Nothing to see here

Scott Morrison has the appearance of a school principal in an enrolment video. He has a soft-focus vision for Australia, where children gambol on the lawn and somewhere, just to the right of camera, is a person in whom he wishes to confide an earnest truth.

“The real question is, is what country do you want to live in for the next 10 years?” he says. “The next 10 years is going to determine people’s lives.”

He blinks, as if to hold back emotion. He is grappling with the import of what he has to say. “Starting out, coming out of university. Having kids. Entering retirement. The next 10 years are important to everybody, at every stage of life. The decisions they’ll make – if we get the settings right, on our economy and on security – if we create the right conditions then Australians will have a better next decade.”

The words don’t quite fit together. The longer the sentences become, the less they contain. “That the choices that my girls will have over the next 10 years, even over the next three years, will set up… see, the decisions you make in one term of government last for a decade or more. So it isn’t just about the next three years; it’s about what does the next decade look like?”

He is on a sports field, in a park. He is in a jacket at his desk, at a garden centre, at a cafe. “It has taken us 12 years to get the budget back on track. As much as we are passionate about a strong economy, it’s actually why we’re passionate about it that matters.”

Morrison is a man without promise or promises. It is not clear why he wants to lead the country. He has yet to lay out a plan for it and gives no sign that he will. When he talks about Bill Shorten, he warns Labor will change everything. His own undertaking is that he will not. His proposition is the status quo.

Perhaps it is stability that drives a man such as this. More likely, it is ego. His ambition is not in question. His ambition for the country is. Each day of the election, it seems less likely that he has one.

“You change the government, you change the course of the country,” he says. “And it takes a long time to get it back on track. So, that’s what we’re about.”

It’s a carnival trick, to sell you what you already have. Scott Morrison is staking the election on it.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Apr 20, 2019 as "Nothing to see here". Subscribe here.