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Scott Morrison

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Scott Morrison
Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison.jpg
Morrison in 2021
30th Prime Minister of Australia
In office
24 August 2018 – 23 May 2022
MonarchElizabeth II
Governor General
Deputy
Preceded byMalcolm Turnbull
Succeeded byAnthony Albanese
Leader of the Liberal Party
In office
24 August 2018 – 30 May 2022
DeputyJosh Frydenberg
Preceded byMalcolm Turnbull
Succeeded byPeter Dutton
Minister for the Public Service
In office
29 May 2019 – 8 October 2021
Prime MinisterHimself
Preceded byMathias Cormann
Succeeded byBen Morton
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 Minister
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
Majority19.02% (35,765)
Personal details
Born
Scott John Morrison

(1968-05-13) 13 May 1968 (age 54)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Political partyLiberal
Other political
affiliations
Coalition
Spouse(s)
(m. 1990)
Children2
Parent(s)
EducationUniversity of New South Wales (BSc Hons)[1]
Signature
Websitescottmorrison.com.au
Nickname(s)ScoMo[2]

Scott John Morrison (/ˈmɒrɪsən/;[3] born 13 May 1968) is an Australian politician who served as the 30th prime minister of Australia from 2018 to 2022. He assumed office in August 2018 upon his election as leader of the Liberal Party of Australia, after winning a leadership spill.

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 also served as state director of the New South Wales Liberal Party from 2000 to 2004. He was first elected to the Australian House of Representatives at the 2007 election as a member of parliament (MP) for the division of Cook in New South Wales, and was quickly appointed to the shadow cabinet.

After the Liberal-National coalition's victory at the 2013 election, Morrison was appointed Minister for Immigration and Border Protection in the Abbott government, where he was responsible for implementing Operation Sovereign Borders. In a reshuffle the following year, he became Minister for Social Services. He was later promoted to the role of Treasurer in September 2015, after Malcolm Turnbull replaced Abbott as prime minister. 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 days later, with Turnbull choosing not to stand. In that ballot, Morrison was seen as a compromise candidate and defeated both Dutton and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to become party leader and thus prime minister.

Morrison won a second term after leading the Coalition to an upset victory in the 2019 election.[4] Morrison drew near unanimous condemnation for taking a holiday during Australia's 2019–20 bushfire season and for his government's response to the disaster.[5] Morrison also faced criticism for his response to the 2021 Parliament sexual misconduct allegations.[6] During the COVID-19 pandemic, Morrison established the National Cabinet, and Australia received praise during 2020 for being one of the few Western countries to successfully suppress the virus,[7] though the slow initial pace of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout was criticised.[8] In foreign policy, Morrison oversaw the signing of the AUKUS security pact and increased tensions between Australia and China[9] and Australia and France.[10] Morrison directed logistical support to Ukraine as part of the international effort against Russia in the wake of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. Morrison has also been criticised for his government's response to the 2022 Eastern Australia floods,[11][12][13] and his perceived inaction to adequately address climate change.[14][15] The Morrison government was defeated in the 2022 Australian federal election, making Morrison the first prime minister since John Howard to serve a complete term in office. Following the loss, Morrison announced that he would step down as leader of the Liberal Party, with Peter Dutton being elected unopposed to replace him.[16][17]

Early life and education

Morrison was born in the suburb of Waverley in Sydney,[18][19] the younger of two sons born to Marion (née Smith) and John Douglas Morrison (1934–2020).[20] His father was a policeman who served on the Waverley Municipal Council, including a single term as mayor.[21] Morrison's maternal grandfather was born in New Zealand.[22] 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.[23] Morrison is descended from William Roberts, a convict who was convicted of stealing yarn and transported to Australia on the First Fleet in 1788.[24]

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.[25] Morrison 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.[1][26][27] His honours thesis, a demographical analysis of Christian Brethren assemblies in Sydney, was deposited in the University of Manchester Library's Christian Brethren Collection.[28][29] Morrison 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.[30]

Early career

After graduating from university, Morrison worked as national policy and research manager for the Property Council of Australia from 1989 to 1995.[1] 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.[25]

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.[25][31] He left this position in 2000, a year before the contract schedule.[32]

