QED

Morrison’s Sins Against Nous and Conscience

The fact that Scott Morrison lost the recent federal election is all the more remarkable when one considers Anthony Albanese’s spectacular flubs and failures throughout the campaign: not knowing the current unemployment figure and cash rate, being unable to relate his own NDIS policy, lying about his political and economic experience, sowing confusion about Labor’s border policy, believing Australia’s borders were still closed and routinely running away from questioning by the media.

On the basis of his opponent’s errors, it should have been the election for Morrison to lose. And he did, overseeing a more than 4 per cent swing nationally against the government with Labor also achieving its worst primary vote in 25 years. While the Liberal Party will clearly be engaged in some serious soul-searching for some time to come, here is my humble attempt to make sense of what went wrong.

Pragmatism over conviction

Rather than being motivated by ideology or conviction, Morrison was driven by political pragmatism. As Rowan Dean wrote in The Spectator:

If you stand for nothing, you lose. That is the message from this campaign. If you betray your base, you lose. If you follow the siren calls of focus group researchers, you lose.

Whether you like or loathe the Teals, the point is they fought from a position of conviction. They stood for something and they won.

It is time for the Liberal Party to rediscover its conservative convictions and stop                pandering to the woke, touchy-feely left.

As we now know in no uncertain terms, appeasement will always open the sure path to defeat.

 

Economic Response to COVID-19

While there will be many on the Left who will argue that the Coalition should have done even more, Morrison oversaw one of the biggest-spending splurges in the history of this country. As John Anderson, a former deputy prime minister, warned more than 12 months ago, the Morrison government’s economic response to COVID-19 accumulated a mountain of debt so large it amounts to “inter-generational theft”. 

 

Religious Freedom

Morrison went to the 2019 election promising legislation to protect religious freedom and then did … nothing.

Rather than making religious freedom a signature reform of his leadership, he in effect tabled the issue by passing it to Christian Porter. When Morrison did finally get around to the subject it was the eleventh hour — on the eve of his election campaign — and a classic case of too little, too late. Worse, the Liberals who crossed the floor advertised the divisions in Coalition ranks, much to the delight of Labor and its media spear-carriers.

 

Endorsing Power-Mad Premiers

If there was anything unprecedented about COVID-19, it was how all of the premiers became drunk on their own power in closing state borders. This was one of the main complaints in Rocco Loiacono and Augusto Zimmermann’s book Deconstructing ScoMo: Critical reflections on Australia’s 30th Prime Minister .

That book argues that Morrison capitulated regarding the fundamental rights and constitutional freedoms of ordinary Australians, especially by not standing up to Victoria’s Daniel Andrews, who found the opportunity to engage in Beijing-style authoritarianism just too enticing to resist.  He then further compounded this gross misstep by telling federal Parliament that it was the ‘right decision of the Victorian Premier’ to enact amongst the most severe lockdown measures seen anywhere in the world. For Victorians locked in their homes, subject to nonsensical curfews and unable to take their kids to the local park’s playground that didn’t polish any apples.

He might also have said something about the shameful treatment of Zoe Buhler, the pregnant mum infamously arrested in her pyjamas by VicPol officers who invaded her home. Her crime? Daring to question the lockdown measures by posting a Facebook notice of an upcoming protest.

In remaining silent while fellow Australians’ rights were not merely trampled but smashed, Morrison showed his unwillingness to defend freedom of speech, while his own silence about the months of abuses south of the Murray amounted to tacit consent. When VicPol was beating, gassing and shooting protesters with rubber bullets, did he feel even a fleeting urge to denounce such bastardry? It he did, no sound emerged.

 

Failing Freedom of Conscience

Following from the previous point is the vexed ethical question involving freedom of conscience, most particularly as it relates to mandatory vaccination. For many this was a deal-breaker in and of itself. And, once again, Morrison’s silence was deafening.

 

Weaknesses in Disciplining Staff

There were a number of instances during Morrison’s tenure where matters should have been dealt with judiciously. But much like the religious freedom bill, the issue was kicked down the road for someone else to deal with. The circumstances around Andrew Laming, Brittany Higgins and Christian Porter were all notable examples of Morrison’s inability to decisively act when the situation called for him to do so.

