NOEL TURNBULL. The real ScoMo: A cross between Rasputin and Crocodile Dundee

Up until recently Morrison has managed one bit of very successful marketing – himself. But now the real ScoMo – the one seen in his career before politics – is becoming more apparent.

Bevan Hurley, writing in the New Zealand publication Stuff on 16 February 2020, recounts Morrison’s 1998-2000 career as NZ Office of Tourism and Sport CEO during a period the local media called The Tourism Wars. Boards were sacked and claims and counter-claims involving everyone from the PM to various Ministers and officials ultimately culminated in the Government’s defeat and the election of a Labour Government.

The then Dominion Post political editor, Nick Venter, after the extent of Morrison’s involvement in the scandal was revealed wrote that Morrison was: “Like a cross between Rasputin and Crocodile Dundee. Here he is, whispering into the minister’s ear about the board. There he is, crashing through the undergrowth without regard for reputation or bureaucratic convention.”

Hurley writes that Morrison’s “fingerprints were all over the ousting of the chairman, deputy chair and chief executive of the New Zealand Tourism Board. The three men received nearly $1 million in secret payouts.

A damning auditor-general’s report later found Morrison had enthusiastically overstepped his remit by recommending their dismissals.” The auditor-general’s report, the Inquiry Into Certain Events Concerning the New Zealand Tourism Board, would later find that from the beginning of Morrison’s tenure, there was no clear direction of his role and responsibilities.

One board member Gerry McSweeney, who resigned from the NZTB and later blew the whistle on the payouts, said of Morrison that : “He had an arrogance, which is maybe the Australian way of doing things, but it’s not the Kiwi way of doing things.”

Hurley says another observer of the chaos recalled Morrison as cocky. “I recall he was described as Murray’s (the Tourism Minister) Rottweiler. I was surprised when I read that, ‘not much of a Rottweiler’ I thought.”

Another board member, Jim Boult was acting chief executive and acting chairman of the board, when he got a call from the CEO of the board’s new advertising agency, M&C Saatchi, who said to him: “When the dust settles, I’ve got a good idea for you”.

The idea was 100% Pure New Zealand.

“In terms of national tourism marketing it’s probably the success story of the world,” Boult says.

Hurley writes: “Success has many fathers, and Gerry McSweeney recalls that Scott Morrison also tried to take credit for coming up with the slogan, ‘which of course he didn’t’”.

The then sports minister and now NZ Parliament House Speaker, Trevor Mallard, says the blame for all the problems rested with Morrison. Demonstrating what New Zealanders actually think about the great ANZAC bond Mallard told the NZ Herald it was understandable because Australian standards of public sector behaviour “are lower than ours.” “My experience with Australian politicians is that rules and ethics are not as important to them as they are to New Zealanders.” Well that doesn’t exactly look quite so well-founded given NZ Deputy PM, Winston Peters’ current problems….. but nevertheless.

Also nevertheless, and without going into detail on Morrison’s next disasters – The where the hell are you? Australian advertising campaign; damning audit reports; and, sacking by the then Australian Tourism Minister – we can check the recent Australian lessons which can be derived from it all.

First, Morrison deviously undermined the Chair, Deputy Chair and CEO of his NZ employer. Malcolm Turnbull, Peter Dutton and Julie Bishop can testify to this sort of behaviour. Check!

Second, he deviously claimed credit for something he didn’t do. Insert any one of the multiple choice options you can think of. Check!

Third, he deviously prevaricated about what he had and had not done. Again, insert any one of the multiple choice options, starting with the sports rorts, you can think of. Check!

Fourth, in the very unlikely event that there is either a god or a hell, as Morrison believes, what would the god or Satan say when Morrison arrived at either the pearly gates or the furnace door: ‘it’s a miracle’ in the first case or ‘welcome’ in the second. For the most convincing answer – Bingo!

Noel Turnbull is retired and blogs at http://noelturnbull.com/blog/

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Noel Turnbull is a blogger who has had a 40-year-plus career in public relations, politics, journalism and academia.

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