Following the long and successful run in the provinces ScoMo believes his retiring Finance Minister is ready to take on the world and has nominated him to the prestigious role of Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.He will be remembered for his longevity, but not much else, not through a lack of diligence but because it went with the job.
This is the big one: the OECD is where the real movers and shakers strut their stuff, the ones who don’t need star billing because they have already achieved it on their way to the top. So it would be a giant leap for a man who has never come higher than third in the hierarchy of the Australian coalition.
He has been given recognition and applause – on one memorable occasion he was filmed sharing cigars with one of his many senior colleagues. But Cormann, for all his undoubted talents, has always been the supporting act, the sideman for the lead singer, a step or two behind the Treasurer. The promotion Morrison envisages may well hit the Peter Principle, promoting him past his level of competence.
However the Prime Minister trusts him – he was, after all, a key element in Morrison’s own ascent, through what Morrison’s predecessor Malcolm Turnbull called a betrayal. And during his record term as Finance Minister Cormann has regularly been brought forward as a spokesman for the government in times of need.
He was not particularly eloquent, far from riveting. But he was utterly reliable: he never missed a beat, reinforcing the message, relentless, remorseless and endlessly repetitive, a robotic recitation of coalition talking points.
Over time even his thick Germanic accent was seen to be almost endearing – surely a man struggling with a second (or third, or fourth, or fifth) language had to be sincere – otherwise why would be make the effort? And any way, there was no point in querying him. Cormann was never for turning.
Whether this persistence – stubbornness, some would call it – would be an advantage in the more nuanced and diplomatic ambience of the OECD is yet to be seen. But if he gets the nod – and Morrison for one seems convinced that he will – Cormann will be seen as a winner.
And given our ongoing cultural cringe, he will then be accoladed as another Australian hero – the immigrant Flemish Belgian gardener who rose from the suburbs of Perth to the penthouses of Paris, the little Aussie (well, almost) battler who beat all comers to the very top of the international totem pole.
So roll on the Cormann caravan. He will be remembered for his longevity, but not much else, not through a lack of diligence but because it went with the job. As Finance Minister his role has always been that of Dr No. the guardian of the government vault, the skinflint who retrains and curtails the proposals of his more enthusiastic colleagues.
So publicly at least, Cormann has always been more spin than substance. But that is probably why he has been regarded with such reverence from Morrison and his predecessors and colleagues. After all, isn’t that what this government is all about?