In the interest of transparency, I need to disclose that I am a devout atheist and that my political leanings tend towards democratic socialism.
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In a state of political panic, Australia’s Liberal Party needed someone to reduce the corporate anxiety level, someone to whom no-one in the Party would strongly object, someone who would not rock the Party boat, a relatively bland individual with a relatively low-key presence, who could stand in, until things calmed down, and then be replaced when stability returned and a more suitable candidate appeared.
Enter Scotty from Marketing.
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In 2007, Johnny Howard met a humble, but appropriate and well-deserved end, when his own electorate, until that time a very safe Liberal seat, unceremoniously dumped him. Long running leadership squabbles within the Liberals (Howard was under pressure from Abbott and Costello), and Howard’s record of deceiving the public (“children overboard” and a broken promise on GST, just two examples) probably contributed to his demise, as much as did the popularity of Kevin Rudd.
In 2013, Tony Abbott became the next Liberal PM, until he was deposed by Malcolm Turnbull in 2015. Abbott slunk away to sharpen his own knives and plan his revenge. Turnbull presided over a further period of instability within the Liberals, until he resigned from the leadership in 2018.
The Liberals, despite holding government, had been torn by internal strife for years, and were desperate to calm the waters. Unsurprisingly, Peter Dutton, with his very strong, and strongly expressed right-wing views, was rejected for the vacant position.
Dutton’s record speaks for itself, demonstrating a degree of isolation from the thinking of mainstream Australians, and includes, for example:
- his image as a “head-kicker”, as revealed by his repeated use of strong invective in responding to views which opposed his.
- in commenting, his use of potentially racist overtones, as expressed by his suggestion that people in Melbourne were afraid of “African gang violence”, and his alleged suggestion that white South African farmers, as refugees, should be given fast-tracked visas to Australia, in order to escape persecution by black South Africans.
- a hint of totalitarian attitude, indicated by his apparent view that parliament gets in the way of decision-making, when “tough decisions” need to be made.
- his strident opposition to same-sex marriage.
- the sense that he might use his political position to further his own ends, by rejecting changes to negative gearing, for example, whilst owning multiple properties including a shopping centre, on the grounds that such changes would harm the economy.
Morrison was the last man standing. In true Liberal form, Julie Bishop had been trounced and humiliated, in the election of the new leader.
So, it was Morrison by default, there being no other who was thought capable of holding the Liberals together. The alternative candidates must have been an exceptionally sorry lot.
What were Scotty’s credentials? Why would anyone think him capable of leading Australia?
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From the outset, Morrison was doomed to fail. Promoted well past the point at which he was capable of achieving anything, he was almost pathetic in his ineptitude. He had become a virtual laughing stock. Prior to the 2019 federal election, Morrison and the Liberals had resigned themselves to the fact that they were about to transition from government to opposition.
However, they reckoned without two factors – the inability of the Labor Party to produce and sell a package which would engage the support of the electorate, and the effectiveness of the Liberals’ scare campaign, which frightened voters in a number of Queensland electorates into returning a government which was already in disarray.
Morrison won the unwinnable election, and then made the mistake of believing that it was his achievement, and that he had a true mandate to govern. He seems to have believed that his economic rationalist approach had been given the green light by the total electorate, when in fact, the government’s return to power could only be attributed to a minority’s fear of unemployment.
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Scotty is an enigma.
It’s my view that he gives the strong impression that he’s found himself out of his depth, that he’s not quite sure what a prime minister should do, how he should behave.
In management mode, he falls immediately into an aggressive stance, even when there is no threat, real or implied. He seems to have a default “tough guy” position, which tells him “when in doubt, shout”, and “the best method of defence, is attack”. It doesn’t work, because people don’t take him seriously in that mode.
Scotty spends an inordinate amount of time saying “we are better managers of the economy than Labor”, denying that the previous Labor administration did anything positive, and instead, drove the country into a quagmire of debt from which he must now lead us, through his efficacious economic management policies.
However, his own management message is frequently obscured amidst criticism of Labor policies and Kevin Rudd’s GFC management. Scotty makes it look as though Rudd is still an active nemesis, even though the former PM has been out of the news, effectively, for years.
Morrison is decisively indecisive. His attitudes towards Australians, and his policies for managing us, appear inconsistent in the extreme. His obsession with managing the economy, at the expense of humanity, has seen him mismanage successive major human crises.
