|30th Prime Minister of Australia|
24 August 2018
|Governor-General||Sir Peter Cosgrove|
|Preceded by||Malcolm Turnbull|
|Leader of the Liberal Party|
24 August 2018
|Preceded by||Malcolm Turnbull|
|Treasurer of Australia|
21 September 2015 – 24 August 2018
|Prime Minister||Malcolm Turnbull|
|Preceded by||Joe Hockey|
|Succeeded by||Josh Frydenberg|
|Minister for Social Services|
23 December 2014 – 21 September 2015
|Prime Minister||Tony Abbott
|Preceded by||Kevin Andrews|
|Succeeded by||Christian Porter|
|Minister for Immigration and Border Protection|
18 September 2013 – 23 December 2014
|Prime Minister||Tony Abbott|
|Preceded by||Tony Burke|
|Succeeded by||Peter Dutton|
|Member of the Australian Parliament
24 November 2007
|Preceded by||Bruce Baird|
|Born||Scott John Morrison
13 May 1968
Waverley, New South Wales, Australia
|Education||University of New South Wales (BSc)|
Scott John Morrison is an Australian politician serving as the 30th and current Prime Minister of Australia and Leader of the Liberal Party since 24 August 2018. He has been a member of the House of Representatives since 2007, representing the Division of Cook in New South Wales.
Morrison was born in Sydney and studied economic geography at the University of New South Wales. Before entering politics, he worked as director of the New Zealand Office of Tourism and Sport from 1998 to 2000. He was managing director of Tourism Australia from 2004 to 2006. He was also state director of the New South Wales Liberal Party from 2000 to 2004. Scott Morrison was first elected to the House of Representatives at the 2007 federal election. He was appointed to the opposition frontbench after the 2010 election.
Following the Coalition’s victory at the 2013 election, Scott Morrison was appointed Minister for Immigration and Border Protection in the Abbott Government. In that capacity he was responsible for implementing Operation Sovereign Borders, one of the Coalition’s flagship policies. In a December 2014 cabinet reshuffle, Morrison was instead made Minister for Social Services. He was promoted to Treasurer in September 2015, when Malcolm Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott as prime minister.
In August 2018, Peter Dutton challenged Turnbull for the leadership of the Liberal Party, due to dissatisfaction from the party’s conservative wing. Turnbull defeated Dutton in a leadership ballot, but tensions continued to mount and the party voted in favour of holding a second ballot; Turnbull chose not to be a candidate. In the second vote, Scott Morrison emerged as a compromise candidate, defeating Dutton and Julie Bishop to become leader of the Liberal Party and prime minister.
Early life and education
Morrison was born in Waverley, Sydney, New South Wales, the younger of two sons born to Marion (née Smith) and John Morrison. His father was a policeman who served on the Waverley Municipal Council for 16 years, including for a brief period as mayor. Morrison’s maternal grandfather was born in New Zealand.
Morrison grew up in the suburb of Bronte. He had a brief career as a child actor, appearing in several television commercials. Some reports have suggested that he was the iconic 1970s Vicks “Love Rub” kid, but footage to confirm or refute this has not been found; he has stated he was in a different Vicks commercial. Scott Morrison attended Sydney Boys High School before going on to complete an honours degree in applied economic geography at the University of New South Wales. He contemplated studying theology at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada, but he instead chose to enter the workforce after completing his bachelor’s degree, in part due to the disapproval of his father.
After graduating from university, Morrison worked as national policy and research manager for the Property Council of Australia from 1989 to 1995. He then moved into tourism, serving as deputy chief executive of the Australian Tourism Task Force and then general manager of the Tourism Council of Australia; the latter was managed by Bruce Baird, whom he would eventually succeed in federal parliament. In 1998, Scott Morrison moved to New Zealand to become director of the newly created Office of Tourism and Sport. He formed a close relationship with New Zealand’s tourism minister, Murray McCully, and was involved with the creation of the long-running “100% Pure New Zealand” campaign.
In April 2000 Morrison returned to Australia to become state director of the Liberal Party in New South Wales. He oversaw the party’s campaigns in the 2001 federal election and in the 2003 New South Wales state election. In 2004 Morrison left that post to become the inaugural managing director of Tourism Australia, which had been established by the Howard Government. His appointment was controversial due to its openly political nature.Morrison approved and defended the contentious “So where the bloody hell are you?” advertising campaign featuring Lara Bingle. He lost his job in 2006, apparently due to conflict with tourism minister Fran Bailey over the government’s plans to further integrate the agency into the Australian Public Service.