Focus on the Higgins case. When Labor beat the tired old drum of this incident establishing yet again that Liberals hate women, Morrison might have responded that two people, both allegedly drunk in a minister’s office in the wee hours, warranted a matched pair of immediate sackings. Instead, adopting Labor’s language, he convicted the alleged assailant before the case even went to court. After that, Grace Tame enjoyed license to publicly insult the Prime Minister  to the cheers of the media.

 

Selling Out on Climate

Compromising on this particular issue was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back for many. Conservatives can put with a lot, but ideologically selling out on climate alarmism was for many the ultimate betrayal.

Attacking and resisting climate change alarmism had been the winning weapon at all previous elections since the landslide win in 2013.

Tactically, the switch was dopier than dopey. How could anyone believe the man who once brought a lump of coal into parliament but was now making like one of Gaia’s disciples?

 

Being Labor-lite

Peta Credlin was typically prescient when she said on Sky News after Labor’s ‘thumping win’ in the South Australian election:

Probably the biggest lesson here, for Liberals across the country, is that you don’t  beat Labor by being Labor-lite. If voters have a choice between a big spending,  politically correct Labor Party. And an only slightly less politically correct and almost equally big spending Liberal Party. It seems that they go for the party that’s whole-hearted, rather than half-hearted, for bigger, more intrusive government. To win, the Libs need product differentiation from Labor.

 

Abortion and Euthanasia

Consistent with Morrison’s unwillingness to expend any political capital on matters of moral substance, the soon-to-ex PM simply refused to weigh in on the debates surrounding abortion and euthanasia. To his credit and as a lasting testament to his acumen, John Howard outmanoeuvred the Northern Territory’s euthanasia push by shifting the legal goal posts to a federal framework. But as South Australia, to cite one example, legislated for late-term abortion and assisted suicide, Morrison remained schtum. There can be no doubt that, as a Christian himself, he privately opposed such policies. Again, his silence was a gross moral failure, this time with a further measure of political cowardice added to the mix.

 

Inability to Read the Room

Morrison acknowledged late in the campaign that he could be “a bit of a bulldozer”, thereby intimating that voters could expect an entirely different PM, a kinder and gentler version, after the election. In this regard he effectively renounced himself. This was symptomatic of a persistent failure to read the room. Whether it was awkwardly grabbing hands during the Black Summer bushfires or going on a planned family holiday to Hawaii at the start of the national emergency, Morrison often failed to match the expectations which go with being a senior statesman. 

That tin ear of his also goes a long way to explaining why so many centre-left and progressive Christians despised him. As Jonathan Cole, the producer of The Political Animal’s Podcast, explains:

Morrison is a classic Pentecostal, who (with apologies to my Pentecostal friends) wouldn’t understand the meaning of the word “subtle” if it slapped him in the face, is possessed of an utterly inexhaustible high-octane energetic optimism even when the  house is burning down around him, is overconfident in many respects and is thoroughly results-oriented in a rather pragmatic sense.

He is also a classic middle- aged bogan from the Shire. Put these two together and everything about him is designed to inspire the ire, if not the outright hatred, of an extremely ‘educated’ class that likes to think of themselves as cultured, is utterly obsessed with tone and rhetoric … Had Morrison been an atheist, the hatred would not have reached pathological levels

 

Did Morrison do Anything Right?

Yes, AUKUS for starters, and there are other feathers in his cap that will become more apparent as time sees the emotion of the election season subside.

But sadly, whatever happier appraisal of his tenure lies ahead, the fatal flaws remain. Australia’s first Pentecostal Prime Minister will be remembered most of all for his failure to defend freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and ironically, freedom of religion.

15 comments
  • Edwina

    Morrison was doing the WEF and Klaus Schwab’s bidding, that is all.
    He along with those other grubs Boris, Macron, Justin Castro, Jacinda, Joe and some others here in our very own ranks..
    They are traitors.
    Turnbull didn’t pull all those strings to see Morrison took the leadership role for nothing.

  • Farnswort

    Other areas where the Morrison government failed dismally:

    Wages and cost of living – Real wages in Australia have been stagnant for around a decade, while the cost of living continues to soar. With more inflation on its way, Morrison offered no solutions at the 2022 election, just empty, tired “jobs and growth” rhetoric.

