“Smug, self satisfied and failing – that’s our Government.”

The prime minister’s badly timed holiday has become a source of anger but while the reaction is valid it’s the wrong thing to focus on.

Let’s talk about Scott Morrison’s holiday. The prime minister is on holidays, presently, while the country is still burning.

By Katharine Murphy

Moment of reflection: ‘It might actually be a productive thing if Morrison stops moving for five minutes, stops trying to be the self-appointed hero of the hour.’
Moment of reflection: ‘It might actually be a productive thing if Scott Morrison stops moving for five minutes, stops trying to be the self-appointed hero of the hour.’ Photograph: Paul Braven/AAP

Morrison’s ill-judged holiday has become a thing, a totem, a social media event. It somehow epitomises everything that’s wrong with this bloke. As well as failing to show up at a critical time, leaving the running of the country to Michael McCormack, who struggles to run his own mulish political party, let alone anything else, Morrison is a hypocrite because he once blasted Christine Nixon for eating dinner during a bushfire.

All of this is fair enough. Morrison is a politician who likes to rumble, so it is unsurprising when the rumble returns to his doorstep. If you want to engage in some gratuitous commentary about Nixon’s poor judgment in the middle of a natural disaster to score a cheap point on the Bad Show, it will come back and bite you on the backside.

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Happy Christmas prime minister. What goes around comes around. Circle of life.

But I am not fussed about Morrison’s holiday.

There, I said it. I don’t care.

He’s taken a few days off now with his wife and kids because he’ll be working most of the coming summer, either domestically or internationally, and he’s worked round the clock for much of the year. Miracles take a lot of work. They don’t just show up uninvited in my experience. Perhaps they do for the righteous, but they don’t as a general rule. Presumably Morrison’s family wants to see him, and it will be a safe bet that his staff want the boss out the door for five minutes so they can get some things done without him barging into their cubicles with a new thought.

I don’t mind if you are angry about Morrison’s holiday. I’m not trying to argue that you shouldn’t be angry about it. I’m just telling you I’m not angry about it.

Just in case you are interested, here’s why I’m not angry about it.

One. I think it might actually be a productive thing if Morrison stops moving for five minutes, stops trying to be the self-appointed hero of the hour. If he stops moving, then he might think more often. I think the country would benefit if Morrison thought more often, more deeply, about more things. We really do need him to think, rather than just maintain the constant barrage of humblebrag and marketing. If there’s been any lessons from the back half of this year, I think that’s the lesson.

Two. If we tell prime ministers they can’t stop, they are indispensable, they might just believe it, and people who believe they are indispensable are dangerous. They don’t listen to the people around them. They start to consider themselves the font of all wisdom. They lose perspective. They can imagine that ends justify means. We need to tell this guy he is dispensable, mortal and flawed, in all ways, at all times, because that’s actually the reality, and because that feedback keeps people honest.

Three. I don’t give a shit if Morrison is on the beach, right now, with a crime novel, or if he’s dancing in a bar like nobody is watching, or if he’s trying to meditate at a yoga retreat while secretly firing off insights on WhatsApp.

What I give a shit about is we have a government, led by him, which is, in many different ways, failing to rise to the challenges of our time.

They. Are. Failing.

I get very impatient about that.

I get very worried about that.

Periodically, on your behalf, I get angry about it: smug self-satisfaction, substituting for substance, day in and day out.

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People are angry about Morrison’s mini-break because it symbolises the lack of leadership he has shown on the bushfires; the lack of principled leadership Australia showed last week in Madrid on climate change and the Coalition’s indefensible record on climate at home; the lack of velocity in the government’s response to Australia’s stuttering economy, which was underscored by the latest midyear economic forecast, which had downgrades as far as the eye could see.

The Morrison holiday has accumulated public outrage because it symbolises absence: a prime minister missing in action on important things. A prime minister too regularly substituting rhetoric for action. A prime minister apparently too pleased with himself to understand that people need more from government than they are getting.

I totally get it.

But I’m not fussed about the holiday. What I care about, what I am minutely focused on, and will go on being minutely focused on, is what this bloke does when he gets home.

Katharine Murphy is the Political Editor of The Guardian Australia.


First published at the Guardian Australia – Wednesday 18 December 2019. See; https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/dec/18/scott-morrisons-holiday-is-not-the-problem-his-lack-of-leadership-on-the-bushfires-is?

