Tricks and spin

Scott Morrison’s press club address was framed as “a reset”.

A chance for the prime minister, in a brief moment of respite from the fires and the storms, to wrangle back control of the narrative. To lay out his agenda, after a fairly rudderless first year in power.

He acknowledged the summer’s tragedy early on and thanked those who had served their country.

“Our brave firefighters. Our emergency services workers. Our volunteers.”

He preached strength and praised the resilience of our people but, beneath that, his was a hard sell with a simple message: Australia can have it all.

We can fund the recovery of bushfire-ravaged towns across the country without any threat to the coveted surplus, continue the “Pacific step-up” without ever really engaging with the Pacific.

We can be “committed to each other as stewards and custodians of our collective future” without the need to reduce our emissions.

This is what balance looks like, according to the prime minister; this is the middle path.

In truth, though, this is what spin looks like. Nothing more than a trick of the light, beautiful, fleeting, a promise you could pass your hand right through.

Morrison has been criticised for his failures of leadership. For being devoid of the nous required to steer the country through crisis.

But there are one’s personal shortcomings, and the choices one makes. Morrison made a choice not to plan for the bushfires, nor for his three years in power.

A government cannot solve problems when its only priority is minimising scrutiny. And as his press club address laid bare, nothing has changed.

“These were the priorities I set out when I became prime minister,” he said on Wednesday. “They remain lock-firm my priorities today and going forward.”

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on February 1, 2020 as "Tricks and spin".

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