Why Morrison is here to stay

 

Australia has had six prime ministers and five opposition leaders since 2007, with our revolving door of leaders becoming something of a national joke.

The last elected PM to serve a full term was John Howard, and since then, we've watched as leader after leader has been knifed over little more than a drop in opinion polls or savage internal coups.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has copped a lot of heat as a result of his handling of Australia's unprecedented bushfire crisis, leading some to question whether he might be the next to go.

But a new rule change introduced shortly after he took over the top job means he's likely here to stay.

A number of anti-Morrison murals have popped up in recent weeks. Picture: Jenny Evans/Getty Images
A number of anti-Morrison murals have popped up in recent weeks. Picture: Jenny Evans/Getty Images

BACKLASH BUILDS

Australia's horror bushfire season came early last year, arriving at the very start of spring, but Mr Morrison's PR nightmare really started to take off in December after news leaked that he had jetted off on a Hawaiian holiday.

Before his holiday was confirmed, New Daily reporter Samantha Maiden reported "Mr Morrison's office insists that claims he is holidaying in Hawaii are 'wrong' while refusing to disclose his location or for how long he is on leave".

But photos of Mr Morrison relaxing at a beach bar and posing for pictures while making a Hawaiian "shaka" hand signal soon emerged, and soon the story was making global headlines.

This picture of Scott Morrison holidaying in Hawaii began circulating last month. Picture: Twitter/@Ben_Downie
This picture of Scott Morrison holidaying in Hawaii began circulating last month. Picture: Twitter/@Ben_Downie

Last week, footage of Mr Morrison reaching down to grab pregnant bushfire victim Zoey Salucci-McDermott's hand before leaving her when she started questioning him went viral, followed by a similar incident in when a firey also refused to shake his hand during a meet-and-greet.

The uncomfortable exchange came shortly after Mr Morrison was berated by residents during a visit to Cobargo, one of the hardest-hit communities, who shouted that he should be "ashamed of himself" and that he "left the country to burn".

Mr Morrison was also criticised for a 50-second "ad" spruiking new bushfire measures and for a gaffe that occurred during a visit to Kangaroo Island when he said there had been "no loss of life" in the area despite the deaths of two residents.

And then on Friday, thousands of protesters crowded into Australia's capital cities and regional centres for a rally against the PM and to call for action on climate change.

The Sack ScoMo protests, organised by Uni Students for Climate Justice, attracted international attention.

Protestors across Europe stopped traffic in London in support of the rally, while other groups took over streets of Berlin, Madrid, Copenhagen and Stockholm.

The Prime Minister has been repeatedly quizzed about his response to the bushfire crisis and often hits back at his critics.

"I've been out there on fire grounds and meeting people since September - these fires started in Queensland when I was up there in Canungra meeting those who had been affected," he told ABC's 7.30.

"There's a variety of responses you get in these events - people are very emotionally raw, people have lost everything and I obviously don't take that personally."

He had a similar response when asked about his frosty greeting in Cobargo.

"People are angry and people are upset," he told 3AW.

"Whether they're angry with me or they're angry about their situation, all I know was that they're hurting and it's my job to try and be there and offer some comfort and support. That's my job.

"I don't take these things personally, why would I? I know that they're hurting, I know that they're raw, and I know what our job is. It is to work closely with the states, support them in everything they need and to pre-empt their requests and to ensure our defence force and other agencies are ready to go."

Mr Morrison earlier this week announced $2 billion would be pumped into a national bushfire recovery fund over the next two years and said the government was no longer focused on a surplus.

"If further funds are required, further funds will be provided," Mr Morrison said on Monday.

"We're focused on the financial cost, we're focused on the human costs, and ensuring we can do everything we can, as quickly as we can, to support that recovery effort."

He is considering a royal commission into the tragedy and has faced the public at countless media conferences over many weeks.

 

Scott Morrison's handling of the Australian bushfire crisis has been widely criticised along with his Government’s inaction on climate change. Picture: James Ross/AAP
Scott Morrison's handling of the Australian bushfire crisis has been widely criticised along with his Government’s inaction on climate change. Picture: James Ross/AAP

SCOMO'S RULE

The former marketer took over from ex-PM Malcolm Turnbull on August 24, 2018 following our most recent brutal leadership spill.

Just a few months later, he took swift action against the country's heavily criticised "coup culture", holding a snap party room meeting in early December.

During the meeting, federal Liberal MPs voted to change the party's leadership rules by resolving that prime ministers could now only be removed from office by a two-thirds party room majority - a feat Mr Morrison said at the time was "rarely, if ever, achieved".

Mr Morrison spruiked the new rule change to reporters immediately after the vote, claiming it would help alleviate the "frustration and disappointment" experienced by voters, and saying if he won the 2019 election, he "will remain as prime minister".

Then, last May, he led his party to a shock election win, beating then Labor leader Bill Shorten at the polls.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian have all been criticised over the bushfire catastrophe. Picture: Dean Lewins/AAP
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian have all been criticised over the bushfire catastrophe. Picture: Dean Lewins/AAP

That key rule change means there should be no change in the top job before the next federal election, which will be held in or before 2022.

It would be a similar situation had Mr Shorten won the election, with the Labor Party changing the rules in 2013 in the wake of its own leadership crises.

Under ALP rules, a leadership change requires a minimum of 60 per cent of the caucus vote when the party is in opposition and 75 per cent when it is in government. When there is more than one hat in the ring, there must be a month-long ballot process with the caucus and rank-and-file members each having a 50 per cent say.



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