Writing in The New Daily
, it was Dennis Atkins who drew our attention to the notion that we had a ‘transactional’ Prime Minister. He recounted an exchange between Nick Xenophon and the PM when Xenophon asked him if he’d like to catch up for a coffee to have a chat about issues, to which Morrison responded: ‘What for?’ ‘No, mate. I’m purely transactional.’
It was Morrison’s way of saying: “What’s in it for me?’. Reflect on that and then ask yourself how often he behaves in this self-seeking way.
The word ‘transactional’ evokes memories of the heady days when so-called ‘transactional analysis’ (TA) was in vogue. It was used to give insight into behaviour at many levels of society: in the corporate world, in business, in education, in law enforcement, indeed in almost any aspect of human interaction. It was applied in schools, in organisations, in community and sporting groups, in prisons, even in the home. It was all the go. Older readers will remember Erik Berne’s books Games People Play
and What do you say after you say hello?
as well as his more formal book: Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy
This is what Wikipedia has to say about transactional analysis:
Transactional analysis (TA) is a psychoanalytic theory and method of therapy developed by Eric Berne in the late 1950s wherein social transactions are analysed to determine the ego state of the communicator (whether parent-like, childlike, or adult-like) as a basis for understanding behaviour. In transactional analysis, the communicator is taught to alter the ego state as a way to solve emotional problems. The method deviates from Freudian psychoanalysis which focuses on increasing awareness of the contents of subconsciously held ideas.
As Berne set up his psychology, there are four life positions that a person can hold. Holding a particular psychological position has profound implications for how an individual regards his or her life. The positions are stated as:
I'm OK and you’re OK. This is the healthiest position about life and it means that you feel good about yourself and that you feel good about others and their competence.
I'm OK and you’re not OK. In this position you feel good about yourself but see others as damaged. It’s usually unhealthy.
I'm not OK and you’re OK. In this position you sees yourself as the weak partner in relationships as the others in your life are definitely better than yourself. If you hold this position you will unconsciously accept abuse as OK.
I'm not OK and you are not OK. This is the worst position to be in as it means that you believe that you are in a terrible state and the rest of the world is as bad. Consequently, there is no hope for any support.
Reflect on how our PM handles those positions.
The first ‘I’m OK and you are OK’, reminds us of how he dealt with maverick Craig Kelly, telling us that despite all Kelly’s bizarre, indeed dangerous ideas and crazy behaviour in the media and on his social media platform: ”He’s doing a great job in Hughes”.
Hardly a ‘healthy’ position to take! Subsequent ‘dressings down’ were no more than a sop to an enraged media and electorate, which was appalled by Kelly’s behaviour.
The second, ‘I’m OK and you’re not OK’ is the position he takes repeatedly with members of the Opposition, or indeed with anyone with whom he disagrees.
The third, ‘I’m not Ok and you’re OK’ is not a Morrison position.
The fourth, ‘I’m not OK and you’re not OK’ is another position he never takes.
How does our ‘transactional’ PM rate in your estimation? Is he simply applying the self-serving ‘What’s in it for me’ principle?
Let’s take a few instances. Why did he decline to condemn Donald Trump for the part he played in the raid on the US Capitol? To keep in good relations with him should he ever need him again?
Why did he take so long to ‘dress down’ the stupid Kelly? To placate the hard right core of his team - Kelly’s mates? The people of Hughes were so unimpressed with their man that they would replace him in flash, and probably will when preselection next arises. Morrison judged their opinions less useful to him.
Why does Morrison repeatedly decline to set a target for emissions reduction? To avoid a savage reaction from his coal-hugging mates and the fossil fuel industry, his solid support base? That’s what in it for him!
Why does he smugly dismiss (complete with smirk) any questions during press conferences that reflect on his judgement? To avoid any hint of uncertainty or indecision? To always look firmly in control? That’s what in it for him!
Why does he defend his Attorney General so vehemently, refusing to stand him down to at least partly defuse the explosive rumours enveloping him? To avoid any question of weakness? Or to don the mantle of loyalty? Is that what’s in it for him?
Why does he so vehemently assail the Opposition during Question Time? To enable him to wear the mantle of the ‘strong man’, the ‘smart man’, the one who always has a cutting response that his members and supporters will applaud? That’s what in it for our transactional PM!
Taking the transactional approach - What’s in it for me? - is Morrison’s preferred modus operandi. It suits him and his backers.
But wouldn’t we all like to know: ‘What’s in it for the rest of us?