Epidemics are mirrors. What has COVID-19 revealed about Australia, and about Scott Morrison and his government? In this gripping essay, Katharine Murphy goes behind the scenes to tell the story of the response to the crisis. Drawing on interviews with Morrison, Brendan Murphy, Josh Frydenberg, Sally McManus and other players, she traces how the key health and economic decisions were taken.
Her account is twinned with a portrait of the prime minister. She explores his blend of pragmatism and faith, and shows how a leader characterised by secrecy and fierce certainty learnt to compromise and reach out – with notable exceptions.
Now, as the nation turns inwards and unemployment rises, our faith in government is about to be tested anew. What does “We’re all in this together” truly mean? Will Morrison snap back to Liberal hardman, or will he redefine centre-right politics in this country?
“Morrison’s a partisan, blue team to the core, but his political philosophy is hard to pin down, because it is predominantly trouble-shooting. By instinct, Morrison is a power player and a populist, not a philosopher; a repairer of walls, not a writer of manifestos … [his] conservatism is extreme pragmatism in defence of what he regards as the core of the nation.” Katharine Murphy, The End of Certainty
Correspondence discussing Quarterly Essay 79, The End of Certainty: