After various jobs in the Property Council, Tourism Task Force, and the Tourism Council, Morrison moved to new Zealand’s Office of Tourism and Sport, before coming back to become Director of the NSW branch of the Liberal Party. By 2004, Morrison was the Chief Executive of Tourism Australia, a $350,000 per annum job handed to him by then Federal Liberal Minister for Tourism, Joe Hockey, an act of exceptional political cronyism. He was elected to parliament in 20071.
Scott Morrison gave his maiden speech in the House of Representatives in February, 20082. It was the standard maiden speech fare: where I come from; how wonderful those people are, particularly those that elected me; what a wonderful person the previous member was; what a wonderful group those Liberal Party volunteers and apparatchiks are, blah, blah, blah.
He then admits that, in his time in the property council and the tourism industry he gained a healthy respect for “the passion and commitment of Australian businesspeople, especially those in small business. It is business that creates jobs and it is business that drives our economy. This is achieved through the initiative, enterprise and sacrifice of business owners and the hard work, skill and professionalism of the employees they lead”2. It is a shame this hard work isn’t recognised by his government, who are quite happy to decrease penalty rates3 and now want to prevent any increase in the minimum wage.
In his speech, Morrison then goes on to the two most significant influences on his life; his family and his faith. He thanks his grandparents, parents, his brother and his wife. He stated “However, above all, I thank her for her determination to never give up hope for us to have a child”. This he followed with some of the oddest stuff I have heard anybody say: “After 14 years of bitter disappointments, God remembered her faithfulness and blessed us with our miracle child”. He then dedicated his speech to his daughter in the hope of an even better future for her and her generation”2.
Given his jobs in Tourism and the fact that he now has two daughters, despite the initial forgetfulness of his god, it is bizarre in the extreme that he would stroll into parliament with a lump of coal, using it as a prop to rail against the opposition for their supposed fear of it4. Using coal is one of the most emission-intensive ways to generate electricity and it directly threatens one of the biggest sources of tourism income for this nation, the Great Barrier Reef. The reef World Heritage Area, just from tourism alone provides over $6 billion in direct expenditure, with another $5 billion in value added5. Even if we stopped emitting CO2 overnight, it is still probably too late for the northern parts of the reef. Bleaching has already been severe, and this is unlikely to decrease. The fact that he has two children makes his actions even more disgraceful. He seems to care little for their future, despite professing to do so.
The speech continued on with more about his faith, including “For me, faith is personal, but the implications are social—as personal and social responsibility are at the heart of the Christian message. In recent times it has become fashionable to negatively stereotype those who profess their Christian faith in public life as ‘extreme’ and to suggest that such faith has no place in the political debate of this country. This presents a significant challenge for those of us, … who seek to follow the example of William Wilberforce or Desmond Tutu, to name just two. These leaders stood for the immutable truths and principles of the Christian faith”2.
Given that it has been reported that Scott Morrison argued in cabinet that the Liberals should exploit community concerns about Muslim immigrants1, is it surprising that there are negative stereotypes of Christians who express their faith in public? How does that sit with Morrison’s assertion that his values are, as he later states in the speech “of loving-kindness, justice and righteousness, to act with compassion and kindness, acknowledging our common humanity and to consider the welfare of others”2. After that, he quotes Desmond Tutu, who expected Christians to be “those who stand up for the truth, to stand up for justice, to stand on the side of the poor and the hungry, the homeless and the naked, and when that happens, then Christians will be trustworthy believable witnesses”. Perhaps Scott Morrison took this literally and just wanted to be a witness, not to actually do anything related to his professed values, just to be a witness. Like most politicians, he will lie when it suits him, and his ‘we don’t speak of on-water activities’ is simply lying by omission6. It would be interesting to find out what Desmond Tutu thinks of Australian asylum-seeker policies. I somehow doubt he would be complimentary.
Morrison then goes on about what Australia is: “Australia is not a secular country—it is a free country. This is a nation where you have the freedom to follow any belief system you choose. Secularism is just one. It has no greater claim than any other on our society. As US Senator Joe Lieberman said, the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not from religion. I believe the same is true in this country.” While stating that Australians are free to follow any belief system they choose, including none, he agrees with Lieberman that the US constitution and presumably ours, does not guarantee freedom from religion. This, while seemingly contradictory, is in effect stating that while you can be secular in your beliefs, you will have to toe the line demanded by his beliefs. This is the main problem with all religions, they want to legislate their creed into law, given the power to do so. If that is allowed to happen, a country becomes a theocracy, and that is a dangerous system under which to live, especially if you happen to be of a different religion, or of none, or have a sexual orientation not sanctioned by that religion.
Scott Morrison professes to be a Christian, but his behaviour subsequent to his election to parliament, is unlike the values outlined in his maiden speech. I wonder how his children would feel if, as they pass into adulthood, and as the world warms and thousands more asylum-seekers and climate refugees arrive on our shores, they were shown his antics and had his policies explained to them. They may think of him as just another venal opportunist politician more concerned with getting re-elected than the future of this nation.