Morrison returned to Australia in 2000, to become state director of the New South Wales division of the Liberal Party. He oversaw the party's campaigns in the 2001 federal election and in the 2003 New South Wales state election.[21]

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.[21] He signed an initial three-year contract.[33] Morrison approved and defended the contentious "So where the bloody hell are you?" advertising campaign featuring Lara Bingle. His contract was terminated in July 2006, which at the time was attributed to conflict with tourism minister Fran Bailey over the government's plans to further integrate the agency into the Australian Public Service.[34] He had been awarded a pay rise by the Remuneration Tribunal three weeks before his sacking. A 2019 investigation by The Saturday Paper suggested Morrison was sacked due to concerns that Tourism Australia was not following government procurement guidelines for three contracts relating to the "So where the bloody hell are you?" campaign, with a total value of $184 million. A 2008 report from the Auditor-General found that "information had been kept from the board, procurement guidelines breached and private companies engaged before paperwork was signed and without appropriate value-for-money assessments". It was suggested that M&C Saatchi, which had previously worked with Morrison on the "100% Pure" campaign in New Zealand, received favourable treatment in the tendering process.[33]

This episode and, more generally, his career in marketing led to his satirical sobriquet, "Scotty from Marketing,"[35] originating with the satirical news website 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.[36] In January 2020, Morrison referred to the name as a "snarky comment" used by the Labor Party to discredit him.[37][35]

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.[38][39] He lost the ballot to Michael Towke, a telecommunications engineer and the candidate of the Liberals' right faction, by 82 votes to 8.[40] Paul Fletcher who came closest to Towke received 70 votes. Fletcher went on to win Liberal preselection for the North Shore seat of Bradfield.[41]

However, allegations surfaced that Towke had engaged in branch stacking and had embellished his resume.[42] 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.[40] At the general election, Morrison suffered a two-party swing of over six percent against Labor candidate Mark Buttigieg, but was able to retain the seat on the strength of winning 52 percent of the primary vote.[43] In 2022, Towke accused Morrison of engaging in ‘racial vilification’ during the 2007 preselection, including ‘saying Mr Morrison told party members they should not vote for him because he was from a Lebanese family and because of rumours he was a Muslim,’ a claim Morrison denied.[44]

Morrison in 2009

In September 2008, Morrison was appointed to Malcolm Turnbull's coalition front bench as shadow minister for housing and local government.[45] 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.[46]

In December 2010, forty-eight asylum seekers died in the Christmas Island boat disaster.[47] 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.[48][49] Other Liberal Party members including former prime minister Malcolm Fraser and former opposition leader John Hewson also criticised Morrison for his comments.[50] 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.[51]

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.[52] 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.[53][better source needed]

Abbott government (2013–2015)

Following the Coalition's victory at the 2013 federal election, Morrison was appointed Minister for Immigration and Border Protection in the Abbott government and included in cabinet.[1]

Based on a series of off-the-record interviews, in June 2014 Morrison was identified by Fairfax Media as the leader of an informal grouping of "economically moderate, or wet" government MPs, also including Greg Hunt, Stuart Robert, and Josh Frydenberg. It was linked with another moderate grouping led by Christopher Pyne. It was further reported that Morrison had unsuccessfully argued in cabinet for a $25 million bailout of SPC Ardmona.[54]

Immigration

On 18 September 2013, Morrison launched Operation Sovereign Borders, the new government's strategy aimed at stopping unauthorised boats from entering Australian waters.[55] Cabinet documents from this time revealed in 2018 that Morrison asked for mitigation strategies to avoid granting permanent visas to 700 refugees.[56] 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.[57] The UNHCR expressed concerns that the practice may violate the Refugee Convention.[58] 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.[59] 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."[60][61]

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."[62][63]

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.[64] 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.[65][66][67][68][69]

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.[70] 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.[71]

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.[72][73] 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.[74]

Social services

Morrison in 2014

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.[75] The appointment was criticised by Australian Greens leader Christine Milne who claimed Morrison had a lack of compassion.[75] With a softened change in image,[76] Morrison was commended by welfare and community groups for his accommodating approach and eagerness for the portfolio.[77] Morrison encouraged working mothers and endorsed fixes to the childcare system by making indexation changes to the Family Tax Benefits payment.[78][79] In April 2015, he announced the introduction of the "No Jab, No Pay" policy, which withholds family and childcare benefits from parents who do not vaccinate their children.[80] His time as minister was criticised by his opposition counterpart Jenny Macklin, who said that "Scott Morrison was appointed to clean up Kevin Andrews' mess but left behind more chaos, confusion and cuts."[81]

