Scott Morrison: Australia's evangelical prime minister





Australia's prime minister is a devout Christian who spearheaded the harsh "Stop the Boats" campaign against unauthorized arrivals of asylum seekers. He will need more than faith to secure victory in the May 18 federal election.
Canberra (dpa) - Australia's seventh prime minister in just 12 years, Scott Morrison has carved a niche in politics as a moderate-conservative who gets things done.



 

Virtually anonymous outside Australia until last year - which was epitomized when German Chancellor Angela Merkel was photographed holding an apparent briefing note on Morrison along with a photo of him - the incumbent became prime minister in August unexpectedly.
The father of two young girls had expressed interest in his country’s top job in April last year, saying it was something he’d seek "down the track, if an opportunity presented itself."
And it did when the conservative wing of the Liberal party launched a rebellion against then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who later dubbed it a "deliberate insurgency." In the subsequent internal ballot, Morrison won the party leadership because he was the best consensus candidate. 
Since then, Morrison has tried to bridge the schism between the warring moderate and conservative factions with little success.
Morrison, who will turn 51 on May 13, entered federal politics in 2007 – a significant year as no prime minister since has served an entire term in office due to numerous internal party coups in Canberra.
The Bible-quoting, evangelical Christian spent his first years in opposition as shadow minister for various portfolios, including housing and local government.
In 2013 after the conservative leader Tony Abbott-led Liberal party emerged victorious in the federal election, Morrison became minister of the powerful immigration and border protection portfolio.
He became known as the mastermind of Operation Sovereign Borders, which stopped and returned unauthorized boats coming to Australia. 
The controversial policy has been widely criticized by the United Nations as violating the Refugee Convention. Some critics have also noted the irony of the federal representative of Botany Bay – the point of arrival of the British First Fleet in 1788 – making his name on a policy of "stopping the boats."
Morrison has been criticized for his treatment of asylum seekers, which confounded many given his Christian faith. But he has said he prayed and cried "on his knees" for asylum seekers and expressed belief in crushing the evil of the people-smuggling trade. 
He remains proud of his work, visible in his office through a trophy shaped in a boat with the inscription, "I Stopped These."
After Turnbull seized the leadership from Abbott in 2015 in a party coup, Morrison, a staunch Turnbull ally, was installed as treasurer, where he successfully demonstrated his economic credentials by crafting a budget that he says will return to surplus next year.
Morrison was born and raised in Sydney's eastern beachside suburbs of Bondi and Bronte. His father was a policeman and his parents ran youth programmes for the local church.
He had a brief career as a child actor for television commercials. 
He also worked as a property lobbyist and governmental tourism promoter in New Zealand and Australia. He is a keen fan of rugby league. The Cronulla Sharks are his home team. 
Popularly known as ScoMo in political circles, he used the Bible to describe his values in his maiden speech to parliament in 2007. 
"My answer comes from Jeremiah, chapter 9:24: ‘I am the Lord who exercises loving-kindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things, declares the Lord,’" he said.
As a social conservative, Morrison unsuccessfully campaigned against Australians voting to legislate gay marriage in 2017. 
He drew headlines last year after addressing the parliament while holding a lump of coal in his hand, taunting the opposition, saying: "This is coal. Don't be afraid. Don't be scared. It won't hurt you."
Since becoming the prime minister, he has softened his approach a bit, saying he will take action against climate change, but not at the expense of economic decline and job losses. 
Morrison has also removed all refugee children from Nauru detention and brought them to Australia, a move seen as him trying to soften his image from the past.
While he is favoured more than the opposition leader, his party has a bad public image and remains deeply bruised due to intra-fighting, which he has tried to mend. He has also suffered the high-profile exodus of several fellow lawmakers.


Saturday, May 11th 2019
(dpa)
           


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