Scott Morrison’s Trainwreck Interview With Waleed Aly Proves He’s Not Fit To Be PM
What a disaster.
It was never going to go well. Scott Morrison, one-on-one with Waleed Aly, less than a week after he threatened to sue the host of The Project for defamation. Even so, I don’t think anyone was prepared for how badly the Prime Minister came across on Thursday night.
The live, commercial-free interview comes a week after Aly delivered an emotional plea following the Christchurch terror attacks. Aly used his monologue last Friday to call for unity and understanding, and to condemn the Islamophobia that has infected Australian society. He also cited a news report from 2011 claiming Morrison urged his Liberal party colleagues in a shadow cabinet meeting to capitalise on fear of Muslims to win votes — a claim that Morrison has since dismissed as a “disgraceful smear and an appalling lie”.
The suggestion that Morrison sought to exploit anti-Muslim sentiment was one of a number of things that came up in the tense, often combative interview on Thursday night, in which the Prime Minister repeatedly refused to answer basic questions. You can read some of the highlights below, although bear in mind I use the world “highlights” fairly loosely.
Does The Coalition Have An Islamophobia Problem?
Asked by Aly whether the Coalition has a problem with Islamophobia, Morrison replied “no, I don’t believe so”. Aly then cited a number of examples, including Queensland MP George Christensen speaking at a Reclaim Australia rally, Tony Abbott insisting that Islamophobia has never killed anyone, and Peter Dutton claiming Australia “made a mistake” in welcoming immigrants from Lebanon in the 1970s.
“The best way for me to address any problem is to lead by my own example,” countered Morrison.
“But is that track record a problem in the first place?” asked Aly.
“I already said to you before, no I don’t think the party has a problem,” said Morrison. “Our party is made up of a lot of individuals, and in our party individuals have a lot more freedom to say what they think than a lot of other parties. And it is not for the party to answer for every single member on every single occasion.”
“What about if they’re speaking at a Reclaim Australia rally?” asked Aly. “That’s a problem, isn’t it?”
I’m watching Waleed Aly interview Scott Morrison right now, and wow. He’s very calm, in control, and is absolutely Prime Minister material.
Scott Morrison, on the other hand, is a flustered, dribbling, question dodging mess who has yet to make an actual point.#TheProject
— Drew Bowie (@Drew_Bowie) March 21, 2019
What Happened In The Shadow Cabinet Meeting?
The conversation then turned to the allegation from 2011 that Morrison wanted to exploit anti-Muslim sentiment for political gain.
“You say that this never happened. You called it a smear and a lie. Who’s lying?” asked Aly.
“Anyone who may have talked to a journalist to smear me that way,” Morrison replied. “There have been a number of members who were at that meeting who have gone on the record to support the fact that it did not happen.”
For what it’s worth, at least one of the members on the record was health minister Greg Hunt. Only problem is… Hunt wasn’t at the meeting. Morrison also said he was backed up by former immigration minister Philip Ruddock, but as Aly pointed out, Ruddock only said he “couldn’t recall” what Morrison had said.
Still, Morrison wasn’t backing down. Instead, he insisted that he had actually raised the issue of anti-Muslim sentiment in the shadow cabinet meeting because he wanted to combat it.
“I was concerned we needed to address [the issue of anti-Muslim sentiment],” Morrison said. “Which is what I’ve been doing inside and outside the parliament for the last ten years of my life.”
Just Answer The Question
The most frustrating moment of the interview came when Aly asked Morrison about immigration, and specifically Morrison’s claims earlier this year that bringing asylum seekers to Australia for medical treatment could open the the door for rapists, paedophiles and murderers. Aly called the language “Trumpian”, and pressed the Prime Minister on whether he understood the consequences of his words.
“Do you understand that when you frame the issue in that way, that that creates an environment of prejudice, or do you think that’s not what happens?” asked Aly.
“No, I think we’re not going to sugarcoat to the public the implications of laws passing in the Parliament,” Morrison said. He then tried to argue that journalists, including Aly, are doing exactly that.
“I feel like it’s very difficult to get through a sentence at the moment,” Aly said, and that pretty much sums up the entire interview: almost every calm, considered question was cut off by Morrison getting indignant and flustered before he’d even heard what he was being asked. It took question, after question, after question to pin him down on exactly how many rapists, paedophiles and murderers were actually likely to be brought to Australia in the cohort of asylum seekers needing medical treatment, and even then he couldn’t answer. See this frustrating exchange, for instance:
Aly: How many people are in this category?
Morrison: My last advice of all of those of whom there were some serious concerns on character issues, I think it was over about 50.
Aly: 50 murderers, rapists and paedophiles?
Morrison: Not only those, but all people who had character assessments.
Aly: How many murders, rapists and paedophiles are we talking about?
Morrison: They were actually all published.
Aly: How many?
Morrison: We had people with character concerns, over 50 people.
Aly: No, that’s not what I asked. How many murderers, rapists and paedophiles? It’s an important question.
Morrison: They were among those 50. That’s true.
Aly: One among? Two among? Three among? 50 among? How many?
Morrison: Let me put this to you, Waleed. How many rapists and murderers should be transferred to the Australian community?
Aly: I would say none, which is what the authors of the bill intended.
Morrison: And they were wrong.
Aly: But let me ask you the question. Because if you say that —
Morrison: There only needs to be one.
Aly: And if the minister has the discretion to stop that person?
Morrison: But they don’t?
Aly: They do.
Morrison: They don’t. I’m sorry, I’m the Prime Minister, I’m responsible for implementing it, and I have the full availability of the Attorney General, the Attorney General’s department, the Department of Home Affairs, and their advice to me is no, we don’t have that power. So I don’t know whose advice you’re relying on, but I’m sorry, you don’t know.
Aly: So because of that one person — is it one, by the way?
Morrison: No, it’s more than one. It’s well over that.
Aly: Okay, can you give me that number? I’m actually interested to know.
Morrison: I’ve already told you. There’s almost sixty, actually, who were identified as having serious character concerns that in other circumstances we would never allow to be transferred to Australia.
Aly: That’s not the question I’ve asked.
This conversation continued in much the same fashion for quite a bit longer. Morrison was never able to provide the number of murderers, rapists and paedophiles — instead, he fell back on accusing Aly of “sugarcoating” the risks.
And when Aly finished the interview by asking what the government needs to do next to defuse the situation, Morrison’s response was simple: “exactly what I did do”. By the end of the interview, he had cemented himself as a man who cannot listen, cannot answer, and cannot see the value in any ideas except his own.
That’s our Prime Minister, folks. You can watch the full interview here.