Morrison sought Liberal preselection for the Division of Cook, an electorate in the southern suburbs of Sydney which includes Cronulla, Caringbah, and Miranda, in the 2007 election following the retirement of Bruce Baird, who had served as the member since 1998. He lost the ballot 82 votes to 8 to Michael Towke, a telecommunications engineer and the candidate of the Liberals’ right faction.
However, allegations surfaced that Towke had engaged in branch stacking and had embellished his resume. The state executive of the Liberal Party disendorsed Towke and held a new pre-selection ballot, which Morrison won. The allegations against Towke were subsequently proved to be false, and The Daily Telegraph was forced to pay an undisclosed amount to settle a defamation suit filed by Towke.
In September 2008, Morrison was appointed to Malcolm Turnbull’s coalition front bench as shadow minister for housing and local government. In December 2009, he became shadow minister for immigration and citizenship, coming into the cabinet for the first time during Tony Abbott’s first cabinet reshuffle shortly after winning the leadership. He served on the Shadow Cabinet Committee on Border Protection. Abbott described Morrison as “a great talent who was one of the bright new stars of the new generation of MPs.”
In December 2010, forty-eight asylum seekers died in the Christmas Island boat disaster. In February 2011, Morrison publicly questioned the decision of the Gillard Labor government to pay for the relatives of the victims to travel to funerals in Sydney, arguing that the same privilege was not extended to Australian citizens. After fellow Liberal and shadow treasurer Joe Hockey disagreed with Morrison’s statements, Morrison said that the timing of his comments was insensitive, but did not back away from the comments themselves.
In February 2013, Morrison said that the police should be notified of where asylum seekers are living in the community if any antisocial behaviour has occurred, and that there should be strict guidelines for the behaviour of those currently on bridging visas while they await the determination of their claims. The new code of conduct was released by the immigration minister for more than 20,000 irregular maritime arrivals living in the community on bridging visas.
Abbott Government (2013–2015)
On 18 September 2013, Morrison launched Operation Sovereign Borders, the new government’s strategy aimed at stopping unauthorised boats from entering Australian waters. Cabinet documents from this time revealed in 2018 that Morrison asked for mitigation strategies to avoid granting permanent visas to 700 refugees. His office reported that there were 300 boats and 20,587 arrivals in 2013 to only 1 boat and 157 arrivals for all of 2014. The UNHCR expressed concerns that the practice may violate the Refugee Convention. In September 2014, it was reported that zero asylum seekers had died at sea since December 2013, compared with more than 1,100 deaths between 2008 and 2013.The annual refugee intake, which had been increased to 20,000 for 2012–13 by the previous government, was reduced to 13,750, the level it had been in 2011–12. Morrison stated that “Not one of those places will go to anyone who comes on a boat to Australia […] they will go to people who have come the right way”.
Morrison defended his use of the terms “illegal arrivals” and “illegal boats”, saying that “I’ve always referred to illegal entry … I’ve never claimed that it’s illegal to claim asylum.”
During his time as Immigration Minister, Morrison’s dealings with the media and accountability to the public were widely criticised by journalists, Labor and Greens senators, and others for refusing to provide details about the matters within his portfolio. Morrison asserted that to reveal details of operations would be to play into the hands of people smugglers who used this information to plan illegal smuggling operations. On many occasions Morrison refused to answer questions about the status of asylum seekers or boats coming to and from Australia, often on the basis that he would not disclose “on water” or “operational” matters
In November 2014, the Australian Human Rights Commission delivered a report to the Government which found that Morrison failed in his responsibility to act in the best interests of children in detention during his time as Minister. The overarching finding of the inquiry was that the prolonged, mandatory detention of asylum seeker children caused them significant mental and physical illness and developmental delays, in breach of Australia’s international obligations. The report was criticised by Tony Abbott as being politically motivated, pointing out the timing of the report’s release after the Abbott Government had taken office. The Government released the report publicly in February 2015.
In early December 2014, Scott Morrison had the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014 successfully passed through the Australian Parliament. The bill gave Morrison more power than any previous minister in dealing with people seeking asylum in Australia, including the power to return asylum seekers to their place of origin, detain asylum seekers without charge, and refuse asylum seekers who arrive by boat access to the Refugee Review Tribunal. The bill reintroduced temporary protection visasto deal specifically with the backlog of 30,000 people who had arrived under the previous Labor Government but who had yet to be processed. The bill allowed those on bridging visas to apply for work, and increased the refugee intake to 18,750.
The bill caused controversy in parliament because Morrison stated he could release children held in immigration detention on Christmas Island if Senate cross-benchers agreed to vote for the legislation; however, those opposed to the bill said he could have released the children at any time.
In a cabinet reshuffle in late December 2014, Morrison was appointed the Minister for Social Services and ceased to be Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.
