PM’s ‘me, me’ moment on The Project

 

HE came to the top job as Australia's accidental Prime Minister, who won the numbers to topple elected PM, Malcolm Turnbull.

But to bastardise parliamentary parlance, the 'I's' have defeated Scott Morrison in the court of public opinion - aka Twitter - after his appearance on The Project with host Waleed Aly.

Beginning with platitudes about hugging our fractured country back together, Morrison was allowed to "set the agenda" by Aly and quickly made it clear what that would be.

Enough about Islam, let's talk about me.

Sadly for him (and us all), the audience was all over him like Eggboy at a Fraser Anning press conference.

"Spot the difference on the @theprojecttv," wrote Dani (@dandysworld).

"Scott Morrison: I, I, I. Jacinda Ardern: we, we, we."

Others picked up Scomo's own "Muppet Show" reference, when describing his party's chaotic spill, by renaming the PM as "Beaker" - the mumbling puppet who when he spoke made one sound: "me, me, me, me."

 

Twitter likened Prime Minister Morrison to The Muppets character Beaker.
Twitter likened Prime Minister Morrison to The Muppets character Beaker.

His days as the marketing boss of Tourism Australia set out the same structure of his arguments - all self-involved anecdotes about his treks to Kokoda; a weekend visit to a Coptic Church with his family; and the postcard of our nation we've all tried to forget, the Cronulla Riots.

Why the bloody hell he would bring up that disgraceful episode in Australia's modern history - when a redneck, right wing mob of largely white Australians attacked anyone of "Middle Eastern appearance" before reprisals followed - defies comprehension.

The fact it had even come to this - the PM waffling his way through a word salad of excuses, finger-pointing and fillerbustering - was eye-rolling enough.

Waleed Aly on The Project with Scott Morrison.
Waleed Aly on The Project with Scott Morrison.

 

At a time when a large part of this country is wrestling with grief and shock that one of us could leave these shores and kill 50 innocent New Zealanders, guilty of nothing more than practising their faith, our PM had chosen to show the way forward by picking a war of words with the country's most high-profile Muslim and calling him a liar.

No matter the story Aly referenced in his acclaimed speech in the aftermath was written by three other senior political journalists.

Apparently this was the way he was going to "seek to bind us up" - by threatening to sue Channel 10 for defamation.

Whatever side of that debate you see it, what he achieved was the first of many comparisons to Ardern's empathetic and inclusive leadership - compounded by the fact she'd invited Aly to her country and granted him a rare one-on-one interview, in recognition of his emotive editorial following the attacks last Friday.

Embarrassed into agreeing to The Project sit down, after he'd earlier in the week cancelled a planned appearance, it was when things finally got around to that argument that Morrison seemed to really unravel.

His body language was the first thing to go - retreating back into his seat, slumping and cross- legged - putting a physical barrier between himself and his interrogator.

The intellectual wrestling that followed was like watching a horror episode of Q&A, when everyone on the panel shouts over one another, while everyone at home throws shoes at their television sets.

 

It was tense viewing at times watching the intellectual wrestling on live TV between Waleed Aly and Scott Morrison on the Project. Picture: TEN
It was tense viewing at times watching the intellectual wrestling on live TV between Waleed Aly and Scott Morrison on the Project. Picture: TEN

And despite admitting Australians "don't understand Islam very well", Morrison took every opportunity where he could have listened to Aly and instead shouted over the top of him.

When he didn't like the question, he ordered Aly to "reframe it".

When he tied himself up in a Bingo game of numbers jumble over the Medevac bill, Morrison turned all Richard Nixon: "because I'm the Prime Minister!"

When pushed to distance the Coalition from the inflammatory policies of One Nation, and the questionable associations of his cohorts with white supremacist groups like Reclaim Australia, he baulked, played for time, hedged his bets - for fear those arch conservatives who knifed Turnbull were at home, in real time, sharpening the axe while they waited for his answer.

Viewers and the wider electorate will get their chance to wield that same axe at the election in eight weeks or so.

It's just terrifying to think this is what passes as debate and national leadership by our Prime Minister when given a prime-time platform for 30 minutes to show us the way out of hate and division. I have one thing left to say: my poor country.

@byrnesh