The following is a list of instances in which Prime Minister Scott Morrison has overtly deflected blame, downplayed or shirked the responsibilities of the role of Prime Minister, contradicted his own previous words, or outright lied to the Australian public in the year 2020. For the purposes of telling the full story of his January activities, we have traced this timeline back to December 10th, 2019. This list is by no means exhaustive or comprehensive.
December 10th: While in Sydney, Prime Minister Scott Morrison refuses to address the blanket of bushfire smoke covering the city that pushes air quality levels to 11 times above what is considered hazardous. Instead, he uses his planned media conference to address controversial planned amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act. Following that, Morrison becomes trapped in a Commonwealth building for around 30 minutes after bushfire smoke outside becomes so bad that it triggers the building’s fire alarms, shutting down its lifts.
December 16th: Rumours begin swirling that Morrison has quietly left the country and is holidaying in Hawaii with family. No official press release has been issued by his office, nor has there been any official confirmation that Nationals leader Michael McCormack is the Acting PM of the country.
December 18th: With Morrison’s whereabouts still unknown, footage of a 2010 appearance on Q&A re-emerges in which Morrison lashes then-Victoria Police Commissioner Christine Nixon for going out to dinner during the Black Saturday bushfires. “She’s clearly made a bad judgement call,” Morrison said at the time.
December 20th: After four days of speculation, Morrison finally confirms he is, in fact, holidaying in Hawaii during one of Australia’s most disastrous bushfire crises in recent memory. He palms his absence off in a 2GB radio interview by asserting “I don’t hold a hose, mate. I don’t sit in a control room.” The PM’s office issues a statement confirming he is cutting his holiday short and will be returning to Australia “as soon as can be arranged.“
December 21st: Morrison arrives back in Sydney at approximately 8pm, five full days after the Hawaii story first broke.
December 22nd: Morrison attends the NSW Rural Fire Service HQ and gives a press conference, during which he excuses the Hawaii trip by claiming parental responsibility, insisting “I am sure Australians are fair-minded, and understand that when you make a promise to your children, you try and keep it.”
December 23rd: Morrison appears on Sunrise and insists criticism about his secretive Hawaii holiday is merely an issue that “the media has gotten very excited about.”
FULL INTERVIEW: Prime Minister @ScottMorrisonMP joined Sunrise to answer criticism about taking a holiday while the country burned, and ruling out changes to climate policy. #auspol pic.twitter.com/x3LQplGaUR
— Sunrise (@sunriseon7) December 22, 2019
January 1st: Morrison spends New Year’s Day at Kirribilli House entertaining the Australian and New Zealand men’s cricket teams at an exclusive function. Addressing media, Morrison brushes over mounting concerns regarding climate change, drought, and Government land management by attributing the cause of the bushfires to “lightning storms, or whatever the cause may be.” He then asserts Australians will be “gathering, whether it’s at the SCG or around television sets all around the country,” and that “they’ll be inspired by the great feats of our cricketers from both sides of the Tasman.”
January 2nd: Morrison finally appears in-person at a fire-affected community, visiting the NSW town of Cobargo which was almost completely destroyed. Cameras capture a young woman directly confronting him and pleading for Government help, which Morrison responds to by forcing her to shake his hand. On the same day, Morrison passes the fallout of the 2019-2020 bushfire disaster off as an issue for “states and territories,” and asserts the real tragedy is farms that have had to “pour the milk down the hill.“
January 3rd: During a press conference, Morrison insists that the criticism and anger he’s faced throughout the bushfire disaster is “not something for me to take personally.“
January 4th: Morrison takes to social media to push his latest response to the bushfire disaster: An ad spruiking the Liberal Party.
January 8th: Morrison visits bushfire-ravaged Kangaroo Island. While talking to residents, he incorrectly claims that “we’ve had no loss of life” in the area. When informed that two people had in fact died in the fires, Morrison claims “I was thinking about firefighters firstly.“
— ???????????????????????? ???????????????????????? (@OliverJPocock) January 8, 2020
January 10th: In a terse press conference, Morrison faces questioning on the sluggishness of his Government’s bushfire response. After being asked if his initial response could have been better, Morrison says “the Government’s responding to an unprecedented crisis with an unprecedented level of support,” before he abruptly ends proceedings early.
