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Scott Morrison’s most controversial moments from his time in office

Morrison to quit federal politics

Scott Morrison has confirmed his resignation from Parliament following months of speculation, announcing on Tuesday he will call time on his 17-year political career.

He will officially resign at the end of February.

The Australian reports Morrison will join former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and former Trump security adviser Robert O’Brien in global strategic and defence firms.

He has been appointed vice-chair of American Global Strategies, headed by O’Brien and will also join Pompeo as a strategic adviser to asset management firm DYNE.

Many Australians didn’t know who Morrison was when he became Prime Minister in August 2018, but after leading the country through the Black Summer bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic in controversial fashion, they won’t soon forget ‘ScoMo’ and his most controversial moments.

Rise to power

Elected as member for the southern Sydney seat of Cook in 2007, he first hit the spotlight as a tough-talking immigration minister who wanted to stop immigrants from getting to Australia by boat.

Morrison then became treasurer when Malcolm Turnbull booted Tony Abbott in the turbulent Liberal leadership spill in September 2015.

He then went on to boot Turnbull.

“This is my leader and I am ambitious for him,” Morrison said with one arm around the then-PM, just days out from the Peter Dutton-led leadership spill in August 2018 in which Turnbull was dumped and his treasurer took the top job.

turnbull morrison

Morrison, then Treasurer, publicly supported Turnbull while privately working towards his own ambitions. Photo: AAP

He was seen at the time as a moderate choice in the bitter leadership battle between his successor Dutton and Julie Bishop.

What followed was a dramatic election victory in 2019 against Labor’s Bill Shorten, defying polling and betting odds, to give the Liberal Party a slim majority government.

‘Hold a hose’

Six months after his surprise win, Australia was engulfed in smoke and flames during the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires.

Morrison, however, was nowhere to be seen.

Despite denials by his office, The New Daily revealed that he was holidaying in Hawaii.

PM Scott Morrison snapped on holiday in Hawaii late in 2019. Photo: Ben Downie/Twitter

Morrison’s rebuttal is now famous, telling a radio host upon his return to Australia that “I don’t hold a hose, mate”.

The apology tour that followed saw Morrison forcibly shaking hands with people who had lost their homes to bushfires and a PR campaign that never truly healed his image with the public.

mike kelly quits eden monaro

Scott Morrison attempts to shake the hand of a firefighter in Cobargo. Photo: Twitter

The pandemic

Morrison’s defining moment, and his ultimate downfall, was the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although the early response was decisive – including the establishment of national cabinet, travel bans and lockdowns – the PM never missed the chance to politicise, whether it was supporting a lawsuit by Clive Palmer against Western Australia’s hugely popular premier Mark McGowan, or railing against China.

He later claimed his government saved 40,000 Australians in a social media post before the 2022 election, but conceded there were “setbacks”.

“Forty thousand people are alive today because of the way we managed the pandemic,” he said.

“700,000 people still have jobs and countless numbers of business that would have been destroyed.”

The setbacks included the bungled acquisition and rollout of COVID vaccines, which severely damaged Morrison’s re-election chances.

His legacy includes the rise of the Teal independents in traditional Liberal heartlands, and becoming the first former prime minister to be censured by Parliament in 2023, after it was revealed he had sworn himself into multiple ministries during the pandemic without his cabinet’s knowledge.

The chosen one

Morrison was Australia’s first evangelical prime minister, a sect of Christianity with views that don’t align with the mainstream beliefs of Catholicism, Protestantism and other popular denominations.

Christianity has always been central to Scott Morrison's brand of politics.

Scott Morrison at his Pentecostal church in Sydney in 2019. Photo: AAP

In an address to a church in April 2021, Morrison said he had been called on by God to be prime minister.

He later said that was merely an expression of his belief that all actions are “part of your Christian service”.

His close friendship with Hillsong church founder Brian Houston came under intense scrutiny when the pastor resigned, following allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards women and knowledge of his paedophile father’s crimes.

Morrison asked the Trump administration to include Houston in a dinner during an official visit to the White House in 2019.

He repeatedly denied making the request, until finally admitting years later that Houston’s name was on the list of distinguished guests submitted to US officials.

Morrison fronts Robodebt royal commision

Robodebt

The Robodebt Royal Commission, launched as an election promise by the Albanese government when it defeated the Coalition in May 2022, was scathing of Morrison’s role as chief architect of the illegal scheme.

Using inaccurate estimations, people receiving benefits from Centrelink were hounded with letters and calls over money they didn’t owe, resulting in numerous cases of suicide and mental anguish.

The report said Morrison had “allowed cabinet to be misled” on the legality of the scheme when he cooked up the scheme as social services minister in 2015.

Morrison, in typical fashion, completely rejected the findings and accused Labor of committing a “political lynching”.

The scheme cost the government more than $1 billion in a class action lawsuit.

Marketing man

Morrison’s pre-political career in marketing, where he was let go from Tourism Australia and Tourism New Zealand, served him well during his time as Prime Minister.

He never turned down a photo or media opportunity, whether it was playing the ukulele at home for Karl Stefanovic or staring directly into a welding light without a mask.

During his re-election bid, Morrison often touted his wife Jenny and his two daughters to the public.

It helped him cultivate an image of a ‘daggy’ dad who loves cooking curries with his family and watching his ‘Sharkies’ play in Cronulla.

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