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."[82]

During May 2015, Morrison promoted his plan for a $3.5 billion overhaul of the childcare subsidies system. His substantial advertising efforts led to claims that he was overshadowing the role of Treasurer Joe Hockey. Morrison insisted that he did not desire to take over the position of Treasurer despite his strong performances.[83]

Turnbull government (2015–2018)

Morrison was appointed as Treasurer in the Turnbull government in September 2015, replacing Joe Hockey.[84][85] 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.[86]

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.[87] 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.[88][89]

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."[90] He handed down the 2017 Australian federal budget in May 2017.[91]

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."[92] In announcing that the royal commission would take place, Morrison described it as a "regrettable but necessary action."[93] 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.[94]

Morrison handed down the 2018 Australian federal budget on 8 May.[95] 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."[96]

Prime Minister of Australia (2018–2022)

Leadership election

Morrison with Indonesian President Joko Widodo on his first overseas visit as prime minister
Morrison with U.S. President Donald Trump at the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires
Morrison with U.S. President Joe Biden at the UN General Assembly in New York City
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.[97] He defeated challenger Peter Dutton by 48 votes to 35.[98] 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.[99] Dutton, Morrison and Julie Bishop announced they would stand for the leadership if that were the case.[100]

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.[101][102] 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.[103] He was sworn in as prime minister on the evening of 24 August.[104][105] Upon assumption of office, Morrison would become Australia's fifth prime minister in eleven years, and the fourth prime minister in that time to enter office through a leadership spill.[106] Several months later, Morrison introduced new criteria for leadership spills, requiring that a two-thirds majority vote from party members would be required to trigger one, in an attempt to stop "coup culture".[107][108]

Soon after Morrison was sworn in, Nationals backbencher Kevin Hogan moved to the crossbench in protest of the wave of Liberal spills.[109] 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.[110][111] The Morrison government remained in minority after Turnbull's seat of Wentworth was lost to independent Kerryn Phelps at a by-election.[112][113]

First term, 2018–2019

Morrison made his first overseas trip as prime minister less than a week after acceding to the office. He visited the Indonesian capital of Jakarta for the Australia–Indonesia Business Forum and met with President Joko Widodo, announcing the Indonesia–Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement that had been negotiated under the preceding Turnbull government.[114]

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.[115] 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.[116]

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.[117][118]

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.[119] Morrison condemned "reckless" and "highly offensive" comments made by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.[120] 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.[121]

2019 federal election

Morrison led the Coalition into the 2019 election. At time of the writs being issued, the Coalition had been behind the Labor Party in most opinion polls for previous term of parliament, leading to widespread expectations that the Coalition would lose.[122] However, in a significant upset, the Coalition retained its majority.[123] This was considered to have been caused by the unpopularity of opposition leader Bill Shorten and Labor's failure to adapt to the re-framing of the election as a choice between Morrison and Shorten.[124][125] Claiming victory on election night, Morrison stated that he had "always believed in miracles".[126]

Second term, 2019–2022

Morrison at 45th G7 summit in Biarritz, France

Domestic affairs

Bushfires

In December 2019, Morrison faced criticism for taking an unannounced overseas holiday with his family to Hawaii, United States during the 2019–20 Australian bushfire season.[127][128][129] 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.[127][130] 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" and that he would cut his holiday short to return to Australia on 21 December.[127][131][132]

On 22 November 2021, Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese accused Morrison of falsely claiming in Parliament that he had informed him that he was travelling to Hawaii.[133]

