By Andrew Wicks
Well, he’d done it again. Scott Morrison had vanished, leaving the nation to steer itself through the dangerous waters he’d created.
Where do you go, my Scotty? Once again, we’re in a familiar pickle. We’re not doing well, and the Prime Minister was nowhere to be found. Why? Well, that’s the real question. Yesterday, New South Wales, the state he wasn’t “worried about” quietly decided that it’ll have to exist alongside the Delta variant, with Gladys Berejiklian telling the media that, “you can’t live with the Delta variant unless you have a certain proportion your population vaccinated.”
Again, per Berejiklian, that proportion of the population is 80 per cent. A figure that the state will not be able to reach. So, what does this have to do with Scott Morrison? Well, he made the vaccine rollout a federal responsibility. Right now, we’re either throwing the AstraZeneca vaccine we manufactured in the bin, or giving it to those under 40, or most Australians can receive the Pfizer vaccine, or not. We don’t know. In fact, the only thing we all know, is nothing.
But, putting COVID aside for a minute, Morrison decided to travel to the UK recently (which he could do, as he was the first in line to be vaccinated) to sign a deal with Boris Johnson, and potentially squeeze in a holiday, as he decided to fertilise the Morrison family tree and get on the tins. Upon his return, he entered into a mandatory two week period of quarantine. But, if we can also put that to the side for a moment, what we have is a pattern. It seems that every time there’s bad news afoot, or a dip in the opinion polls, he makes himself scarce. Famously, Scott Morrison travelled to Japan (which required another quarantine period) a week after making international headlines when he answered for Anne Ruston who was asked about whether she experienced misogyny as a woman in parliament. This trip also coincided with the release of the brutal photos (and reports) into the behaviour of our troops in Afghanistan.
While we can exclude the trip to Hawaii during the apocalyptic bushfires of 2019 as the most egregious (and played out) example (which was also his third holiday of 2019), critics have estimated that he took four weeks off in the last six months of 2020. Indeed, in December 2020, when travel restrictions were announced due to the Avalon cluster, he was silent, re-igniting suspicion and causing the #WheresScotty hashtag to trend.
In early January, he announced another week of leave. This was, of course, after he took a separate break over the Christmas period. Now, I’m not saying that our elected officials should work long hours without the possibility of a break, or holidays, but the rest of us are doing exactly that.
Per the January press release, “during my short absence, the Deputy Prime Minister will undertake my duties for this period, including regular health and economic briefings, the planned roll-out of our vaccine program… while away I remain in contact with the Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly.”
In March 2021, faced with the countrywide March 4 Justice (primarily enabled by his serious mishandling of the Brittany Higgins allegations, and clearing Christian Porter without an investigation), he decided to take another break. As Antoinette Latouf wrote for News.com.au, “While Canberra faces allegations of a dangerous culture towards young female staffers, it seems the Prime Minister has again opted to take a break. But with overseas holidays no longer an option, Mr Morrison seems to be chilling out behind his myrtle oak timber desk in Parliament House. When the scenery there gets a little dull, the PM heads to The Lodge. By refusing to go out and meet with the thousands of protesters in Canberra at the March 4 Justice this week, Mr Morrison is refusing to listen to more than 50 per cent of the country. Women.”
Interestingly, this small break coincided with his worst Newspoll results since his famous Hawaiian holiday. In the interest of fairness, he did eventually ask to meet with the women of the nation… but behind closed doors. In an interesting sidebar, he reappeared after the march, calling it a success… because it didn’t end in gunfire.
What we see, obviously, is a tactic… or a constant taking of the piss. As it stands, we’re in the midst of a once-in-a-generation pandemic (and the looming financial crisis to come), one that a heavily flawed vaccine rollout is supposed to solve. There’s also the fact that our relationship with China, our biggest trade partner, is unravelling. Yet, the man we’re paying an estimated $550,000 is acting like a small-town civil servant with a swell to surf.
Whether the estimates are accurate, speaks to the vibe he’s cultivated, considering his level of responsibility, it seems far too many. But, crucially, we don’t know, and thus, it becomes a problem marginalised as an unhelpful gripe. As Labor’s Richard Marles put it (which was carried by Sky News) “What Scott Morrison needs to do is stand up and take responsibility. In the midst of a crisis, in the midst of difficulty or the moment it’s going really tough you can guarantee he will go missing.”
If we consider a transatlantic comparison, I feel we need something close to Trumpgolfcount.com, a website that measures the frequency and taxpayer cost of Donald Trump’s infamously frequent tee-times. For the curious, Donald had 298 golf days in 2020, costing the taxpayer $144,000,000. How good is independent oversight?
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