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What Morrison did next

May 31, 2019 • 12m45s

Two weeks after the election, Scott Morrison has identified 10 seats the Coalition wants to win.

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What Morrison did next

05 • May 31, 2019

What Morrison did next

[Theme music]

ELIZABETH:

From Schwartz Media.I’m Elizabeth Kulas. This is 7am.

After the first sitting of Morrison’s joint party room, we have a clearer understanding of what the next parliament will be like. It’s one in which both the prime minister and the opposition leader are already campaigning for the next election. Paul Bongiorno on the week just gone and the 10 seats Scott Morrison wants to win.

[Theme ends]

[Phone ringing]

PAUL:

7 a.m.?

ELIZABETH:

[Laughs] Paul. How are you?

PAUL:

I’m quite well considering my age and other infirmities. [laughs]
No, I’m good, I’m good.

ELIZABETH:

Paul Bongiorno is a columnist for The Saturday Paper, and a 30 year veteran of the Canberra Press Gallery.

ELIZABETH:

Alright, Paul, I want to jump in because this has been a huge week.

PAUL:

It certainly has been a huge week. The unlosable election was lost. And the winners got together for the first time. Amidst euphoria and disbelief – and much rejoicing, let me put it that way.

ARCHIVED RECORDING – Scott Morrison"

“But here we are, afresh.”

ELIZABETH:

What did that rejoicing look like?

PAUL:

Well, they gave Scott Morrison, who was basically a one-man campaign – they gave him a rousing reception, a standing ovation, at what they call a joint-party room or the Government party room, meeting between the Liberal and National MPs who won their seats two weeks ago.

[Camera flashing, applause]

ELIZABETH:

So, they get together for this joint-party room meeting. I think it was on Tuesday, but they also let cameras in for a little bit of this, didn't they. What happened?

PAUL:

Yes, this is a new technique that's been developed, I think over the last six years or so whereby the prime minister, the leader of the government in this case, gets to define what the victory means and to send key messages without anybody interrupting him, the journalists can't jump in or anything, it's wonderful from their point of view. So, Scott Morrison took full advantage of this. He invited all the networks to send their cameras and he addressed the team.

ELIZABETH:

What is the key message that he's putting out there?

PAUL:

Well, the key message he put out there, I think, he said “We are a committed team that's united in the way we were able to fight in this campaign.” In other words, we won this election by being united – not sniping at each other, not contradicting each other. And then he says to do one simple thing, and that's to ensure Australians will be at the centre of our gaze.

ELIZABETH:

So, the cameras are there. This is pretty common, that this is the first half of this kind of joint party room meeting, it's recorded. It's a bit of a set piece though because then real action happens once the cameras leave.

PAUL:

[Laughs] Exactly right. According to a couple of sources, Scott Morrison made it pretty clear that the first day of the campaign to win the next election was Tuesday of this week. He said it's a tight election result, we have a bare majority and we have to set out to increase that majority at the next election.

ELIZABETH:

Does Morrison name seats?

PAUL:

Yes. Morrison specifically named Mayo, which has been a traditional Liberal seat and Indi. So, they think that those two seats are particularly vulnerable. Then he named seats where Labor just won on a very thin majority seats like Blair and Cowan Parramatta, Corangamite, McEwen, Gilmore, Macquarie, even Hunter which is a traditionally safe Labor seat, and it shows an intent that'll be quite interesting, I think for observers to watch. What he is going to do to try and win those seats.

ELIZABETH:

So what is overall the election pitch from this second week of government that he's putting out there. What's he projecting for the next three years, already?

PAUL:

Well, Morrison also spoke about his government being a compassionate government. The general view is that the Liberals are you know the hard nosed economist, whereas Labor is the party of the soft heart and compassion and takes care of people. Now, it'll be interesting to see if when Morrison, who by the way, chose every word specifically, when he uses the word compassionate what does he really mean there? And that's what remains to be seen.

ELIZABETH:

And he seems to be saying here too, this is not the third term of a coalition government that Australia is seeing, it's like the first term. It is the first term of a Morrison government.

PAUL:

Yes look, in Australia, it's very hard to win three terms let alone to win four. I mean obviously, it has been done but gets more difficult the longer you're there, because by then people have had a good look at you. They see that you haven't delivered as you said you would etc. So, if Scott Morrison can reinvent himself as the first Morrison government so that people will then be more forgiving at the next election.

ELIZABETH:

But, Paul there are certainly things that Morrison can't control. The major one being the economy. Tell me about that.

PAUL:

The reality is the economy is slowing. Inflation is at zero. And the fact that the Reserve Bank has signalled that it's going to cut interest rates, this is a sure sign that the Reserve Bank for one, fears that there is a recession on the horizon. And not the distant horizon. If you win an election as the better money managers, if you win an election promising a strong economy.

[Music]

PAUL:

And your economy grinds to a halt and smashes or crashes, rather, into recession. Then it doesn't matter how you branded or what gloss you put on it – the voters will see it and more to the point, they'll feel it. And one seasoned Liberal backbencher said to me “if we get a recession next year, we'll be dead.”

ELIZABETH: We’ll be right back.

[Music ends]

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ELIZABETH:

So Paul, while Morrison is in the party room on Tuesday. Cameras or not. Where is Labor's new leader, Anthony Albanese?

PAUL:

Well, once it was confirmed on Monday that he would get the leadership unopposed, his first trip was to Queensland.

ARCHIVED RECORDING – Unidentified journalist:

“Well he’s on a long slow road to rebuild trust, Tom, Labor did very poorly in Queensland.”