Response to parliamentary sexual misconduct allegations

The Morrison government was widely criticised for its handling of the 2021 Australian Parliament House sexual misconduct allegations, with an Essential poll finding that 65% of respondents (including 76% of Labor supporters, 51% of Coalition supporters and 88% of Greens supporters) saying the government was more interested in protecting itself than women.[134] As well as the Labor and Greens parties, the government faced criticism from within its own party. Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who had been made aware of the allegations against Christian Porter in 2019, criticised him for taking too long to come forward.[135] Former prime minister John Howard defended Morrison's decision not to open an independent inquiry into Porter's conduct.[136] Australian of the Year and sexual assault survivor advocate Grace Tame also criticised Morrison in a speech to the National Press Club, saying she did not believe he was creating an environment where victims were believed. She also said "It shouldn't take having children to have a conscience" in response to Morrison's statement that he'd been prompted to reflect on the issue and decide to listen to Tame after a discussion with his wife Jenny Morrison where she said to him "you have to think about this as a father. What would you want to happen if it were our girls?"[137] Porter resigned from his parliamentary position in September following concerns that he had accepted anonymous donations via a blind trust to pay for his legal expenses.[138] The following month, Morrison and the Coalition successfully voted against a motion to investigate Porter's blind trust, in turn preventing the identities of the benefactors who donated to his legal costs from being revealed.[139] Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives Tony Smith had determined there was a prima facie case and in voting down the motion, the Morrison government became the first government since Federation to refuse a referral from the Speaker in Australian parliamentary history.[140] This decision attracted significant attention and criticism from the media.[141][142][143][144][145]

Afghan refugees

Morrison was also criticised for not accepting more Afghan refugees, who were fleeing the country after the Taliban seized control of the country in August 2021.[146] He agreed to give humanitarian visas to 3,000 Afghan refugees, fewer than other countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom.[147] Morrison later determined that more than 3,000 refugees may be accepted, as the original number was a "floor not a ceiling".[148] He would later state that he would only resettle refugees who came in through "official channels", and those who came to Australia via boat would not receive permanent residency.[149][150]

Eastern Australia floods

Morrison was heavily condemned for his government's response to the 2022 Eastern Australia floods; criticism was levelled against him for campaigning in Perth instead of being present in New South Wales, causing a relief package for flood victims to be delayed, with many critics suggesting that Morrison was prioritising marketing over the flood response.[151][152] That same month, Morrison was named Australia's least trusted politician in a study by Roy Morgan Research.[153]

Foreign affairs

At the 2019 Lowy Lecture, Scott Morrison argued that the "distinctiveness of independent nations is preserved within a framework of mutual respect".
2019 Hong Kong protests

In August 2019, Morrison called on the Chief Executive of Hong Kong to listen to protester demands, denying that the 2019–20 Hong Kong protests were showing signs of terrorism.[154]

2019 Turkish offensive

In October 2019, 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.[155]

Sino–Australian relations

On 30 November 2020, a Chinese diplomat, Zhao Lijian, posted a digitally manipulated image of an Australian soldier who appears to hold a bloodied knife against the throat of an Afghan child, on his Twitter page.[156][157] The image is believed to be a reference to the Brereton Report, which had been released earlier by the Australian government that month, and which details war crimes committed by the Australian Defence Force during the War in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016.[158] Later that day, Morrison called a press conference, calling the image "offensive" and "truly repugnant",[159] and demanding a formal apology from the Chinese government. China rejected the demands for an apology on the following day,[160] with the artist of the image creating another artwork To Morrison in response to Morrison's demand.[161] The incident had the effect of unifying Australian politicians in condemning China across party lines while also drawing attention to the Brereton Report.[162] The incident was further seen as a sign of deteriorating relations between Australia and China.[163]

Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow on 2 November 2021
Relations with New Zealand

As Prime Minister, Morrison has defended Australia's policy of deporting non-citizens including New Zealanders who had violated its character test or committed crimes. This policy was criticised by his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern, who described it as "corrosive" to Australia–New Zealand relations in February 2020.[164][165]

In mid-February 2021, Morrison defended the Australian policy of revoking Australian citizenship for dual nationals engaged in terrorism. The previous year, the Australian government had revoked the citizenship of dual Australian–New Zealand citizen Suhayra Aden, who had become an ISIS bride. New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern had criticised the decision, accusing Australia of abandoning its citizens.[166][167] Following a phone conversation, the two leaders agreed to work together in the "spirit of the Australian-New Zealand relationship" to address what Ardern described as "quite a complex legal situation."[168]

