.

  • Written by Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra
Can Scott Morrison maintain the image of separation from the Canberra elite, given he's its most powerful member? AAP/The Conversation

Even Scott Morrison, with his abundant self-belief, couldn’t have imagined that on Saturday’s first anniversary of his seizing the prime ministership, he’d be winging his way to France for a G7 meeting, where Australia has observer status for the first time.

A grim brand of luck – the spectacular collapse of two Liberal prime ministers – and a dash of cunning brought Morrison the top job. His own campaigning skills and a hapless Labor performance enabled him to keep it.

In the next three years, it might all go to hell in a handbasket, given an uncertain economy, a fickle electorate and a thin majority. But after 12 months in the position, Morrison looks the strong leader, clearly in charge, with few constraints.

It’s not just the election win. It’s that there isn’t the remotest sign of a trouble-making aspirant or a vengeful wrecker. New party rules protect a Liberal PM. Infighting has subsided. The party is generally satisfied with its leader, in a way it wasn’t with either Tony Abbott or Malcolm Turnbull.

Three months after the “miracle” victory, we’re seeing how the campaigning prime minister has morphed into the governing one, while remaining the campaigner.

To analyse Morrison’s ideology has always been to plunge into a puzzle box. He’s conservative on moral issues, driven by his Pentecostalism. On secular social issues he’s more moderate – some in the welfare sector found him unexpectedly flexible when he was social services minister. On economics, he can be soggy, lacking the true dry’s distaste for government intervention.

In the election, it was said Morrison looked like he was running for “mayor of Australia”. It’s an accurate characterisation in part.

The PM who’ll hobnob at the G7 and soon sup at a White House state dinner has his feet firmly planted in the local community centre, his ear tuned to his “quiet Australians”, the people he asserts are alienated because the “Canberra bubble” too often has ignored them.

We only have to observe what he’s done and how he talks. Setting up “Services Australia”. A pledge to bust “congestion” - in traffic, regulations, the bureaucracy. Badgering the public service to improve delivery. Moving to try to stop the export of plastic waste. An inquiry into the NDIS.

He dog-whistles to his “quiet Australians” - not in a racist way, but through deriding the “bubble”, and publicly putting the bureaucrats in their place.


Read more: Against the odds, Scott Morrison wants to be returned as prime minister. But who the bloody hell is he?


Morrison likes the practical; he looks from the ground up. It’s all about Mr and Mrs Average from The Sutherland Shire. Indeed, that’s him and Jenny, although their address is Kirribilli House. After he became PM, Morrison moved very quickly to define himself to the public as one of them. When Sky’s David Speers asked about his image as “the daggy dad with the baseball cap”, Morrison said: “well that’s how it’s described by others, but you’re describing my life … it is who I am”.

Can he maintain the guise of separation from the Canberra elite, given he’s its most powerful member? Monash University political scientist Paul Strangio says “it will take political and image-making dexterity by the prime minister to sustain the idea that he is somehow distinct from that ‘bubble’”.

There’s been much claimed about Morrison’s lack of an “agenda” beyond the now-legislated tax cuts, but it’s notable that since the election he’s organised “deep dives” into policy areas.

He gets together the minister, public servants and interested or qualified backbenchers. The sessions run from one to four hours; Morrison stays through them. Topics have included recycling, youth suicide, veterans’ mental health, NDIS, water, aged care.

He’s also has reviews and inquiries in train or pending, with one on industrial relations, where he has signalled he’ll proceed cautiously. On the fraught area of religious freedom, still in the works, backbenchers have been extensively consulted, to smooth the path to decisions.

“Relative to his two predecessors, he has a much better idea of what he wants to do – he’s a better long-term planner than [they were]”, says someone familiar with all three of these Liberal PMs.

Former Liberal staffer David Gazard, a close personal friend, describes Morrison as a “pragmatic incrementalist – he will get what he can get in areas he wants to go to”. He’s fortunate that the post-election Senate is set to be easier than the last one.

The questions hang. Is the incrementalist capable of implementing major reforms that the country will need? Will he make a substantial entry in the history book of Australian prime ministers?

