The Unbearable Lightness of Scott Morrison

In September 2020, Katharine Murphy incisively described Morrison as “still journeying to the core of his own project.” In a follow-up last week, Murphy nailed that project.

It is a project whose outlines have been sharpened by the distance between politics and Australian summer life. Morrison wafts in and out of our lives during the holidays, a snippet on a car radio or a well-honed phrase during the ambience of TV news.

This is what Murphy calls his “aerodynamic populism”: Morrison is a “perpetual motion machine” who is “always packed for flight.” No surprises that in high school, he was serendipitously cast as the artful dodger in the musical Oliver!

Speaking of summer, in cricketing terms this is called playing a dead bat. Morrison faces up to the curve balls of public life and gives each one as little energy as possible.

On Australia Day, he presents indigenous Australians as battlers while noting the convicts had it tough too, not to mention the post-war migrants. Everyone’s a winner.

On Assange, well “there is a legal process in place and it will be followed. Then like anyone else he will be free to come home.” This is plainly not the case, as even if Assange beats extradition from the UK, returning to Australia would reignite America’s options for extradition. Still, it’s easier to just say this than acknowledge the extraordinariness of the situation and then have to take a stand.

On the storming of the Capitol, he’s “not here to offer a running commentary.” After all, the States are “a great friend of Australia and they’re one of the world’s greatest democracies.” Fascism at the gates of the nation with the trillion-dollar military: nothing to see here though.

On the vaccine, of course it’s a technical question and we’ll wait to hear from the health regulators. When there are logistics to be taken care of, Linfox will get a contract, and maybe Aspen Medical can help with staffing, but GPs are the real experts and didn’t you know that’s who you go to for a vaccine? It’s not like they have much on their plates already…

Ambition, leadership and achievement aren’t in the vocabulary. Just being Prime Minister, and staying that way, is apparently the goal in itself.

The only thing given any oxygen is the strategically chosen press release. If Morrison – “the announcement artist” – doesn’t have much by way of actual policy to follow, who’s to notice? Probably not the punter who the announcement is floating past on the radio. 

That’s the gamble, in any case. And with such a favourable press ecosystem, it will most likely work.

If you enjoyed this article, you can follow Christian on Twitter.

Feature image courtesy of @gstravinsky via Unsplash.