Treasurer Scott Morrison is emerging as a consensus candidate in an upcoming leadership contest.As the hard-nosed enforcer behind some of the federal government’s toughest policies, Scott Morrison has always liked to talk about dolling out tough love.
And Morrison may need to dish it out in spades if he emerges as Australia’s next prime minister.
Morrison was painted as a Father Christmas figure before this year’s budget, with the treasurer promising sweeping tax cuts and sweeteners for older Australians.
But it wasn’t always beer and skittles the evangelical Cronulla Sharks NRL fan was dispensing.
Morrison rose to prominence by spearheading the “stop the boats” approach to border protection as immigration minister to Tony Abbott.
His stance toward asylum seekers bewildered some observes, given his devout Christian beliefs.
But he professed a deep belief in the righteousness of crushing the people-smuggling trade and preserving the safety of those onboard rickety boats.
Morrison was elected to parliament in 2007. His electorate of Cook in the Sutherland Shire marks the point of arrival of the First Fleet in Botany Bay.
During a nine-month stint as social services minister, Morrison was also forced to sell the Abbott government’s deeply unpopular 2014 budget, which was laced with a cocktail of deep welfare cuts.
Morrison has been far more pragmatic in the role of treasurer, performing back-flips on a range of unpopular government policies.
Deeply unpopular measures including a Medicare levy hike, superannuation changes and big business tax cuts were each eventually cast aside like water off a duck’s back.
He also avoided falling into the trap of immediate predecessors of making outlandish promises about surpluses.
Morrison has always held aspirations to lead the Liberal Party, although he remains largely unknown by ordinary voters.
Prior to entering parliament, Morrison worked as a marketeer in the property and tourism sectors, before a successful stint as state director of the NSW Liberal Party.
He will need to harness the full bag-grab of skills honed in these two trades if he claims victory in an upcoming Liberal leadership ballot.
Morrison is going into the bitter contest as a “consensus candidate” who many hope will bridge a divide between the party’s warring moderate and conservative wings.
He is likely to split the vote of the party’s right faction and eat away at rival Peter Dutton’s support.
Whatever the outcome of the leadership spill, Liberal MPs will limp away from the ugly insurrection battered and bruised.
Losers will retreat to the back benches as up-and-comers clamber over corpses for cabinet posts.
Enemies will be baying for blood and recrimination plans quickly hatched.
It will be up to Morrison to repair the dented egos, broken hearts and despondent souls of Liberal colleagues left to rebuild a party reduced to rubble.