ScoMo On The Go: How The Prime Minister Is Fanging For A Fight
The surf is so close you can smell its briny air.
“Who likes the beach?” asks Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Young hands shoot up as if he’s offering hot chips.
“Me too. It’s the best.”
His election campaign has brought him to the PCYC in the seat of Dobell on Sydney’s booming Central Coast.
He’s there to talk about internet safety -- the modern day stranger danger -- but it’s the kids outside who will steal the show, they just don’t know it yet.
Inside, Morrison stands on a wooden basketball court with a ring above his head.
His eyes glance up and for a moment you can see him wishing he had a ball.
Morrison’s smile is widest when he has a prop. It could be a lump of coal in parliament, or a soccer ball thumping into his head.
Those in his inner circle talk incessantly about “letting Scott be Scott.”
They want him to be the daggy dad who’d drink a tinny with the neighbour whilst bowling tennis balls at the kids, which is why the second debate hurt them. He crowded Bill Shorten’s personal space and demanded he look him in the eye -- much like a boardroom bully.
The truth is ScoMo is a scrapyard dog.
Taming his instincts is like sending a Pitbull to get a blow-wave, then unleashing it on the park; hoping it will play nicely with the other animals -- when all it really wants to do is chew the marrow out of their legs.
Outside the PCYC a BMX bike is dumped on the footpath. A boy walks over from the skate park.
With his board under his arm, he strides the crossing in front of the Prime Minister’s waiting BMW. The Southern Cross flies proudly from its grill. Beneath it, the number plate reads C1.
The boy doesn’t understand its significance. He just wants to get closer and stand by his mates.
The 15 or so wait and point.
The camera crews have now switched on to the most unscripted thing they’ve seen in days.
“There he is - with his Mrs,” says a boy no older than eight.
The Prime Minister is heading their way. He dashes up the path snapping high-fives. It’s all too fast. Jenny has to let go.
“I reckon this would have to be one of the best skateparks I have seen in NSW,” he says, bending down to a pack of little girls whose dimpled faces light up like marigold sunshine. “Will you sign my board?”
There’s no texta. So Jenny dashes off to find one.
Ten minutes later and he’s signed boards, scooters, shirts, arms and helmets. Even the parents now want photos.
“Australia is the best country ever,” says a little blond haired girl.
The PM high-fives her.
From there it’s over to a rally at a country club. The room is filled with retirees in blue shirts.
The event starts with a welcome to country and a bloke mutters “Oh Christ” under his breath. Others shake their heads.
To many in the group, the nation is changing. They want to stop it. It’s why they’re there.
Labor is having its glitzy campaign launch in Brisbane, so the Blue Shirts are treated to a special one-on-one interview with Jenny Morrison.
“I was five days 22,” she said recounting the pair's marriage and young love.
“My first impression of Scott was that he was really confident and very cute.”
She adds a little later: “he is tenacious. He is stubborn. He is doggedly determined.”
All qualities that impress the crowd. They’re told service is ingrained in the Prime Minister – like the smell of Australian in a eucalypt tree.
The crowd hears how Jenny had a chance encounter with a mum at school. The story goes that there was a meeting taking place that day in Canberra regarding spinal muscular atrophy. The other mother wondered if the Treasurer could go.
“Okay. On it. So I gave him a little call and said I really need you to get to this meeting. There’s some really hurting people out there and they need some drugs listed.”
The culmination of the story is that a drug was added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and people are happy.
“If I can make little help like that, I’m so grateful to be in the position that I’m in," Mrs Morrison says.
The Prime Minister enters to jubilant applause. Three times his microphone fails before it works. The crowd is told Bill Shorten wants to tax everything, even aspiration.
The former Treasurer reminds everyone he wants to bring down taxes. He justifies to the crowd that tax cuts don’t hurt the budget.
“It’s not a cost. It’s your money and we are letting you keep it.”
There’s talk of kids, protecting loved ones and defending farmers. The biggest cheer is reserved for the expulsion of criminals.
“We have cancelled the visas of 4,400 offenders.”
“Yes,” people hissed instinctively.
“We sent them home and we will keep sending them home.”
By the end, the speech feels a little Trumpian. The faithful though like it.
He may be behind in the polls but there’s an air of confidence they didn’t feel eight months ago.
Scott Morrison might not be everything to all people, but the Morrisons aren’t the Turnbulls. And to the battlers and blighted that’s enough for now.
The keys to the lodge haven’t been surrendered yet. There’s a scrapyard dog waiting at the gate who’s fanging for a fight.
Jonathan Lea is travelling with the Prime Minister.
Listen to Hugh Riminton and Peter Van Onselen in The Professor and The Hack discuss all things #Auspol.