Scott Morrison has just 10 days to prove he’s not just the accidental Prime Minister. Picture Kym Smith
Scott Morrison has just 10 days to prove he’s not just the accidental Prime Minister. Picture Kym Smith

ScoMo has 10 days to prove he’s not an accidental PM

SCOTT Morrison has just 10 days to prove he's not just the accidental Prime Minister - a more suburban Turnbull, but still headed for Turnbull's cliff.

In 10 days Parliament sits again and Labor will fire up its blowtorch. What, it will demand, do you stand for?

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wanted tax cuts for big business. Do you?

Turnbull wanted immigration kept very high. Do you?

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has just 10 days to prove he’s not just a more suburban Malcolm Turnbull. Picture: Sean Davey
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has just 10 days to prove he’s not just a more suburban Malcolm Turnbull. Picture: Sean Davey

Turnbull wanted to slash global warming emissions and stay in the Paris Agreement. Do you?

Turnbull refused to commit to investing in a new coal-fired power station, or to buying an existing one. Do you?

Right now no one knows what Morrison wants. He has no stated agenda, other than cutting power prices (but how?).

This is astonishing for a new prime minister. Usually they get the job by making promises in an election, asking for a mandate, or, as a challenger, by promising a new direction.

Not Morrison, who got the job out of the blue as the compromise candidate when Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, of the Right, challenged Turnbull, of the Left.

But he cannot afford in 10 days to stand in Parliament on the day of another bad Newspoll and prove he has nothing new to say - especially not when he must make a great first impression with an election just nine months away, tops.

See, it's not just Labor that wants answers. So do voters, mystified by the bloody Liberal brawl that toppled a prime minister who was still popular, even if his government had been on the nose for two years.

Without Morrison announcing big changes, tearing down Turnbull will seem pointless, driven just by hatreds and ambitions.

It must instead be made to seem what it basically was: a battle over issues, brought to a head when Turnbull dragged the Liberals too far Left, largely through his global warming obsession.

But that brings us to the people watching with even more jealous interest what Morrison will decide over the next 10 days.

It's his Liberal MPs. Both sides of the Liberals, the Left and conservatives, are already poised to resume this civil war if their new leader now makes them the losers.

Will Morrison cut immigration, build a coal-fired power station, tear up the Paris deal, buy off the Catholic schools who are screaming that Turnbull dudded them?

Then the conservatives who did most to topple Turnbull will cheer. Already one, rising star Andrew Hastie, sent Morrison a coded warning, telling me on Tuesday he felt a winner with Morrison's rise, despite having challenged Turnbull on global warming and then backing Dutton.

Andrew Hastie at Parliament House. Picture: Kym Smith
Andrew Hastie at Parliament House. Picture: Kym Smith

But on the same day, Julie Bishop positioned herself as the Left's head of resistance.

She resigned as Foreign Affairs Minister after winning only 11 votes in the leadership ballot won by Morrison, but then suggested she could stay in Parliament. What's more, she insisted Australia stick by the Paris Agreement.

That is the tension that brought down Turnbull and is still unresolved under Morrison. So which way will he move?

Morrison is more interested in power than principle, but his new Ministry suggests he wants to lead the Liberals back to the Right, but without losing his support from the Left.

He did reward his supporters, but also appointed conservatives to the portfolios where the election battle will be fiercest - Alan Tudge to Population, warming sceptic Angus Taylor to Energy and Dan Tehan to Education. He now has conservatives in place to move the party Right at his signal.

 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s new Ministry suggests he wants to lead the Liberals back to the Right. Picture: Kym Smith
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s new Ministry suggests he wants to lead the Liberals back to the Right. Picture: Kym Smith

 

Morrison also offered a tiny olive branch to former prime minister Tony Abbott, making him "envoy" on indigenous issues against the obvious opposition of Ken Wyatt, who identifies as Aboriginal and is Minister for Indigenous Health.

Morrison probably gave Abbott the job just to shut him up. But Abbott, too, is now in place to fight another key ideological battle - against the Left's push to divide us by race under the Constitution.

In all these battles I expect Morrison will edge Right, but only a bit and without saying so.

He will not tear up the Paris deal, slash immigration hard or give many interviews to known conservative journalists. He will pose as pragmatic, to offend neither side.

But will voters then notice any change? The Liberals cannot win if they seem too much like Labor, but without Labor's unity.

But nor can they win if they seem very different, but even more divided.

Morrison has just 10 days to solve what may now be insoluble.



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