Scott Morrison

Scott John Morrison (born 13 May 1968) is an Australian politician serving as the 30th and current Prime Minister of Australia having become the leader of the governing Liberal Party in August 2018. He previously served in Cabinet from 2013 to 2018, including as Treasurer.


Scott Morrison

Scott Morrison 2014 (cropped).jpg
30th Prime Minister of Australia
Assumed office
24 August 2018
MonarchElizabeth II
Governor-GeneralSir Peter Cosgrove
David Hurley
DeputyMichael McCormack
Preceded byMalcolm Turnbull
14th Leader of the Liberal Party
Assumed office
24 August 2018
DeputyJosh Frydenberg
Preceded byMalcolm Turnbull
Minister for the Public Service
Assumed office
26 May 2019
DeputyGreg Hunt
Preceded byMathias Cormann
Treasurer of Australia
In office
21 September 2015 – 24 August 2018
Prime MinisterMalcolm Turnbull
Preceded byJoe Hockey
Succeeded byJosh Frydenberg
Minister for Social Services
In office
23 December 2014 – 21 September 2015
Prime MinisterTony Abbott
Malcolm Turnbull
Preceded byKevin Andrews
Succeeded byChristian Porter
Minister for Immigration and Border Protection
In office
18 September 2013 – 23 December 2014
Prime MinisterTony Abbott
Preceded byTony Burke
Succeeded byPeter Dutton
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Cook
Assumed office
24 November 2007
Preceded byBruce Baird
Personal details
Born
Scott John Morrison

(1968-05-13) 13 May 1968 (age 52)
Waverley, New South Wales, Australia
Political partyLiberal
Other political
affiliations
Coalition
Spouse(s)
Jenny Warren (m. 1990)
Children2
ResidenceKirribilli House (primary)[1]
The Lodge (Canberra)
EducationUniversity of New South Wales (BSc Hons)[2]
Signature
WebsiteOfficial website
Nickname(s)ScoMo[3]

Morrison was born in Sydney and studied economic geography at the University of New South Wales. He worked as director of the New Zealand Office of Tourism and Sport from 1998 to 2000 and was managing director of Tourism Australia from 2004 to 2006. Morrison was also state director of the New South Wales Liberal Party from 2000 to 2004. He was later elected to the House of Representatives at the 2007 election, representing the Division of Cook in New South Wales.

After the Coalition victory at the 2013 election, Morrison was appointed Minister for Immigration and Border Protection in the Abbott Government, in which capacity he was responsible for implementing Operation Sovereign Borders.[4] In a reshuffle the following year, he became Minister for Social Services.[5] He was later promoted to the role of Treasurer in September 2015, after Malcolm Turnbull replaced Abbott as prime minister.[6]

In August 2018, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton unsuccessfully challenged Turnbull for the leadership of the Liberal Party. Leadership tension continued, and the party voted to hold a second leadership ballot on 24 August, with Turnbull choosing not to stand. In that ballot, Morrison defeated both Dutton and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to become leader of the Liberal Party. He was sworn in as prime minister by the Governor-General later that day.[7] Morrison went on to lead the Coalition to an upset victory in the 2019 election.[8]

Early life and education

Morrison was born in Waverley, Sydney, New South Wales, the younger of two sons born to Marion (née Smith) and John Douglas Morrison (died 23 January 2020).[9] His father was a policeman who served on the Waverley Municipal Council, including for a single term as mayor.[10] Morrison's maternal grandfather was born in New Zealand.[11] His paternal grandmother was the niece of noted Australian poet Dame Mary Gilmore. In 2012, on the 50th anniversary of her death, he delivered a tribute to her in federal parliament.[12] Morrison is descended from William Roberts, a convict who was convicted of stealing yarn and transported to Australia on the First Fleet in 1788.[13]

Morrison grew up in the suburb of Bronte. He had a brief career as a child actor, appearing in several television commercials and small roles in local shows.[14] Some reports have suggested that he was the iconic 1970s Vicks "Love Rub" kid, but footage to confirm or refute this has not been found; he has stated he was in a different Vicks commercial.[15] He attended Sydney Boys High School before going on to complete a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) honours degree in applied economic geography at the University of New South Wales.[16][17][18] He contemplated studying theology at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada, but he instead chose to enter the workforce after completing his undergraduate education, in part due to the disapproval of his father.[19]

