While shredding the pile of unsold copies of the SMH for the worm factory, Fairfax’s editor must have grabbed the fresh-faced Michael Koziol’s Marxist tail after he read about the PM Morrison and Waleed Aly’s interview on ABC’s The Project and said: You know what to do boy, get after ’em, dig up old stuff, reframe it like it was new, never stay with the facts, facts are only perceptions, we see things differently here in the Fairfax stables boy—do you get it? Read News Corp’s article here. As MM commenter Wallace said, “Dimwit outwits twit.”
Michael Koziol: There’s a particular posture Scott Morrison adopts when he’s pushing back in an interview. He leans back in his chair, clasps his hands together and crosses one leg over the other. Often his voice will pitch up in tone or he’ll adopt an air of incredulity, as if signalling the question is stupid or the answer obvious. Sometimes he’s probably right. I’ve seen this up close myself and the country saw it in full bloom during his 35-minute interview with Waleed Aly on The Project on Thursday night.
Source: Fairfax Media
There’s a reason the PM lacked credibility when facing off against Aly
The whole occasion was, frankly, bizarre. Morrison was ostensibly drawn to the interview to defend himself against accusations levelled at him in a 2011 news report in The Sydney Morning Herald that he told a shadow cabinet meeting the Coalition should think about exploiting anti-Muslim sentiment for votes.
Aly referred to this report in an editorial the night of the Christchurch massacre. The clip has been viewed more than 14 million times. Suddenly, ancient history raised troubling questions about the Prime Minister’s character. The report in question may not paint him as prejudiced but it definitely makes him look unscrupulous.
It’s easy to see why Morrison would want to hose down these claims. And it’s commendable – almost remarkable – that he did so in a long-form, one-on-one television interview with his accuser in prime time.
But it’s also fair to observe that Morrison’s demeanour that night was overtly defensive and prickly – enough to leave you wondering: doth he protest too much?
Part of the problem for Morrison is how primed we are to assume the worst about politicians. We have grown so accustomed to the self-interest, the trickiness, the backflips, the weasel words and the lies that we are rightly cynical about their motivations.
Morrison also carries the baggage – personally and politically – of his time as minister for immigration under Tony Abbott. He says he has cried over the fate of refugees and asylum seekers sent to Nauru and Manus Island. It must be noted that he also keeps a trophy in his office as a reminder he stopped the boats.
Do I think Morrison harbours prejudice against Muslims? No. Do I believe he is capable of exploiting fears held by others? That’s a different question.
At any rate, Morrison says he never urged that course of action back in 2011, and he has back up on that. Philip Ruddock, who reportedly spoke “bluntly” against Morrison in that meeting, told me he had absolutely no recollection of Morrison saying what others alleged.
“I suspect if people were raising those issues I would remember,” Ruddock said. He suggested his colleagues may have “embellished in a way I can’t comprehend”. At any rate, Ruddock said, Morrison’s track record of working with the Islamic community “doesn’t fit with what people are wanting to write” about him now.
Indeed, as a fresh-faced MP, Morrison walked the Kokoda Track (alongside Labor’s Jason Clare) with surf lifesavers from the Sutherland Shire and a group of young Muslims from Bankstown. It was part of efforts to heal the wounds from the shocking Cronulla riots of 2005.
Morrison told this story on The Project, along with a number of others. He loves wheeling out such anecdotes in interviews, often at great length, and one thing that strikes me about Morrison is his ability to recall details – names, dates, places – off the cuff from long ago.
But all that good work is undermined by the PM’s unwillingness to denounce One Nation in the way it would really count – by shifting them to the bottom of the how-to-vote card.
His excuse – that it will be decided by party bosses in each state once nominations are in – doesn’t really cut the mustard given Morrison has already ruled out a preference deal with Pauline Hanson. How can he have the power do that, but not the power to place them last?
This is also the Prime Minister who intervened to save the career of Liberal MP Craig Kelly (who incidentally wants to preference the Greens last, not One Nation), who removed the preselected candidate in Gilmore to install Warren Mundine and who is looking to parachute a star candidate into the recently vacated seat of Reid.
It simply doesn’t stand to reason that Morrison lacks the authority to demand One Nation is placed below Labor and the Greens on Liberal how-to-vote cards.
His problem is really the many people within the Coalition and its various organisational wings that don’t want to do that. Some, like Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, have said this publicly. They reckon the Greens’ hardline environmentalism and economic naivety are worse than One Nation’s race-baiting and hackneyed fear-mongering.
Some Coalition MPs, as we know, aren’t huge fans of Islam either. Morrison alluded to this with Aly on Thursday. He said he did not believe the Liberal or National parties had a problem with Islamophobia “as a group”. But there were individuals who had the freedom to speak as they pleased and whom the party could not defend on every single occasion.
Maybe this is where Morrison’s defensiveness stems from. He’s constantly on guard because – in addition to the questions about his own history – his folksy appeals for harmony, respect and kumbaya-singing are so often undermined by the words and actions of his own team.
Sincerity can be a real struggle for Morrison, partly because of his marketing background, and partly because of his own choices as Prime Minister that have sacrificed substance for political expediency (moving the embassy to Jerusalem, anyone?). So if he faces a credibility gap on this issue, perhaps he only has himself – and his party – to blame.