When a politician rises to the top of his profession we expect that he or she has always wanted the job, and that he or she has meticulously planned every step along the way.
I would argue that Morrison is aware of his limitations, but he rose to the top despite not having a plan.
He believes in his own luck, because he really believes that God has a stake in the game. Why not throw your hat in the ring, if you believe in divine providence?
Scott Morrison seems never to have planned for anything. He wasn’t ready for the prime ministership. He just put his hand up when it became clear that Malcolm Turnbull lacked the political skills to protect his position, and that Peter Dutton was unacceptable, not only to the Liberals who were voting for a new leader, but for the Australian electorate at large. So his run was fortuitous, and landed him the top job, with no preparation, and no relatable skills with which to sell himself to us.
Some of the antipathy toward Dutton has dissipated. That will be attributable to his change of portfolios, and also to the nature of the Ministry of Defence. His role at Home Affairs was too powerful to trust him with, and Defence is the sort of portfolio where most of us are happy to see someone who can focus, and stay relatively quiet, and in the case of Dutton, stay out of our private lives and communications.
It is after all, the portfolio which directs our armed forces, and most citizens are content to allow our defence chiefs to potter about, and to not smash the china (pun intended). So unless the US wants another war, we’re close to being safe. Australia does not elect to go to war by itself.
The bushfires of 2019-2020 were our first exposure to Morrison, and he showed us what he was like from the outset. It was all about him, and what he would deliver to those who needed help.
The defence force was his to deploy, the payment of volunteer fire fighters was his decision, the excuses were picked up from the side of the road (definitely NOT climate change related; arsonists lit most of the fires; the fuel load was high, which could be conveniently used to divert blame to the states).
With responsibility comes reward. It was not a huge leap for him to choose a holiday in Hawaii. He felt he deserved it, and as befits a small time thinker, he would take the reward before he had earned it. He then tried to hide it, which provided further proof that he was not up to the job.
He must have felt that he could leave the country to its own devices, and that no-one would enquire as to his whereabouts. Leaders of modern nations have responsibilities, and obligations, to a wide range of stakeholders. Citizens, ministers, other governments, both inside Australia and internationally, need to know that there is somebody in charge. In emergencies they need to be “on the ground”.
It is beyond understanding that he would absent himself from his duties during an existential crisis for the whole of the east coast. Secondly he put his staff members in an unenviable position, in that they were expected to join in on the deception. This attitude of protecting their boss at the expense of the rest of the nation, has fuelled distrust of the Prime Minister’s Office ever since.
We now wonder why he visited his family in Sydney for Fathers’ Day, when so many others of us had been stopped from seeing our families. We have all heard tales of children being kept apart from their parents, of cancer patients not permitted to access treatment if they live on the wrong side of the border, even of dying parents left to die alone.
That did not bother Morrison. He has risen further than he expected, and the privileges of rank are there to be used. He earned them. I am sure he reminds himself often that it is his due.
The explanation lies in the particular nature of this accidental prime minister, and his choices and work history. He has always managed to be appointed to plum jobs because of his connections.
Those jobs have been mainly middle to upper management, as a sort of regional manager. He appears to last a couple of years, and to then move on, leaving behind conflict and, as often as not, there are legal or accountability issues. Reports into his corporate behaviour seem to go missing, and there is always a patron willing to put him forward for the next gig.
He fell into parliament, after a smear campaign against his pre-selection opponent. That campaign was later proved to be false, but the damage was done. An amusing sideshow has been the career of Craig Kelly.
Destined for the electoral scrap-heap, he was saved by a direct intervention by Morrison. Morrison overrode the Liberal Party’s decision to disendorse Kelly at the 2019 election. He saved him, only to lose him to the cross bench, and then, more odiously, to Clive Palmer.
His record over the pandemic has been similarly mercurial. Pro-lockdown, anti-lockdown, pro-income support, anti-income support. Won’t build quarantine stations, yes he will. Will buy vaccines, but he wants the cheap ones. Totally transparent, as when he told us to not accept the AstraZeneca vaccine, and then in favour of it, to almost every age. It is definitely not a race, it is a race. Now it is a race which can be won by starting slowly, but then powering home.
In other words, he is making it up. The worst part is that he changes his mind according to reactions to his last pronouncement, rather than for the country’s good.
Our decent prime ministers have a larger calling. Their remit appears to have been to work for the good of Australia, whereas Morrison’s motivation appears to be getting his pay, taking his holidays when he is ready, see the family when he wants to, and win the next election.
Morrison needs to reflect on why he seems to be so unpopular, and why his every action is endlessly dissected. It is because he doesn’t hide his disdain for the common people, and the people are discovering that fact. He also appears to be fairly keen on Scott Morrison.