Early career

After graduating from university, Morrison worked as national policy and research manager for the Property Council of Australia from 1989 to 1995. He then moved into tourism, serving as Deputy Chief Executive of the Australian Tourism Task Force and then general manager of the Tourism Council of Australia; the latter was managed by Bruce Baird, whom he would eventually succeed in federal parliament.[14]

In 1998, Morrison moved to New Zealand to become director of the newly created Office of Tourism and Sport. He formed a close relationship with New Zealand's tourism minister, Murray McCully, and was involved with the creation of the long-running "100% Pure New Zealand" campaign.[14][20] He left this position in 2000, a year before the contract schedule.[21]

Morrison returned to Australia in 2000, to become state director of the Liberal Party of Australia (New South Wales Division). He oversaw the party's campaigns in the 2001 federal election and in the 2003 New South Wales state election.[10]

Tourism Australia

In 2004, Morrison left the NSW Liberal Party post to become the inaugural managing director of Tourism Australia, which had been established by the Howard Government. His appointment was controversial due to its openly political nature.[10] He approved and defended the contentious "So where the bloody hell are you?" advertising campaign featuring Lara Bingle. He lost his job in 2006, apparently due to conflict with tourism minister Fran Bailey over the government's plans to further integrate the agency into the Australian Public Service,[22] although a 2019 investigation by The Saturday Paper[23] suggested Morrison was sacked for breaching procurement guidelines and awarding government contracts worth A$184 million to advertising and media companies without value-for-money assessments or board approval.[24]

This episode and, more generally, his career in marketing led to his satirical sobriquet, "Scotty from Marketing",[24] originating with satirical magazine The Betoota Advocate in August 2018. It was taken up on Twitter in early 2019, and spiked at the height of the bushfire crisis on 29 December 2019.[25][26] in January 2020 Morrison referred to the name as a "snarky comment" used by the Labor Party to discredit him.[27][24]

Political career

Opposition (2007–2013)

Morrison sought Liberal preselection for the Division of Cook, an electorate in the southern suburbs of Sydney which includes Cronulla, Caringbah, and Miranda, for the 2007 election, following the retirement of Bruce Baird, who had served as the member since 1998. He lost the ballot to Michael Towke, a telecommunications engineer and the candidate of the Liberals' right faction, by 82 votes to 8.[28]

However, allegations surfaced that Towke had engaged in branch stacking and had embellished his resume.[29] The state executive of the Liberal Party disendorsed Towke and held a new pre-selection ballot, which Morrison won. The allegations subsequently proved to be false, and The Daily Telegraph was forced to pay an undisclosed amount to settle a defamation suit filed by Towke.[28]

 
Morrison in 2009.

In September 2008, Morrison was appointed to Malcolm Turnbull's coalition front bench as shadow minister for housing and local government. In December 2009, he became shadow minister for immigration and citizenship, coming into the shadow cabinet for the first time during Tony Abbott's first cabinet reshuffle shortly after winning the leadership. He served on the Shadow Cabinet Committee on Border Protection.

In December 2010, forty-eight asylum seekers died in the Christmas Island boat disaster.[30] In February 2011, Morrison publicly questioned the decision of the Gillard Labor government to pay for the relatives of the victims to travel to funerals in Sydney, arguing that the same privilege was not extended to Australian citizens. After fellow Liberal and shadow treasurer Joe Hockey disagreed with Morrison's statements, Morrison said that the timing of his comments was insensitive, but did not back away from the comments themselves.[31][32] In the same month, it was revealed that Morrison had "urged the shadow cabinet to capitalise on the electorate's growing concerns" about Muslims and appeal to the public perception of their "inability to integrate" to gain votes.[33]

In February 2013, Morrison said that the police should be notified of where asylum seekers are living in the community if any antisocial behaviour has occurred, and that there should be strict guidelines for the behaviour of those currently on bridging visas while they await the determination of their claims.[34] The new code of conduct was released by the immigration minister for more than 20,000 irregular maritime arrivals living in the community on bridging visas.[35][better source needed]

Abbott Government (2013–2015)

