Current Prime Minister Scott Morrison to uphold bigotry and failed Newspolls

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Cartoon by Mark David / @mdavidcartoons

Senior editor Michelle Pini attempts to shed light on the latest #libspill bloodbath winner, Australia's current Prime Minister Scott "ScoMo" Morrison.

RAMBLING SOLILOQUIES without apparent purpose are certainly not unusual from our politicians and even PMs — think back to former PM Tony Abbott’s often indecipherable speeches.

In the theatre playing out in Canberra last week, however, Member for Cook and latest Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison’s oration was in a league all its own.

As Morrison took the podium to inform Australia of the way in which he had – coincidentally and without design, of course – helped stab Malcolm Turnbull in the back to seize the prime ministership for himself, his address was a jumble of words from which the point was difficult to ascertain.

His opening statement appeared to be trying to convince us that, somehow, after a week of cutthroat political games that would leave House of Cards’ Frank Underwood in awe:

“The Liberal Party is on your side; the National Party is on your side.”

Which side is that? Did the electorate go to war with the Turnbull Government overnight and then forget? Australians did not ask for a leadership spill and, while the week’s bizarre events were entertaining in a train-wreck kind of way, Australian voters did not elect Scott Morrison as our PM.

Of course, Morrison can hardly be blamed for this latest and most bloodthirsty of coups, as there is certainly no blood on his hands. He was, after all, still slinging his arm around Caesar – I mean, Turnbull – and professing his undying support just two days before it became necessary for him to save the day – and the country – from the infighting incited by the Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton's failed deposition.

For those having trouble keeping up with Australia's fast-paced prime ministerial antics, George Megalogenis in the New York Times has an excellent handle on it:

'This particular coup came with a Machiavellian twist. The fallen prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, thwarted his conservative rival Peter Dutton on Friday by transferring his support to another candidate, Scott Morrison, who was then elected prime minister by 45 votes to 40.'

The other part of Morrison’s speech which seemed to encapsulate the point he was trying to make was this profound statement:

“But everyone has to play by the rules in this country. Everyone. Whether you are a big business, setting electricity prices, or loaning money, or you are just someone parking in the street.”

There’s something in that for all of us — if only we knew what it was. In this case, evidently, it is that we need to park our cars by the rules. Has this shed sufficient light on the most tumultuous week in politics, perhaps, ever? It would be safe to assume that it has not, but it has further illuminated our new PM — a man whose overarching philosophy involves the importance of following the rules when car parking.

Nick Bryant told us in The Monthly in 2012, six years – or, in de rigueur time measurement, five prime ministers – ago that Morrison wanted to be perceived as a Liberal "moderate":

Scott Morrison presented himself as a Liberal moderate in his first speech to parliament. Not only did he acknowledge the traditional owners, honour Desmond Tutu and William Wilberforce, quote Bono and pay tribute to Bruce Baird, he made reference to Kevin Rudd’s national apology to Indigenous Australians that had brought the chamber to its feet the previous day. “There is no doubt that our Indigenous population has been devastated by the inevitable clash of cultures that came with the arrival of the modern world in 1770 at Kurnell in my electorate,” he noted, and proclaimed himself “proud” of the national apology.’ 

Let’s now take a brief look at Morrison’s Parliamentary highlights to see whether these admirable words and evocations of the deeds of great men bear even the slightest relevance to Morrison's actions.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison's Parliamentary career highlights

  • The current PM may count Desmond Tutu among his heroes, but he argued, when in Opposition, that the Coalition should exploit community concerns about Muslims.
  • ScoMo called into question the cost to Australia of asylum-seekers, held on Christmas Island, attending funerals of loved ones who died in a shipwreck off Sydney's coast. He then apologised for the "timing" of his remarks, which were made on the day the funerals were taking place.
  • Peter Dutton may have taken it to another level, but it was Morrison, the then Minister for Immigration, who presided over the beginning of the "stop the boats" policy, turning back asylum seekers fleeing murderous regimes from ever reaching Australia (though he is not, as John Menadue tells us, actually responsible for stopping the boats).
  • He also instigated the ensuing secrecy by refusing to update the country about "on-water" matters by announcing we would be advised only on an “as-needs basis”.
  • Morrison cast doubt over the tragic death of asylum seeker Reza Barati, falsely claiming the riot responsible for his death, which was instigated by PNG locals and prison guards, was caused by refugees.
  • When reports of children self-harming on Nauru first surfaced, it was Morrison who responded by suggesting that Save the Children workers were making false claims – and even coaching children to self-harm – in order to undermine the Government. 
  • Cabinet documents evince that then Minister for Immigration Morrison first asked his Department to advise how asylum seekers could be prevented from ever receiving asylum, before deciding to intervene in ASIO's security procedures and delay security checks for 700 asylum seekers back in 2013, until visa provisions could be tightened.
  • Morrison – an evangelical Protestant – vehemently campaigned for the “No” side in the postal survey on marriage equality, on the basis of protecting “religious freedom” —  in this case, the right of religious people to be openly homophobic without consequence.
  • Morrison said that he had been the victim of "quite dreadful hate speech and bigotry" akin to that experienced by LGBT+ people, due to his opposition to marriage equality.
  • ScoMo also showed his "softer side" and self-tutored psychiatric expertise when, as the then Minister for Social Services, he opined the "cure" for young people experiencing mental health problems was to "go get a job"
  • Morrison was the engineer behind the PaTH program, which allows employers to exploit young job-seekers without consequence.
  • Morrison consistently ridiculed the need for a banking royal commission. 
  • As Treasurer, ScoMo famously took a lump of coal into Parliament to illustrate his point that coal is really clean and pure.
  • Morrison has admitted to signing off on #ReefGate — the Turnbull Government's shady $440 billion hand-out to not-for-profit organisation the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, which is funded by the fossil fuel industry.
  • As Treasurer, the new Prime Minister has been responsible for an increase in Australia's national debt of 95.7 per cent since 2013.

After this impressive, but by no means conclusive, history of bigotry, fear-mongering and failure, Scott "ScoMo" Morrison is now Prime Minister of Australia.

Bizarrely, just as Turnbull not being Abbott seemed to be his greatest qualification for the role, Morrison appears to have won the Liberal Party leadership challenge because he isn't Dutton.

It should, however, concern us all that even ScoMo's former classmates at Sydney Boys' High School actively opposed his attendance at a school fundraiser, with 300 former alumni signing a letter protesting his appearance due to his flagrant disregard for human rights.

The latest Newspoll – and 39th consecutive loss for the Coalition – shows that for now at least, most Australians remain similarly unconvinced about the latest Prime Minister.

You can follow senior editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @vmp9.

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