    Education and the national curriculum – The Coalition did next-to-nothing to fix the woeful national curriculum during its near-decade in power. Abbott launched a review but was dumped before any action was taken. Australian students continued to be indoctrinated in anti-Australian, anti-Western, green-left dogma.

    Immigration – The Morrison government was planning a return to the Big Australia immigration numbers of the pre-pandemic era – a crazy 235,000 per year. Rebooting mass immigration is a guaranteed recipe for ever-worsening urban congestion and infrastructure bottlenecks, wage stagnation, more expensive housing, water shortages, accelerated cultural disruption and basically the complete disappearance of the Australia we once knew and loved. Morrison was aware that mass immigration was unpopular but he appeared to be totally captured by vested interests.

    Housing – Once a country blessed with relatively affordable housing, Australia now has one of the most expensive housing markets in the world. Young Australians and those on lower and moderate incomes have been almost totally priced out of the market. Sir Robert Menzies’ dream of a great home-owning society was being murdered by the very party that he founded. As Gray Connolly recently observed, there is no future for conservative politics if more people, especially younger people, have nothing of their own to conserve (“Reject the language of the spiv: true conservatives know our housing injustice invites societal peril” – https://www.smh.com.au/national/reject-the-language-of-the-spiv-true-conservatives-know-our-housing-injustice-invites-societal-peril-20220519-p5amms.html )

    Free speech – No action on reforming the dreadful Section 18C. Morrison never showed any commitment to free speech at a time when the Left is increasingly dictating the confines of discussion and stifling important debate.

    Will the Liberal Party under Dutton learn from these failures?

  • Lewis P Buckingham

    One of the problems was the campaign itself.
    From limited experience at Uni I had the distinct impression that the Libs on the ground were worn out and did not think they could win.
    The party seemed fractured.
    Every time you saw Morrison he was apologising to women who had been abused.
    That was all that seemed to cut through.
    The punters had the Libs losing months ago and local Libs stopped discussing politics.
    He apologised for a deed not yet put to trial of one of his own staffers.
    Talk about throwing someone under the bus.
    Judging by recent events the accused does not even have a defence Barrister.
    One would have thought, with the toxic media coverage, someone would have stepped up to the plate by now.
    Admittedly there may be few takers that want to be stuck in a Canberra winter for a 6 plus week no doubt delayed trial.
    The Religious Rights bill was placed in the hands of someone who was immediately targeted.Now surely the Libs must have realised that giving it to someone called Christian, even if the best candidate, was a doomed failure.
    It would have been better to put it to an external three committee, like the turn back the boats deliberation and do it quickly.
    Then there was the housing policy. It was a corker.
    Use your own super money to get the deposit and retain the equity.
    The Government supports tax free capital gain in your own home.
    Keep it or put it back into super.
    This was just about the only thing I heard that was discussed.
    Now of course the super funds howled it down as did the ABC etc, but for the poor kids that are willing to go to the country and get real estate, they were kicked under the bus.
    It was introduced too late.
    This policy needs be retained for the next election.
    By then it wont be arguable that purchasing a house will drive up the price as the inevitable recession kicks in.
    In some ways I am sorry to see Morrison out of politics.
    He really had the ability of the gab and a hugely retentive memory, unlike his replacement.
    However this dominance meant others were probably kept out of the strategic policy making needed to foresee the problems.
    Pyrrhic building of duplicate grids without foreward planning.
    The rhetoric of saving the planet.
    To make the religious safe in state run hospitals so the ethos is not to kill.
    No member of the staff aspires to kill but maintains a centre of excellence for palliation.
    Even in Veterinary Science there are ‘No kill pounds’
    Not calling out the right premiers.
    Why did the Libs attack the Sandgropers for ring fencing the Covid Delta strain?
    Not only was that following excellent quarantine science, even John Howard pointed out it allowed the federation, so individual states, to make suitable decisions about their own needs.
    The few Westerners I spoke to thought Morrison was nuts.
    The treasurer was fighting for his life and arguing well.
    We now hear of the Liberal Debt, which was supported by Labor.
    Lets see what happens.

  • Daffy

    I’m with the first three commenters.

