Morrison’s opportunism, adventurism endangering his election prospects
Published: Feb 10, 2022 02:44 PM
Scott Morrison Photo:Xinhua

Scott Morrison Photo:Xinhua

Scott Morrison credited the "quiet Australians" for his surprise win in the federal election in May 2019. "I always believed in miracles," he said while he himself was still incredulous of his unexpected luck in hanging on to the prime ministership.

Three years on Morrison must now be desperately praying for another serendipitous turn of events. His erstwhile popularity has been unambiguously forsaken by the majority of Australians, as reflected in a series of recent poll results, and his Labor rival, Antony Albanese, has been reaping in popular support which could lead to a definitive defeat of the Liberal-National Party Coalition.

Morrison's gaucherie and imprudence in governance became manifest during his insensible management of the devastating and tragic bush fire that took place across Australia in late 2019. His untimely and ill-calculated holiday in Hawaii during the national crisis proved to be disastrous to people's confidence in him as a reliable and responsible leader.

He importunately mishandled the pandemic crisis in the following two years, incurring increasing public discontent and resentment by repeatedly failing to effectively control the spread of the disease, properly manage the vaccination process and secure supplies of the PCR and rapid antigen test kits. His reckless abandonment of most COVID-19 restrictions and controls in recent months could breed catastrophic outbreaks in the future.

He's gained unparalleled distrust not only in Australia, but internationally as well. The French President Emanuel Macron said, "I don't think - I know (Morrison was a liar)." His deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce agreed with others that he was deceptive and further called him "a hypocrite." The former New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian, together with a cabinet minister, described him as "a horrible, horrible man" and "a complete psycho." Grace Tame, the Australian of the Year for 2021, garnered huge applause on social media for openly flaunting her sharp distaste of the PM during a public event at the politician's residence.

The biggest havoc that Morrison has wreaked on Australia's international reputation and economic soundness, however, is the reckless impairments he made to Australia's relations with its largest trade partner, China. Throughout his prime ministership, Morrison spared no effort to repeatedly damage the previously mutually beneficial comprehensive strategic partnership with China. Canberra has been incessantly attacking China in the most vicious and insulting manner. Top government officials have even been hysterically beating the "drums of war" to provoke a military confrontation with China. Bilateral mutual trust has been reduced to the minimum, and economic and trade exchanges between the two countries have been severely affected.

Moreover, in addition to challenges from the Opposition, Morrison has always been haunted by the lurking contestation for power from his internecine rival, the far-right China hawk defence minister Peter Dutton. The "China card" has been insensibly used and abused in the two politicians' reckless "game of thrones" without taking Australia's long-term interest into their myopic consideration.

Morrison hopes to enhance his profile by portraying himself as a significant player in the international arena. His administration's foreign policy is characterized by a bizarre mixture of opportunism and adventurism. Canberra has misguidedly gambled in the international power game and put Australia's national interest at stake. 

It has been revealed that the AUKUS deal, announced in September last year to equip Australia with a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, was originally proposed by Morrison. The strategic target is to boost Australia's military capacity in preparation of future conflicts with China. This is obviously a senseless and hazardous resort used to salvage his political standing. It has violated the international nuclear non-proliferation treaty and jeopardized the nuclear-free status quo in the South Pacific. What's more, Morrison's injudicious tactic of beefing up Australia's military muscles to provoke China is simply inviting danger.

Late last week, Morrison appeared in a Melbourne hairdressing salon and posed for the camera to wash a woman customer's hair. Such cheap and creepy election stunts will unlikely bring about another miracle in the upcoming parliamentary election, nor will his reckless invocation of the devil of war.

The author is president of the Chinese Association of Australian Studies and director of the Australian Studies Centre at East China Normal University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn