Ultimately, prime ministers can only ever be as good as the front bench talent they have selected permits them to be. The success of the leader is built upon a series of individual victories; each battle waged and won on its own merits by its own foot-soldiers.
As we approach the first anniversary of Team Abbott in power, it is clear that Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison is the star performer. By a country mile. To point this out is not to belittle others, but rather, to recognize not only the stupendously high mountain that Mr. Morrison has had to scale – ‘stopping the boats’ was surely the Everest of this government’s challenges when it came to power – but also the skill with which he has communicated his philosophy and priorities to the electorate.
A compliment of sorts has come from the Prime Minister himself, with his new catch-phrase ‘Operation Budget Repair’ being an obvious aim (suggested in these pages) to replicate the success of ‘Operation Border Control’. But Mr. Morrison’s strategy cannot be explained away by a catchy slogan. Rather, the man who stopped the boats has done so through employing every bureaucratic tool at his disposal ruthlessly and relentlessly, driven at all times by strong, single-minded concepts and unwavering belief in the morality of his actions.
There are many lessons that other ministers can – and no doubt do – glean from Mr. Morrison’s m.o. (a style, it should be pointed out, that owes as much to his corporate and marketing background as to what he learned on his policeman Dad’s knee). High among them is his complete disregard for the hypocritical hand-wringers and belligerent bleeding-hearts that daily wail against everything this government attempts to do. A confidant and self-assured media performer, he always appears on top of his brief, with the relevant details to hand, yet doesn’t fall into the bear trap of bureaucratic waffle and endlessly-regurgitated statistics. Where a less confidant minister would have obfuscated or attempted to placate the unctuous Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs at her recent ‘inquiry’, Mr. Morrison refused to be berated and was clearly more on top of the facts than she was.
‘No one thing solves a complicated problem,’ Mr. Morrison told Alan Jones and Graham Richardson the other evening on Sky TV. Maybe. But what is undoubtedly at the heart of Mr. Morrison’s success is his unerring ability to single-mindedly pursue his divergent goals whilst never losing sight of the bigger picture – in this instance, determining ‘who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they do so’, as former prime minister John Howard articulated.
Sadly, Mr. Morrison can’t be cloned and put in charge of portfolios such as Treasury, IR, climate change and health, where his skills are needed. But if his blood can’t be bottled, his strategies can. Others within cabinet must attempt to emulate his style.
Slipping between the covers
So many extraordinary, wonderful, inspiring and transformative events have occurred over the last few decades, often at the hands of dazzlingly brilliant individuals who helped shape a modern Australia that is barely recognizable to those who grew up in the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s, an era when many Australians fled abroad to seek their fame and fortune on distant shores.
It would be tempting to list them all here and now, but alas, to do so would deprive all those aspiring writers – many of them reading this page right now – who are eligible to enter the Spectator Australia’s wonderful Thawley prize and earn themselves a lazy five thousand bucks.
The rules are simple. Be fresh, lively and engaging for somewhere between 1000 and 2000 words (the average Speccie column is around the thousand mark, in case you were wondering) on the topic of your choice, so long as it features a person or event that somehow played a part in shaping modern Australia.
For your literary efforts, you will find former Prime Minister John Howard hanging on your every word; so too benefactor Michael Thawley and our other judge, editor Rowan Dean. Even better, if you win, not only do you get to lunch with the illustrious pair (and Rowan) but not long afterwards you’ll find yourself slipping between the covers with such luminaries as Neil Brown, Rod Liddle, Taki, Peter Coleman, Hugo Rifkind and a host of others.
But you’d better get cracking. Entries close on 31 October. The details are on our website; new.spectator.co.uk/thawleyprize
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