When the Big Swinging Dicks Club starts to turn against you, is your time at the helm numbered?
And when you’ve burned so many bridges, what cushy roles will be offered once you’re ejected?
These may well be the questions on Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s mind as he ruminates over the train wreck that was his National Press Club address on Tuesday (1 February).
The address – in recent years, a lay down misère for the sitting Coalition PM to re-establish the upper hand in the pre-election race – was, instead, a hostile environment of the kind usually reserved for Labor Party prime ministers.
SORRY, NOT SORRY
“I haven’t got everything right”, said Morrison, practically daring the journos to illustrate the magnitude of truth in his words.
Challenge accepted, apparently.
The ABC’s Laura Tingle started the ball rolling with:
“Do you want to take this opportunity to actually say sorry for the mistakes you’ve made as Prime Minister?”
And Morrison’s reply:
“We’re all terribly sorry for what this pandemic has done to the world and to this country.”
Yeah, that’s what we were looking for – spinning the blame for your ineptitude away from you and onto the pandemic because, well, who can argue with a disease?
Tingle pressed for an apology, listing Hawaii, vaccines, rapid antigen tests (R.A.T.s), NDIS funding cuts and the aged care sector as failings for which Australians deserve an apology.
But none was forthcoming as Morrison rambled on about not anticipating Omicron, being too optimistic and wishing he’d sent the military in earlier to handle the vaccination rollout.
“So, you don’t have to apologise for any of those things?”
Putting an abrupt end to his exercise in humility – such as it was – this was met with the following frosty reply from Morrison:
“I think I’ve explained my answer fairly fully.”
Only this time, the media were having none of it.
And with nary a friendly face to be seen in the room, if a memo on press solidarity had been circulated prior to the PM’s address, his media advisers obviously missed it or, at least, neglected to warn their boss, as the hits kept coming.
There were questions about women’s safety, the patch-job aged care workers payment in place of an increased base wage, the abysmal Newspolls and whether he’d “lost touch” with voters or even knew the cost of bread, milk, R.A.T.s or petrol.
Which of course, he did not.
But the biggest swing came from Channel 10 and News Corp’s Peter van Onselen (PvO), who confronted the PM with an anonymously leaked text exchange, in which former New South Wales Premier and Liberal Party golden girl Gladys Berejiklian allegedly called Morrison a “horrible, horrible person”, a “fraud” and a “complete psycho”.
Ironically, van Onselen delivered this without a hint of a smile on his face — a fact which seems to have eluded him and all the others outraged by Grace Tame’s earlier “failure” to produce one.
NINE HANGS ON ... WITH KYLE
Like Morrison’s media team, it appears Nine’s political editor Chris Uhlmann also missed the memo on Morrison, as he described the PM's press club performance as “a tough day at the office for the Prime Minister”.
According to Uhlmann:
“What [Morrison] said … will never satisfy some of his critics.”
And the PM, with hindsight perhaps better prepared by his media advisers, was soon back on familiar territory on another Nine cheer squad program, Today, where he was met with a giggling Allison “Ally” Langdon, who echoed Uhlmann’s "hard day at the office" cliché.
Langdon proceeded by asking the hard questions and answering most of them herself, such as, “Well, you were put on the spot”… “On live television!” and “Texts, deliberately leaked to damage you!”
This time, a suitably stoic Morrison said:
“I really don’t care, what people who want to anonymously throw this stuff around … The journalist who raised it is facing his own questions.”
Ouch! Look out PvO!
Referring to van Onselen, Sandilands ranted:
We don’t have to run around every time some cocksucker from the ABC asks a question...
I’m angry. This is the way the world has been ruined — by dickheads on the news turning these things into bullshit moments.
Feel better, Kyle?
Apparently, the fact van Onselen doesn't hail from the ABC is of little significance to the hitherto head of bullshit moments Kyle Sandilands.
Meanwhile, ever-perky Ally soldiered on, giggling while asking Morrison:
“Do you know the price of bread and milk today?”
Much laughter all around as the PM replied it was impossible, what with all the varieties. Of course! Just like it was impossible to learn from his catastrophic failings.
“People appreciate your honesty; you’re not the one going out to buy milk and bread,” said Ally.
And just like that, Scott Morrison and his “honesty” – as opposed to his established litany of pathological lies – along with his disastrous press club address became things of the past.
The mood at the National Press Club on Tuesday, however, was certainly not perky: it was barely concealed impatience bordering on antagonism in the form of a full-scale mutiny.
This may indicate that kingmaker Rupert Murdoch has finally decided Scotty’s days are numbered. If this is the case, then as we know, no attempt to stack the leadership rules in his favour will save Morrison — giggling hosts will soon be a thing of the past, just like Scott Morrison.
Of course, for anyone whose memory is even slightly better than Gladys Berejiklian’s – who used her characteristic “no recollection” defence in response to the leaked texts, it is clear that Morrison and his Government have not learned from their mistakes. They are not even ready to admit their mistakes, let alone address them.
Catastrophic Newspolls notwithstanding, however, we have not yet seen the end of Morrison. And, just like his warm reception on Today, there is still plenty of time for the establishment media to lull us into a false sense of security, before ricocheting to their default position in time to bury Anthony Albanese, along with the ghost of Bill Shorten, to make way for another Coalition term in government.
But for the moment, at least, it appears the mainstream media, with the exception of Channel 9 ... and Kyle, has lost patience with this current Coalition leader, if not the whole party.
You can follow managing editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @vmp9. Also, follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus and on Facebook HERE, and in the new IA subscriber-only Facebook page HERE.
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