Shortcuts / 10 February 2020

Scott Morrison & Anthony Albanese

From how they grew up, how they came to politics and where they stand on key issues – this episode gives you the background to our Prime Minister, and the bloke who wants to be.

Who is Scott Morrison?

Morrison is the Prime Minister of Australia and member for the federal seat of Cook – he’s won it in the election that the Howard government lost in 2007. It’s an electorate that covers what’s called The Shire in Sydney, and it goes from Kurnell and Cronulla.

What was his early life like?

Born and bred in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, politics runs in the Morrison family. Morrison’s father John was a police commander and local government councillor. For a time he was mayor – he died at the start of 2020. He has a brother Alan who works for the NSW Ambulance Service. In one of those warm and fuzzy fireside videos that political parties do in elections, his mother Marion described him as a kid who was good at school, but a terror at home. During that time he was a child actor and appeared in some big brand ads, including for Vicks cough drops. His acting must have caught the eye of his now-wife, Jenny who he met at the age of 12 at a church youth group outing at Luna Park. They didn’t start dating until a few years later, and married in 1990 when they were both 21. They have two daughters – Lily and Abbey and have talked publicly of their struggle to conceive due to Jenny’s endometriosis diagnosis.

What lead him to politics?

He is a former NSW director of the Liberal Party and was then head of Tourism Australia where he oversaw the famous – or infamous – ‘Where the Bloody Hell Are You’ ad that shot Lara Bingle to fame. And during his tilt to win a seat, there was a lot of luck involved in Morrison’s bid to become a member of parliament. In 2007, he badly lost preselection for the seat of Cook, securing just eight votes. But the preselected candidate was forced to step down under a cloud of controversy – a controversy that was later acknowledged to be false. But in the second vote the happened to preselect the Liberals’ candidate for that election, Morrison won. His introduction to federal parliament saw him in opposition, with the defeat of the Howard government that year. But it wasn’t long before he was promoted to the front bench as shadow spokesperson for housing and local government, but he really became a recognisable figure as Shadow Minister for Immigration, a ministerial position he continued when the Abbott government was elected in 2013, where he spearheaded the Operation Sovereign Borders, or ‘Stop the Boats’ campaign. Then when Tony Abbott was rolled by Malcolm Turnbull in 2015, Scott Morrison was given the job of Treasurer, furthering his prominence in Australian politics. It’s the next leadership spill though that saw Morrison take the top job.

How did Morrison take the top job?

In 2018 as the Liberal Party faltered again on climate and energy policy, he was able to maneuver into the leaders role when Malcolm Turnbull and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton were locked in a leadership showdown. Like others from the last 13 years worth of prime ministers, his path to the top job was marked by the rolling of another Prime Minister.

What’s his broader agenda?

It’s classic Coalition government stuff – pursuit of a strong economy, and a tight control of our borders. There are royal commissions into disabilities and aged care sectors he has identified as requiring action. And the look into religious freedom laws is getting a lot of interest from some quarters. Morrison’s view is that we already have in place laws that protect people from discrimination on the basis of their race, sex, age or disabilities, so it makes sense that religion should be included so that Australians are free to live their lives in the way they choose to. Other issues on his plate are responding to the drought and bushfires, and the policy and political questions raised about climate change. The Morrison government’s climate change policy is to meet our Paris Agreement obligations by reducing emissions by between 26-28% on 2005 levels by 2030.

What does he have to say about his faith?

He is Pentecostal, or sometimes referred to as an Evangelical Protestant. The Morrisons worship at a church linked to Hillsong and they count Reverend Brian Houston – the founder of Hillsong – as a friend. Morrison has said that “My personal faith in Jesus Christ is not a political agenda.” But plenty of commentators and his political adversaries often comment about what some call a ‘muscular’ version of Christianity – and particularly how that reconciles his views on controversial topics like border security.

Who is Anthony Albanese?

Albanese – which is more correctly pronounced “Al-ban-ease” but he happily accepts the Aussie version of “Al-ban-eas-ee” – is the leader of the Opposition Labor Party and federal member for Grayndler in Sydney’s Inner West, a seat which he won in 1996.

What was his early life like?

Albanese was raised by his single mother, Maryanne in public housing in Sydney’s Inner West. He describes himself as “half-Italian, half-Irish”, and a “non-practicing Catholic”. When he was young, his mother told him that she’d travelled overseas, met his father, married him overseas, returned to Australia and that he had died in a car accident. But that wasn’t really the case…A few years ago Albanese spoke about the emotions turmoil of his mother telling him when he was still a kid, but a bit older, that she had met his father overseas, they’d had a relationship and she’d fallen pregnant but he couldn’t marry her because he was betrothed to someone from the town in Italy where he was from. And he learned that his father could be alive, but he didn’t follow that up until many years later when he had his own children. He met his dad and his half siblings in 2009, and has talked about how important it was to him to have a relationship with his father until his death in 2014.

How did he get involved in politics?

While he wasn’t busy pursuing his short career as a DJ (which has been rekindled in recent years), Albanese was involved in politics at university, and was a key member of the Labor left faction. This set him up for his first job out of uni as a staffer for Labor MP Tom Uren, a big figure in Labor politics. He then became Assistant General Secretary of the New South Wales branch of the Labor Party, had a stint working for former NSW Premier Bob Carr and then became the MP for Grayndler in Sydney’s Inner West in 1996 – the election that marked the start of almost 12 years of the Howard Government. During that time, Albo married Carmel Tebbutt, also a member of the left faction of the Labor Party, who went on to become Deputy Premier in NSW before retiring from her seat of Marrickville in 2015. They one son together and have recently separated. But back to his political career… much of it has been spent in opposition. But when Kevin Rudd won government in 2007, Albanese became a senior minister and Leader of the House, which is the party’s top political and tactical job in parliament. And in the last throw of the dice for Labor in 2013 before Tony Abbott won, Rudd took back the prime ministership from Julia Gillard, Albanese was Deputy PM… a position he held for just 83 days. After that 2013 election loss, the time came for Labor to elect a new leader and he threw his hat in the ring…but Kevin Rudd has, as a parting gift implemented new rules for how someone could become party leader. The new leader would be elected by public members of the Australian Labor Party over a period of twenty days, followed by a ballot of the caucus, or Labor parliamentary party. Each of these two voting blocs was weighted equally in determining the winner. Albanese and Bill Shorten put their hands up for the job of leader of the opposition – and what happened was Albanese won about 60% of the member vote, but just 36% of the caucus vote. That saw Shorten elected leader, and Albo made Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development.

How did he become leader of the Labor party?

In May 2019, Bill Shorten and Labor lost the federal election to Scott Morrison – an unexpected result that saw Bill Shorten resign on election night. When it came to electing a new leader, it looked like there might be another big ballot process, but former Treasurer Chris Bowen withdrew his candidacy, and Albanese took the Labor leadership unopposed. At 56yo, that made him the oldest first-time Opposition Leader in 59 years.

What’s his broad agenda?

A review was launched after Labor’s shock election loss, and one of the key findings was its policy agenda didn’t hit the target with voters. Since then, Labor has pretty much dumped policies that target property and retirement income for older Australians. Albo has also indicated they need to shift their climate targets to bring them more into line with the 2030 timeframes that are being discussed now that we’re a few more years down the road. He’s also taken up a focus on jobs, and the future of work while taking a stand against some union issues, like on free trade and Victoria’s CFMEU bigwig John Setka.

Squiz Shortcuts - A weekly explainer on a big news topic.

Get the Squiz Today newsletter

It's a quick read and doesn't take itself too seriously. Get on it.