Over 5 million Australians will be placed back under harsh Stage 3 lockdown restrictions at midnight tonight. That is, roughly, 20% of the entire country’s population. And yet as this renewed coronavirus crisis has progressed over the past few days, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been curiously absent from proceedings. Somehow, quite remarkably, it appears to be happening again.
Morrison’s history in this regard is pretty well-trodden territory. In December last year, in the middle of Australia’s worst bushfire catastrophe in recent memory, Morrison more or less “escaped” the country on a secretive Hawaiian holiday, that was only discovered after rampant social media scuttlebutt and prodding from various journalists. Even still, once the story broke it took a staggering 5 days for Morrison to “cut short” that holiday and return home to a nation on its knees.
Now, with the entire Metropolitan Melbourne region facing another six weeks in coronavirus lockdown amid the worst case numbers the city has seen since the pandemic began, Morrison has again, quite curiously, vanished.
It’s been days since the Prime Minister has made any sort of public statement at all. Morrison’s last official media appearance came on Monday, in an interview on his favoured radio station 2GB that the Prime Minister conducted by phone. In that exceedingly short and light-touch appearance, Morrison broadly addressed the (at the time) looming NSW border closure.
Prior to, and after that, Morrison has barely uttered a peep.
Morrison’s social media accounts have been silent since Sunday. His last post coming in the form of an acknowledgement of Mathias Cormann‘s retirement announcement; one that was arguably the worst-kept secret in Australian politics, meaning social media posts like this would likely have been pre-written well in advance by Morrison staffers.
.@MathiasCormann has been a mainstay of our Government since we were elected in 2013 & has been central to the Liberal Party’s roster for a decade. His decision to retire from politics at the end of 2020 caps off a career of service to Australia that has made a real difference. pic.twitter.com/Vt4KS4cCY4
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) July 5, 2020
In fact, Morrison hasn’t been seen on video since July 3rd, one day prior to the crucial Eden-Monaro by-election. On that day, Morrison posted a video endorsing Liberal Party candidate Fiona Kotvojs to his official Facebook page. The video was, quite clearly, filmed in the Prime Minister’s office, and was not time-stamped in any fashion.
Curiously enough, that video included the assertion “the best way that I can support the people of Eden-Monaro, and indeed Australians right across the country, is to stay at my post and remain focused on the many challenges our nation faces.” That line, at the time, served as the Prime Minister’s own personal excuse as to why he would not be appearing in the Eden-Monaro electorate on by-election day. But now, several days later, it takes on a very different meaning indeed.
As case numbers rose dramatically in Victoria across the weekend and into this week, Morrison was nowhere to be found.
Nearly 20 hours after Premier Dan Andrews announced the renewed lockdowns for the entire Melbourne region, Morrison has refused to make even the barest of statements on the matter.
One fifth of the country’s population is grappling with the anxiety of another six weeks in almost total lockdown, and the Prime Minister of Australia is yet to say shit about it.
Even opposition leader Anthony Albanese made time yesterday to acknowledge the grim reality facing millions of Victorians.
I think I speak for the whole country when I say that my heart goes out to every Victorian right now.
This is going to be so hard for so many, especially the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of our community.
Though we’re apart, we’ll get through this together.
— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) July 7, 2020
But the Prime Minister, the leader of this country, hasn’t.
The lack of communication, and his own personal recent history, has lead to Morrison once again losing control of the conversation. Across social media, Australians are questioning the whereabouts of our Prime Minister. Some even going so far as to spread a (hopefully unfounded) rumour that he may be holidaying in Fiji.
Seriously, the PM @ScottMorrisonMP can’t be bothered sending Victoria a message right now? WTF is the point of federation? Is he at home in his Sharkies gear hanging for the weekend footy?
— Dave Hughes (@DHughesy) July 7, 2020
— Kyran ???? (@kyranwheatley) July 7, 2020
Seriously, where the fuck is @ScottMorrisonMP?
Why isn't he addressing the nation & supporting @DanielAndrewsMP & Victorians?
— ????????????Bee???? (@BelindaJones68) July 7, 2020
Seriously – where is @ScottMorrisonMP? Is he on holidays? Surely he wouldn't repeat the Hawaii fiasco & get his office to lie about his whereabouts? If he's with the kids, fine.
But where is he? #WheresScotty https://t.co/YovB0Ij2q0
— ????????Dr Josie McSkimming ???????????????????????????? (@JosieMcskimming) July 7, 2020
— Michael Grey (@Mikes005) July 7, 2020
All this mystery, again, about whether Prime Minister Scott Morrison has gone on holidays in a crisis. Well at least he can't have got far this time with all the borders closed. #auspol
— Janine Perrett (@PerrettReport) July 7, 2020
— Sandra K Eckersley???? (@SandraEckersley) July 7, 2020
I'm just wondering – and stay with me here – if you've noticed a sharp upswing in the Liberal party sinking the boot into the ALP in the last few days since Scott Morrison's gone missing?
Side show distraction?
And no media commenting on the PM's obvious absence?
— RonniSalt (@RonniSalt) July 7, 2020
Scott Morrison said that #Jobkeeper is paid too well, leading to people not wanting to work.
— Black Lives Matter (@Roscommon_Cat) July 7, 2020
#auspol Where's Scott Morrison and why are media not speaking out about his disappearance?
— Gail ???? (@GailCoastie) July 7, 2020
Hypothetically if Scott Morrison is on holiday right now, and has decided not to tell anyone because of Hawaii, what hope have we got of finding out where he is? Apparently most journos are more interested in protecting him than asking him questions ????
— ????Queen Victoria (@Vic_Rollison) July 7, 2020
— Mark Jacka (@themarkjacka) July 7, 2020
It’s certainly worth remembering that the NSW School Holiday period began on Monday and is due to run until July 17th. And it’s absolutely worth remembering that, at the time the Hawaii scandal blew up in his face, Morrison used his daughters as a scapegoat, playing something of a “A Dad’s gotta do what a Dad’s gotta do” card.
But then again it’s also worth remembering that, following his return from Hawaii last year, Morrison said the following of his ill-timed trip during a national crisis:
“I am sure Australians are fair-minded, and understand that when you make a promise to your children, you try and keep it. But as Prime Minister you have other responsibilities, and I accept that.”
We all know that the Prime Minister would love nothing more than to have this entire pandemic be a state’s issue only. But to not even offer the barest of acknowledgement, in the near-24 hours since 20% of the country learned they’d be locked back down, is galling.
Once again, the nation is enduring a growing crisis. Once again, the Prime Minister has gone missing.Image: Getty Images / Sam Mooy