He tries, and fails miserably, to portray himself as man of the people. His public persona is confused and confusing, and his body language in public appearances is decidedly uncomfortable, featuring a nervous grin, approaching a grimace, and a disjointed verbal delivery.
Above all, it is his dealings with real people which leave him apparently floundering.
His obvious fixation with economic management might be related to his study of applied economic geography (a branch of geography that deals with the relations of physical and economic conditions to the production and distribution of commodities, ref: Merriam-Webster), for which he received a Bachelor of Science with Honours.
Since his elevation to the position of prime minister, Morrison has pushed the barrow of responsible economic management, through the achievement of a budget surplus. The government’s manic mantra, espoused by Morrison and Frydenberg, has been that government debt is always bad and a budget surplus is economic utopia.
Morrison appears to believe that, if the economy is right, the nation is right, and the people are right. The reverse view is probably more valid – if you look after the people, the people will look after the economy (by spending and/or saving appropriately) and a strong economy will mean a strong nation. Scotty seems to feel that, since he’s not very good with people (evidence his numerous bushfire management faux pas), he should stick to working with numbers.
Numbers don’t criticise or answer back.
Scotty’s early career record is marked by an apparent failure to thrive, by sideways manoeuvres, from one job to the next. To use a sporting analogy, until now he has only ever played second grade, and apparently he didn’t perform especially well there.
From 1989 to 1995, Morrison worked as national policy and research manager for the Property Council of Australia, a wealthy national lobby group representing property developers and property owners. It engages in extensive lobbying, campaigning on issues relating primarily to increasing the wealth of property owners and developers.
It’s worth noting that this is a “numbers job”, both in dollar terms, and with respect to human interaction. Morrison’s job probably involved working out who to lobby, and how to do it. Definitively, a position from which to promote the idea that the rich should get richer.
His burgeoning marketing flair (the ability to create “catch phrases”) saw him move into tourism, first in Australia and then in New Zealand. After a two year period as a mover and shaker in NZ tourism, Morrison left NZ in 2000, a year before his contract expired.
He returned to Oz and took the reins as state director of the NSW division of the Liberal Party, managing campaigns in the federal election of 2001 and the state election of 2003, scoring a win and a loss.
Another jump saw Scotty take up a position with Tourism Australia, seen by many pundits as a political appointment by that master of fair play, Johnny Howard. Amidst suggestions that his management lacked transparency, he lasted only two years here before “professional differences” with the Minister for Tourism, saw him leave the position in 2006, albeit with a suspected “golden handshake” to see him on his way.
There were suggestions raised recently, that Morrison was supposedly sacked by Tourism Australia for alleged irregularities in the awarding of 184 million dollars of government contracts to advertising and media companies. (Did somebody mention Sports Rorts?)
With a track record of large scale “numbers management”, and political administration, and after at least five jobs in a period of about fifteen years, Scotty finally took the plunge into the biggest marketing pool of all, federal politics.
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Another writer has ascribed to Morrison, a reputation as “an ambitious, opportunistic political chameleon”. How accurate is this description?
Let’s look at the record:
- In 2007 Scotty tried to gain Liberal selection as the candidate for Cook. He was thrashed by Michael Towke, to the tune of 82 votes to 8. Towke was then embroiled in a spurious smear campaign and subsequently lost his party’s endorsement. The false allegations later cost the Daily Telegraph an undisclosed amount, when Towke sued for defamation. However, the damage was done. Towke was sidelined, and in the meantime, Scotty won the new ballot, despite being seen by his party as only the second best candidate, (after Towke). He went on to win the seat.
- 2008, and Liberal leader Turnbull, seeing Morrison as a kindred spirit, appointed him as shadow spokesperson for housing and local government.
- 2009, and Turnbull is shafted by Tony (the) Abbott. Morrison seems to have seen a new light, revised his previously moderate views, and become one of Tony’s trusted right wing foot soldiers, gaining the job of shadow minister for immigration and citizenship. Here, his humanitarian efforts included his suggestion to the shadow cabinet, that they use the public’s apparent concern about Muslims’ inability to integrate into Australian society, as a vote catcher. He demanded that the government stop the boats of asylum seekers, and voiced strident criticism of the government for flying relatives of asylum seekers, who had died in a sinking tragedy, to the funerals.
