Scott Morrison's ministerial career has only just begun, but already his services to Australian journalism are producing impressive results.
For example, there was this wonderful skewering in yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald by Tony Wright:
"Scott Morrison, a fellow who lists his major recreation in Who's Who? as 'church', once tried to entice visitors to Australia with the promise of beaches fairly oozing nubile flesh. As managing director of Tourism Australia, he signed off on an advertising campaign that decked out the notably endowed Lara Bingle in a bikini and sent her strident tones around the world. 'Where the bloody hell are you?' she cried in increasing desperation. Apart from persuading a number of foreign governments to ban the ad on the grounds of taste, or lack of it, the Bingle project was judged a car wreck. It managed to reduce visitor numbers from the markets it was supposed to excite. Morrison, naturally, went into politics after this debacle, arguing loudly it was actually a raging success because tourism spending had gone up under his watch, even if there were fewer tourists. Perhaps he was practising to become Treasurer, a calling that requires a talent for creative accounting and the assertion black is white.
"Falling short of a job involving numbers, he has morphed into the role of Immigration Minister. His job these days is to persuade would-be visitors to stay away from Australia. The old tourism chief has reversed his talent for propaganda by launching an international advertising campaign warning that the boat borne will find themselves in a concentration camp in the malarial jungle of Manus Island or the sweat box of Nauru, not a Lara in sight, if they so much think of climbing aboard a leaky craft. Being an enthusiastic Christian, he declares that his concern is for the safety of what he calls 'illegals'.
"So how's the new project going? 'Not tellin',' has become his standard response, or words to that effect. Possibly wary of bikinis these days, he has turned to a military man in full neck-to-boot uniform to back him up. You might recall the military man telling journalists only last week that he would not discus 'on water' matters when quizzed about a stand-off with Indonesia, which wouldn't take back a boatload of on-water asylum seekers. What about on-land matters, Morrison was asked on Wednesday. Had a boatload of Somalis arrived in Darwin? 'Not tellin',' Morrison said, or words to that effect.
"This, however, was not in response to a buzz of excitable journalists. It was to the Parliament of Australia, which is to say, the people of the nation to whom he is supposed to be answerable. It was, indeed, during question time. It has been noted before that if question time were to be renamed answer time, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission would need to launch an investigation. Straight answers are not the natural territory of politicians under pressure, but Morrison appeared intent on Wednesday in enshrining the principle in parliamentary canon.
"It seemed such a simple question. 'Can the Minister provide details about a boat carrying Somali asylum seekers arriving on Monday evening in Darwin?' Labor's immigration spokesman, Richard Marles, inquired. Morrison wasn't about to tell Marles or anyone else anything. 'This government is not running a shipping news service for people smugglers,' he replied. 'As promised, we are running a military-led border security operation as I just said is stopping the boats.' He yammered a bit more about the worth of restricting official information, as if we were at war. Loose lips sink ships, that sort of thing.
"Perhaps he should re-employ Lara Bingle. With her help, after all, he stopped the tourists. As for the chance of something approximating an answer to a simple question? 'Where the bloody hell are you?'" (Morrison keeps House in dark)
And who could forget Morrison's role in inspiring this inimitable rewriting of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance by Mike Carlton in The Age of October 20:
I am the very model of an immigration minister
In charge of refugees and matters maritime and sinister.
At school I studied hard at maths and lessons alphabetical,
I learnt the scriptures backwards and the canon evangelical.
I made my rise to greatness from political obscurity
Conflating xenophobia with national security.
Endlessly I preached the word to ordinary Australians
Arousing fears their homes were being overrun by aliens.
I blamed the Labor gang for this invasion of Muhammadans
Who wear the burqa, pray to Mecca, starve themselves at Ramadan.
Fanatics who would have us all obeying their sharia laws
They'd ban the Easter Bunny and abolish dear old Santa Claus.
But! Now that I'm the minister I've vowed to turn the boats around,
I've got a 3-star general to keep our borders safe and sound.
The bleeding hearts and Greenies call me confrontational
But I riposte: 'My lips are sealed on matters operational.'
When Jakarta once accused me of egregious hypocrisy
I shrugged my shoulders lightly and replied: 'Well, that's democracy.'
And though it's not much help in dealing with the Indonesians,
I quote the Bible's letters of St Paul to the Ephesians.
With humanity and decency my only motivation
I am standing resolutely at the frontiers of the nation.
And armoured in self-righteousness I spurn each rude inquisitor
For I'm the very model of an immigration minister.