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A wartime crisis requires wartime speeches: Scott Morrison and the battle for hearts and minds

29 March 2020

6:45 PM

29 March 2020

6:45 PM

The government’s battle against coronavirus is also a battle for the hearts and minds of Australians. If the Prime Minister fails in winning the latter, his ability to fight and win the former will be significantly compromised. It’s evident to most that Scott Morrison is doing everything a good leader can to win this war, but as goes the law of unintended consequences, he is on the cusp of losing the battle for Australia’s hearts and minds, because of the absence of reassuring battle cries. 

War-time crises require war-time speeches, as much as it requires determined and resolute wartime leaders. If the Prime Minister wants Australians to unite behind him in this war, he’ll have to do a whole lot better in communicating to Australians about why they should fight, why they need to fight, and how his plan is more than up to the fight than he has. 

Morrison has the logistics right and an effective battle plan, but he needs to improve his monologues. Standard public relations speeches, based on information and procedural text-types won’t work; neither will polished, over-written approval ratings twaddle. We can get all that from Government websites. What we need is more of ‘fight on the beaches’, and less of ‘stop going to the beaches’. If the PM doesn’t do this, as has been the staple of most of his press briefings, he’ll come across as fighting against, rather than fighting for Australian, and he’ll lose the proverbial war at home. 

One of Morrison’s big mistakes has been failing to mention how the war cabinet would be going about to protect freedom. If we are indeed fighting a war, imported from Communist China, the PM’s approach in this latest news conference won’t inspire people to unite and fight against it with him.  

The absence of any reassurance to Australians that the government will be doing everything it can, in order to protect freedoms under threat by the necessities he has already outlined — and those that may yet need to be implemented — wasn’t a shot in the arm to the Australian public. For many, it was a right hook to the head. 

To be fair, Morrison’s job isn’t easy. Making the PM’s battle for Australia’s hearts and minds more difficult, are all the social media show ponies lecturing us and the Government on why keeping schools open is wrong. Some rants, I know for a fact, come from folks who don’t really care about the issues, or the kids. This is another quick opportunity to attack their political enemies. 

Let’s be honest. If a Labor Prime Minister had done the same as Morrison in regard to schools, the wolves howling at Morrison would all singing his or her praises. Few on the left blinked an eyelid when Kevin07 splashed so much cash on taxpayer-funded follies and fripperie. It seems that as long as the situation provides an opportunity to drool for, and spill LNP blood, who cares about national unity in a time of crisis?    

The Prime Minister has a mandate from the Australian people to fight on their behalf. This includes bringing Premiers, who may be a little too friendly with the Communist Chinese regime, into line with the constitution. Not letting this crisis become a means for slimy political manoeuvring. 

While the war against coronavirus is of high importance, Scott Morrison must also recognize that the fight for national morale, for the hearts and minds of the Australian people, is as equally important.  

Now that the Prime Minister needs Australians to step up, he must adjust his approach. He can’t tell hundreds of thousands of Australians that they’re going to be out of work for six months, but, hey, here’s some welfare compensation to tie you over until we figure this all out.  

War-time crises require war-time speeches.  

Morrison needs to rally Australians to the cause, recalling some of the adages that inspired the Anzacs to push back against the dark shroud of totalitarianism that embraced the 20th Century. 

I am confident in the Prime Minister’s ability. I am confident in Australia’s ability to unite, and fight; overcome and adapt.

We’ve kept calm and carried on before. We can do so again.

Rod Lampard is an independent scholar, with a keen interest in political theology. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Ministry & Theology and tweets at https://twitter.com/rod_lampard.

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