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Gadfly 60

The real Scott Morrison peeped out from behind his ‘Goofy Dad’ façade this week and the punters didn’t like it one bit. His mad idea to parachute Warren Mundine into Gilmore as the Liberal Party’s candidate in the Federal election over the locally endorsed Grant Schultz was a ‘captain’s call’ worthy of Tony Abbott at his most idiosyncratic.

In fact Tony was the only Liberal on the day to publicly support it!

But in Morrison’s case it only confirmed the judgement his board of directors made when he headed the Australian Tourist Commission. ‘No one can work with him,’ they declared. ‘He just won’t listen.’ And they gave him the boot.

That was after he backed the disastrous ‘Where the bloody hell are you?’ ad campaign that took years for his successors to overcome. His personal modus operandi then was ‘Take charge’ and nothing, it seems, has changed except the ad-man’s mask behind which he has played the political game.

And before we get all gooey about his choosing an Aboriginal chap as his preferred candidate, let’s remind ourselves that in the same week the Prime Minister proudly announced the gift of $6.7 million towards a round-Australia voyage of Cook’s Endeavour to celebrate his claim of the entire East Coast of ‘New Holland’ for the British crown, thus setting in train the events that would devastate Mr Mundine’s indigenous compatriots and leave a permanent scar on the face of modern Australia. Not the action, you might think, of a sensitive supporter of the Aboriginal cause.

However, he could hardly have found a more willing pick than Mr Mundine. This is the same Warren Mundine who sought nomination for a Seat by the Labor Party and when that was unsuccessful flirted with the right wing rump, the Liberal Democrats in quest of a place in the Senate. Indeed, when tapped by Morrison for Gilmore he was not even a member of the Liberal Party.

His claim to have ancestral links to the South Coast seat that runs from Kiama to Tuross might well be true. But he has shown so little interest in the area that only after the Morrison pick did he start looking for a residence anywhere in the electorate. In fact, as a successful businessman he says he bought a place on the same day he began his search.

It’s not as though Gilmore is one of those safe seats that could afford to drop a couple of points to bring a star candidate into the Parliament. The incumbent, Ann Sudmalis held it on a margin of only 1.6 percent. And with Grant Schultz threatening to run as an Independent and the Nationals in search of a woman to carry their tattered flag, the Morrison intervention makes no sense at any level. Labor leader Bill Shorten must be wondering what in blazes he did to earn such luck!

Little wonder that Liberal officeholders in the area showed their disgust by resigning from the Party. And with them goes many of the foot soldiers who knock on doors put up signs and man the booths on polling day.

In fact, the way things are going, as Morrison surveys the Liberal voting queues on election day, perhaps he’ll recall an earlier triumph of his ‘take charge’ persona with that immortal phrase, ‘Where the bloody hell are you?’

Robert Macklin has carved out a unique place among Australia’s literary biographers and historians. He has won numerous literary prizes including the 2009 Blake Dawson award for business literature with Peter Thompson for their classic THE BIG FELLA – the Rise and Rise of BHP Billiton.His Kevin Rudd: The Biography was shortlisted for the ACT Book of the Year; and he has won three Critics Circle Awards for his military biographies and histories. He has completed a lecture tour of three Chinese universities based on his works and is presently writing a history of Australia/China relations over the last 200 years.Queensland born, he has been a journalist at the highest level, a confidant and biographer of two Australian prime ministers; a documentary filmmaker in 32 countries of Asia and the Pacific; and is also political columnist and commentator in the nation’s capital. He presently divides his writing time on fiction, non-fiction and screenplays between Canberra and Tuross Head on the NSW South Coast.


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