“Where the hell is Scott Morrison?”
That’s a question which Australians have had to ask too many times over the past three years.
Indeed, even last week, amid worsening COVID-19 outbreaks in Sydney, our PM lay low for more than three days. He was not heard from nor seen, as millions of Australians braced yet another week in lockdown.
But who was surprised? I’d hazard a guess that most of us didn’t bat an eyelid. So used are we to the PM’s Houdini prowess, that we fail to register his absence in the most critical of moments.
The bitter truth? Morrison’s leadership has been defined by his inability to stick it out and make tough decisions quickly.
In late 2019, as Australian towns fell in cinders to the ground, Morrison went AWOL. Jetting to Hawaii, he left thousands of destitute Australians, as well as the various state and local governments, to deal with the significant fallout. It took the tragic death of two volunteer firefighters for Morrison to finally cut his trip short, before glibly likening his horribly-timed holiday to taking on “that extra plumbing contract” on a Friday afternoon instead of picking up the kids.
This was the first notable instance of the Prime Minister letting his country down. Yet, despite a national wave of rightful shock and fury, we inevitably buried the hatchet and moved on.
As time went on however, this characteristic of Morrison’s leadership reared its head in even uglier ways.
When a collective cry of outrage came from hundreds of thousands of Australian women seeking to stamp out toxic culture in Parliament and beyond, Morrison put his hands to his ears and attempted to block out the noise. He took days to comment on the horrifying allegations of rape from former Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins, and when he finally spoke, his response was grossly inadequate. He was slammed for his admission of comprehending Higgins’ trauma only at the prompting of his wife Jenny, and through the lens of it being his daughters in the same position.
As the culture crisis worsened in Parliament, with new allegations of an historic rape against a Coalition Cabinet member– now known to be former Attorney General Christian Porter– the Prime Minister dodged interviews and mounting speculation. As women furiously demanded action, Morrison did anything but. He supported Porter to take “mental health leave” before redirecting him into another high profile ministry position– a thorough investigation into the allegations wiped from the table.
Only after weeks of social unrest, did Morrison attempt to lead on the matter. But his decision to open up a ‘Women’s Taskforce’ was swiftly undermined by his failure to distribute funds and resources to the areas most likely to deliver gender equality. It was undermined further by his welcoming in of new/old Nationals leader, Barnaby Joyce a few weeks ago– a man who still has unresolved allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
Morrison said he was listening to women, but we’re yet to see any proof of it.
Of course, there has never been a clearer example of Scott Morrison’s reluctance for decisive action than his navigation of the vaccine rollout. His failure to order enough Pfizer doses in the first place, and then subsequent failure to lobby for more when the situation grew grim, is textbook incompetence that we’re sadly used to.
But just because we’re used to it, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect and demand more. Right now, we need a proactive leader. We need a Prime Minister and government which is willing to make tough calls quickly and that doesn’t operate in retrospect, when things are too far gone.
Scott Morrison has shown time and time again that he is incapable of this.