Monday 13 January 2020

The Interview (Updated).


That journalists love a scoop is a fact so well-known it has become a commonplace.

So, when last Sunday ABC journos were given an unscheduled opportunity to interview Scott Morrison (no doubt with little notice and by someone close enough to the man himself), it is understandable that they were eager to seize the opportunity.

And, given the tragedy of apocalyptic proportions that has hit Australia (and indeed how unusual the situation appears to an outsider like yours truly) it was reasonable to expect not only a big announcement, but The Big Announcement.


I get up early every morning. The first thing I’ve been doing in the last months is to turn the TV on, to learn of the latest disaster. Call me masochist. I was watching. I saw the “Weekend Breakfast” crew advertising the surprising interview earlier that morning (it must have been between 0600 and 0700 AEDT). I saw the interview (at 0830). The excitement in the young reporter’s voice and expression was reasonable; as was the perplexity in the more veteran interviewer.

The same disbelief is evident in David Speers’ account of the interview (my emphasis):
Asked three times, the Prime Minister refused to rule out increasing Australia's target to reduce emissions by 26-28 per cent by 2030 under the Paris Agreement.”
Anyway, this is how Speers sums up Morrison’s answers. While I don’t quite agree on everything, I am just a low-paid worker and an outsider and Speers was there doing what he does for a living.


Michelle Grattan has been around for a while. She’s seen many things and learned from them. I think her assessment, a month ago, was prescient:

“Morrison is the ultimate pragmatist and so, if he sees it in his interest, he may well be willing to readjust. Not radically, nor quickly. Just enough, as and when he judges it, to satisfy middle-ground voters.
“He did a little of this before the election when he topped up funding for ‘direct action’ and advanced pumped hydro, although some read more into the shift than was there.”

So, my assessment of Morrison’s “adjustments”? His big announcement?

Firstly, as former Liberal Stephen O’Doherty remarked after the interview, Morrison now talks of climate change and bushfires openly, without appealing to Michael McCormack’s “self-combusting piles of manure” or paranoid conspiracy theories. This is a step in the right direction, I guess, and it may anger some of the rabid freaks in the COALition ranks: from the higher-ups like McCormack himself and Matt Canavan through Keith Pitt, George Christensen, Craig Kelly, Barnaby Joyce and Giovanni “John” Barilaro, down to nobodies like Michael Pengilly.

Secondly, Morrison wants to persuade us he gets it, as Speers says. Moreover, he wants to persuade us he cares. His trademark crooked smirk -- the “coal lump” smirk -- is gone as is gone his off-hand, contemptuous dismissal of questions (“Gossip!”, “Canberra bubble!”); he now insists on shaking all hands (even unfriendly ones). He makes a show of humility; he’s suddenly understanding and forgiving. How persuasive that was? It’s for you to answer.

Thirdly, he may or may not call a royal commission which -- at best -- will provide plenty of theatre during a year or two and a report which will be promptly left to dust; and -- at worst -- will be a witch hunt and rubber stamp destructive practices the rabid freaks want. (Update: thank you, Pauline Hanson, for your unbeatable illustration of that last point.)

As I see it, after months of bushfires, that’s it. That’s as far as Scott Morrison will shift his stance and that because it is in his interest.


Against numerous denials from Morrison and his lackeys, others insist on reading more in his words. Perhaps they are right. They may have inside information. Honestly, I wish they were, although I suspect there is more than a little wishful thinking there.

For, most of all, what I heard was Scott Morrison parroting zombie-like the mantra he and his COALition henchmen have been parroting forever now: “meet and beat our targets”, or a slight variation thereof. One must have been comatose or catatonic to have not heard the same inane phrase.

And one doesn’t need psychic powers to know that there was no thought in Morrison’s head beyond the need to control political damage and empty talking points that everybody, Morrison included, knows are false.

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