Given Morrison’s pragmatism, even his caution, his decision to put Indigenous constitutional recognition on his agenda sits oddly. It is becoming clear that, with his veto of any reference to a “Voice to Parliament” being put in a referendum question, the initiative is likely to fizzle into a disappointing stalemate.


Read more: Grattan on Friday: Morrison can learn a lot from the public servants, but will he listen?


Other issues are unavoidable but intractable. While the internal Liberal wars over climate and energy policy have quieted, the rifts remain. This is a self-imposed “wicked problem” for the Liberals - beyond, it seems, any leader to satisfactorily resolve - and the struggle with energy prices will continue.

Morrison is methodical, always political, perennially in action. “He would be the kind of person you’d expect to have a job list on his desk,” says a minister. “I think he’s conscious of the short time frame of the federal cycle. He’s task-oriented - he wants to get stuff done and move on to the next project”.

One source likens his work style to rugby league’s “playing moves in blocks,” proceeding systematically from thing to another. Another says he picks three or four things to drive, while putting others into “wider orbits”.

Morrison the family man has his nuclear political family. Frontbenchers in his innermost circle are Stuart Robert (Minister for Government Services and the NDIS) and Alex Hawke (Minister for International Development and the Pacific), both his factional mates from way back, as well as Ben Morton (Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister), who travelled on the campaign plane with him.

His chief of staff, John Kunkel, is a close confidant, as is Phil Gaetjens, his incoming departmental head, on whom he’ll lean heavily for advice on turning political objectives into policy outcomes.

Those who work with Morrison stress how focused he is. A close observer describes his responses to problems. “He doesn’t dwell too much on pondering the entrails. He says ‘how do we fix this?’ His temperament is his biggest asset – he’s unflappable. He’s confident in his ability to handle the situation he confronts”.

This confidence reveals at times his arrogant side. That’s always been there (as when, in events before his downfall as head of Tourism Australia, he wrongly thought prime minister John Howard would side with him rather than with the minister, Fran Bailey). The arrogance is more concealed now, but shows when he summarily dismisses awkward questions as of interest only to the “bubble”.

His natural instinct is for command and control, but this operates subtlety in managing his ministers. He gives them rein in their own areas, but tells them not to freelance outside their remit. Their “charter letters” emphasise goals and performance.

He exhorts backbenchers to shut up publicly, but can’t make them, and they’ve been speaking out on subjects from China to superannuation and industrial relations. This is messy but quite different from the destructive sniping of the last term.


Read more: Grattan on Friday: Being a Trump 'bestie' comes with its own challenges for Scott Morrison


In looking at Morrison’s positive first year it’s easy to forget how things can turn. Strangio identifies at least three risks: the party’s right could decide to “seize the moment” and make divisive demands; the electorate could, over time, become frustrated with Morrison’s tendency to incrementalism, interpreting it as inertia; or conversely, Morrison might eventually surrender to an impulse to which all prime ministers are prone - to leave some big imprint, and thereby plunge himself into political choppy waters.

There’s a bit of muttering in some Nationals’ quarters about how Morrison has intruded onto their turf. He’s dominated the drought issue, and sees as part of his constituency rural “quiet Australians”. The Nationals did well at the election, but leader Michael McCormack is treated (respectfully) as a pushover. A Nationals source contrasts Morrison with Howard, who let the junior Coalition partner be seen having a few wins.

Morrison has found himself spending a lot of time on foreign policy; with the low-key Marise Payne backward in coming forward, he is effectively his own foreign minister.

Donald Trump has lionised the PM, quite a mixed blessing (and naturally Australia has signed up to the American request to be part of the freedom of navigation mission in the Middle East).

The Pacific Island leaders gave Morrison both barrels over Australia’s climate change policy and coal, when he was wedged between them and domestic politics. Australia’s “Pacific step up” bogged, at least momentarily, in the acrimony of Tuvalu.

