The Politics    Wednesday, August 17, 2022

The eagle has ranted

By Rachel Withers

Image of Former prime minister Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference in Sydney, August 17, 2022. Image © Flavio Brancaleone / AAP Images

Former prime minister Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference in Sydney, August 17, 2022. Image © Flavio Brancaleone / AAP Images

Scott Morrison digs in, and the party that enabled his actions stands by him

Scott Morrison is refusing to resign as the member for Cook, calling a press conference only to reveal he is going nowhere fast. “I didn’t take these decisions as the member for Cook,” he said, insisting he therefore doesn’t have to quit. Today’s event had all the hallmarks of a Morrison presser: defensiveness, self-pity, self-aggrandisement, steamrolling, “I’m sorry you feel that way” non-apologies, and a Cronulla Sharks plug. He failed to answer the questions repeatedly put to him: why did you do this (considering it would have taken mere minutes to swear in replacements, were they required) and why didn’t you tell people (even Christian Porter, who taught him the trick initially, didn’t know that Morrison later took over his Industry portfolio). There is, as I concluded yesterday, almost no point trying to get an explanation out of Morrison, a Trumpian figure for whom truth and logic mean nothing. Little he said today made sense, with the former PM contradicting himself from one answer to the next. There is no good explanation for what he did and why he did it in secret, other than his own megalomania – and perhaps his intense Pentecostalism.

Morrison’s main reason for holding today’s presser was reportedly to ask the media to give “Jen and the girls” some privacy, and to ask the press to stay away from his Sydney home. Indeed, the media should not be filming his wife and children. But the former PM does not get to slink away from public scrutiny here, to go back to being “a quiet Australian in the Shire” who doesn’t engage in “day-to-day politics”, while continuing to collect his massive backbencher salary, because Jenny. “Jen” has long been Morrison’s shield, a name he invokes to avoid criticism or blame. But if Morrison truly cared about the privacy of “Jen and the girls” he would resign, as he clearly should. It seems increasingly likely, however, that Morrison – who recently registered a private company and appointed himself director – is struggling to find lucrative post-politics opportunities (unlike Josh Frydenberg), and is planning to stick around until he can. (Speaking of Frydenberg, the former treasurer is said to be “livid” about the recent revelations. “We are the best of friends,” Morrison told reporters today.)

That may or may not explain Morrison’s reasoning for sticking around. But it’s harder to fathom why many so high-profile Liberal figures are letting him, with party leader Peter Dutton and former leaders John Howard and Tony Abbott all coming to his defence, saying he doesn’t need to resign. (It’s all but impossible to believe the claims by anonymous Liberals that they would have rolled him before the election had they known.) Independent senator Jacqui Lambie was furious with the leadership on RN this morning, fuming at the “Liberal men” for not backing up Karen Andrews’ calls. As Howard said on 7.30 last night, a byelection in NSW is “not in the interests of the Liberal Party” right now, particularly with a state election coming up. But party members are nevertheless choosing to stand by Morrison, to keep his toxic brand in the Liberal fold, when they could easily refute him, turning his insane manoeuvre into a Morrison aberration. One wonders what other bombs Morrison may be ready to drop.

Morrison’s political career is clearly over, and his legacy now even more tattered than before. Even serious media commentators are increasingly questioning whether he was actually unhinged or delusional – not just because of what he did, but because of the way he has offered no coherent explanation for his actions. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has been somewhat more polite than that, though he today echoed yesterday’s befuddlement, telling reporters that the move was “incomprehensible” to him. The new Opposition leader would have us know that he would never do such a thing, pledging on radio this morning to never secretly appoint himself to extra portfolios. But unless he properly calls out Scott Morrison, whose career is finished regardless, it’s hard to imagine Peter Dutton will ever be in the position to do that anyway.

Rachel Withers

Rachel Withers is the contributing editor of The Politics.


The Politics

Image of Anthony Albanese

Whither progress?

In a threatening climate, the first full year of the Albanese government has been defined by caution and incrementalism

6 News Australia interviews Gen Z Party founder Thomas Rex Dolan. Image via X.

Grift of the gab

Strange things are happening to our political system, and it’s time the major parties started paying attention

Voting results displayed on two large screens at the UN General Assembly’s tenth emergency special session

Ceaseless politics

The Albanese government calls for a ceasefire, and the Coalition goes on the attack

Image of Chris Bowen speaking at COP28

Not phased

What good are nice words about phasing out fossil fuels when Australia continues to expand and export?

From the front page

Kim Williams seen through window with arms half-raised

The interesting Mr Williams

At a time when the ABC faces more pressure than ever before, is its new chair the right person for the job?

Illustration by Jeff Fisher

Letter from Dunkley

As a byelection draws the nation’s focus to the scrappy suburb of the author’s childhood, a visit reveals the damage wrought by the housing crisis

Exterior of the Department of Treasury, Canberra

Tax to grind

Tax reform should not be centred on what we want, but on who we want to be

Rehearsal for the ABC TV show ‘Cooking with Wine’, March 13, 1956

Whose ABC?

Amid questions of relevance and culture war hostilities, the ABC’s charter clearly makes the case for a government-funded national broadcaster