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Scott Morrison's image aims to please

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Despite his failures as Prime Minister, Scott Morrison's PR team will promote him as whatever the voting public needs in time for the next election, writes Dr Jennifer Wilson.

PRIME MINISTER Scott Morrison’s public appearances have been few over the last weeks, so you may not have noticed the subtle transformation in his appearance as he moves, almost imperceptibly, along a personal continuum that begins with daggy dad and ends in manicured politician.

It’s considered crass to comment on physical appearance, however, when that appearance indicates an image change timed to an election, it behoves us to take note. Morrison is of late cultivating a more sophisticated look, in pursuit, one might speculate, of the gravitas associated with a reassuringly authoritative, well-groomed and worldly leader rather than the tradie mateship schtick that has got him this far, but is likely coming to the end of its shelf life.

Lipstick on a pig, you might argue, and you’d be right. However, it would be reckless to underestimate the influence a lipsticked pig can have over people who aren’t especially interested in politics and tend to take things at face value.

I’m not trying to create despondency. It’s just that forewarned is forearmed.

In the meantime, there are questions.

Why is there a stockpile of the Pfizer vaccine? Why don’t states seem to know about said stockpile and if there is an “emergency” stockpile, what happens to it when the vaccine approaches its use-by date?

It defies understanding that vaccine is being withheld until there’s an “emergency”, when administering as much of it as possible can assist in preventing such “emergencies” in the first place.

Why are the majority of Australian media so conspicuously disinterested in the connections between the Australian Prime Minister, QAnon followers, Pentecostal cults and Republican extremist groups behind the organisation of the anti-lockdown protests on Sunday? These protests were described as part of a worldwide rally for freedom and many of the fringe groups participating are global in their membership and their reach.

While there is media acknowledgement that the protests were seeded amongst these fringe groups, there is no mention of Morrison’s intimate connections with some of them, such as QAnon and the extremist Republican entities who support this ideology.

Then there is the Prime Minister’s connection with religious fanatic, Margaret Court.

Court’s words appeared on a placard at the Sydney protest:

As I explained in this piece in IA from April 2020, Court was co-convenor of a prayer meeting focused on the COVID-19 pandemic at which Mr Morrison led intercessions from his office in Parliament House:

‘Of course, Morrison is entitled to take part in prayer meetings, though some may baulk at the idea of this being done from his office. Church, state, separation, you might quite legitimately protest. What is seriously alarming about this meeting, however, is that it was organised, in part, by former tennis star, now pastor, Margaret Court.’

Prior to this meeting, Court had advised her followers:

‘We are in agreement that this Convid-19 [sic] will not come near our dwelling or our church family.

 

We are praying daily for you, knowing that we are all protected by the blood of Jesus.’

Mr Morrison keeps strange company, as has been noted on more than one occasion. And yet, these connections remain unremarked in reportage of the weekend’s anti lockdown marches.

Mr Morrison did admonish Sydney protestors for engaging in “selfish” risk-taking behaviour by breaking public health orders, however, he did not address their ideological stands against lockdowns and vaccination. Indeed, the Prime Minister actually went on to endorse the participation of Nationals Senator George Christensen in a similar event in Queensland, on the grounds of everyone’s right to free speech.

While the Prime Minister’s support of free speech is commendable, he notably did not exercise his right to challenge the destructive content of that speech, in the interests of the people of the country he leads.

Liberal Democrat candidate John Ruddick, Member for Hughes, Craig Kelly, and Senator Malcolm Roberts also endorsed the marches as morally sound acts of civil disobedience, so the Prime Minister was yet again in interesting company.

Morrison will assume whichever persona his team determines will best please the majority of Australians who aren’t especially politically engaged. However, behind the media-enabled façade, he remains disturbingly close to extremist groups that seek to create fear, chaos, instability and exclusion. It is very difficult to reconcile the public faces Scott Morrison assumes with the manipulative transactionalist residing behind them. Indeed, the only safe assumption is that everything Morrison does and says, without exception, is fuelled by self-interest. 

Provided his minders can keep him under control and his appearances prior to the election limited so he can’t break cover, they might pull it off.

To this end, we will likely continue to see little of Morrison as his ministers are trotted out to deal with public discontent, shielding him from tarnishing disfavour so he can emerge, closer to election time, as the now silver-haired statesman who might once again single-handedly take his party to a miraculous victory.

With Mr Morrison, what you see is most definitely not what you get. An army of supporters, including much of our media, work tirelessly to ensure this situation remains unchanged.

Dr Jennifer Wilson is an IA columnist, a psychotherapist and an academic. You can follow Jennifer on Twitter @NoPlaceForSheep.

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