Morrison finds himself in office at a time when managing Australia’s relationship with China is becoming increasingly challenging. Indeed, central in his current preoccupations is policy on China, which includes complex responses in resisting that country’s various encroachments on Australian sovereignty. It’s far from being all about trade.

But the most immediate worry is the economy. Will the “global headwinds” turn gale force, requiring more government stimulus, threatening the surplus? With wage growth sluggish and interest rates, already near rock bottom, cut twice since the election, the Reserve Bank prods the government to help with the load.

So far, Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg are holding back and hoping that the tax package will do enough. The quiet Australians, the people who rode with Morrison’s promises about ensuring good economic management, are watching, quietly.

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Authors: Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Read more http://theconversation.com/grattan-on-friday-courting-quiet-australians-from-bubble-central-its-been-a-remarkable-first-year-for-scott-morrison-122260

Primary Questions to Ask Yourself Before Choosing an Office Space in Philadelphia

Choosing your first office space is thrilling. The excitement of finally setting up your own office is so satisfying. When you start scouting around to select your office space, there are so many fa...

Sarah Williams - avatar Sarah Williams

Freedom And Flexibility - How A Virtual Office Allows For Greater Adaptability

Being able to adapt to changing circumstances and economic conditions is essential in business. For entrepreneurs and startups who want to maximise their chances of success regardless of outside cir...

News Company - avatar News Company

Eat your heart out: native water rats have worked out how to safely eat cane toads

Water rats in Western Australia are safely hunting cane toads. Author providedAustralia’s water rats, or Rakali, are one of Australia’s beautiful but lesser-known native rodents. And these...

Marissa Parrott, Reproductive Biologist, Wildlife Conservation & Science, Zoos Victoria, and Honorary Research Associate, BioSciences, University of Melbourne - avatar Marissa Parrott, Reproductive Biologist, Wildlife Conservation & Science, Zoos Victoria, and Honorary Research Associate, BioSciences, University of Melbourne

Curious Kids: where do phobias come from?

Phobias are an intense fear of very specific things like objects, places, situations or animals. ShutterstockIf you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to curiouskids@theconv...

Lara Farrell, Associate Professor and Clinical Psychologist, Griffith University - avatar Lara Farrell, Associate Professor and Clinical Psychologist, Griffith University

Best Family-Friendly Zoos In America

Zoos have always been part of family travel destinations. This is where your kids get to see the animals that they only often see on their books. Visiting one also provides a learning experience for...

News Company - avatar News Company

Activists are using the climate emergency as a new legal defence to justify law-breaking

The phrase “climate emergency” became part of the political lexicon this year. Governments at all levels made declarations of a climate emergency, as did various organisations such as the ...

Nicole Rogers, Senior lecturer, School of Law and Justice, Southern Cross University - avatar Nicole Rogers, Senior lecturer, School of Law and Justice, Southern Cross University

Don't tear it down: the idea behind Labor's National Rental Affordability Scheme is worth saving

The Grattan Institute has condemned the National Rental Affordability Scheme as a $1 billion windfall to developers. www.shutterstock.comLabor’s Rudd-era National Rental Affordability Scheme (NR...

Marcus Luigi Spiller, Associate Professor (Urban Planning) - honorary  , University of Melbourne - avatar Marcus Luigi Spiller, Associate Professor (Urban Planning) - honorary , University of Melbourne

City share-house rents eat up most of Newstart, leaving less than $100 a week to live on

Even when sharing a house, the average cost of rent means very little is left over from the Newstart allowance for food and living costs. shutterstock.comIn all Australia’s capital cities, avera...

Simone Casey, Research Associate, Future Social Service Institute, RMIT University - avatar Simone Casey, Research Associate, Future Social Service Institute, RMIT University

Users (and their bias) are key to fighting fake news on Facebook – AI isn't smart enough yet

On its own, human judgement can be subjective and skewed towards personal biases. The information we encounter online everyday can be misleading, incomplete or fabricated. Being exposed to “fa...

Gianluca Demartini, Associate professor, The University of Queensland - avatar Gianluca Demartini, Associate professor, The University of Queensland

Fairest and best? Status counts in the Brownlow Medal

Tonight is the AFL’s annual night of nights, the red-carpet spectacular known as the Brownlow Medal vote count. The Brownlow is awarded to the season’s “fairest and best” play...