On 18 September 2013, Morrison launched Operation Sovereign Borders, the new government's strategy aimed at stopping unauthorised boats from entering Australian waters.[36] Cabinet documents from this time revealed in 2018 that Morrison asked for mitigation strategies to avoid granting permanent visas to 700 refugees.[37] His office reported that there were 300 boats and 20,587 arrivals in 2013 to only 1 boat and 157 arrivals for all of 2014.[38] The UNHCR expressed concerns that the practice may violate the Refugee Convention.[39] In September 2014, it was reported that zero asylum seekers had died at sea since December 2013, compared with more than 1,100 deaths between 2008 and 2013.[40] The annual refugee intake, which had been increased to 20,000 for 2012–13 by the previous government, was reduced to 13,750, the level it had been in 2011–12. Morrison stated that "Not one of those places will go to anyone who comes on a boat to Australia [...] they will go to people who have come the right way".[41][42]

Morrison defended his use of the terms "illegal arrivals" and "illegal boats", saying that "I've always referred to illegal entry ... I've never claimed that it's illegal to claim asylum."[43][44]

During his time as Immigration Minister, Morrison's dealings with the media and accountability to the public were widely criticised by journalists, Labor and Greens senators, and others for refusing to provide details about the matters within his portfolio. Morrison asserted that to reveal details of operations would be to play into the hands of people smugglers who used this information to plan illegal smuggling operations.[45] On many occasions Morrison refused to answer questions about the status of asylum seekers or boats coming to and from Australia, often on the basis that he would not disclose "on water" or "operational" matters.[46][47][48][49][50]

In November 2014, the Australian Human Rights Commission delivered a report to the Government which found that Morrison failed in his responsibility to act in the best interests of children in detention during his time as Minister. The overarching finding of the inquiry was that the prolonged, mandatory detention of asylum seeker children caused them significant mental and physical illness and developmental delays, in breach of Australia's international obligations.[51] The report was criticised by Tony Abbott as being politically motivated, with regard to the timing of the report's release after the Abbott Government had taken office. The Government released the report publicly in February 2015.[52]

In early December 2014, Morrison had the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014 passed through the Australian Parliament. The bill gave Morrison more power than any previous minister in dealing with people seeking asylum in Australia, including the power to return asylum seekers to their place of origin, detain asylum seekers without charge, and refuse asylum seekers who arrive by boat access to the Refugee Review Tribunal.[53][54] The bill reintroduced temporary protection visas to deal specifically with the backlog of 30,000 people who had arrived under the previous Labor Government but who had yet to be processed. The bill allowed those on bridging visas to apply for work, and increased the refugee intake to 18,750.[55]

In a cabinet reshuffle in late December 2014, Morrison was appointed the Minister for Social Services and ceased to be Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.[56] His time as minister was described by Jenny Macklin when she said that "Scott Morrison was appointed to clean up Kevin Andrew’s mess but left behind more chaos, confusion and cuts".[57]

In March 2015, three hundred alumni of Sydney Boys High School signed a letter protesting Morrison's attendance at an alumni fund-raising event. The protest letter expressed the opinion that the school should not celebrate a person who has "so flagrantly disregarded human rights".[58] Morrison attended this and subsequent alumni and school events.[citation needed]

Turnbull Government (2015–2018)

Morrison was appointed as Treasurer in the Turnbull Government in September 2015, replacing Joe Hockey. In his first press conference as Treasurer, he indicated a reduction in government expenditure and stated that the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) and White Paper on tax reform would arrive on time.[59]

In May 2016, Morrison handed down the 2016 Australian federal budget. It included the introduction of a 40 percent diverted profits tax (popularly known as the "Google tax"), which is an anti-avoidance measure designed to prevent base erosion and profit shifting. It was passed into law as the Diverted Profits Tax Act 2017 and took effect on 1 July 2017.[60] The new tax received criticism from some quarters, with the Corporate Tax Association stating that it would have "unpredictable outcomes" and negatively affect Australian business.[61][62]

In February 2017, Morrison addressed the House of Representatives while holding a lump of coal, stating "This is coal. Don't be afraid. Don't be scared. It won't hurt you", and accusing those concerned about the environmental impact of the coal industry of having "an ideological, pathological fear of coal."[63] He handed down the 2017 Australian federal budget in May 2017.

