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Whatever happened to all those Scott Morrison thought bubbles? | Australia news

Scott Morrison prides himself as an old-fashioned ad-man.

It was the fiction world’s most famous mad man, Don Draper, who spoke what has seemingly become Morrison’s mantra – that if you don’t like what is being said, change the conversation.

Where Malcolm Turnbull was cautious, almost paralysingly so, his successor has shown a habit of rushing in, filling empty space with thought bubbles, hurtling ideas across press conferences to change the conversation, when the national focus shines into uncomfortable corners.

So, what are those bubbles that he has dispensed and whatever happened to them?

Moving Australia’s Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – an ‘idea’ just ahead of the byelection in Wentworth, a Sydney seat with a significant Jewish population.

What he said:

“We are committed to a two-state solution, but frankly, it hasn’t been going that well. Not a lot of progress has been made. And you don’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results. And so when sensible suggestions are put forward that are consistent with your policy positioning, and in this case pursuing a two-state solution, Australia should be open-minded to this and I am open-minded to this and our government is open-minded to this.

What happened next?

The prime minister was not so subtly reminded that he was on the cusp of signing a billion-dollar free trade deal with Indonesia, which was not enamoured of Australia’s plans to have “a discussion” about moving its Israel embassy. Malcolm Turnbull, in the role of Australia’s official envoy to president Joko Widodo, warned Indonesia would have a “very negative reaction” to any move. Australia’s intelligence agencies warned against it, while foreign affairs and defence officials were forced to admit they found out much the same time as the media of the planned ‘conversation’ about a decades-long shift in bipartisan foreign policy. The government went on to lose Wentworth in one of the biggest byelection swings in Australia’s history. The loss also plunged the government into official minority status in the House.

Establishing a ‘new national day’ recognising Indigenous people, while defending his support for keeping 26 January as Australia Day, without consulting Indigenous bodies.

What he said:

We know there are things that have happened, like in every country, that have left deep scars, particularly in relation to the treatment and experience of Indigenous Australians,” Morrison said , in an exclusive interview with the Daily Telegraph published on September 25.

“…Such scars should not provide an invitation for self-loathing, but a reminder of what we have learned and how we have become a better nation…I also believe we need to honour and acknowledge in our national calendar our Indigenous peoples.”

What happened next?

This one lasted only to the next day, when Morrison went on Radio National to say he never suggested creating a new public holiday to recognise Indigenous Australians. That came after criticism from Indigenous groups, who said they had not been consulted, and the business community, alarmed at the prospect of another public holiday being added to the Australian calendar, as well as some of his own colleagues hosing down the idea.

“I was making the point that Australia Day is Australia Day, and that will be the top national holiday of the year,” he said on 26 September.

“I then said that I’m happy to have a chat about how we can have greater recognition and honouring of our Indigenous peoples. We should talk about that. Now I haven’t said that it’s a public holiday or not a public holiday. I haven’t been so specific. I just think we should have a chat about it.”

Introducing a ‘national interest test’ for Australian Research Council grants.

What he said:

To be fair, it was not the prime minister, but his recently appointed education minister, Dan Tehan, who created this thought bubble storm, after it was revealed in Senate estimates that Simon Birmingham, his predecessor in the portfolio, had stepped in and blocked 11 research grants independently approved by the ARC, in arts, culture, music and history.

Birmingham defended his position on social media, tweeting: “I’m pretty sure most Australian taxpayers preferred their funding to be used for research other than spending $223,000 on projects like ‘Post orientalist arts of the Strait of Gibraltar’.

Tehan waded in the next week, saying the Morrison government would institute a national interest test.

“If you’re asking the Australian taxpayer to fund your research, you should be able to articulate how that research will advance the national interest,” Tehan said.

What happened next?

Well, not a lot, because, as universities and their researchers very quickly pointed out, a national interest test already exists for ARC grant applications. Major ARC grant schemes have a “national benefit” test which asks applicants to outline the benefit to the Australian and international community of their proposed research.

Putting the New Zealand offer to accept 150 asylum seekers from Australia’s offshore detention centres back in play, before almost immediately taking it back off the table.

What he said:

Morrison raised the hopes of asylum seekers and their advocates when he re-floated the idea of the Australian government accepting New Zealand’s long-standing offer to accept 150 asylum seekers from Nauru last month, following internal lobbying within his party room. He urged Labor and the crossbench “to reconsider their opposition” to legislation which put a lifetime ban on asylum seekers from coming to Australia.

What happened next?

After Labor indicated it was willing to shift position and allow the lifetime ban to apply to those asylum seekers headed to New Zealand only, suggesting a compromise on the others to apply a lifetime ban on residency, but not visits, the deal was suddenly off the table again, because you don’t “horse trade on border protection”.

Honourable mentions:

Work for the dole, on farms.

Facing backlash from regional and remote communities and from agricultural producers who can’t find enough seasonal employees to work their farms in picking seasons, Morrison, who had previously rejected the idea of an “agricultural visa”, came up with a way to extend social security requirements; sending job seekers to work on farms.

“This is about doing everything we can to ensure Australian jobs are being filled by Australians,” Mr Morrison told the Australian last month.

But the National Farmers’ Federation hated the idea. As did most producers.

So for now, restrictions on the backpacking visa will be relaxed, making it easier to extend the amount of time a seasonal worker spends on a farm. It’s a step closer to the agriculture visa the industry wanted, but Morrison says the other ideas aren’t gone forever, just … stalled.

Envoys.

When announcing his “next generation team”, Morrison included Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce as his special envoys for Indigenous affairs and the drought. But it’s not a position in the constitution, and they don’t sit in the ministry, even though they represent the government when dealing in these areas. So no one is quite sure what they do, or how it works. Abbott has been touring Indigenous communities, to mixed responses, while Joyce has been spending time in drought-stricken communities and standing behind the prime minister in press conferences. The PM also sent Malcolm Turnbull as Australia’s envoy to Indonesia, a move that devolved into a public spat when Morrison told Alan Jones the former PM overstepped his brief by talking foreign policy and the embassy issue, only to be corrected by Turnbull on social media.

Lapel pins and the Veterans card.

“For each of you today, I gave you a lapel pin with the Australian flag on it. I’ve been wearing this now for many, many years. I can’t remember when I started doing this. The reason I wear it is because it reminds me every single day whose side I’m on. I’m on the stride [sic] of the Australian people,,” Morrison told his first cabinet meeting in August. So far, they have proved entertaining for ‘spot the pin’ games in the gallery, as more often than not, they’re left off the lapels of Morrison’s ministers. There was also that time Morrison’s was upside down, sparking jokes of whether it was a distress signal.

Mikearoo
(@mpbowers)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison seems to be flying his flag pin upside down earlier today-international code for dire distress and extreme danger? @AmyRemeikis @murpharoo @GuardianAus #politicslive https://t.co/gCjixohGjf pic.twitter.com/eqZ1SIUlWA


September 17, 2018

But things got a little more serious when Morrison announced plans to issue Australia’s service men and women with a special lapel pin of their own, to help businesses identify them, and, the plan went, honour them. A special discount card, separate to the one issued by veterans’ affairs was also floated. Virgin Australia immediately responded with plans to allow priority boarding for Australia’s service men and women, identified through their pins and cards, in a US-style recognition of military service, which includes recognition through on-board announcements. But Virgin back-pedalled from its offer almost immediately, following criticism from, well, almost everyone, including those who have served.



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