Scott Morrison Still Doesn’t Get It

The PM wants us to focus on the heroic efforts of volunteer firefighters. That would have been much easier if he was in the country to lead the way.

Scott Morrison holiday

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Scott Morrison would very much like it if we could all please stop talking about his Hawaiian holiday. He’d prefer it if we could just talk about the hard work being put in by volunteer firefighters across the country, and not the fact that while they were on the frontlines, he was sipping mojitos by the pool.

In case you’ve been on your own Hawaiian vacation over the last week, let us bring you up to speed: In the middle of the ongoing bushfire crisis, people noticed that Scott Morrison was missing in action. Rumours began to circulate that the PM had been spotted boarding a flight to Hawaii — a rumour the PM’s office categorically denied — before it was later confirmed that the PM was indeed on vacation. Amid mounting criticism, and following the tragic deaths of two volunteer firefighters, the PM sheepishly apologised before promising to return home as soon as possible. But he didn’t land in Sydney for another two days, and was spotted by tourists looking very relaxed in the meantime.

Following yesterday’s disastrous press conference, in which the PM stood by his government’s lack of action on climate change and offered a half-hearted non-apology for his absence, Morrison gave an interview to Sunrise this morning, in which he demonstrated that he still really doesn’t get it all.

ScoMo again insisted that there’s nothing wrong with taking a break at this time of year, comparing his trip to a plumber who takes on extra work instead of picking the kids up from school.

“We all have to balance our work/life responsibilities and we all try and get that right and we can all make better decisions on occasion,” he said. “Whether it’s on a Friday afternoon and you are deciding to take that extra plumbing contract and you said you were going to pick up the kids or something at my level. These are the things you juggle as parents.”

And sure, no one doubts that Scott Morrison has a lot on his plate, but the plumber analogy doesn’t make sense on any level. The PM’s vacation wasn’t the equivalent of picking up an extra contract on a Friday afternoon, it was the equivalent of staying back for a couple of extra schooners at the pub. Scott Morrison was doing less work, not more.

And the PM knows it, too, or his office wouldn’t have lied to journalists about where he was.

On that issue, the PM is also demonstrating that he still doesn’t get it. Speaking on Sunrise, Morrison dismissed questions about his office misleading journalists as “political point scoring”.

“I really think that is an issue that the media has got very excited about, and my political opponents are seeking to exploit. But I think the time for politics and point scoring and that sort of stuff should be seen for what it is,” he said.

But as the government is so fond of saying when it comes to its ever-expanding suite of data retention and national security laws, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear — so why did the Prime Minister’s office lie about his holiday?

The PM insists that his presence in Australia would have done little to help with the bushfires. As he told radio station 2GB last week, “I don’t hold a hose, mate, and I don’t sit in a control room.” And that’s certainly true. But the job of a Prime Minister isn’t merely to act as an administrator, it’s to be a leader.

The office of the Prime Minister is often at its best in moments of national tragedy — think of John Howard after the Port Arthur Massacre, or Kevin Rudd following Black Saturday. The Prime Minister doesn’t need to hold a hose, he needs to put tragedies in context, to comfort the nation, and to offer a shoulder to cry on for those directly affected. You can’t offer a shoulder from Waikiki beach.

No one denies the fact that Scott Morrison and his family deserve a holiday. Being a politician, in any position, is an incredibly demanding job, and it’s especially taxing for the families of politicians. Scott Morrison and his family deserve a break as much as anyone else, but he doesn’t get to escape the country during a national crisis, lie about it, and then face zero consequences.

Scott Morrison says he just wants us to focus on the heroic efforts of volunteer firefighters across the country. That would have been so much easier if he was in the country to lead the way.

Rob Stott is the Managing Editor of Junkee Media. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_Stott