- 2013, and Morrison becomes Minister for Immigration and Border Control in the Abbott government. It was in this capacity that Scotty’s true humanitarian instincts came to the fore. “Operation Sovereign Borders” used military intervention to stop the boats of asylum seekers, or to transport them to off-shore detention centres. Morrison, displaying a very stretched form of logic, claimed with pride that he was saving the lives of potential asylum seekers by preventing their departure from Indonesia. An absence of transparency again became a problem for Scott, and for his successor, acclaimed defender of human rights, Peter Dutton, who both refused to provide information on asylum seeker interventions.
- December 2014. Scotty becomes Minister for Social Services. This must have been a sick joke on the part of Tony Abbott, coming as it did on the heels of an inquiry by the Australian Human Rights Commission, which found that Morrison had comprehensively failed in his duty, as an immigration minister with unprecedented powers, to protect the human rights of the children of asylum seekers in detention centres.
- In 2015 the writing was on the wall for Tony Abbott, so Morrison switched allegiances back to Malcolm Turnbull who, as the new PM rewarded him with the plum job of Treasurer.
- 2018 saw Turnbull in the gun once again. This time it was Dutton who challenged, and lost, but the die was cast, and Turnbull’s resignation was only a matter of time. This time Morrison supported Turnbull, possibly in the knowledge that, even if elected, Dutton’s tenure at the top would be short-lived. With Turnbull’s demise and Dutton’s failure, Morrison was chosen as the compromise leader.
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As a practising atheist, I have issues with people who are heavily influenced by religious beliefs, no matter what their flavour.
As a practising atheist, I need to continually remind myself that my beliefs are peculiar to me, and may not be acceptable to others, especially those of the religious persuasion.
Although entirely atheistic, I live my life by what might generally be regarded as “Christian” principles. I tend to think that most of the ten commandments aren’t a bad guide for living. For example, I would never covet my neighbour’s ass (that’s the donkey, not an American’s arse).
Whilst Christians are not perfect, just forgiven (I gained this insight from a sticker on the rear of a car), neither are atheists perfect, just able to choose to believe science over myth and to use behaviours which are independently chosen, rather than dictated by an organisation.
I am chiefly concerned that some adherents to religion use it to justify their behaviour. Some become genuinely brainwashed and are incapable of independent thought, whilst others use religious beliefs as an excuse to avoid thinking for themselves.
Then there are the hypocrites, those who claim to observe religious principles whilst displaying behaviours which contradict their religious beliefs.
I don’t know Scotty personally, so my judgements about him must be confined to his public persona, and must be based upon facts which I have been able to glean via research. I have no particular opinion of Morrison as a private person, but I have strong reservations about his public persona and about his capacity, as a prime minister, to lead Australia.
In the absence of personal and factual knowledge, I have had to resort to guesswork when making suggestions about the man behind the public face of “Scomo, The Political Animal”. I acknowledge that my guesswork may well be flawed, and that my highly personal assessments may do Morrison a terrible injustice. I am more than willing to accept that criticism.
My observations have led me to several conclusions:
- Although clearly a capable academic, Morrison appears to be less well endowed with emotional intelligence, that essential characteristic which enables people to relate easily and effectively to a wide variety of other people.
- In my opinion, examples of his public behaviours have shown a level of narcissism which sets him apart from others.
- In his reluctance, and in some cases absolute refusal, to bring the electorate into his confidence, I perceive an inflated level of egotism.
- There may be a level of inconsistency between Morrison’s professed Christian beliefs and his demonstrated behaviours.
Whilst he could not be regarded as the product of an abundantly wealthy, privileged upbringing, Scott Morrison, nonetheless, would probably have been well insulated from the challenging experiences of social disadvantage. His immersion in religion may also have tended to isolate him, in an “us and them” mindset, with “us” being the saved, and “them” being the damned.
The “cocooned” nature of such an upbringing can, in my experience, produce a narrowed field of thought, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, for certain individuals to comprehend the difficulties of life for the less advantaged. Some people, whose life experiences are sheltered in this way, may tend to feel that their way is the right way, and perhaps the only way, to live a useful life, and this sense of “rightness” can then develop into a narcissistic world view.
That view, in a person who has aspirations towards leadership, may have a tendency to create an attitude which broadly says “I know what is best. I don’t need to justify myself, and you don’t even need to know what I’m thinking. Just be quiet and let me get on with doing the job”.
This advanced level of egotism is then communicated to the public in a variety of ways.
For example, it appears that Morrison has, in several instances, over a lengthy period of time, been guilty of a lack of transparency in his professional behaviour, and, whilst also being viewed as a possible sign of questionable ethics, this might well be seen as an example of his ego taking charge of his decision making. I suspect that the question of professional ethics will follow Morrison until such time as he retires from public life.