ARCHIVED RECORDING – Susan Lamb:

“And I’m really glad to have Anthony here with me in Longman today.”

ARCHIVED RECORDING – Anthony Albanese:

“As the Labor leader, elect, and I can’t think of a better place to do it than right here in Queensland.”

[Applause]

PAUL:

And he went to the seat of Longman which Labor lost. And there he spelt out that everything that Labor put up at the last election is up for review and there will be new policies down the track, policies that will be in line with his and Labor's values.

ELIZABETH:

And is he a campaigner like Morrison in any way?

PAUL:

Well, this is this is what many in the party room believe, they believe now, that we have Scott Morrison, who's morphed into “ScoMo.” We need somebody on our side who is just as, you know, easy with people, hail fellow, well-met.

ELIZABETH:

What does it mean, though for our politics Paul that both sides are already right in campaign mode before anyone's doing any governing?

PAUL:

Well, it's a very good question, but look, it's the nature of our democratic politics in a free society. And, in one sense you could argue that it's a good thing because the essence of democracy is that politicians enact the will of the people. Now it's a two-way street. Politicians should lead but they should also listen. Now, this is interesting because Albanese up in Queensland on Tuesday said, “We have two ears and one mouth and I'll be doing a lot of listening.”

ELIZABETH:

[Laughs] Well, I mean I guess that's not a bad way to interpret what just happened, it's not a bad line out of the election we just had.

PAUL:

Well look – I think that's right, although Labor was listening on a lot of fronts on, you know, especially about low wages, the need to do more in the Medicare area especially for cancer, the need to do more, for example with childcare. All of these things was Labor listening. It was just the way in which Labor said it was going to pay for all of this that scared the horses.

ELIZABETH:

Paul, there was one other person I wanted to talk to you about this week. And that person is Arthur Sinodinos who is now leaving to take up the post of ambassador in Washington. I'm wondering what the Coalition loses with his departure to the US?

PAUL:

Yes, Arthur Sinodinos, who’s longtime chief of staff and adviser to John Howard. So, he is a moderate liberal and he is a moderate voice. So, he's won the term consigliere. Now, consigliere you got to be careful of, because that's the mafia word [laughs] for the adviser to the Don [laughs]. But, putting that aside, I think he'd probably wear it as a badge of honor.

So, Sinodinos, of course, he's you know, as a student of politics has had an eye to what Menzies, Sir Robert Menzies, did in 1961. Menzies won that election by one seat and he set about to broaden the appeal of his party, and took over some of the more attractive policies that Labor had actually taken to the 1961 election. Now I spoke to Sinodinos this week, and he told me “the bigger the tent you can have, the better.” So the more you can bring into your bigger tent, the better and that was his way of saying maybe it would be a good idea for Morrison if he wants to win those 10 extra seats to have a look at the cancer initiative for example, or maybe have a look at child care.

ELIZABETH:

So, is this advice that Sinodinos is giving to Morrison before he goes off to Washington, that there might be some policies that the Coalition could borrow from Labor's platform that it took to the election?

PAUL:

Look, I've got no doubt about that, but I suspect that he and Morrison would be on the same page there, but it would take clever marketing. You know, you can't look like capitulating that you won the election on a fraud, and Labor actually had better policies. You've got to be careful.

ELIZABETH:

Selective borrowing, shall we say?

PAUL:

Yes, indeed.

ELIZABETH:

Is climate policy somewhere within that selective borrowing, or at least in the conversation?

PAUL:

When it comes to climate change Morrison's appointment, particularly of Angus Taylor, as the Energy and Climate Change Minister doesn't really send a good signal. We know that Taylor is a climate skeptic.

[Music]

PAUL:

He was a relentless campaigner against wind energy, and interestingly, he even has a cloud over him and the fact that he thinks that Labor should now support the Liberal’s much less ambitious emission reduction targets. He said Labor should listen to the people and come into our tent. Well, unlike Arthur Sinodinos, who has a bigger tent it looks and sounds like Angus Taylor has a much smaller teepee.

ELIZABETH:

[Laughs] Paul, thank you so much. That's the end of our first week I couldn't think of a better way for us to end it.

PAUL:

It's been a pleasure, Elizabeth, bye.

[Music ends]

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ELIZABETH:

Elsewhere in the news:

In the US, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has said it was “not an option” to recommend criminal charges against President Trump in his report on election interference. Trump has claimed the heavily redacted report as vindication of his innocence. Mueller says, quote: “If we had the confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so."

And it is reported that former foreign minister, Julie Bishop, turned down the position of governor of South Australia. According to the report, she wants to prove herself on the free market.

7am is produced by Emile Klein, Ruby Schwartz and Atticus Bastow with Michelle Macklem.

Erik Jensen is our editor.

Our theme music is by Ned Beckley and Josh Hogan of Equate Studio.

I’m Elizabeth Kulas.

See you next week.thesaturdaypaper.com.au

After the first sitting of Morrison’s joint party room, we have a clearer understanding of what the next parliament will be like. It’s one in which both the prime minister and the Opposition leader are already campaigning for the next election. Paul Bongiorno on the week just gone and the 10 seats Scott Morrison wants to win.

Guest: Columnist for The Saturday Paper Paul Bongiorno.

Background reading:

Morrison and Albanese set out their plans in The Saturday Paper
The Saturday Paper
The Monthly

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7am is hosted by Elizabeth Kulas. The show is produced by Emile Klein and Ruby Schwartz. Our editor is Erik Jensen. Our theme music is by Ned Beckley and Josh Hogan of Equate Studio.

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05: What Morrison did next