HE WAS the surprise third contender who saw an opening for the top job and won it. Australia, meet your new Prime Minister.
SCOTT Morrison has been leader-in-waiting for years, and today he was elected as leader of the Liberal Party and is now Australia’s 30th Prime Minister.
Mr Morrison, or ScoMo, as he is often called, was officially sworn in to the role after winning a Liberal party room ballot defeating Peter Dutton 45 votes to 40.
The son of a police officer, Mr Morrison’s hardworking character and leadership potential have long been noted by his colleagues.
As one influential MP told the Australian Women’s Weekly back in 2015, before Malcolm Turnbull challenged Tony Abbott for the leadership: “If we lose the next election, Scott Morrison will be leader.”
Lately, Mr Morrison had thrown his support behind Mr Turnbull, although he did express interest in the top job after the now-ousted prime minister’s poor Newspoll performances.
He told the ABC in April he would not pursue his ambitions while Mr Turnbull remained in the role, insisting Mr Turnbull was the right person to lead the party not just to the next election “but beyond”.
But the then treasurer said he would be interested “down the track, if an opportunity presented itself”.
Mr Morrison’s time finally came this week when he sought support for a leadership tilt after three senior ministers publicly stated that Mr Turnbull longer enjoyed the confidence of the Liberal Party.
An evangelical protestant and member of the Horizon Church (formerly known as Shirelive), Mr Morrison has appealed to social conservative voters of the Liberal Party.
“Growing up in a Christian home, I made a commitment to my faith at an early age,” Mr Morrison said in his first speech.
“My personal faith in Jesus Christ is not a political agenda … for me, faith is personal, but the implications are social.
“From my faith I derive the values of loving-kindness, justice and righteousness, to act with compassion and kindness, acknowledging our common humanity and to consider the welfare of others; to fight for a fair go for everyone to fulfil their human potential and to remove whatever unjust obstacles stand in their way, including diminishing their personal responsibility for their own wellbeing; and to do what is right, to respect the rule of law, the sanctity of human life and the moral integrity of marriage and the family.”
Raised in the Sydney seaside suburb of Bronte, Mr Morrison’s father was a police officer who later entered council and became the mayor of Waverley.
As a young boy, Mr Morrison appeared in TV commercials to advertise Vicks cough drops featuring the slogan “Vicks’ll lick a ticklin’ throat”.
Describing himself as a “netball dad”, he’s also known as a big fan of Tina Arena’s music and the number one ticket holder at the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks.
Mr Morrison first met his wife through church connections when she was just 12 years and they married when he was 21. They went on to have two children.
After studying a Bachelor of Science, Mr Morrison went on to work in the property and tourism industries.
He held positions at the Property Council of Australia, the Australian Tourism Task Force, Tourism Australia and then the Office of Tourism and Sport in New Zealand.
When he returned to Australia he became director of the NSW Liberal Party in 2000 before taking a job running Tourism Australia in 2004 where he was involved in the controversial “Where the bloody hell are you?” campaign.
Mr Morrison entered politics in 2007, winning preselection in the seat of Cook in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire where the Cronulla race riots took place two years before.
Unlike his rival for the leadership position, Peter Dutton, he backed former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s apology to the stolen generation, saying he was “proud” to support it.
But the two men do share some similarities. Both of them carved out a reputation as being tough operators in the immigration portfolio.
Mr Morrison was given the portfolio under Mr Abbott’s leadership and was part of the team that developed Operation Sovereign Borders to “stop the boats”.
He caused controversy in 2011 when he questioned whether taxpayers should pay to fly a group of refugees to Sydney so they could the attend funerals of their relatives, who drowned off Christmas Island.
Interestingly, Mr Morrison did call for increased spending on foreign aid in his first speech.
“Let us note that in 2007 the total world budget for global aid accounted for only one-third of basic global needs in areas such as education, general health, HIV-AIDS, water treatment and sanitation,” he said.
“This leaves a sizeable gap. The need is not diminishing, nor can our support. It is the Australian thing to do.”
Mr Morrison was shifted to the social services portfolio by Mr Abbott in December 2014, who seemingly snubbed him for the defence role. But he was elevated to Treasurer by Malcolm Turnbull after he took over the leadership.
While Mr Morrison publicly supported Mr Abbott during the spill, there’s speculation his failure to endorse the former prime minister’s leadership contributed to his defeat and has seen many conservatives turn against him.
Mr Morrison denied he did a deal with Mr Turnbull but he did refuse to take up Mr Abbott’s offer of Joe Hockey’s position as treasurer after he realised Mr Hockey wasn’t aware of the arrangement.
2GB host Ray Hadley famously demanded Mr Morrison swear on a bible that he had not plotted with Mr Turnbull to overturn Mr Abbott.
“Absolutely not, I had no role in his demise,” Mr Morrison said, but he refused to let Hadley “use my faith for a stunt for your program”.
The heated exchange soured the “bromance” between the two and Mr Hadley later dumped Mr Morrison from his weekly spot, accusing him of lying about why he missed one of their regular chats.
Mr Morrison’s appointment will be seen as a continuation of the Turnbull Government. He was tipped to run in Mr Turnbull’s place, rather than against him.
Earlier in the week Mr Turnbull didn’t clarify whether he would encourage his supporters to back Mr Morrison if a spill was carried.
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