Morrison was an opponent of legalising same-sex marriage. After the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey, he proposed an amendment to the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 allowing parents to remove children from classes if "non-traditional" marriage is discussed.[64] All amendments failed,[65] and Morrison abstained from voting on the final bill.[66] The electorate of Cook had a participation rate of 82.22%, and 55.04% of those had responded "Yes".[67]

In December 2017, the government introduced the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry (popularly known as the Banking Royal Commission). Morrison originally opposed the creation of a royal commission, believing that a Senate inquiry would be sufficient. He voted against a royal commission 23 times between April 2016 and June 2017, and in September 2016 described it as "nothing more than crass populism seeking to undermine confidence in the banking and financial system, which is key to jobs and growth in this country".[68] In announcing that the royal commission would take place, Morrison described it as a "regrettable but necessary action".[69] In response to the commission's findings, in April 2018 he announced the introduction of new criminal and civil penalties for financial misconduct, including potential prison sentences of 10 years for individuals and fines of up to $210 million for companies.[70]

Morrison handed down the 2018 Australian federal budget on 8 May. He subsequently rejected calls to increase the rate of the Newstart Allowance, saying "my priority is to give tax relief to people who are working and paying taxes".[71]

Prime Minister of Australia (2018–present)

Leadership election

 
Morrison with President Joko Widodo of Indonesia on his first overseas visit as prime minister.
 
Morrison with U.S. President Donald Trump at the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires
 
Morrison with East Timor's president Francisco Guterres

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called a leadership spill on 21 August 2018 in order to gauge the confidence of the Liberal Party in his leadership. He defeated challenger Peter Dutton by 48 votes to 35. Over the following days, there was repeated speculation about a second spill being called, without Turnbull's approval. Turnbull announced two days later that he would resign the leadership if a spill motion were passed. Dutton, Morrison and Julie Bishop announced they would stand for the leadership if that were the case.

A spill motion was passed on 24 August by 45 votes to 40, and Turnbull did not run as a candidate in the resulting leadership vote. On the first ballot, Dutton received 38 votes, Morrison 36 votes, and Bishop 11 votes. On the second ballot, Morrison received 45 votes and Dutton 40 votes. He thus became leader of the Liberal Party and prime minister-designate. Josh Frydenberg was elected as the party's deputy leader, in place of Bishop.[72][73] Morrison was widely seen as a compromise candidate, who was agreeable to both the moderate supporters of Turnbull and Bishop and conservatives concerned about Dutton's electability.[74] He was sworn in as prime minister on the evening of 24 August.[75][76]

Soon after Morrison was sworn in, Nationals backbencher Kevin Hogan moved to the crossbench in protest of the wave of Liberal spills.[77] Although Hogan continued to support the Coalition on confidence and supply and remained in the National party room, his departure to the crossbench and Turnbull's retirement from politics reduced the Coalition to a minority government of 74 seats. The Morrison Government remained in minority after Turnbull's seat of Wentworth was lost to an independent at a by-election.

First term

Morrison made his first overseas trip as prime minister less than a week after acceding to the office. He visited Indonesian capital of Jakarta for the Australia–Indonesia Business Forum and met with President Joko Widodo, announcing a free trade deal between the two nations that had been negotiated under the preceding Turnbull Government.[78]

In October 2018, Morrison announced Australia was reviewing whether to move Australia's embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.[79] In December 2018, Morrison announced Australia has recognised West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel but will not immediately move its embassy from Tel Aviv.[80]

In November 2018, Morrison privately raised the issue of Xinjiang re-education camps and human rights abuses against the Uyghur Muslim minority in a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Singapore.[81][82]

In March 2019, Morrison condemned the Christchurch mosque shootings as an "extremist, right-wing violent terrorist attack". He also stated that Australians and New Zealanders were family and that the Australian authorities would be cooperating with New Zealand authorities to assist with the investigation.[83] Morrison condemned "reckless" and "highly offensive" comments made by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.[84] Erdoğan repeatedly showed video taken by the Christchurch mosque shooter to his supporters at campaign rallies for upcoming local elections and said Australians and New Zealanders who came to Turkey with anti-Muslim sentiments "would be sent back in coffins like their grandfathers were" during the Gallipoli Campaign of World War I.[85]

