On May 21 2022, Scott Morrison and his corrupt bunch of cronies were thrown out of office.
Most Prime Ministers who have lost their hold on power take the quickest possible exit, get another job with a salary equal to or better than their current one and remark on things they ought to leave be. In recent times, the only exception to this once-fashionable convention has been the first woman to be elected as Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.
As time becomes the essence of history and one year turns into the next, Scott Morrison has become the enigma of the House of Representatives, with speculation ever present that he is ready to quit Parliament and trigger a by-election in his New South Wales seat of Cook.
Why is he hanging around? Does he harbour thoughts of returning to the top job? Is he unemployable in the private sector? Rumour has always been constant that he has been trying hard to get a job, but trust is an issue. He may believe that being in Parliament protects him from prosecution over Robodebt.
These days, leaders who lose elections don’t usually hang around lest they embarrass the new leader.
History shows us that in 1908, former PM William Morris Hughes stayed for three decades after he was bumped from office. The “Little Digger” (as he was known) lost office in 1923 but hung around until he died in 1952.
But in the modern era, former PMs have, after losing power, vacated their seats and hastily abandoned politics. Malcolm Fraser probably established this precedent.
He walked away from the top job, initiating a by-election in the seat of Wannon’s seat two months after his party lost to Bob Hawke in March 1983.
Paul Keating disposed of Hawke in December 1991; Hawke resigned in February 1992, with his seat of Wills going to independent Phil Cleary in the following by-election.
Keating also retired from the Parliament after his Labor government lost power to John Howard in March 1996.
Howard’s end came at the hands of Kevin Rudd, who finished his prime ministership in November 2007 and with him went more than three decades as a member of Bennelong.
Kevin Rudd stayed around after being thrown out by his Parliamentary colleagues in June 2010. Angered by his dismissal and convinced of his righteousness, he remained for another parliamentary term, regaining the prime ministership in June 2013 from his vanquisher Julia Gillard.
Three months after his reinvention, the voters gave him the flick, and he resigned his seat.
Gillard resigned as the member for Lalor only weeks after being ousted by PM Rudd. Tony Abbott, who was clearly not up to the job, is the exception. He was defeated in a challenge by party-unpopular Malcolm Turnbull in September 2015, a little under two years after becoming Prime Minister.
At the time, Abbott was the worst and most bizarre prime minister ever.
Haplessly, he recontested his seat of Warringah again at the May 2019 election but lost to the independent Zali Steggall.
Turnbull, never a true blue liberal, left Parliament like a shot out of a gun once the right-wing nutters had had their way. After being dumped from the leadership in favour of Scott Morrison in August 2018, he resigned as a member of Wentworth within a week and took his intimidating intellect with him.
So, an unofficial club of former PMs formed with Rudd and Keating on the left and Howard, Abbott and Morrison on the right, defending themselves and offering advice to anyone who would listen.
Instead of being a formidable resource for their respective parties, former Prime Ministers are often ostracised and become a blame mechanism. The media treat them as controversial taps to turn on and off at will.
Modern former leaders, when dethroned, take the opportunity to make the most of what is available to them. Book writing deals, lecture tours, ambassadorships, business ventures, highly paid jobs, NGO and think tank appointments.
Ex-Prime Ministers today enjoy opportunities that their predecessors never had. Not to mention a lifelong pension that is staggering to most of us.
But now, back to the compelling character of Scott Morrison. He believed that God had gifted him the prime ministership but never allowed the holiness of his belief to interfere with his ruthless politics.
A person with an opinion of himself larger than life itself must find it humiliating to sit on the backbench with other mortals. Why is he doing it? We would have to dismiss his often-quoted words, “I’m relishing being the member for Cook.” In a recent Morgan poll, he was found to be the most mistrusted politician in Australia, just ahead of Peter Dutton.
The longer he stays, the more humiliated he must feel when he takes his plush seat in the House of Representatives. But losing the 2022 election has only increased his capacity for making headlines. Firstly, we had the astonishing revelation that he had commandeered several portfolios while PM and, secondly, because of the adverse findings against him by the Robodebt Royal Commission. Thirdly, the news that documents were missing from the annual release of cabinet papers.
Sky News Australia host Andrew Bolt has claimed the Coalition must “bring back” former Prime Minister Scott Morrison to the front bench and reshuffle the entire shadow cabinet to defeat Labor at the next federal election.
Would Dutton risk such a move? If Morrison and he are the most untrusted politicians in the country. Such a move would not be publicly unacceptable.
Another reason for his remaining in Parliament might be that as a sitting member, he might be entitled to financial assistance with legal fees should any Robodebt charges be laid against him.
Of all his options, as complicated as they may be, it takes guts to apologise to the House for past and present scandals, and it isn’t a gift conservatives carry in their top pocket. Intestinal fortitude doesn’t become them.
Retreating when faced with unresolved issues is like a priest unwilling to listen to a confession.
Of all his options, none has dignity attached to it. His sullied reputation is of his own doing. Never has an Australian leader shown such little regard for our democratic institutions, conventions and principles.
Indeed, staying on isn’t an option and would only damage the Liberal Brand more, but it wouldn’t be a surprise. It would only reinforce just how Trumpish they have become. Does Dutton really want him to stay? That is political madness.
I’m afraid the mystery of why he stays will be with us a little longer. Solving this requires intelligence, and it doesn’t apply here.
My thought for the day
The Australian Parliament is just an excuse for conservative, mediocre minds who cannot debate with intellect, charm or wit to act deplorably. And in doing so debase the Parliament and reveal themselves as moronic imbecilic individuals. Dutton and Morrison are two such individuals.
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