio.
Morrison’s Energy Minister needs no introduction. Angus the Shameless doesn’t like renewable energy, apparently because he grew up next door to a wind farm. That can scar a young chap, and no amount of climate science can lessen the pain, and allow him to do his job. Since the election he has been promoted, so that he is now responsible for Energy, and Emissions Reduction. He distinguished himself before the election by actually arguing against his own Government’s electric car policy. You can see how well suited he is to the expanded role. I do not know if he sleeps with a lump of coal beneath his pillow, but I would not be surprised.
One can only wonder what sort of thinking goes into making some of these appointments. Is it that he is sending placatory messages that if he appoints duds they won’t achieve any changes for the better, so nothing to worry about. I think that keeping the likes of Dutto and Craig Kelly quiet is the main game, but is he achieving that?
Tony Abbott was never held hostage by his extreme right rump, because he was their spiritual leader, and he was capable of out-stupiding them. Poor Mr Turnbull was terrorised by them for his entire term, and he will be remembered forever, as our first hostage-in-chief. Mr Morrison is a man who has seemingly no political goals, except to be in the big chair. So it is difficult to know where he stands. He looks and sounds like one of them, and he talks about ‘the Canberra bubble’ a lot, so maybe he really wants to govern for those ‘quiet Australians’. I just don’t know how we got to this position.
The Government since the 2019 election seems to be obsessed with very little, except for national security, pesky journalists reporting things, paedophiles in boats on the high seas, and the right of Christians to be Christians. Now I was unaware that they were under threat, but then again this is the ‘ship of fools’, who went along with the vote that it was all right to be white, so perhaps being Christian is under threat.
It is difficult to choose the next ‘nation-building’ issue that the Coalition can sink their teeth into. Perhaps they should consider sending school children to detention, if they attend climate change action marches. Perhaps they could take a long hard look at toilet blocks in schools, because some of them are using non-binary gender signs on their doors. This could lead to a national emergency, and needs attention.
Otherwise, business as usual. Poor fellow, my country!
Mark Buckley is a Melbourne based writer with an interest in politics and ethics. He blogs at www.askbucko.com