The Game, by Sean Kelly
When Scott Morrison suddenly became the unelected Prime Minister of Australia in August 2018, many Australians didn’t even know who he was. Three and half years later, the man still remains something of a mystery.
Sean Kelly’s new book The Game: A Portrait of Scott Morrison tries to look behind the carefully constructed public image to find out who he really is. But trying to find the ‘real’ person beneath the carefully constructed ‘daggy dad’ persona turned to be more challenging and complicated than Kelly expected.
“The elements of his ‘character’ that we know are only superficial. We know he likes a curry; we know he likes rugby league. ‘Pragmatic’. Comes closer to telling us something, but not very much closer, because the word itself is empty, a description in the negative than the positive: it tells us he will not die in a ditch, not what he might die in a ditch for.”
The book shows that the basic foundations of our understanding of ‘ScoMo’ fall away under scrutiny. For example, his much-vaunted lifelong obsession with the Cronulla Sharks is – it seems – a relatively recent thing. In 2005 he claimed to be supporter of the Western Bulldogs in the AFL, and as a kid he played rugby union – not league.
I suppose we shouldn’t be that surprised to find out that what Scott Morrison says about his own life is subject to re-interpretation. After all, he has earned a reputation for saying one thing one day, and the opposite thing the next – then flatly denying that he has backflipped.
Take Mr Morrison’s famous statement during the 2019 Federal election that Labor’s plan to increase the uptake of electric vehicles would “end the weekend, because an electric vehicle:
“won’t tow your trailer. It’s not going to tow your boat. It’s not going to get you out to your favourite camping spot with your family.”
Two years later, when Mr Morrison announced a new Federal Government target of 30 per cent of new car sales to be electric vehicles by 2030, he bizarrely said the claim that he had ridiculed electric vehicles was a “Labor lie”.
Sean Kelly wonders if Mr Morrison is a man stuck in time, where ”each moment stands alone”:
“For him, an interaction demands only what it demands, he will do what needs to be done at that precise point in time. He never feels, in himself, insincere or untruthful, because he always means what he says; it is just that he only means it in the moment he is saying it. Past and future disappear.”
I guess Scott Morrison is not the first politician to tell fibs, but the problem is not just that he lies. It’s not just that he ‘doesn’t hold a hose’, or that he thinks that ‘it’s not a race’. And it’s not just that he sneaks away for holidays without telling anyone.
The problem is that he can’t cope with the chaos of the reality outside his secure little Canberra bubble, and simply doesn’t know how to deal with it. He wants the world to be like the movie Ground Hog day, where every days resets back to the same point, and nothing ever changes.
Whether it’s dealing with climate change, protecting the future of workers in the resources sector, responding to demand for greater gender equality, or securing a supply of vaccines to protect Australians from a global pandemic, Scott Morrison’s shtick is always to convince us that there’s nothing to see here.
How good is Australia! How good is apathy and ignorance!
When eventually he concedes that something has to give, Mr Morrison assures us that the inconvenience is only temporary. He tells us not to look in the rear-view mirror, and that we need to move forward - but by that he means we should ignore everything we have just seen, experienced and learned, and pretend that nothing actually happened.
Scott’ Morrison’s ‘forward to the past’ style of leadership is exactly what Australia does not need right now. The world is changing rapidly around us, and we need leadership that understands what’s going on and is capable of responding.
The Federal Government, like Morrison himself, is hopelessly stuck in the moment – addicted to the daily media cycle, where image is more important than substance. It is disconnected from reality, and bereft of any vision for the future.
You can find Sean Kelly’s book The Game: A Portrait of Scott Morrison at all good book stores, or online at Booktopia.