You big ugly | The Saturday newspaper
Last weekend, Scott Morrison gave one of his pre-election interviews to Nine newspapers. He spent time with the reporter. He aped for pictures with his dog. He talked about God but not too much.
The article was written before the collapse of the health system, before the deaths and the declarations of emergency, but there is no reason to believe that it would have changed his temper. Nothing changes his temper.
Morrison is about an imaginary Australia where people don’t care about politics. These people are his base, those who don’t know what’s going on. They are defined by what they want and their willingness to believe that he will give it to them.
“They want to live their life,” Morrison says. “They want to run their businesses, they want a safe and secure country where they can make their own choices and chart their own paths… They want to own their own homes, they want to raise their children, get skills and training for them, they want to be able to save for their retirement and not take on too much debt and live their life the way they want by giving back to their community. These are the great aspirations.
On Mother’s Day in 2019, he kicked off his re-election campaign with almost the same speech. Nothing in the past three years has changed his mind or made him bigger. “My family history is not uncommon in our country,” he said. “Australians quietly live their lives with simple, decent and honest aspirations. Get an education. Get a job. Start a business. Take responsibility, support others. Work hard. Face all the challenges that come your way. Meet someone amazing. I did it: there she is, Jenny. Create a life and a family together. Work even harder to support them and give them choice and hopefully an even better life than you have. Save for your retirement and your future.
Morrison speaks as if reading the poet Ania Walwicz and took her words as an affirmation: “You, great man. Poor with all your money. You ugly furniture. Your ugly house. You relaxed into your summer stupor.
Walwicz’s poem about Australia’s smallness sounds like a Morrison speech in the second person: “You go to bed too early. You don’t excite me. You scare me with your desperation. Asleep when you walk. Too hot to think. You big awful. You don’t match me. You burned. You too big sky. You make me a point in nothingness. You laugh with your big health. You want everyone to be the same.
Walwicz emigrated from Poland in 1963, five years before Morrison was born. She wrote Australia in 1981, the year he made his commitment to Christ. His vision comes from his childhood, from a country that was already several decades behind.
Morrison’s Australia is Walwicz’s Australia, without the venom or insight. He is not a politician but a time traveler. When he speaks of the future, he promises the past. Calamities do not worry him because he always walks backwards. He would rather defeat polio than face the coronavirus.
These are the “simple, decent and honest aspirations” of which Morrison speaks – to live in a world that does not exist, in a country that says it is possible. It’s not possible or fair, but it’s what’s on offer and like everything else with Morrison, it’s worked once before.
This article first appeared in the Saturday Paper print edition on January 22, 2022 under the headline “You big ugly”.
A free press is a paid press. In the short term, the economic fallout from the coronavirus has taken about a third of our income. We will survive this crisis, but we need the support of readers. Now is the time to subscribe.