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The people versus Scott Morrison

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Frustrated and angry, Australians are crying out for change in our political system (Image by Dan Jensen)

A frustrated voting public is becoming increasingly louder against the Government's lack of climate policy and endless incompetence, writes Dr Jennifer Wilson.

BY NOW, it’s obvious to most people who follow politics that Prime Minister Scott Morrison has a priority — and that priority is retaining power. A strong indicator of his ambition came early in the piece, when soon after Morrison deposed Malcolm Turnbull he oversaw changes to Liberal Party rules that now ensure nobody can do the same to him, after being re-elected while in the leadership role.

Prior to knifing Turnbull, Morrison resisted such changes, claiming that “regulating for culture is never effective”. He explained this dramatic change of heart as ‘reflecting the will of the Australian people’.

It’s discouragingly clear that Morrison has nurtured in his MPs a strong culture of retaining power, rather than decent governance, as their primary purpose. To this end, their focus is not on policy. This has reached a pinnacle of irresponsibility and absurdity with the Prime Minister preparing to attend the Glasgow Climate Change conference in two weeks time, bereft of anything that remotely resembles acceptable policy.

Indeed, it was only after weeks of vacillation that Morrison agreed to attend the conference at all and then, only after being called out by senior British royals including the Queen, for his lackadaisical attitude towards the planet’s greatest existential challenge. His decision to attend has been characterised as him “being shamed” into capitulation, however, I would argue that Morrison is extremely well-buffered against any such difficult emotion. It is far more likely that his army of staffers tests the effects of all his decisions on voters and when criticism reaches a certain peak – that is, appears likely to negatively affect voter support – he capitulates.

In other words, Morrison makes no decisions based on policy and good governance, but only on which decision will keep him in the race at any given moment, as do all of his ministers.

If ever the opportunity presented itself for the emergence of people power, this is it. You can’t argue policy with a government that doesn’t have any. But if you know that government is entirely dependent on public reaction for its decision-making, you have your weapon.

Which brings me to the billboards.

Comedian Dan Ilic organised some crowdfunding and raised enough money to commission sardonic billboards in strategic places, beginning with a ten-minute debut in New York's Times Square.

The billboards focus on the Morrison Government’s appalling attitude to climate change and are also scheduled to greet world leaders as they arrive in Glasgow for the Climate Conference.

There is a delicious irony in Ilic choosing to use billboards to expose and humiliate Morrison who is, famously, a failed advertising executive who was fired from his job.

While Morrison may be humiliated by this, I doubt he is ashamed. However, Ilic has honed in on what motivates Morrison (self-interest) and in so doing has given us a brilliant example of how we might weaken the tyrant.

Not only is Morrison going to Glasgow with no coherent policy, it is now unmistakably confirmed that his position is not supported by many Australians and that he is regarded with contempt in his own country. Morrison will not be ashamed. But he will be humiliated and angry. Chances are he will wish himself anywhere but Glasgow. This is exactly the kind of discomfort we need to consistently impose on this Prime Minister.

Billboards convey our dismay far more effectively than a hundred eye-glazing if well-intentioned speeches. Morrison, socially awkward as well as on the defensive about his lack of standing in this global community of leaders, now has to deal with the unwelcome optics of being ridiculed by the country he ostensibly leads, in a most public manner that is on display much longer than a street protest.

As in the best stories of rampant ambition, corruption and the kind of tyranny to which Morrison aspires, the protagonist’s deepest desire becomes the cause of his (or her) eventual downfall. Morrison has no interest in using his power for the good of anyone other than himself. His ambitions are not grounded in the desire to advance the country or its citizens. He will do only what is necessary to keep enough public support for his re-election and he will only do this much after he has tested us to see how far he can safely go with his neglect and his cruelty.

There’s little point in relying on the Labor opposition to deal with this on our behalf. As Ilic noted in an interview with CNN, we have to lead because we have no leaders.

We do have power, other than at the voting booth. We have our voices. We have social media platforms on which to use them. We can’t all do billboards or organise marches, but we can support those who are willing to take on these tasks. Morrison has revealed, inadvertently, that it is in fact our voices he most fears, because if enough of our voices consistently criticise, humiliate and refuse him, he will not hold onto power. Forget the opposition. It’s down to us.

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

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