12 thoughts on ““Smug, self satisfied and failing – that’s our Government.”

  1. So spake The Guardian, the voice of the left. All I can say is Morrison is a heck of a lot better than the alternative we were served up at the last election.

    1. Oh yeah Mr Empathy Free Zone Flim Flam Man. He who buggered off during a national disaster. You’re welcome to him Spencer.

      I notice Shorten stayed for every day during the Beaconsfield mine rescue.

    2. Yep. Isn’t Australia a heck of a lot better off with a leader that is all spin and no substance, who snagged the last election through falsehoods, voter naivety and wealthy arch-conservative largesse.

  2. I note that the Premier of Queensland is off on a vacation. Any comment?
    The angry left will never acknowledge that an Prime Minister is not going to put out the fires, many of which were caused in part by the restrictions on forest management and locking up previously managed forests imposed by the so-called Greens. Call organisations like the NE Forest Alliance and their ilk to account while you are at it.

    1. Here is an excerpt from https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/11-things-scott-morrison-could-have-done-for-the-bushfire-emergency–but-didnt,13429

      “Here are 11 suggestions for what Morrison might have done instead of running away:

      * visit a bushfire site to listen, learn and glean first-hand knowledge of the crisis, not just take pics and tell the firefighters they’re “amazing”;
      * declare a state of emergency;
      * listen to emergency service personnel to make informed decisions on what is required;
      * give immediate and sufficient monetary aid and resources for emergency services in a coordinated national response;
      * ensure the needs of all firefighting personnel and volunteers are met;
      * accept all offered assistance, including help from overseas;
      * give immediate aid to affected families;
      * accept that his Government’s policies are exacerbating the risk, frequency and intensity of bushfire events;
      * declare a climate emergency;
      * act to reduce carbon emissions; and
      * formulate a long-term strategy – incorporating action on anthropogenic climate change – to deal with future events.”

      Read the rest, if you haven’t read it yet, at; https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/11-things-scott-morrison-could-have-done-for-the-bushfire-emergency–but-didnt,13429

      And, watch the youtube video embedded on the same page but put up by a firefighter’s partner.

      Brave woman, and brave man.

  3. So ProMo wants us all to ‘be kinder to each other’. Just like he’s been kind to refugees with his policy of forced incarceration and inhumane treatment on desolate tropical islands for years on end; or his kind treatment of the unemployed as citizens undeserving of basic government support, persecution through robodebt or dignity through the imposition of welfare cards; or his kind treatment of retirees by skewing bank interest deeming rates to rob them of their true entitlements. Merry Xmas Scotty and may your version of Christianity go with you. You fake-you hypocrite!

  4. Scomos television appearance yesterday asking forgiveness is reminscent of Prince Andrews recent interview disaster.He is an embarrassment to Australia .We deserve so much better. Be a christian and judge me silently!!Merry Xmas all

  5. Good food for thought with some valid points I reckon. Whether you agree with her or not. What really do we expect from our ‘top gun’ PM. ? It’s way more than just being around for the fires.

  6. OUR FIRES up to 3-01-2020

    To give some scale to what has happened here so far, international media outlets have been reporting the 2018 California fires burnt 2 million acres; the 2019 Amazon fires 2.2 million; and the 2019 Siberian fires 6.7 million.

    So far the 2019/20 fires have burnt 12 million acres.
    It is estimated that the fires to date represent between half to two-thirds of Australia’s annual emissions budget.

    And politically, all the accounting tricks with emissions and targets, and boasts about meeting international targets in 2030, don’t mean anything to anyone here anymore.

    Nobody cares about Morrison’s problems

    A Prime Minister who clearly felt on the back foot after his trip to Hawaii spent several days defending that decision and then too much oxygen defending how much preparedness was already in place, and protesting too much that he was but a servant of the states

  7. There can no longer be any doubt, even in the minds of his supporters, that Morrison is an abysmal failure, as a national leader. At a time in our history when statesmanship is called for, he is “stateless”. He simply doesn’t know how to manage himself or the crisis which we face. He is unable to commit to any action which might incur the displeasure of those who put him into power, despite the fact that this is what he must do, if he is to lead us towards a livable future. Like a rudderless ship (had to be careful with that last consonant), he must surely have lost what little acceptance he had garnered withe “non-political” sector of the national community.
    Australians, generally, might not be politically dynamic, but we’re not stupid either. We can tell when we’ve been sold a pup.

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