MUNGO MACCALLUM.-There is no reason to believe that Scott Morrison is becoming a serious Prime Minister

Dec 31, 2019

He is only confident when attacking his opponent.

Our Pentecostalist Prime Minister may have been a little disappointed by Christmas.

No wise men showed up bearing gifts – ScoMo probably didn’t need a lot of frankincense and myrrh, but a bit more unearned gold would always be handy, although declaring it as a foreign donation might be a bit awkward.

And hordes of caring worshipful shepherds did not flock to his side – as usual, he had to make do with his usual army of mediocre minders and slippery spin doctors.

The ever-reliable choir of angels from the Murdoch press sang his praises as they always do, but even they could not muster much enthusiasm for tidings of great joy hallelujahs and hosannas were a bit sparse over the festive season..

They will not desert him, of course – he is their man, at least until a more effective candidate comes along, preferably one even further off on the lunar right. But after a year of gaffes and dithering, even they are being forced to acknowledge that Scott Morrison is not the messiah.

And on the other side of the ideological divide, it has become clear that he is not just a very naughty boy, either – he has now been revealed as a dangerous incompetent, an opportunist populist combining policy vacuity with a reckless opportunism and a political tin ear.

He has already done real damage to the body politic in sins of both commission and omission, and there is plenty more to come, because Morrison is utterly unrepentant – he thinks he can talk his way out of anything, so there is no reason to believe that he has any interest in becoming a serious prime minister.

No leader with an ounce of caution or integrity would have surreptitiously left the country in a time of national crisis, And then to express regret not for his uncaring arrogance, but because he knew Australians were anxious that he should return, was so vain and delusional to defy reality.

Australians were and are not anxious, pining for his presence; they were and are angry about his uncaring negligence. And the excuse that he could not hold a hose did not help. A number of them have had to learn the hard way and heck, how hard is it anyway? Even Tony Abbott can do it. Perhaps it is time to check whether Morrison can tie his own shoelaces without help.

The lack of empathy is compounded by the silliness – and nothing has really changed since one of Morrison’s first captain’s calls, his counter-productive demand to move the Australian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He was talked out of that one, and presumably was similarly persuaded to limit the fall out from his latest gaffe by returning to Australia as soon as he could find a suitable flight – it was not clear whether he was waiting for an upgrade to first class for himself and his family.

And his return, rather than being celebrated near and far as he apparently expected, was greeted with resentful indifference, a mood which is starting to settle in over an electorate which was hoping for rather more than the inertia which has gripped the government since the last election.

It has now become obvious that Scott Morrison is simply not up to the job – that the miracle had failed. This is not really surprising; he wasn’t up to his last job either, having being fired as head of New South Wales Tourism. But there was hope, although not an expectation, that new leadership might cut through the malaise which bedevilled five years of the dysfunctional coalition.

Instead, Morrison has only coasted on the result of his unforeseen and unlikely victory. He had not prepared an agenda for it, and it has shown – indeed, it now seems that he is not really interested in agenda, even if he is capable of devising one.

He has been labelled a transactional prime minister, as opposed to a conviction prime minister, but even that is selling him too high; Scott Morrison is the archetypal reactive Prime Minister, bereft of vision, immersed in adhockery and negativity.

Even in the bushfire crisis it showed; for days, even weeks, Morrison insisted that everything that needed to be done was being done, both the professionals and the volunteers were getting all the help that they required. But in the wake of his aborted vacation, he belatedly responded to Anthony Albanese’s plea to at least offer more paid leave for his commonwealth public servants out in the field. Which, of course, left the problem of the weary volunteers who work in the state and private sectors;

Morrison urged employers to do the same for them, but it might have been smarter to have set up a deal in advance. But that would have taken planning, putting forward a sensible and considered program, something of which is ScoMo is manifestly incapable.

Like Tony Abbott, he has no real concept of public administration – he is only confident when he is attacking his opponents. And so far it has more or less worked. He has spent the best (or worst) part of a year living on the kudos of his election win, and his quiet Australians remain quiescent, either content with his schedule of masterful inaction, or resigned to the fact that this is just the way it is, there is nothing they can do about it and it’s not worth trying to change it.

He is still obviously acceptable to the electorate, but the there are signs that early gloss is wearing thin, and that Albanese, though a long way from being embraced, is showing the beginnings of being seen as a viable alternative..

Christmas provided a little welcome rain – probably Morrison, Barnaby Joyce and their fellow evangelists even believe that their thoughts and prayers were effective, But there is a long way to go . The current fire season will come to an end and at least some of the angst will be abated, but there are two more fire seasons to be negotiated before we are due before the next election.

And by then, pleading to the heavens, and slagging off at Greta Thunberg is unlikely to be enough.

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