In at least one way, Scott Morrison is the most successful Australian Prime Minister in years.
He is the first to survive in office from one election to the next since 2007. This year, Australia’s second longest-serving Prime Minister, John Howard, was voted out of government after nearly 12 years in power.
There have been four prime ministers between Howard and Morrison, including Kevin Rudd, who served twice in Australia during an extraordinary period of political instability.
Rudd’s second term ended when voters ousted his centre-left Australian Labor Party government in the 2013 general election. The other three prime ministers were ousted by their own parties, panicked by poor opinion polls. So was Rudd during his first stint, causing the revolving door to the Prime Minister’s office to rotate.
Morrison’s relative longevity can be explained in part by his conservative Liberal Party tightening the rules allowing them to activate their leader’s ejection seat.
But most credit his survival for a full three-year term to the credit given to Morrison for leading his coalition to a narrow victory in the last election in 2019, when Labor was favored to win. Some betting shops had been so confident of a Labor victory that they had paid off the party’s supporters before Election Day.
Morrison’s coalition is again behind in most opinion polls. But poll credibility has not recovered from the shock of the 2019 result, and Morrison is now seen as a master campaigner who doesn’t give up.
The 53-year-old former tourism marketer was branded an “accidental prime minister” in 2018 when his government peers selected him to succeed then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
It was yet another ouster of a prime minister without voter involvement for reasons not fully explained, in a process Australians increasingly loathe. According to polls, Morrison would have one of the shortest terms in office of any Australian prime minister with the election just months away.
His critics argue that his success was a triumph of style over substance.
The satirical website Betoota Advocate dubbed him “Scotty from Marketing” when he came to power, and the description has since grown in popularity.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has been nicknamed Albo since childhood, in keeping with a time-honored Australian tradition of abbreviating names, often adding an ‘o’ at the end.
Likewise, Morrison is widely known as ScoMo. But there are conjectures as to how organic this nickname is.
“That’s how I got tagged, so I might as well take it,” Morrison said in 2017 when he added “ScoMo” to his Facebook account name as treasurer.
Morrison presents himself as an ordinary Australian family man who is passionate about his Sydney Pentecostal Church and his local National Rugby League Football team, the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks.
His personality is described as “Daggy Dad”, an affectionate Australian term for an unfashionable father who can be amusing but can also be a source of embarrassment for teenage children.
During a family profile for Australia’s 60 Minutes current affairs programme, which aired nationally in February, he sang an amateur rendition of a 1970s rock song, ‘April Sun in Cuba’, while strumming a ukulele.
He is the son of policeman and year-old mayor John Morrison and a descendant of British convict William Roberts who came to Australia in 1788 with the first fleet of 11 ships that founded the penal colony that became Sydney.
Before entering politics he promoted tourism for the governments of Australia and New Zealand.
He is viewed by some as an incongruous mix of a committed Christian who has made a name for himself by enforcing refugee policies that many church groups have condemned as inhumane.
Morrison rose to public prominence when the Conservative coalition government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott was first elected the minister blocking asylum seekers from reaching Australia’s coast by boat in 2013.
Australia used the navy to send boats back to Indonesia, or deported refugees to remote immigration camps in the poor Pacific island nations of Papua New Guinea and Nauru.
The policy has been widely condemned as a callous suspension of Australia’s international obligations to help refugees. The Australian Human Rights Watch found in 2014 that Morrison had failed to act in the best interests of detained asylum-seeking children.
Morrison declared his deep belief in the righteousness of crushing people smuggling and keeping people safe who are tempted to board rickety boats to make the long and treacherous journey to Australia.
Boats are no longer arriving and the government has recently sought to neutralize the plight of the refugees still languishing on the islands by accepting a New Zealand offer to relocate 150 a year.
Morrison remains proud of refugee policy. He has a trophy in the shape of a silhouette of a smuggler’s boat with the inscription: “I Stopped These”.
Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, an enemy of Morrison within his Conservative Liberal Party, said the prime minister’s belief was a marketing ploy.
She described Morrison as the most ruthless person she had met in her public life.
“He is adept at running with the foxes and hunting with the hounds, lacks a moral compass and has no conscience,” Fierravanti-Wells said in her final speech before the Senate in March.
“His actions are at odds with his portrayal as a man of faith. He used his so-called faith as a marketing advantage,” she added.
In his first speech to Parliament in 2008, Morrison referred to the influence of his Christian faith on his politics.
“What values do I derive from my faith?” Morrison asked.
“My answer comes from Jeremiah chapter 9:24: I am the Lord, doing kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things, saith the Lord,” he said.