It is my view, and one that I believe is shared by many, that Scotty also presents an unfortunate public image, particularly when trying to communicate to ordinary Australians. I find him to project a certain superciliousness in his manner and in his comments. Consider his announcement on Covid-19, immediately prior to an escalation towards lockdown, that he was looking forward to going to “the footy”.
Add to this, his rather blasé early attitude towards the bushfire crisis, which created an apparent impression of a “she’ll be right” mindset in Morrison.
Then there’s his very vocal support for Angus Taylor and Bridget McKenzie, and his dismissive attitude towards criticism of their perceived corrupt behaviour.
His obsessive need to attack, even in retrospect, Opposition policies and practices, and the manner of his attack, speaks of a superior attitude, and a sense that he has all of the answers, whilst the Opposition has none.
Whilst his personal qualities may be seen by some to be seriously deficient, or even non-existent, it is Scomo’s political performance which speaks volumes for his abilities as a leader.
Kevin Rudd summed it up beautifully with the comment “go late, go half-measures, and go … well … go to Hillsong”.
I see Scomo as a capable politician (not a compliment) and very poor prime minister.
As a politician Scotty seems to be able to promote himself, either around or over the top of his contemporaries. I believe that he may be reluctant to wield the knife, but that he is quite happy for someone else to do the backstabbing, if the outcome is favourable to Scomo himself. Evidence his succession to the top job after the assassination of Turnbull.
Once he has gained a position of power, Scotty seems not to care much about public opinion, hence his willingness to seek favours from powerful friends, notably in the fossil fuels industry, and his total lack of transparency with respect to some major issues.
The Angus Taylor affair is a case in point. Amidst suggestions that Taylor must have “had something on” Morrison, Scomo defended the indefensible, demanding that we accept his word, that there was “nothing to be seen” in Taylor’s corrupt behaviour. Scotty went to the extent of personally calling upon the NSW Police Commissioner, perhaps expecting that he might encourage a very minimal investigation and inconclusive outcome.
The Taylor affair has receded in light of the recent crises, but critical questions remain unanswered – just the way a clever politician like them.
The Sports Rorts have raised huge questions about the probity of Morrison’s behaviour, as he fought to keep Bridget McKenzie from being steamrollered by her own stupidity and the force of public opinion.
Even when she had been sacked, Scotty marketed the view that Bridget had made a simple, unintended but fundamental procedural error, which required her removal, rather than her blatant and outrageous corruption.
He had an “inquiry” conducted. Skilled politicians (not a compliment) never conduct an inquiry, unless they know the outcome in advance. Somehow,
Scotty managed to emerge from the stinking quagmire, with barely the whiff of corruption hanging about his person. Not squeaky clean, but not smothered in shit either.
Although a capable politician (never a compliment), Scotty is an abject failure as a leader.
In my opinion he’s a bumbler, inconsistent and incompetent. Evidence his behaviour during the bushfire crisis.
Initially he seemed to think that a couple of backyard barbecues had exceeded acceptable limits and could be extinguished with a bucket, or two, of water. He responded with the blinding speed of a snail, comprehensively failing to take suitable action. This compounded his error in choosing to ignore prior advice given by expert bushfire managers, months earlier, that a crisis was coming.
Add to this, his almost angry reaction to questions and suggestions linking the fires to climate change. The strength of his response might be attributed to any one, or all of the following:
- his genuine belief that any change in the world’s climate can only be attributed to the will of his god.
- his belief in his own infallibility, that his views are correct and should not be questioned.
- his concern that any acknowledgement that climate change is real, may have a negative effect upon his much-loved economy, and the possibility of attaining the holy grail of budget surplus.
- his fear that, to acknowledge global warming, and further, to accept its link to fossil fuel use, would alienate his good friends and supporters in the fossil fuels industries.
- his knowledge that, without funding from those same industries, the future electoral success of the Liberal National Party coalition will be jeopardised, and with it, his reign as prime minister.
When the penny finally dropped and he realised that we were in deep shit, Scotty seemed to be more concerned with keeping his head above the critical level, than with doing anything constructive. He dithered.
In an act of incredible ignorance, when Australia was crying out for leadership, he walked off the playing field – a clear indication of what may be seen as his lack of emotional intelligence. How did he think Australians would react when they saw pictures of him relaxing on holiday, while the country went up in flames?
