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What Scott Morrison wants to be remembered for, as he bids farewell

Former prime minister Scott Morrison after his valedictory speech in Parliament on Tuesday.

Former prime minister Scott Morrison after his valedictory speech in Parliament on Tuesday. Photo: AAP

After quoting Taylor Swift and doting on his family, Scott Morrison saved the closing of his final speech in Parliament to espouse the values of his Christian faith, while denouncing the replacement of religion by the state.

The long-winded speech may have covered his greatest hits — touching on China, AUKUS and taking credit for Australia’s COVID-19 response — but Morrison ultimately finished on the pillar that underpinned his time in politics: His commitment to his religion.

“It is about respecting each other’s human dignity through our creation by God’s hand, in God’s image, for God’s glory,” Morrison said.

“This is the basis for our modern understanding of human rights.”

Morrison, who copped criticism for laying hands on people without their knowledge and inviting controversial preacher Brian Houston to the White House during his time in the top job, said the advance of secularism in Western society may cause people “to overlook these connections or even denounce them”.

“Human rights abuses were once called crimes against God, not just humanity, and they are and they remain so,” he said.

“We should be careful about diminishing the influence and the voice of Judeo-Christian faith in our Western society, as doing so risks our society drifting into a valueless void.”

The idea that Judeo-Christian beliefs underpin human rights is one borrowed from conservatives in the United States.

“While a noble calling, politics can only take you so far and government can only do so much,” Morrison said.

“Much of our disillusionment with politics today and our institutions is we’ve put too much faith in them.”

Morrison, Australia’s first Pentecostal prime minister, leaves Parliament for a job in America at the end of the week.

Friends and foes

boris johnson

Morrison thanked his “good friend” Boris Johnson during the speech. Photo: EPA

Morrison thanked his “good friend” Boris Johnson, the Trump and Biden administrations and Mike Pence, another former world leader of faith, while also reiterating the threat of China.

“Our government stood firm against the bullying and coercion of an aggressive Chinese Communist Party government in Beijing,” he said.

“Investors are rightly pricing the risk of their investments in an authoritarian communist China, while consumer advocates are waking up to human rights abuses and environmental degradation that infects these supply chains.”

Chinese-Australian relations hit an all-time low during Morrison’s tenure as prime minister from 2018 until 2022, ultimately resulting in tariffs and $20 billion in lost exports.

He even spent his final year on the backbench warning against a reverse of policy towards Australia’s largest trading partner.

The COVID PM

Morrison’s defining moment as prime minister — aside from not holding a hose — will be his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, and he made sure not to let Parliament forget it.

He said Australia emerged with one of the lowest fatality rates in the developed world.

“When compared to the average fatality rates of OECD countries, Australia’s risk response saved 30,000 lives,” Morrison said.

“We were described as the gold standard of COVID responses by Bill Gates.”

He failed to mention the botched vaccine rollout led by his government, Robodebt, or his multiple ministries, but said he gave “all in that arena, and there are plenty of scars to show for it”.

“I leave this place appreciative and thankful, unburdened by offences, and released from any bitterness that can so often haunt post-political lives,” he said.

“This is due to my faith in Jesus Christ, which gives me the faith to both forgive, but also to be honest about my own failings and shortcomings.”

After quoting scripture, there was still time for one last cliché: “As always, up, up Cronulla.”

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