An Authentic Politician?: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison
May 23, 2019
A miracle happened over the weekend in Australia. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison won what was called an unwinnable election. All the indications from the polls and the experts was that Scott Morrison was going to lose. Morrison is the leader of the Liberal Party (actually a center-right party). He was up against Bill Shorten, the leader of the Labor Party (the center-left party). So sure was Shorten of victory that he laid out detailed progressive policies on taxes and climate change. Morrison, on the other hand, has been Prime Minister for under a year. The Liberal Party had removed two sitting Prime Ministers in the last several years. Many people were tired of all the Liberal Party internal politics. In most cases, when one party keeps shooting itself in the foot, the other party wins.
So how did Scott Morrison win this unwinnable election? Morrison campaigned on more of a steady-as-you-go platform that did not overpromise. But Scott Morrison’s real key to victory was his authenticity. “ScoMo,” as he is affectionately called, grew up in a fairly ordinary middle-class background. His dad started off life as a policeman. Morrison is active in his church, a Pentecostal church he has been a part of for years. Australia is a pretty secular country, so being a person of faith is not always helpful politically. He is also a huge football fan of the Australian Rugby League team the Cronulla Sharks. So on the Sunday after it looked like he was going to be re-elected Prime Minister, he went to church and then went to a Cronulla football game as normal. He was mobbed by cheering crowds at the Cronulla football game. The fans knew he was one of them, a passionate Cronulla supporter.
Morrison’s message is aspirational. He says, “I believe in the promise of Australia.” He uses folksy slogans like, “If you have a go, you’ll get a go,” basically saying that if you take a chance, Australia will let you do pretty well. On the night of his victory, he said, “God bless Australia,” and that he felt Australia was the best country in the world to live in. Such language might be common place in the US, but it is not in Australia.
People could relate to this guy. He was one of them. He has been called the “daggy dad,” which in layman’s terms means your typical boring dad, without a whole lot of fashion sense. He is married with two young children.
We can learn a lot from Scott Morrison. The lessons are not so much about his party or his political philosophy. It is that people crave authenticity. Not everyone in Australia is a Pentecostal Christian or a Cronulla Sharks football fan. But people admire a man who is authentic. A family man, raising two children, with a message of hope.