Morrison is modelling John Howard, but it’s a risky move


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Illustration: Jim Pavlidis

Illustration: Jim PavlidisCredit score:

I wouldn’t need you to suppose Howard limits himself to dry issues of coverage. On politics, we all know his views on Liberal management guidelines, the position of the press, and the Victorian election. He’s given recommendation on the way to deal with social media. And in October he spoke on the Tweed Byron Police District Psychological Toughness Day, the place he beneficial train and sleep.


I do not know whether or not Morrison follows his mentor’s recommendation on catnaps. It’s true he has ignored him on a number of essential issues. However there isn’t a doubt he sees Howard as a mannequin. Final week he promised that below his personal authorities, “Australia might be stronger. Beneath Invoice Shorten’s Labor authorities, Australia might be weaker.” This isn’t an unique theme. Additionally final week, Miranda Devine famous that Howard’s 2001 election slogan, “Certainty. Management. Power” was Morrison’s creation – and poster with that slogan “has satisfaction of place in Mr Morrison’s workplace, an inspiration for his upcoming electoral battle”.

However how a lot ought to Morrison be leaning on Howard for recommendation? It’s an important query, as a result of proper now comparisons are in all places between the asylum seeker election of 2001 and the election now coming quick at us.

Many Australians harbour affection for Howard. Even in those that didn’t vote for him, you’ll be able to sometimes detect a responsible nostalgia for a time when prime ministers caught round for longer than 5 minutes.

However that is the place an vital distinction have to be drawn. There’s a distinction between being glad Howard was prime minister as soon as upon a time, and wishing Howard himself, or somebody identical to him, have been prime minister once more.

John Howard and his then immigration minister Philip Ruddock in 2001 at the time of the Tampa crisis.

John Howard and his then immigration minister Philip Ruddock in 2001 on the time of the Tampa disaster.Credit score:Jacky Ghossein

Contemplate the views he has lately expressed. He was in opposition to same-sex marriage. On quotas for girls in Parliament, Howard advised us not solely what he thought, however, generously, what he believed girls thought: “I am positive the ladies amongst us would agree with me overwhelmingly that, in the long run, it is all about benefit.” He did this whereas talking at Brisbane’s Tattersall’s Membership, which at that time didn’t enable feminine members. He’s nonetheless arguing in opposition to apologising for the previous, a decade after Kevin Rudd’s Nationwide Apology to the Stolen Generations.

Or take a look at what the Parliament itself has executed to his legacy. WorkChoices got here and went like summer season rain. A lot middle-class welfare, his college funding regime, his conventional marriage regulation, all have been peeled away, by either side.

To some extent that is the destiny of Liberal leaders. As Howard himself stated final yr, a conservative “sees worth in preserving issues from the previous which can be working nicely”. However the battle to protect the previous is at all times misplaced ultimately.

I’m not suggesting we cease taking note of Howard. He stays probably the most lucid thinkers we’ve got on the basics and the mechanics of politics. However political instincts – what one ought to do at a specific cut-off date – depend on an affinity with up to date voters. We’re all merchandise of the durations that demanded most from us – for Howard that was a while in the past. As well as, he acts, consciously or not, from a want to guard his legacy.


Which brings us to the 2001 comparability. Is that this Morrison’s “Tampa second”?

The very first thing to notice is that there was nobody “second”. The high-stakes Tampa scenario unfolded over a number of days. Two weeks later, the September 11 assaults occurred. A month after that the federal government mislead the general public about refugees throwing youngsters overboard. The merged problems with nationwide safety, immigration, and asylum seekers weren’t allowed to fade.

The second is Kim Beazley’s evaluation, recounted by David Marr and Marian Wilkinson: “There was a profound conviction that John Howard was taking a stand on precept, and that the Labor Celebration was enjoying politics.”

It’s clear that Morrison desires to fabricate his personal sequence of occasions. However in contriving to recreate the sustained environment of 2001, Morrison dangers reversing Beazley’s equation.

Already, the federal government’s choice to open Christmas Island appears to be like like a stunt. Labor will use senate estimates this week to press the purpose, asking about capability in present detention centres. Extra telling might be how eagerly the federal government offers footage of asylum seekers arriving in Australia wanting medical consideration, and of boats that arrive, or are turned again.

An Australian vessel patrols the waters near the Norwegian ship Tampa in 2001.

An Australian vessel patrols the waters close to the Norwegian ship Tampa in 2001. Credit score:AP

The politics round boats and refugees stays potent. However voters have modified. Maybe they don’t seem to be extra idealistic – however they’re definitely savvier, and extra suspicious. Additionally they have entry to extra info.

One of the vital notable options of final week was how little Morrison and his colleagues appeared involved with details, and the way sharply they have been pulled up by the press gallery. On youngsters overboard, Howard was pulled up too. However he had served two phrases already, and belief in authorities was not so low.

It’s attention-grabbing to contemplate how typically the 2 males are talking proper now, and what kind of recommendation Howard is likely to be offering.

Sean Kelly is a Herald columnist and a former adviser to Labor prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.

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