January 20th: Morrison appears on 3AW and insists that anyone using the derogatory “Scotty From Marketing” nickname, originally coined by The Betoota Advocate, is “basically just running a Labor Party campaign.”
— Peter van Onselen (@vanOnselenP) January 20, 2020
January 23rd: Morrison invokes his daughters in defending his Government’s handling of the $100 million Sports Rorts scandal, which has faced accusations of corruption and blatant pork-barrelling. “I’ve got two daughters, I don’t want them changing in the car or out the back of the shed. I want them them to have access to sporting facilities in our community, like the boys do,” he states. Lilli Pilli Football Club, located in Morrison’s own seat of Cook, received $200,000 in funding as part of the program.
February 28th: Morrison receives a face-to-face pasting from NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during an extraordinary joint media address at Kirribilli House over the Morrison Government’s policy of deporting any New Zealand-born person who commits a crime in Australia, regardless of how long they’ve lived here. “Do not deport your people and your problems,” Ardern asserts. A smirking Morrison responds in kind, “The Australian Government’s policy is very clear. We deport non-citizens who have committed crimes in Australia against our community.”
March 13th: On a Friday, Morrison announces a Federal Government directive to “advise against” any non-essential gatherings of over 500 people, but withholds implementing it until the following Monday. At the same time, he declares his intention to attend a Cronulla NRL game in-person on the Saturday. Later in the day, he backflips and pulls out of attending the game, which ultimately attracts a total attendance of 6,325. Between March 13 and March 21, the number of positive coronavirus cases recorded in Australia rises by 441%.
March 13th: On the same day, it’s confirmed Morrison would not be getting tested for COVID-19, despite close contact with Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton during a four-hour cabinet meeting in the days leading up to Dutton returning a positive COVID test. Dutton is hospitalised for four days before being released to isolate and recover in his Queensland home.
March 22nd: During a press conference, Morrison cuts off ABC journalist Andrew Probyn after he attempts to ask Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy a follow-up question. Morrison tersely barks that Probyn “does not run the press conference” before throwing to Guardian Australia political editor Katharine Murphy. The remarkable incident becomes the subject of widespread piss-taking on TikTok.
— Isobel Roe (@isobelroe) March 24, 2020
March 23rd: Morrison delivers a meandering War Time-esque speech in Parliament, invoking the “spirit of the ANZACs” in addressing the growing COVID-19 crisis in Australia. He states that the crisis is “
April 15th: NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern takes a highly-celebrated voluntary 20% pay cut in a gesture of good faith during the country’s economic crisis. When asked about a potential pay cut for both himself and fellow senior MPs, Morrison rebuffs this suggestion by immediately turning the conversation into one about all public servants. He states “I’ve got 6,000 public servants, some of whom we have just recently contracted, others who are working at senior levels who are sitting down at Centrelink right now processing people’s Jobseeker applications.” “They are as much on the frontline frankly as nurses working in hospitals,” Morrison says.
May 1st: Morrison declares confidently that Australians should be given an “early mark” from pandemic lockdown conditions. Subsequent hotel quarantine inquiries in Victoria have found that a family of four sparked the Rydges Hotel outbreak in Melbourne after returning to the country on May 9th. More than 90% of the second Melbourne wave has been traced back to that specific case.
May 11th: Morrison is questioned about 5G and conspiracy theory-motivated protest gatherings in Melbourne. In a cheery response, he quips “it’s a free country.”
May 11th: Morrison flat-out denies he mislead Parliament over the Sports Rorts scandal, amid evidence emerging that his office personally intervened on behalf of five sporting clubs. All five clubs received funding as part of the maligned scheme, despite only one meeting the threshold of eligibility set out by Sports Australia’s recommendations. “Good to see the Canberra press gallery is back to politics as usual with Parliament coming back,” Morrison quips in response to questioning.
May 24th: Despite claiming “full responsibility” for it, Morrison nonetheless writes off the Federal Treasury bungle that saw the cost of the JobKeeper program over-estimated by $60 billion as “news that you would welcome.” He then likens it to to a housing build that unexpectedly comes in under budget.
June 5th: Three weeks after declaring 5G protesters were free to “make their protests and make their voices heard,” Morrison openly asserts anyone planning to attend a string of Black Lives Matter rallies across Australia to stay home instead. The protests go ahead regardless. No cases of coronavirus were found to have occurred as a direct result of them.
