The Politics    Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Undercooked

By Rachel Withers

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison during a visit to Palamara Village Fruits in Mount Eliza, south-east of Melbourne. Image © Mick Tsikas / AAP Images

Prime Minister Scott Morrison during a visit to Palamara Village Fruits in Mount Eliza, south-east of Melbourne. Image © Mick Tsikas / AAP Images

From the economy to corruption watchdogs to chicken curry, is there anything Scott Morrison won’t lie about?

It’s sad, really, that I find myself writing about the prime minister’s chicken curry on a day on which the Reserve Bank lifted interest rates to 0.35 per cent, stoking cost-of-living pressures while the PM keeps arguing that such things are beyond his control. Ultimately, however, the chicken is revealing. Addressing mockery over Sunday’s Facebook post about curry, Scott Morrison, a man known for lying, claimed that the piece of chicken we could all see was undercooked was, in fact, cooked, adding that it was “just the way the light bounced off the skin of the chicken” that made it so pink. The PM’s comment about the curry is one of his more harmless falsehoods, though it’s also one of his more baffling. Why bother? No one is voting for him based on his culinary skills, performative or otherwise. But it speaks yet again to Morrison’s slippery relationship with the truth, and the instinctive way he doubles down when confronted with deceptions. He will lie about anything, compulsively, no matter how major or minor, or how easily disprovable. And with his government facing a steep uphill battle in the final weeks of the federal election campaign, how much worse are the lies going to get?

It’s not the only pointless fib the PM has told in recent days. Yesterday’s claim – that he didn’t see interest rates “through a political lens” – has also been rubbished, with Labor leader Anthony Albanese quipping today that “what he has for breakfast is political”. (“Is the guy serious or what?” added finance spokesperson Katy Gallagher on RN this morning.) No one who has paid even an ounce of attention to Morrison’s career could believe that he wasn’t looking at today’s Reserve Bank announcement politically – even he struggled to get the words out yesterday without his voice breaking. Then there was his denial about using his phone during an Anzac Day ceremony – an incident that dominated social media coverage, according to Crikey’s new analysis. “I was not,” he told reporters on Sunday, even as they pointed out that there was footage of him doing so.

Some of these lies are inconsequential. But they do serve to confirm for us just how easily this PM can lie. It’s a prime ministerial habit that expert Morrison analyst Sean Kelly has suggested may not even feel like lying to him at all. Morrison has been quick to fabricate negative details about Labor’s new housing policy, despite having previously praised such schemes. Speaking to 3AW this morning, he claimed Labor’s shared equity scheme would mean that home owners would have to “check with Canberra” every time they wanted to “go to Bunnings … to do an improvement”, and that “if your household income goes above $120,000 a year, Anthony Albanese will put a for-sale sign on your lawn”. (Guardian Australia has since clarified some of these disingenuous claims.)

Any attempt to push Morrison on the fact that there is 2008 footage of him supporting such schemes has seen him twist the facts, claiming he was supporting something different back then. Asked today about Morrison’s claims that the scheme amounts to “an effective death tax”, Albanese noted that Morrison must be getting desperate, before handing over to housing spokesperson Jason Clare to pick apart the latest scare campaign. 

Desperate indeed. There are few depths to which Morrison won’t sink when it comes to trying to hold onto government, whether it’s openly lying about the Opposition’s policies, playing games with national security or smearing the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption as a kangaroo court. (Stop using that misleading phrase, said ICAC commissioner Stephen Rushton overnight, to which the Coalition today replied with a reference to the commission as a “star chamber”.)

As this week’s most ludicrous examples have reminded us, lying is something the PM does with ease, whether on issues that really matter to the nation (death taxes) or those that absolutely don’t (whether he undercooked the curry). It’s all the same to Morrison, a man for whom fact and fiction seem to blur, and who refuses to admit mistakes, even to the country’s detriment. No one really cares if the prime minister can cook curry right, although there was irony in the fact that he was using it to trumpet a “strong economy”. But they do care that he can’t seem to tell the truth, even when it’s staring him in the face.

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Rachel Withers

Rachel Withers is the contributing editor of The Politics.

@rachelrwithers

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