Who knows whether our PM was a born performer, but if he wasn’t, Scott Morrison sure caught on mighty quick.
As a young child in the 1970s, Morrison acted and appeared in television commercials. The kid who would one day become Australia’s most influential politician was adept enough to have his own agent and was even engaged by major household brands such as Vicks Vaporub.
Morrison’s critics might smirk and claim that, almost half a century later, he’s still promoting things that get up people’s noses.
But love him or loathe him – and Morrison is a very polarising character – there’s little doubt he looks completely at ease on the current Federal Election campaign trail.
While growing up in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, Morrison also sang and did voice-overs. He then parlayed that apprenticeship in the extrovert to high-level marketing. Morrison headed-up various tourism bodies, and was the brainchild of the controversial “Where the Bloody Hell Are You?” advertising slogan, featuring bombshell Lara Bingle in the mid-2000s.
Combine that early exposure with a decade-long stint in Parliament House, and you’ve got what we reckon just might the best-credentialed election campaigner in the history of Australian politics.
Tossing his arms up on a roller coaster at the Easter Show. Tossing them even higher at his Pentecostal Church. Heading soccer balls. Getting down on all fours to chase dogs. Even wearing ghastly fluro green caps for a charitable cause . . . Morrison does it all with zeal and gusto.
His enthusiasm for these stunts actually looks to be genuine – a label rarely applied to pollies trying to capture votes.
On the contrary, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten doesn’t seem nearly as comfortable. In fact, the Labor Leader looks a tad disgusted by the daily conga line of artificial media opportunities and meticulously scripted meet n’ greets. The grimace as Shorten used his knuckles to awkwardly apply sunscreen to his face last week spoke volumes about his attitude toward this circus.
Shorten completes his routine under sufferance, like a mis-treated dancing bear.
Morrison leaps into his with the Evangelical flair of his faith, the ring-leader with a cracking whip.
The question is: does the performance of the candidates during the campaign make any difference? Apart from rusted-on political train-spotters, is anyone tuning in? Does anyone really care?
Judging by the weekly polls, it appears they might. Starting the campaign as rank outsiders, Morrison’s Coalition Government is clawing back ground. The odds still remain against them keeping office, but if things do get close on 18 May, it will be interesting to reflect upon how much influence Morrison’s aptitude under the spotlight exerted.
The shock election of US President Donald Trump – against all predictions in 2016 – taught us about the effectiveness of celebrity politics on modern-day voters, many of whom solely consume news in sound-bites, clickbait headlines and quirky pictures.
Now we’re not saying Morrison is on the same level as Trump when it comes to audacity. But the Aussie PM certainly does exhibit a degree of shamelessness when it comes to throwing himself into whatever public display is required.
And while shamelessness might not seem an admirable quality, it is proving a very effective campaign tool to not only attract maximum attention, but also to brazenly deflect attacks.
Marketing and self-promotion have always been crucial to politics, perhaps more so than actual policy when it comes to getting votes. But in an era when the public has less and less time – and sadly desire – to invest into learning about policy, those two qualities have become more valuable than ever before.