Madonna King: Scott Morrison isn’t a bad bloke, he’s just not good at his job
Could it be that Scott Morrison, the nation’s 30th Prime Minister, is trying his best – but is simply not up to the job?
Could it be that he actually, genuinely doesn’t understand the angst and anger, the manipulations and missteps that have him kicking own goals every single time he speaks?
Even if that is the case – and politics is taken out of this whole sorry mess – Scott Morrison’s performance over the past six weeks lends support to the view that he doesn’t actually have the leadership capacity to deal with the biggest recent issue to envelop his government.
If he ran a company or a school, a charity or a sporting code, he would need to consider his next job.
Leadership of political parties, at this point, comes down to numbers. Get the biggest tally of votes, and you get the best office and the biggest pay packet.
Scott Morrison has pledged fresh support for staff inside the Liberal Party.
And on the way to that victory in the party room, undermining the other contenders and cajoling the votes of those sitting on the fence is part of the political strategy.
The end result showcases political nous or strategy. Even cunning. But it doesn’t always throw up the best leader, and history is littered with examples there.
The problem is this issue – from alleged rapes to orgies, from thousands of school girls alleging sexual abuse, to the crimes claimed to have been committed in Parliament House, from misogyny to downright sexism – it warrants more than a political strategy.
It requires leading from the front, changing cultures and structures, more than ministers and rules.
Swapping a couple of ministers will not bring cultural change, or fix things for Scott Morrison.
Changing policies or ministerial guidelines won’t mend the hurt or secure future change either.
Scott Morrison can now enact the long overdue recommendations made by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, but the question remains: Is he only doing it now he’s in political strife?
He can change human resource rules and ask staff to come forward with information and institute internal inquiries. But he’s been exposed as struggling to lead on any of those issues, and it’s a hard title to earn, after so many errors.
This isn’t an issue that can be fixed by responding to individual incidents. That won’t wash with an electorate that can see the whole picture, and his inability to deal with that.
Is he acting now because his party is in the political doghouse? Or because he genuinely sees the problem?
The answer is almost certainly the former. If he understood this problem, he would have acted months earlier, and not been forced into decisions by headlines and rallies and plummeting polls.
Sometimes blokes get it wrong, he claims. And sometimes getting it wrong costs you your job.
Political leadership, to this point, has been seen so different from the leadership we see in other parts of our communities.
Just imagine if this was the standard of leadership in your child’s school. Or in the company in which you own shares.
So Scott Morrison might have the numbers to stay in the job, but it doesn’t mean he has the leadership prerequisites.
Let’s just take this exchange on radio on Wednesday, where he was asked whether he has had direct contact with Brittany Higgins.
“No, I haven’t been in direct contact with her, no I haven’t. I didn’t know Brittany when she worked here. And I know she was in the building, just like there are large numbers of people who work here. The apology I offered, in the Parliament, nationally, publicly, was one I sincerely meant.’’
Even if that were true, wouldn’t a real leader pick up the phone and talk to Brittany Higgins personally?
Asked about leadership, the Prime Minister quickly jumped to his own defence.
“I’ve just been overwhelmed by the amount of support that I’ve received from my colleagues this week,’’ he said. “Our party has never been more united.’’
Really? Perhaps he needs to listen to some of those, whose anxiety over holding their own seats is beginning to rise.
Josh Frydenberg, his deputy, is the only likely alternative – and no-one is claiming any leadership move.
But at some point, unless Scott Morrison sees this issue through a different lens, and one not just about politics, his party is destined for opposition. And it will be his leadership to blame.