January 2nd 2020
Australia is in the middle of an unprecedented Bushfire Season. The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, gives a press conference as the carnage piles up higher around him and is asked some basic questions about whether or not his Climate Change policies are adequate. Katharine Murphy, Political Editor of The Guardian, notices something different about Morrison during the interview – a never before seen uncertainty.
I find Morrison remarkable for being so well on top of his interviews. He is obviously very intelligent, mentally agile, very well briefed and normally several steps ahead of his questioners. He is so in control of interviews, even hostile ones, that he often sneers in scorn at the futility of the interviewer as he yet again easily counters and parries their questions. If ever in trouble Morrison just filibusters, endlessly streaming sentences together, drowning out his TV or radio opponent. Either way his self-assurance is unwavering.
But in this interview Murphy sees a different Morrison – hesitant, hemmed-in, uncertain.
On the same day Treasurer Josh Frydenburg also gives a press conference. He is also asked about the Morrison government’s climate change policies. He has just been given an update on the Victorian situation. Guardian reporter Amy Remeikis notes that Frydenburg looks visibly shaken. And he does. His speech is halting; He regularly stumbles. He lacks confidence. Here’s the vid. Yes, Frydenburg is visibly shaken
Hesitant, hemmed-in, halting, uncertain: shaken.
Statesmen and Fathers
The hestitancy and shock of Frydenburg and Morrison is something beyond normal sadness at a disaster. Morrison a typical politician, flourishes at Plane Crashes, Terror Attacks and the like. (Frydenburg avoids this preening). Its an ideal opportunity to play the Statesman, to exude steely resolution and fatherly compassion among endless photo opportunities, to grow in stature. But here and now, on the same day, the two most senior Government figures neck-deep in an unprecedented natural disaster ripe for TV and clicking cameras, they shrink before our very eyes. Why ?
What’s Going On ?
I wanted to see this new Morrison for myself. So I watched the full vid. My impressions were similar to Murphy’s. To me Morrison looked somewhat ashen-faced, nervous; his speech racing in shallow breaths. Yeah, Morrison tried to gee himself up with a rousing mention of meeting and beating Kyoto 2020 commitments (typically disingenuous of Morrison – AFAIK the figures are not yet finalised). But Morrison lacked the usual complete belief in his own words. Yes, he gives it a good shake even cracking the trademark smile at his own brilliance at one point. But for once his assurance is not total. Amazingly, as Murphy notes, Morrison even concedes the necessity to adapt to Climate Change. And, again as Murphy notes, the stress of acknowledging reality turns his normally precise locutions to sludge
I watched a few vids of Morrison touring the fire grounds – getting basically chased out of town at Cobargo (though other localities were generally happier for him to visit – though the perception he was using ther fires as a personal photo opportunity still clung).
Morrison’s posture in Cobargo was hunched, tentative – Morrison looked like he was frightened of getting punched in the face or spat on. This is a million miles for the aggressive, snarling ScoMo, so familiar to us this past decade. Morrison is normally unflinching, countering aggression with super-aggresion. He is physically large and intimidating and uses his size and vigour to advantage, staring down challengers. He’s not scared of anyone.
But not now; not this week. He’s shaken; and so is Frydenburg.
What’s going on ?
Playing With Matches
Reflecting on the demenour of Morrison and Frydenburg, they seem to me to be exhibiting the shock, horror and guilt of children who start a paddock fire while playing with matches. Cattle burnt alive; fences and sheds burnt; the fire brigade called out; men putting themselves in danger because of their own stupidity. Mum told us…but we didn’t think…We didn’t know…
This week Morrison and Frydenburg learnt that Climate Change is real.
They were shocked. Now they know. People can actually get hurt.
To be fair: none of us knew.
But Morrison and Frydenburg weren’t even listening.
This summer we learnt what 0.9C of Global Warming can do. Morrison knows that 1.5C (almost double) is the supposed ‘safe upper limit’.
I suspect Frydenburg was thinking ‘Maybe we should stop playing with Matches’.
And I suspect, for the first time, Morrison was too.
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