He followed this outrageous gaff with another pearl. In what must have been a moment of desperation-induced brain fade, whilst making unwelcome visits to fire sites, Scotty actually physically forced people, who didn’t want to even see him, to shake his hand and, in so doing, appear to approve of his presence. Even more incredible was that he did this, whilst within range of national television cameras. How emotionally separated can one person be, from the feelings of those in crisis?
During both the fire and Covid-19 crises, Scotty has failed to quickly gain reliable intelligence with which to support a consistent and cohesive strategy. He has spent valuable time and energy, “shooting from the hip” with no clear, communicable target with which to calm Australians. The sense that Morrison felt that he had everything under control, despite publicly reeling from one gross miscalculation to another, was palpable.
Again, Scomo was unable to resist the temptation to politicise the Covid-19 crisis, using it as an excuse to bash the Opposition.
After initially claiming that his government would never use Rudd’s tactic of “splashing money” at the problem, a tactic which successfully minimised the impact of the GFC on Australia, Scotty was forced to recant, and appears to have subsequently splashed more money in a day, than Rudd did during the entire period of the GFC
To me, this type of behaviour, reflects an inflated ego and serious narcissism.
Finally, I am intrigued as to how Morrison reconciles his questionable political behaviour with his apparent religious convictions.
Scotty is a serious Christian, but clearly there are degrees of Christianity.
Within Scotty’s Pentecostal Church, there are probably people who sincerely believe that they have entered into a union with the Holy Spirit, that they are driven by the power of their god, that they may “speak in tongues” (speaking in a language unknown to the speaker, whilst in an apparently euphoric state), and that sicknesses may be healed by the “laying of hands”.
There may also be somewhat moderate adherents, who do not emphasise the more “out there” aspects of their beliefs. Scotty himself says “the Bible is not a policy handbook, and I get very worried when people try to treat it like one”.
I take this to mean that, in Scotty’s view, his bible is open to interpretation and provides behavioural guidance, rather than prescription.
I moved away from formal religious learning at about the age of eleven, when I finally found the courage to refuse to be bored stupid, listening to impossible fairy tales at Sunday school. As a result, unlike Scomo, I can claim no specific and factual knowledge of the current beliefs, policies and practices of Christianity.
However, I believe that I’m right to assume that Christians, at the most basic level, still value and practise honesty in their dealings, and that there are no degrees of honesty – a person is either honest or dishonest, either following a Christian principle, or rejecting that Christian principle.
I am forced to ask if Morrison has acted with honesty, in his political life. Have all of his behaviours been moral and ethical? Does he practise the most fundamental of Christian beliefs?
If, as has apparently been alleged, Morrison was sacked by Tourism Australia in 2006, due to alleged irregularities in the awarding of 184 million dollars of government contracts to advertising and media companies, does this type of behaviour sit comfortably with the guidance provided in his reading of his bible?
Does Scotty’s support of Angus Taylor in the Clover Moore affair, and his continued assertions that there was no inappropriate behaviour in evidence, constitute honest behaviour, in accordance with the guidance provided in his reading of his bible, or was he hoping to rely on stonewalling, as a political tactic, to support outright lies?
Given that it has been shown that Morrison’s department must certainly have been aware of Bridget McKenzie’s alleged corrupt behaviour, does his refusal to respond appropriately to her supposed guilt, represent honest and ethical behaviour, or is it another example of the use of dishonest behaviour for a political purpose? Is this behaviour also consistent with the guidance provided in Scotty’s reading of his bible?
The question of Morrison’s succession to the crown is moot. Whether by accident, by design, or by divine intervention, Scott Morrison became Australia’s prime minister.
Now I find that I’m faced by another vexing question.
Is Scott Morrison a hypocrite?
Since I began writing this piece, the Covid-19 crisis had developed apace. Perhaps at the insistence of his advisers, and with the benefit of professional coaching, Scotty has been showing an increased willingness to at least act like a leader.
His capitalist, economy-focussed government, perhaps due to the crushing weight of human need, has found a hitherto deeply buried social awareness, and Scotty, as chief spokesman, has had to address the nation as if he were talking to and about people, rather than dollars.
He is beginning to sound like a Prime Minister (please note the use of capitals).
I would caution against over-excitement, however. Try as he might, the leopard cannot change his spots, and it is likely that the best we will see in the long term is a more moderate, less numbers-obsessed Scotty, who will still worship, not only his god, but the fossil fuels industries.
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