June 11th: Addressing Parliament, Morrison offers a conditional apology for the Government’s harmful Robodebt scheme that will see Federal authorities pay back the $721 million the scheme improperly raised through pursuing past and present Centrelink customers. Morrison states that he “would deeply regret –deeply regret” any hardship were it proven to have been inflicted upon people “in the conduct of that activity.” “I would apologise for any hurt or harm in the way that the Government has dealt with that issue and to anyone else who has found themselves in those situations,” he says.
June 11th: In a 2GB radio interview, Morrison addresses the colonialist founding of Australia, wrongly claiming “it was a pretty brutal place, but there was no slavery in Australia.”
June 12th: During a press conference, Morrison insists that those slavery comments were referring to “how the New South Wales settlement was first established and the views that were communicated at the time.”
July 7th: Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announces that the entire Melbourne Metropolitan area – as well as the neighbouring Mitchell Shire – will be placed back under restrictive Stage 3 lockdown conditions in response to the worsening coronavirus spike. It takes Morrison, the Prime Minister of Australia, a full 24 hours to issue a public response to this crisis. That subsequent response includes a bizarre moment in which Morrison lists the months of the year.
July 10th: As the coronavirus crisis in Melbourne worsens, Morrison declares he will be going on holiday – but not “full time” – with his family, who are on the “outskirts of Sydney.” He then asserts “I will be returning to Canberra next week.”
July 11th: Morrison attends Cronulla Sharks home game sans family.
July 18th: Morrison cancels the forthcoming sitting of Parliament due to “significant risk” associated with “the increased community transmission of COVID-19 in Victoria and the trends in New South Wales.” No video link-up option – which National Cabinet has been successfully operating under – is offered as an alternative.
July 21st: Morrison announces plans to slash the level of the JobSeeker benefit payments by $300 per fortnight, while also cutting the coronavirus supplement down to $250 per fortnight. Unemployed people receiving the benefits – many of whom are out of work due to the pandemic – will soon have their maximum fortnightly payments slashed from $1,150.70 per fortnight down to $815.70. Morrison states that Australians knew the boosted pandemic JobSeeker measures “cannot go on forever.” Around 1.6 million Australians currently rely on the JobSeeker payments to get by.
July 28th: Despite cancelling Parliament and the mammoth issues with coronavirus that the United States are enduring, Morrison declares that he still intends to travel to Washington DC in September to attend the G7 Summit in-person. “Our alliance with the United States is the bedrock of Australia’s defence strategy. So it would be highly irregular for us not to seek to take every opportunity for those meetings to be held face-to-face,” he says.
August 10th: It emerges that Morrison and the Federal Government has shielded two Federal officials who had direct involvement with the Ruby Princess debacle from official questioning. When asked why those officials should be allowed to dodge questioning during the NSW Government’s official inquiry into the incident, Morrison states “I said we would co-operate with the inquiry as we have with other inquiries, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.”
August 14th: Morrison insists that the Ruby Princess inquiry will deliver some “humble learnings” in pointed comments aimed at the NSW State Government only.
August 19th: In an appearance on ABC News Breakfast, Morrison deflects responsibility for the Aged Care Sector, which falls under Federal jurisdiction, onto Victoria. He asserts “We regulate aged care, but when there is a public health pandemic… then they are things that are managed from Victoria.” At the time, Aged and Residential Care facilities in Victoria had recorded some 1,486 cases of COVID-19, with 232 deaths.
.@mjrowland68: Does the buck stop with you as Prime Minister for the litany of aged care failures?@ScottMorrisonMP: We regulate aged care, but when there is a public health pandemic … then they are things that are managed from Victoria. pic.twitter.com/3yUUGRPjHC
— News Breakfast (@BreakfastNews) August 18, 2020
August 19th: Morrison “confirms” a deal has been struck with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca to manufacture the in-development Oxford University coronavirus vaccine as soon as it becomes available. He claims the day as “a day of hope for all Australians.” In a subsequent 3AW radio interview, Morrison states that the Government will make the vaccine as “mandatory as you can possibly make it.” AstraZeneca reportedly issues a statement in response, claiming that no such deal has been made.
— Chris Bowen (@Bowenchris) August 19, 2020
This list will be updated as the year progresses.Image: Getty Images / Sam Mooy