In late May 2021, Morrison made his first state visit to New Zealand since the COVID-19 lockdown, meeting New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern in Queenstown. The two heads of governments issued a joint statement affirming bilateral cooperation on the issues of COVID-19, bilateral relations, and security issues in the Indo-Pacific. Morrison and Ardern also raised concerns about the South China Sea dispute and human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.[169][170][171] In response to the joint statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin criticised the Australian and New Zealand governments for interfering in Chinese domestic affairs.[172][171] During the visit, Morrison defended Australia's decision to revoke ISIS bride Suhayra Aden's citizenship but indicated that the Australian Government would consider allowing her children to settle in Australia.[173][174]

2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine

In February 2022, Morrison condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin for launching the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine and imposed sanctions on travel bans on individuals perceived to be supporting the invasion.[175] Morrison said Australia would begin sending lethal aid to the Ukrainian government.[176] The Australian government moved to join with the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States in personally sanctioning Putin and Sergey Lavrov, the foreign minister.[177]

AUKUS

In September 2021, Morrison, British premier Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden announced AUKUS, a security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States seen as an initiative to counter the perceived dominance of China in the Pacific.[178][179] This superseded a proposed submarine pact between Australia and France that had been in discussions at the same time; the announcement of AUKUS attracted backlash from French officials and damaged Australia–France relations. Chinese officials also criticised the agreement.[180][181] French President Emmanuel Macron reportedly remarked privately to Morrison that the dissolution of the agreement had "broke the relationship of trust" between the two countries,[182][183] and publicly accused him of lying during the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, which was seen as damaging to Morrison's public image.[184][185][186]

COVID-19 pandemic

Morrison at a National Cabinet meeting

The COVID-19 pandemic in Australia prompted Morrison to establish the National Cabinet on 13 March 2020. This body is composed of the prime minister and the premiers and chief ministers of the states and territories to coordinate the national response to the pandemic.[187] On 29 May 2020, the Prime Minister announced that the National Cabinet would replace the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and meetings after the pandemic would be held monthly, instead of the biannual meetings of COAG.[188]

"The world over - we have all faced the health and economic crises generated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 2020 is a year none of us want to repeat. In Australia, we have used our strong balance sheet - built up over many years of discipline, to support and provide our health system with the additional resources, record levels, it has needed - and to provide major, unprecedented economic supports for households and businesses - providing much needed strength and resilience to the economy to both cushion the blow and to recover...... As the world's only nation continent, we always have to be outward looking. You don't get rich by selling stuff to yourself. Singaporeans certainly understand that."

Morrison speaking about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Australia at the Singapore FinTech Festival, December 2020[189]

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.[190][191] 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.[192]

On 2 March 2022 Morrison announced he had contracted COVID and was suffering from flu-like symptoms.[193]

Vaccine rollout

In August 2020, Morrison announced that Australians would be "among the first in the world to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, if it proves successful, through an agreement between the Australian government and UK-based drug company AstraZeneca".[194] In November 2020, he said the government's COVID-19 strategy would put "Australia at the front of the queue for a safe and effective vaccine".[195]

During a press conference on 7 January 2021, Morrison announced that Australia's vaccination program would begin in February of that year, also stating that the government planned to vaccinate four million people by the end of March.[196] However, this figure was not met, as only 600,000 doses were administered by 31 March, 3.4 million less than the target.[197]

Both the original goal for vaccine doses and vaccine priority cohorts were revised several times. By 30 June 2021 the number of doses given (7.6 million) was 4.7 million less than the goal for the end of June.[198][199]

The slow vaccine rollout prompted traditionally conservative newspaper The Australian to editorialise that "the federal government is losing credibility with its management of the vaccine rollout and its repeated claims that everything is on track".[200] Former ALP staffer Tim Soutphommasane and progressive activist Marc Stears criticised the government's management of the vaccine rollout in June 2021, saying it will likely be "taught as a case study of public policy failure".[201] During a press conference in July, Morrison issued an apology for the slow vaccine rollout.[202][203] In August, Morrison declared that the government's problems with the rollout had been "overcome", despite several states having a shortage of vaccines.[204] To describe Australia's prolonged vaccination rollout, trade unionist Sally McManus coined the term "strollout", with the phrase being named as the country's word of the year by Macquarie Dictionary.[205][206]

Internal criticism

Morrison was subject to internal criticism from colleagues and former colleagues in 2021 and 2022.