  • Adam J

    Morrison systematically failed to stand up for conservative ideas even on a basic level. At the best times he would stand up for them one day then the next day apologize, as happened when he correctly pointed out that Australia never had slavery.
    But immigration and education are the big issues for me. The immigration program is 3rd-world colonial style and was supported by the Liberals for 9 years despite Abbott saying in opposition that it was too high.
    They did this to themselves because they showed themselves as cowards at every opportunity. No sympathy from me. Go Dutton.

  • Farnswort

    Well said, Adam.

  • Ian MacKenzie

    Morrison ignored Howard’s broad church in the same way Turnbull did. He gave nothing to the conservatives apart from a new alliance which may help at some point and some subs which will be obsolete before they are delivered sometime in the 2050s. There is no broad church if one side of the aisle gets whatever they want and the other gets nothing.
    Strangely, given my opinion on the climate change con, the last straw wasn’t net zero, but rather the promise to fully fund the ABC for the next term of government. It is cowardly not to fight the culture wars, but clearly treachery to sponsor your opponents. The upshot of that was a vote for the sitting Nationals member who has consistently voted for conservative causes (I checked on theyvoteforyou.org.au) and in the Senate voted for Jim Molan below the line followed by a bunch of minor parties. Had I been in an electorate with a “Moderate” Liberal member it would have been minor parties all the way. That won’t change until it is clear that Dutton will stand up for Liberal values in the same way that Howard and Abbott did.

  • Ceres

    As a conservative, this article covered all the “biggies” for me. I would only add the extra funding for the ABC. All summed up in “Morrison’s silence was deafening”.
    Where is our Ron de Santis?

  • Tom Lewis

    A good article. You missed kow-towing to the Voice etc etc. Dividing the country on race-based lines is angering many Aussies, including a lot of Aboriginal ones. Yet the Liberal response is basically to agree with Labor and the Greens.

  • Farnswort

    Tom, here is Andrew Bolt on Sky questioning Peter Dutton about “the Voice”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xg6yPGnpWco

  • whitelaughter

    I have to agree with Ian MacKenzie that the last straw was the massive overfunding of the ABC. When the wave of begging emails came from the Liberal party, I responded to each in turn saying that if they could afford to give our money to an organisation that was going to work against them 24/7, then they didn’t need my money.

  • terenc5

    He is in the same category as Fraser and Turnbull.

  • Stephen

    The Liberal Party’s original sin was the dumping of Tony Abbott, a man of integrity, intellectual horse power and model citizen. Turnbull and Morrison don’t measure up to his dignitas and gravitas.

    Now a bit of a digression. This article mentions the Higgins case, “Morrison might have responded that two people, both allegedly drunk in a minister’s office in the wee hours”.
    There has been a delay in this case coming to court due to the young defendants lawyer dropping out at short notice. I am very curious to see the evidence in this case revealed in court. They were drinking together on a Friday night and decided together, in a drunken state, to return to their ministers office where they certainly would be alone. It seems unlikely that some great affair of state required their immediate attention. An affair of a more ordinary sort seems more likely.
    Between the event and the trial Miss Higgins status has been raised to blameless sainthood whilst the young man involved has been cast as a criminal, rapist, toxic male taking advantage of a helpless girl who in no way contributed to her situation.
    It’s a criminal case. Beyond reasonable doubt is the required standard of evidence. The trial will hopefully fully expose the facts but acquittal on the basis of reasonable doubt seems a real possibility.

  • Michael Waugh

    Farnswort, thanks for that link to Andrew Bolt interviewing Dutton about the “Voice”. Dutton is wise in my view to refrain from taking a position until he sees what is proposed. Bolt overstates the argument that we don’t want decisions based on race. There is a race power in s.51(xxxvi) and it surely must have been invoked by John Howard to enact the “Intervention”, for example. Allowing a non-binding recommendation by those who are specifically targetted by such legislation is not obviously unfair or divisive. Most Australians would say “fair enough”, I think. This leaves very large problems yet to be figured out, such as how do we determine which Australians constitute the “Voice”, but let’s see what’s proposed. Many Aboriginal people seem to want this. Let’s be willing to at least listen, eh ?

  • Simon

    Another two signal failures of his government: infrastructure (as in new dams), and a policy to increase migration numbers.

    If you live in Sydney, as I do, the latter was bordering on criminally insane.

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