Leaders can only be defined by what they do and what they say. Their character is measured by their contribution to the good of society and the contradictions of our human nature. Our emotion and our logic.
How do we balance the two? Character governs our moral choices, our professional conduct. It’s an elusive thing, easily cloaked or submerged by the theatrics of politics.
So, in watching the interview of Waleed Aly and Prime Minister Scott Morrison I desperately wanted to eliminate any perception of bias on my part. An impossible task you might say because in this case that is exactly what we are doing, judging.
Often our opinions are simply based on our own values rather than our understanding and the difficulty is separating the two. Some judge with a mixture of logic and emotion others with one or the other.
Another factor in making any judgement is experience. When you are not far from 80 and have 60 years or so of following politics behind you certain elements come together allowing one’s experience and knowledge to form judgements.
The protagonists: Waleed Aly
The Australian tweeted that Gerard Henderson writes that:
“It appears Waleed Aly believes his views are more significant than those of the PM”
When I read it the first thing that occurred to me was maybe they are. I know many people whose knowledge of Climate Change for example are far superior to that of the Prime Ministers.
No one has an ownership of knowledge, or wisdom, for that matter.
My interpretation of Henderson’s words was that Aly had no right to question Morrison simply because he was the Prime Minister and he should have more respect.
Was Aly supposed to concede that politicians are the citadels of all knowledge?
Aly is an author, journalist, newspaper columnist, radio and television presenter, lawyer, academic, guitarist, songwriter and thinker.
Scott Morrison is the Prime Minister of Australia has a BSc (Honour’s) from Sydney University.
Aly on the television programme “The Project “gave a passionate response (now viewed 14 million times) to the New Zealand massacres in which, without mentioning the Australian Prime Minister’s name, nonetheless implicated him in the criticism of those who have shown anti-Muslim traits for many years. Central to Aly’s criticism was the proposition that Scott Morrison had, at a shadow cabinet meeting in 2010 “urged the shadow cabinet to capitalise on the electorate’s growing concerns” about Muslims and appeal to the public perception of their “inability to integrate”
This followed his questioning in the same month after forty-eight asylum seekers died in the Christmas Island boat disaster. In February 2011, Morrison publicly questioned the decision of the Gillard Labor government to pay for the relatives of the victims to travel to funerals in Sydney, arguing that the same privilege was not extended to Australian citizens.
After fellow Liberal and shadow treasurer Joe Hockey disagreed with Morrison’s statements, Morrison said that the timing of his comments was insensitive, but did not back away from the comments themselves.
After a few days passed with the tension rising the Prime Minister agreed to a 30-minute interview with Aly. He had earlier threatened to sue Aly and the 10 Network.
Now he desperately wanted to be believed.
The Prime Minister in the interview demonstrated that he has learnt nothing from the voice of public opinion that for years has been screaming. “Enough is enough.” Enough lying. Enough lying by omission enough of the lack of transparency, of truth, of non-answers, avoiding the question.
His demeanour was at times condescending, talking down to Aly as though he was giving a schoolboy a lesson in behaviour. He was often prickly even defiant. To avoid answering questions he substituted answers with antidotes.
This he did continuously forcing Aly to often interrupt to bring him back to the question. Aly’s style is unobtrusive yet persistent.
Aly got the ball rolling by asking Morrison if the Liberal Party had a problem with Islamophobia’ he quoted a list of examples for the Prime Minister to consider. He didn’t wouldn’t, couldn’t, answer the question instead playing the part of a raconteur giving a light-hearted after dinner speech.
Six times in 13 minutes he avoided the question and defended his colleagues. It was the same old political defence. The one the public has said enough too.
Having had enough of this form of questioning Morrison hit back saying:
“Do we want to get bogged down in this? Or do we want to move on and make things better?”
Aly returned fire. “Talking about the past is important because the only way you can move forward and reset at a moment like this, is to acknowledge things that have happened in the past that are a problem and need fixing.”
Aly for all his boyish nicety was giving as much as he got and became particularly irate when Morrison pointing at Aly’s notes suggested he was a bit emotional and that his reaction to the 50 lives lost was a bit over the top.