In November 2021, Morrison's handling of a proposed submarine pact with France led his predecessor Malcolm Turnbull to comment on Morrison's credibility. ABC News quoted Turnbull as saying, "[Morrison] can twist and turn and leak a text message here and leak a document there to his stenographic friends in the media, but ultimately the failure here was one of not being honest."[207]

In January and February 2022, texts from his Coalition colleagues were leaked. In January 2022, texts from a senior cabinet minister in the Morrison government, sent to former New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian were revealed, where the minister labelled Morrison as a "horrible, horrible person" and a "complete psycho".[208] This was soon followed by leaked texts sent from deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce, who in March 2021 accused Morrison of being "a hypocrite and a liar" in text messages.[209] Joyce apologised and offered his resignation to Morrison, but it was declined.[210]

In March and April 2022, New South Wales state Liberal MP Catherine Cusack accused Morrison of being a "self-serving bully", and using the Eastern Australia floods as a political tactic.[211][212] In April 2022, sitting Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells condemned Morrison as being "unfit for office", as well as an "autocrat", and a "bully" with "no moral compass". She also suggested Morrison had used his religion as a "marketing advantage".[213]

2022 federal election

Morrison sought a second full term at the 2022 Australian federal election. His primary opposition was the Labor Party, led by Anthony Albanese. The Coalition suffered heavy losses, and it soon became apparent that there was no realistic scenario for Morrison to stay in office. Hours after the polls closed, he conceded defeat to Albanese.[214] The Coalition's loss was attributed to Morrison's unpopularity with voters, the popularity of centrist "teal independents" in certain inner-city electorates, and a large swing toward Labor in Western Australia.[215][216] After conceding defeat, Morrison announced that he would step down as leader of the Liberal Party.[217] Soon afterward, he advised the Governor-General, David Hurley, that he was no longer in a position to govern.

Normal practice in Australia calls for a defeated Prime Minister to stay in office as a caretaker until the final results are known. However, the timetable was altered due to the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue due to begin on 24 May, two days after the election. On 23 May, after securing enough confidence and supply support from the crossbench to govern in the event Labor fell short of a majority, Albanese advised Hurley that he could form a government, clearing the way for Morrison to transfer power to Albanese later that day.[218][219][220][221] On 30 May, Peter Dutton was elected as the new leader of the Liberal Party in a leadership election, with Dutton later stating that Morrison would not be included in his shadow ministry.[222]

Political views

Morrison's political views are considered as conservative,[223][224][225] and he is aligned with the centre-right faction of the Liberal Party, which he leads.[226][227]

Social policies

Morrison with Queen Elizabeth II, Head of the Commonwealth, and other world leaders in Portsmouth, 2019

Morrison has declared himself a proud supporter of the Australian constitutional monarchy.[228][229] In January 2021, he commented that he opposes changing the date of Australia Day from 26 January, which attracted criticism.[230][231]

Morrison strongly opposes voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide, and has stated that he "believes in the sanctity of human life".[232]

Morrison's views on immigration have been the subject of media attention,[233] with The Straits Times describing his stance as "hardline" and "uncompromising".[234] As Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, he was responsible for implementing Operation Sovereign Borders, which requires all asylum seekers arriving in Australia via boat to be refused entry and escorted back to the county they came from.[235][236][237] In May 2021, the Morrison government passed laws which would allow refugees to be detained for life in Australia's immigration detention facilities, despite indefinite detention being illegal under international law.[238]

Morrison was an opponent of legalising same-sex marriage in Australia.[239] 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.[240] All amendments failed,[241] and Morrison abstained from voting on the final bill.[242] Morrison's electorate of Cook had a participation rate of 82.22%, and 55.04% of those had responded "Yes."[243] By November 2017, Morrison considered the topic to be a "done deal" and a "finished debate",[244] and same-sex marriage would ultimately come into law on 9 December of that year.[245]

Morrison has indicated support for excluding transgender women from playing "single-sex sports".[246][247]

Environmental policies

This is coal. Don't be afraid. Don't be scared. It won't hurt you.