Liam Lenten, Senior Lecturer, Department of Economics and Finance, La Trobe University - avatar Liam Lenten, Senior Lecturer, Department of Economics and Finance, La Trobe University

How Australians talk about tucker is a story that'll make you want to eat the bum out of an elephant

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-NDNot to put a damper on things, but Australian food hasn’t always made us happy little Vegemites. One needn’t look further than the humble meat pie ...

Howard Manns, Lecturer in Linguistics, Monash University - avatar Howard Manns, Lecturer in Linguistics, Monash University

In a chatty world, losing your speech can be alienating. But there's help

People who have trouble with their speech, say after a stroke, can find it challenging. But a speech pathologist can help. from www.shutterstock.comSam is a high school drama teacher — articulat...

Kirrie J Ballard, Professor, Speech Pathology, University of Sydney - avatar Kirrie J Ballard, Professor, Speech Pathology, University of Sydney

From crime fighters to crime writers - a new batch of female authors brings stories that are closer to home

In Dervla McTiernan’s book, The Scholar, published earlier this year, women are consistently used as the “fall guys” for men with high aspirations. Two young women are killed when th...

Lili Pâquet, Lecturer in Writing, University of New England - avatar Lili Pâquet, Lecturer in Writing, University of New England

10 ways to get the most out of silent reading in schools

Children need time and space to enjoy the books they choose to read in schools. Shutterstock/wavebreakmediaReading aloud can help young children learn about new words and how to sound them. There&rsqu...

Margaret Kristin Merga, Senior Lecturer in Education, Edith Cowan University - avatar Margaret Kristin Merga, Senior Lecturer in Education, Edith Cowan University

'Edible forests' can fight land clearing and world hunger at the same time

A Nepalese woman collects mushroom in a forest. Jagannath Adhikari, Author providedReducing emissions from deforestation and farming is an urgent global priority if we want to control climate change. ...

Jagannath Adhikari, Sessional Lecturer, UNSW - avatar Jagannath Adhikari, Sessional Lecturer, UNSW

Comic explainer: young disabled New Zealanders on the barriers to a better life

Our research project explored the everyday lives of disabled young people, aged from 12 to 25 years, with mobility, vision and hearing impairments. We measured and asked them about factors that enable...

Penelope Carroll, Researcher in Public Health, Massey University - avatar Penelope Carroll, Researcher in Public Health, Massey University

View from The Hill: To go to China you have to be invited: Morrison

Scott Morrison was frank, when quizzed at a news conference during his visit to Washington, on whether he would be seeking to travel to China in the next year. “Well, you have to be invited to ...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

VIDEO: Michelle Grattan on the family law inquiry - and the UN climate change summit

University of Canberra Deputy Vice-Chancellor Leigh Sullivan discusses Scott Morrison’s new family law inquiry with Michelle Grattan. They also speak of the developments in the Tamil family from...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Climate explained: why don't we have electric aircraft?

CC BY-ND Climate Explained is a collaboration between The Conversation, Stuff and the New Zealand Science Media Centre to answer your questions about climate change. If yo...

Dries Verstraete, Senior Lecturer in Aerospace Design and Propulsion, University of Sydney - avatar Dries Verstraete, Senior Lecturer in Aerospace Design and Propulsion, University of Sydney

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company

LifeStyle

Yvonne Allen: Eight ways to super impress someone on a first date

According to Yvonne Allen well known relationship mentor, psychologist and matchmaker, a first dat...

Picking The Right Crystal Yoni Egg: Tips And Instructions

When you are ready to pick your own crystal yoni egg, you need to decide what you will use it for...

Top 5 Tips for Paddleboarding In Whitewater

Paddleboarding can be relaxing as well as intense. If you occasionally want to do something differen...

3 Most Promising Career Occupations for Graduates in 2019

Studying in college is a great adventure which opens up lots of career opportunities. Yet, at times...