Scott Morrison Has Learned How To Listen And That’s Saved Us All

I never thought I’d say this, but Scott Morrison is doing a good job as PM.

And that's because for most of his Prime Ministership, he hasn’t been.

Backstabbing his way into the top job is (sadly) par for the course in federal politics. And pulling off a narrow win through a scare campaign claiming that Labor was coming for old folks’ pensions was as above board as any other way of winning an Australian election.

It was his behaviour afterwards that really made clear what kind of leader we’d elected. Whether it was being up to his neck in the sports rorts scandal, hiding out in Hawaii while the bushfires torched the country, or his limp response when he finally did return, nothing he said or did made him look like the man you’d want looking after the national interest during a crisis.

Initially the coronavirus promised yet more of the same from the man derisively known as “Scotty from Marketing”. He waffled on whether schools should be closed even as parents were pulling their kids out to keep them safe. He talked about still going to the footy when the experts were saying we shouldn’t be going anywhere. And his initial press conferences on the virus did more harm than good as he blathered away instead of cutting to the chase.

Then something changed. He started to listen.



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It might not sound like much, but you don’t have to look too far back (or too fair afield) to find national leaders who seem to think their greatest asset is their firm refusal to change their minds. It may not be admirable, but it is understandable. Rising to lead a nation requires the kind of self-determination most of us can barely imagine, and being swayed by other people’s views and opinions is just another way to look weak.

So it’s a big deal for the person in the top job to start paying attention to others, like Morrison clearly did once the nation went into lockdown. Whatever he may have personally believed, he was willing to get up there and stay on the same page as everyone else about what it was going to take to get through this.

The first sign of this shift came when his office announced he’d no longer be attending the Cronulla Sharks match on March 14th. He’d previously said he was keen to attend, but a ban had been announced on non-essential gatherings starting that Monday. Showing up would have sent the wrong message, so he changed course and made sure he sent the right one by staying away.



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Ordering all international arrivals into enforced quarantine from March 28th was another smart move taken early by the PM. While some complained, it’s since become clear that travellers forced to quarantine in hotels are eight times more likely to test positive for COVID-19. With most of Australia’s cases coming in from overseas, cutting this transmission vector has been a key part of keeping numbers here low.

It’s easy to say the state leaders took the lead and dragged him along. It’s just as easy to see what happens when a national leader decides to ignore the experts and chart their own course. Just look at Trump and the massive body count in the USA, or the rising death toll in the UK.

Nobody’s suggesting Morrison was going to start advising the nation to inject bleach or wave guns at Daniel Andrews. But if the Prime Minister was standing out there telling people it was still okay to kick the footy around with your mates, or have a barbie with your neighbours, we might be in a very different position to the one we are in now.



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No doubt good luck played a part in our good fortune. We’re an island nation with borders that were easy to close before community transmission got out of hand. But it wasn’t just good luck that’s put us in a situation that, alongside New Zealand’s, is the envy of the world.

It was listening to expert advice to take early action that helped us avoid the kind of disaster we’re seeing in lots of different countries, and a big part of that is thanks to Scott Morrison taking a step back and letting those experts get the job done.

His current push to get the country back to work is a gamble, but it’s probably the right move to make. A leader leads by taking people where they want to go, and after seven weeks of lockdown and with cases largely contained it’s increasingly clear people want to start moving around again.



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How things play out is still definitely up in the air. There’s a possibility that the worst is already behind us; it’s just as likely that easing restrictions will cause the kind of spike in cases that requires firmer action. But after his composure over the last month or so, I’m no longer quite so worried that Morrison will mess things up.

Considering how things were looking back in March, that’s a big relief.

Featured Image: Getty