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Aussie PM Scott Morrison is desperately trying to channel his inner Trump

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, aka ScoMo. Photo/Getty Images/Listener illustration

But “ScoMo”, as Scott Morrison now prefers, is a few stubbies short of a six-pack with his populist makeover.

As marketing men know, when an idea appears to work – no matter how appalling the hokum – it’s best to get in early and flog it ahead of your rivals.

Scott Morrison, as many New Zealanders are aware, helped create their nation’s “100% Pure” tourism campaign, an inspired idea he’s been happy to take the credit for – although he’s been less forthcoming on the circumstances of his messy departure as New Zealand’s late-90s tourism maestro and return to Australia, where he’s now Prime Minister.

And, now, he’s the Donald Trump next door. Our man Morrison, in barely three months, has morphed from the besuited figure of clear-eyed caution required to creditably administer finances as Australia’s Treasurer to an eerie parody of Trump, albeit adapted to local conditions – the props are oozing sausage sandwiches, hardy rugby league players and the use of quaint phrases such as “fair dinkum”. He’s newly equipped with an array of baseball caps, with slogans like “Beefy”.

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The makeover is designed to cast Morrison – he now prefers ScoMo – as a political outsider, an ambassador for ute-driving, pie-eating, mortgage-bound, sports-mad dads. And, presumably, their partners.

Morrison was even an early adopter of the fabled Trumpism “fake news”, but he’s since adapted the term “Twittersphere” to dismiss news he doesn’t want to hear.

Late last month, he airily pronounced his predecessor Malcolm Turnbull’s sudden ousting three months ago to be “old history”.

“It’s in the Twittersphere, and I’ll let the Twittersphere go into outrage about that,” he told a television host.

In the same week, Morrison – Trump style, again – took to Twitter to clumsily belt up Australia’s Muslim leaders following Melbourne’s latest terror attack. When the Muslim leaders refused to meet him – they felt unfairly blamed – Morrison threw aside diplomacy and fired up on Twitter. Minus only Trump’s exclamation marks, he fumed that “continuing down a path of denial only lets their communities down. It makes their communities less safe and more vulnerable”.

Even Trump’s denouncement of White House correspondents as locked inside the Washington beltway has been hijacked by Morrison. After he was caught out last month skipping remote sections on his much-hyped bus tour of Queensland and taking a plane, he told a radio host: “The Canberra bubble, they like to go into ‘gotcha’ rubbish.”

Then there are the mindless, frequent interviews with Sydney’s notoriously vacuous FM radio jocks – seemingly intended to burnish Morrison’s everyman credentials.

From a recent Friday with “Fitzy and Wippa” discussing a politicians’ charity cricket match:

Wippa: But ScoMo, this is a big moment. Because prime ministers have failed famously in sporting events, do you feel the pressure of today?

PM: A little. I’ve been watching those images of Bob Hawke getting one in the nut. [Laughter]

Wippa: Yes!

And so it went. Even an episode of locker-room talk – Trump’s was his infamous pussy-grabbing boast – has been attempted by Morrison, who raised a laugh with the radio lads by saying how he’s had “plenty of mates” express a desire to be “special envoy” to actress Pamela Anderson. Chortle, chortle.

Then there is Morrison’s contrived language – meant to appeal to the punters but which likely infuriates almost everybody, such as, “If you have a go in this country, you will get a go. You have to have a go to get a go.” Or, “I’m listening, I’m hearing and I’m doing.”

Since Morrison’s elevation, the opposition Labor Party has streaked ahead in polls. That suggests Australian voters are listening, hearing and fleeing.

This article was first published in the December 8, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.