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.
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.
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.
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?