The view from Billinudgel

The ScoMo Express backfires
The PM’s farcical bus tour cements spin over substance as his brand


ScoMo’s blue bus is the perfect symbol of the man and his government – a brash, ostentatious cliché, non-functional and completely phoney.

Presented as our prime minister’s answer to the falling polls throughout Queensland, it was supposed to be a visible and even economical method of getting him and his entourage around the Sunshine State for his early campaign blitz among the all-too-prolific marginal seats.

But while the marketing ploy was considered sound, the execution was all too awkward, so, for the most part, Morrison used his VIP aircraft instead, while the hapless bus driver trundled around after the PM so he could be photographed in front of the vacant vehicle.

Not a method of transport, just another billboard. This is what our leader and his media acolytes consider authenticity.

And this devotion to spin over substance is rapidly becoming the ScoMo brand. Indeed, even the nickname sounds more like a logo (or perhaps a cartoon dog) than a serious politician.

His determination to out-dag the daggiest of his followers has already lapsed into parody; donning yet another baseball cap he scoffs a pie and sculls a beer while sneering about those who drink lattes (with almond milk – oh, the decadence) before waving farewell to the local pub and climbing back in the private jet to work up the next gullible audience.

Or perhaps not so gullible; there are signs that the carefully contrived image is not actually going down too well with the punters. Partly it is just that he is trying too hard and it shows: there is a tinge of desperation in the strategy, the relentless grin, the extravagant optimism, the Panglossian determination that as long as he refuses to recognise the problems they will all dissipate.

But it is becoming increasingly clear that Morrison is struggling, not for words – he never shuts up – but for something to say. Superficially he can be portentous, but deep down he is shallow – the marketing man who takes any client’s assignment, and is happy to spruik it without worrying about its worth or even its morality.

He is already shaping up as the most vacuous political leader in living memory; even the worst of his Liberal predecessors, Billy McMahon and Alexander Downer, had some fundamental beliefs, misguided as they often were. But Morrison seems to be making it up as he goes along, relying on his Australian flag stickpin to remind him of what he imagines the public wants of him.

Just like the bus, the pin is another phoney symbol. Although the bus could prove useful to his loyal colleagues, if it becomes necessary: they could always throw him under it. After all, they’ve had plenty of practice.

Mungo MacCallum

Mungo MacCallum is a political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy. Visit his blog, The View from Billinudgel.

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