Morrison was deliberately trying to undermine his incredibly well composed, heartfelt and powerful monologue on The Project on Friday night.
Now I consider that beginning with Tampa and the first moment Philip Ruddock called people genuinely seeking asylum, “illegals,” that there are ample examples, including himself, of LNP MPs using race to demonise people that there could only be one answer to the question.
All of Morrison’s storytelling (“my record of working with the Muslim community in Sydney in particular speaks volumes for my track record”) couldn’t change anything so strong is the evidence of them debunking the character of Muslims. We have had 10 years of it. It’s on the record. Abbott, Dutton and Morrison.
As an aside yesterday’s Essential poll found that (42%) agreed with the statement “politicians from Australia’s major parties have deliberately stirred up anti-Islamic sentiment as a way of getting votes.”
“Do we want to get bogged down in this? Or do we want to move on and make things better?”
The interview rolled on with Aly on the same theme. Did Morrison suggest that anti-Muslim sentiment should be exploited?
It degenerated into a bizarre exchange of “he said she said” that could only go nowhere. Aly’s demeanour was typically calm and measured Morrison was becoming increasingly exasperated.
Both did their share of interrupting the other.
Much of Morrison’s defence was taken up with his monologues of the awesome work he had done with the Muslim community and the friends he had made.
No, he couldn’t answer for other colleague’s but not one was guilty of racist derogatory remarks. It would seem that they were all as pure as snow and people like me and the 42% were all just left-wing nut jobs.
Toward the end the Prime Minister began to lecture Aly.
When it came to the question of; “would he be putting One Nation last on his How To Vote card,” he refused to answer.
Aly countered by saying that it was One Nation that has previously stated Islam is a “disease that needs to be vaccinated.”
You would think that saying just that was a good enough reason, but Morrison wanted to keep his options open and when Aly persisted he became belligerent.
Aly asked the question several more times, asking; “why is this is difficult question?” But no answer was forthcoming.
The final question was about Asylum Seekers. Is it a problem that we talk about asylum seekers as rapists, murderers and paedophiles?
Morrison replied by asking: “What if there are rapists and murderers? … Do we ignore that?”
Aly responded by saying; “Frontfooting that description of these people, when there are so few of them in that category, that creates a prejudice.”
But Morrison insisted we must be honest with people. There are real risks, he said.
Aly tried but could not get a figure.
The point being that the government was subliminally or auto suggesting that all asylum seekers could be rapists, murderers and paedophiles.
After 30 minutes with no add breaks the Prime Minister like so many other times never really answered the question even though he knew the answer he wanted the public to imagine the worst.
So, in the end I am left to evaluate it all with little to go by other than my experience.
My experience has told me that unquestionably it certainly cannot be denied that the government has been consistent with their endless Islamophobic rants and demonising of asylum seekers. It has been going on for a decade.
As for whether Morrison in 2010 who; “urged the shadow cabinet to capitalise on the electorate’s growing concerns” about Muslims,” I truly cannot say. The evidence is mixed.
Three respected journalists say they were briefed to that effect. A few shadow cabinet ministers say he didn’t. One, Geoff Hunt says he didn’t, but he wasn’t even there. Yet another said he did. He is on the record.
The Prime Minister says that Aly’s editorial contained “a disgraceful smear and an appalling lie.”
So, I’m left with only my experience to guide me. It tells me that despite his grand stories of making friends with Muslims, his evangelical Christianity and his self-righteousness he must have used those words or similar.
“Don’t prejudge me,” the Prime Minister said. Well I am afraid many like me already have.
My thought for the day
When you tell a lie you deny the other person the truth.
PS: The tone of our political debate, despite 50 lives being lost, still hasn’t risen from the sewer. It won’t until this government has gone. If that is bias then so be it.
After TV presenter Waleed Aly reminded us of Scott Morrison’s reported suggestion of making anti-Muslim sentiments a political weapon, Prime Minister Morrison threatened to sue Waleed Aly.
New Zealand PM, Jacinda Ardern instead invited Waleed to New Zealand for an interview. Morrison has backed down on his threat to sue. Waleed went to New Zealand to meet the Prime Minister.
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