In March 2015, three hundred alumni of Sydney Boys High School signed a letter protesting Morrison’s attendance at an alumni fund-raising event. The protest letter expressed the opinion that the school should not celebrate a person who has “so flagrantly disregarded human rights”. Morrison attended this and subsequent alumni and school events.
Turnbull Government (2015–2018)
Morrison was appointed as Treasurer in the Turnbull Government in September 2015, replacing Joe Hockey. In his first press conference as Treasurer, he indicated a reduction in government expenditure and stated that the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) and White Paper on tax reform would arrive on time.
In May 2016, Morrison handed down the 2016 Australian federal budget. It included the introduction of a 40 percent diverted profits tax (popularly known as the “Google tax”), which is an anti-avoidance measure designed to prevent base erosion and profit shifting. It was passed into law as the Diverted Profits Tax Act 2017 and took effect on 1 July 2017. The new tax received criticism from some quarters, with the Corporate Tax Association stating that it would have “unpredictable outcomes” and negatively affect Australian business.
In February 2017, Morrison addressed the House of Representatives while holding a lump of coal, stating “This is coal. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared. It won’t hurt you,” and accusing those concerned about the environmental impact of the coal industry of having “an ideological, pathological fear of coal.” He handed down the 2017 Australian federal budget in May 2017.
Morrison was an opponent of legalising same-sex marriage, and in June 2016 stated that he has been attacked for his beliefs. After the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey, he proposed an amendment to the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 allowing parents to remove children from classes if “non-traditional” marriage is discussed. All amendments failed, and Scott Morrison abstained from voting on the final bill. The electorate of Cook had a participation rate of 82.22%, and 55.04% of those had responded “Yes”.
In December 2017, the government introduced the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry (popularly known as the Banking Royal Commission). Scott Morrison originally opposed the creation of a royal commission, believing that a Senate inquiry would be sufficient. He voted against a royal commission 23 times between April 2016 and June 2017, and in September 2016 described it as “nothing more than crass populism seeking to undermine confidence in the banking and financial system, which is key to jobs and growth in this country”. In announcing that the royal commission would take place, Scott Morrison described it as a “regrettable but necessary action”. In response to the commission’s findings, in April 2018 he announced the introduction of new criminal and civil penalties for financial misconduct, including potential prison sentences of 10 years for individuals and fines of up to $210 million for companies.
Morrison handed down the 2018 Australian federal budget on 8 May. After handing down the budget, Morrison rejected calls to increase the rate of the Newstart Allowance, saying “my priority is to give tax relief to people who are working and paying taxes”.
Prime Minister of Australia (2018–present)
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called a leadership spill on 21 August 2018 in order to gauge the confidence of the Liberal Party in his leadership. He defeated challenger Peter Dutton by 48 votes to 35. Over the following days, there was repeated speculation about a second spill being called, without Turnbull’s approval. Turnbull announced two days later that he would resign the leadership if a spill motion were passed. Dutton, Scott Morrison and Julie Bishop announced they would stand for the leadership if that were the case. A spill motion was passed on 24 August by 45 votes to 40, and Turnbull did not run as a candidate in the resulting leadership vote. On the first ballot, Dutton received 38 votes, Morrison 36 votes, and Bishop 11 votes. On the second ballot, Morrison received 45 votes and Dutton 40 votes. He thus became leader of the Liberal Party and prime minister-designate. Josh Frydenberg was elected as the party’s deputy leader, in place of Bishop. Scott Morrison was widely seen as a compromise candidate, who was agreeable to both the moderate supporters of Turnbull and Bishop and conservatives concerned about Dutton’s electability. He was sworn in as prime minister on the evening of 24 August.
Morrison made his first overseas trip as prime minister less than a week after acceding to the office. He visited Jakarta for the Australia–Indonesia Business Forum and met with President Joko Widodo, announcing a free trade deal between the two nations that had been negotiated under the preceding Turnbull Government.
Morrison began dating Jenny Warren when they were both 16. They married when they were 21 and have two daughters together. After multiple unsuccessful IVF treatments over a period of 18 years, their daughters were conceived naturally. His daughters attend an independent Baptist school. Scott Morrison is a fan of the Cronulla Sharks rugby league team and, in 2016, was named the club’s number-one ticket holder.
Morrison was raised in the Presbyterian Church, which merged into the Uniting Church when he was a child. He later became a Pentecostal, and now attends the Horizon Church, which is affiliated with the Australian Christian Churches and the Assemblies of God. Scott Morrison has said “the Bible is not a policy handbook, and I get very worried when people try to treat it like one”. In late 2017, Morrison stated that he would become a stronger advocate for protections for religious freedom.