The LNP’s battle against the Coronavirus is also a battle for the hearts and minds of Australians. If the Prime Minister fails in winning the latter, his ability to fight and win the former will be significantly compromised. It’s evident to most that Scott Morrison is doing everything a good leader can to win this war, but as goes the law of unintended consequences, Morrison is on the cusp of losing the battle for Australia’s hearts and minds, because of the absence of reassuring battle cries.
There’s no doubt that Sunday’s late press conference revealed a Prime Minister working hard on our behalf. He worked on a Sunday, negotiated with some hard-line Labor premiers, took questions from journalists and fronted the nation. The obvious wear and tear of his schedule was more than enough reason to reject myopic claims that Morrison “bullied” the ABC’s Andrew Probyn, when Probyn attempted to dominate (and therefore bully other reporters of) the press galley. By forcing Probyn to social distance himself, so that other reporters could have a chance to do jobs. Morrison answered a bully, he wasn’t being one. It was late. Morrison was short. Probyn copped a time out, it’s time to move on.
War-time crises require war-time speeches, as much as it requires determined, and resolute, war time leaders. If the Prime Minister wants Australians to unite behind him in this war, he’ll have to do a whole lot better in communicating to Australians about why they should fight, why they need to fight, and how his plan is more than up to the fight, than he has.
Scott Morrison has the logistics right and an effective battle plan, but he needs to improve his monologues. Standard public relations speeches, based on information and procedural text-types won’t work; neither will polished, over written approval ratings twaddle. We can get all that from Government websites. What we need is more of ‘fight on the beaches’, and less of ‘stop going to the beaches’. If Morrison doesn’t do this, as was witnessed late Sunday night, he’ll come across as fighting against, rather than for Australians, and as a result he will lose the proverbial war at home.
Scott Morrison’s big mistake on Sunday, was failing to mention how the war cabinet would be going about to protect freedom. If we are indeed fighting a war, imported from Communist China, the Prime Minister’s approach in this latest news conference won’t inspire people to unite and fight against it with him. I get that the Prime Minister was probably tired. Anyone who’s been in board room meetings can sympathize, they can be mentally, morally and emotionally taxing. This is just for the meetings that succeed. Multiply this by 10 for meetings that don’t.
For all the Prime Minister has been doing, and doing very well, last night saw an unintentional emptying of more air from the already deflating national morale. The absence of any reassurance to Australians that the government will be doing everything it can, in order to protect freedoms under threat by the necessities he has already outlined, and those he said may yet need to be implemented, wasn’t a shot in the arm to the Australian public. For many, it was a right hook to the head.
To be fair, Morrison’s job isn’t easy. As has been made evident by the actions of Victorian Labor Premier, Daniel Andrews, who appears to have pulled a Benedict Arnold, agreeing to keep schools open, only today, to contradict himself and close them, in a direct rejection of the Prime Minister’s plan, including rejecting the advice from Australia’s Chief Medical officer, Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy who has said that ‘the consensus view of all of the chief health officers is schools should stay open because the risk to schoolchildren from the virus was very low.’
Making the Prime Minister’s battle for Australia’s hearts and minds more difficult, are all the social media show ponies lecturing us and the Government on why keeping schools open is wrong. Some rants, I know for a fact, come from folks who don’t really care about the issues, or the kids. This is another quick opportunity to attack the P.M.
Let’s be honest, if a Labor Prime Minister had done the same as Morrison in regard to schools, the wolves howling at Morrison, would all singing his or her praises. Few on the left blinked an eyelid when Kevin07 splashed cash from tax-payers coffers on empty halls and fancy balls. It seems that as long as the situation provides an opportunity to drool for, and spill LNP blood, who cares about national unity in a time of crisis?
For the rest of us, the Prime Minister’s school plan was solid. First, it’s an optional extra for parents. Kids need stability in a time of crisis. Routine helps. Keeping the schools open – as an optional extra – when the current health advice (around the world) says it’s reasonable to do so, provides this necessary framework. Closing schools will mean that a child’s routine is disrupted, resulting in an instability in the child’s life that will need to be countered-balanced.
Arguing otherwise, without sufficient reasons to do so, only fosters more fear, more anxiety, more hysteria and harms, rather than helps Australians. Show dissent. Question the new normal, but don’t be obnoxious in doing so.
I say this as an advocate for homeschooling. Something I think Australians can do, and do well. Even without government support. Even with direct hostility from political activist groups on the left, and with having to always look down the barrel of public misconceptions about socialization. Although I support the idea of homeschooling where you can, when you can, if you can, the fact is not all parents are able to homeschool and provide the necessary stability to do so.
The idea scares the hell out of some parents. Many of whom have succumbed to arguments from anti-homeschooling teachers, who regard parents as being intellectually incapable of educating their kids at home. Never mind the fact that many of those allegedly “intellectually incapable” parents were, or may have been, schooled by those very same teachers.
The Prime Minister has a mandate from the Australian people to fight on their behalf. This includes bringing Premier’s, who may be a little too friendly with the Communist Chinese Regime, into line with the Constitution. Not letting this crisis become a means for slimy political manoeuvring.
While the war against the Coronavirus is of the highest importance, Scott Morrison must also recognize that the fight for national morale, for the hearts and minds of the Australian people, is as equally important.
Now that the Prime Minister needs Australians to step up, he must adjust his approach. He can’t just tell hundreds of thousands of Australians that they’re going to be out of work for six months, but here’s some compensation.
War-time crises require war-time speeches.
Morrison needs to rally Australians to the cause, recalling some of the adages that inspired the Anzacs to push back against the dark shroud of totalitarianism that embraced the 20th Century.
I am confident in the Prime Minister’s ability. I am confident in Australia’s ability to unite, and fight; overcome and adapt. We’ve kept calm and carried on before, we can do so again.
First published on Caldron Pool, 24th March, 2020.
© Rod Lampard, 2020