We know Scott Morrison has held several portfolios, immigration and treasurer the most important. The electorate might have hoped that these experiences would have endowed him with a modicum of general knowledge about how government works, some feel for how international diplomacy is carried out, some notion of what to say, to whom, and when. But, after just a few short weeks, we are left disillusioned. Our accidental PM seems to have learned almost nothing of these crucial political skills – every day he shows he’s not up to the job.
His proclivity for incessant talking, too often before putting his brain into gear, has landed him in hot water. It’s almost as if he’s become overawed with his recent elevation, and can’t adjust to the high office of PM, where common sense, balance, perspicacity, knowing when to speak and when to shut up, are essential attributes.
Of course his exaggerated sense of his own importance, not a recent phenomenon mind you, exacerbates his verbal diarrhoea, which we see every time he appears in the media. He’s always got an answer, always confident that he knows best, his words always accompanied by his all-knowing smirk.
We knew he was terrified at the prospect of losing the Wentworth by-election. With his one seat majority, a Wentworth loss could lead to loss of government. So it was unsurprising that he took every opportunity to shore up the LNP vote, throwing tidbits to the voters, many of whom are Jewish, in the hope of gaining another vote or two. This is the only rational explanation observers could find for his recent off-the-cuff comments about recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and re-locating the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Did he for a nano-second think that while these thought bubbles just might appeal to Jewish voters in Wentworth, they would attract worldwide attention, hearty applause from Israeli PM Netanyahu and President Trump, and equally voluble condemnation from the Palestinians, much of the diplomatic world that is hoping for an eventual two State solution, and fury from Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation, which insisted that such moves would threaten an important trade deal being negotiated, which if negated would leave Australia much worse off?
Shadow Foreign Minister, Penny Wong
, said that the move Morrison floated was “a position that was not held by Alexander Downer, was not held by Julie Bishop, was not held by Malcolm Turnbull - and guess what, wasn’t held by Scott Morrison just a couple of months ago…He’s floating a change in Liberal foreign policy … just to try to hold on to the seat of Wentworth. And does anyone actually believe he’ll carry this through?”
So here we have our amateur PM angering half the world and threatening our economy, all in one fell swoop. And what’s more, he was scarcely aware of the damage his words had done. His attempts to ‘play down’ the consequences of his actions underscored his naïveté, amateurishness, and just plain stupidity.
Not satisfied with the grenades he had already thrown, he also announced:
- Australia would vote against a motion on the Palestinian Authority taking the chair of the Group of 77 of developing nations.
- The government would “review without prejudice” Australia’s support for the Iran nuclear deal, to determine whether its current policy was still fit for purpose.
- Australia and Israel would strengthen their defence and security co-operation with the appointment of defence attaches in their respective embassies.
And it wasn’t as if he was not warned: An ASIO bulletin
, marked secret, Australian eyes only, circulated on 15 October, the day before his announcements, noted that the shift in policy would ”Attract international attention…any announcement on the possible relocation of the Australian embassy to Jerusalem or consideration of voting against Palestinians in the United Nations may provoke protest, unrest and possibly some violence in Gaza and the West Bank.”
It also warned that it was possible Australian interests could be the target of protest activity following such an announcement, and noted that “attacks and violent protests” have occurred at times of heightened political tension. The bulletin noted too that Australian diplomatic facilities in Iran could also be the focus of protest activity if the Morrison government withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal.
The bulletin also highlighted the possibility of protests within Australia, although it says domestic protests are unlikely to be violent. It said ASIO was not aware of specific threats to Jewish interests in Australia, although it said that Israeli and Jewish interests remain “an enduring target of extremists globally…While a small number of Australian-based individuals maintain a violent Islamist extremist ideology that includes a strong anti-Semitic element, we are not aware of any specific or credible terrorist threat to Israel or Jewish interests in Australia.”
In the West Bank city of Ramallah, Shaath, a former foreign minister, said Morrison’s announcement was a hostile action that destroyed the chances of peace. “This doesn’t really help. It might increase the chances of the government winning Wentworth in Australia…but if this is the way you do Middle East politics in order to win a by-election, then please allow me to be very negative towards this policy…it will bring nothing but ruin.
As if his own diplomatic blunders were not enough, his accident-prone environment minister, Melissa Price, piled on with her own when she insulted the former president of Kiribati, Anote Tong, who was dining at a restaurant in Canberra with: "I know why you're here. It is for the cash. For the Pacific, it is always about the cash. I have my chequebook here. How much do you want?".
Sarah Hanson-Young nailed Price with "She dismisses the science of climate change, and she now dismisses the views and the very heartfelt advocacy of leaders in the region."
Then, on the eve of the by-election, idiot Nationals decide it’s time for another leadership scrap, and Barnaby Joyce pokes his florid face above the parapet announcing he’d be happy to be leader again! Morrison has no control over these morons – why would they listen to him anyway?
Whichever way our clumsy PM turns, he makes the wrong call, upsets those he ought to be fostering, talks incessantly but says nothing, thinks he’s an oracle but is perceived as a fool. He is an embarrassment to his party and to the nation.
The result in Wentworth captured the intense disillusionment that voters feel, not just in that electorate, but across the nation too – disillusionment with the Liberal Party, the Coalition, and in our newly minted PM. No leader can escape the ignominy that inflicts the party he leads. Yet in facing Liberal supporters afterwards, Morrison, truculent as ever even in the face of a humiliating outcome, gave us a pulpit-thumping dose of evangelical claptrap. Channeling his Pentecostal mentors, he extolled the resilience of true-blue Liberals, whom he insisted would rise from the dead – Phoenix-like from the ashes of the appalling Wentworth result. We can expect even more of this.
But it doesn’t alter the fact that Scott Morrison is a rank amateur in the PM arena, is not up to the job, or to use one of his favourite phrases, is ‘not fit for purpose’. Using Aussie vernacular though, he is simply a dud. Oh dear, we really do have a dud PM.