It's coal. It was dug up by men and women who work and live in the electorates of those who sit opposite—from the Hunter Valley, as the member for Hunter would know. It's coal that's ensured for over 100 years that Australia has enjoyed an energy-competitive advantage that has delivered prosperity to Australian businesses and has ensured that Australian industry has been able to remain competitive in a global market.

Those opposite have an ideological, pathological fear of coal. There's no word for 'coalophobia' officially, but that's the malady that afflicts those opposite. It's that malady that's affecting the jobs in the towns and the industries and, indeed, in this country because of the pathological, ideological opposition to coal being an important part of our sustainable and more certain energy future.

—Scott Morrison, (House of Representatives, 9 February 2017)[248]

Morrison's policies and views on climate change have been a subject of interest.[130][249][250] Morrison, along with the rest of the Coalition, voted to abolish Australia's carbon pricing scheme in July 2014.[251] Morrison also famously presented a lump of coal to Parliament during question time in February 2017.[252][253] During his term as prime minister, the 2020 Climate Change Performance Index ranked Australia in last place for its climate policies[130] and was the only country to score 0 for the same metric in 2021.[254] During the 2019–20 Australian bushfire season, Morrison dismissed suggestions of a link between Australia's emissions or policies and the intensity of the bushfires and initially downplayed the influence of climate change on the fires,[255] but later admitted that climate change may have contributed.[130] Protests over his government's climate policies took place across Australia amidst the fire season.[256]

Following his attendance of the 2021 Leaders' Climate Summit, Morrison declined to set net-zero emissions or other climate change targets, unlike other world leaders.[257][249] Morrison allegedly requested climate change policy targets be removed from a proposed 2021 Australia–United Kingdom trade deal[258] and initially suggested he would not attend the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, but later confirmed that he would.[259][260] Following the conference, Morrison's government pledged that Australia would aim to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, but did not introduce this into national law; Morrison said he believed market forces and not government regulation can address climate change.[254]

His government's climate action plan has been criticised by journalist Phil Coorey as "lightweight",[261] and by a Climate Council spokesman as "meaningless without strong action this decade".[262]

Personal life

Scott and Jenny Morrison in March 2019

Morrison is a fan of rugby union and supported the Eastern Suburbs RUFC during his childhood. After moving to the Sutherland Shire, he became a fan of the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks rugby league team and was named the club's number-one ticket holder in 2016.[25][263]

Marriage and children

Morrison began dating Jenny Warren when they were both 16.[264] They married in 1990,[265][266][267] when Morrison was 21 and Warren was 22, and have two daughters together. After multiple unsuccessful IVF treatments over a period of 14 years, their daughters were conceived naturally.[264] Their 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."[268]

Religious beliefs

Morrison was raised in the Presbyterian Church of Australia,[269] which partly merged into the Uniting Church when he was a child. He later became a Pentecostal and now attends the Horizon Church[270] which is affiliated with the Australian Christian Churches, the Australian branch of the Assemblies of God.[21] Morrison is Australia's first Pentecostal prime minister.[271] As a Pentecostal and evangelical church, Horizon is not a mainstream church in Australia. Some members believe in divine healing, and practise "speaking in tongues", which is seen as a miraculous gift from God.[272]

While the Australian Christian Lobby welcomed the appointment of a prime minister with such a deep faith, some Australians have been suspicious of its effect on his rulings. As Treasurer of Australia during the vote for legislation on same-sex marriage in 2017, Morrison abstained from voting due to his faith.[272] He has said, "the Bible is not a policy handbook, and I get very worried when people try to treat it like one".[21] In late 2017, Morrison stated that he would become a stronger advocate for protections for religious freedom.[273]

He thinks misuse of social media is the work of "the evil one" and practises the Christian tradition of the "laying on of hands" while working. He said in a speech to the Australian Christian Churches conference in April 2021 that he believes he was elected to do God's work,[274] although he later said that his comments were mischaracterised and that they were meant to reflect his belief that "whatever you do every day... is part of your Christian service".[275]

Honours

Foreign honours

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Further reading

External links

Parliament of Australia
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2007–present
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2013–2014
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2014–2015
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2015–2018
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Preceded by Prime Minister of Australia
2018–2022
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2019–2021
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2018–2022
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