Second term

 
Morrison at 45th G7 summit in Biarritz, France

Morrison led the Coalition into the 2019 election. At time of the writs being issued, the Coalition had been behind the Labor Party in virtually all opinion polls for several years, leading to significant media speculation that Morrison would lose. However, in a major upset, the Coalition not only hung onto power at the election, but actually gained enough of a swing to regain its majority.[86] This was put down to a number of factors, including the unpopularity of opposition leader Bill Shorten in marginal electorates and Labor's failure to adapt to the Liberal Party re-framing the election as a choice between Morrison and Shorten.[87] Claiming victory on election night, Morrison stated that he had "always believed in miracles".[88] Ultimately, the Coalition won 77 seats, a bare majority of two.

Morrison called on the Chief Executive of Hong Kong to listen to protester demands, denying that the 2019 Hong Kong protests were showing signs of terrorism.[89]

Morrison criticised the 2019 Turkish offensive into north-eastern Syria. Morrison stated that he was concerned for the safety of the Kurds living in the region and also feared that the offensive could result in a resurgence of ISIS.[90]

In December 2019, Morrison faced criticism for taking an unannounced overseas holiday with his family to Hawaii during the 2019–20 Australian bushfire season, which sparked protests outside Kirribilli House in Sydney.[91][92][93] Morrison's office initially declined to comment on the length of his trip and his whereabouts, citing security concerns, and made false claims that Morrison was not in Hawaii.[91][94] After increasing criticism from opposition politicians and on social media regarding the holiday, Morrison released a statement on 20 December that stated he "deeply regret[ted] any offence caused" by going on the trip and that he would cut his holiday short to return to Australia, where he arrived on 21 December.[91][95][96]

Morrison's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia was criticised at first, for the lack of early action[97] and for confusing late night briefings.[98] By April and May, however, even some centre-left figures such as commentator Michelle Grattan were writing that "Australians believe the Government has handled the pandemic well — as it has." Labor’s Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk praised the Prime Minister for "doing an outstanding job."[99] A Lowy Institute survey at this time found that 93% of Australians say that the nation had handled the crisis “very or fairly well." Morrison’s personal approval rating in Newspoll rose to 68% in late April 2020: the highest for any prime minister in 12 years.[100][101] On 5 May, Morrison, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Australian state and territorial leaders agreed to work together to develop a Trans-Tasman travel zone that would allow residents from both countries to travel freely between them without restrictions.[102][103] Morrison supported an international inquiry into the origins of the global COVID-19 pandemic and opined that the coronavirus most likely originated in a wildlife wet market in Wuhan as opposed to a laboratory, as alleged by President Donald Trump and United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.[104]

 
Morrison at a National Cabinet meeting

Another aspect of Morrison's response to the pandemic was the establishment on 13 March 2020 of a National Cabinet as a special intergovernmental decision-making forum composed of the Prime Minister and the premiers and chief ministers of the states and territories to coordinate the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia.,[105] On 29 May 2020, the Prime Minister announced that the National Cabinet would replace the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) (with COAG being abolished) and meetings after the pandemic would be held monthly, instead of the biannual meetings of COAG.[106]

Personal life

 
Scott and Jenny Morrison in March 2019

Marriage and children

Morrison began dating Jenny Warren when they were both 16. They married on 14 January 1990, when Morrison was 21, and Warren, 22, and have two daughters together. After multiple unsuccessful IVF treatments over a period of 14 years, their daughters were conceived naturally.[107] His daughters attend an independent Baptist school. Morrison has stated that one of the reasons for this choice was so that he could avoid "the values of others being imposed on my children".[108] He is a fan of the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks rugby league team and, in 2016, was named the club's number-one ticket holder.[14]

Religion

Morrison was raised in the Presbyterian Church of Australia,[109] which partly merged into the Uniting Church when he was a child. He later became a Pentecostal, and now attends the Horizon Church,[110] which is affiliated with the Australian Christian Churches, the Australian branch of the Assemblies of God. He has said "the Bible is not a policy handbook, and I get very worried when people try to treat it like one".[10] In late 2017, Morrison stated that he would become a stronger advocate for protections for religious freedom.[111]

Morrison is Australia's first Pentecostal prime minister.[112]

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