Niki Savva’s Bulldozed, Scott Morrison’s fall and Anthony Albanese’s rise is a yarn that reads like a great shoe-gum novel. In Savva’s book, Morrison emerges as a man obsessed with his own estimation.
Savva says that the former prime minister’s unwillingness to take to advice or listen to criticism was aided by his “ego and his self-belief”.
Bulldozed… is littered with on-the-record discussions by current and past politicians, advisers and more.
The emperor stands naked
Morrison’s failure to hear criticism goes back to before he entered parliament Savva says.
“When he was a state director, and when he was at the Tourism Commission…all his working life, he’s been sacked from almost every job he’s ever had.”
Morrison’s people failed to let their emperor know he was starkers. The moderates were weak, and “strong characters” like Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop had retired from politics.
“He always knew better than everybody else, he was a stubborn character who didn’t like anyone challenging his views.”
And when people did challenge him, “they found themselves on the outer”.
Savva pegs his clandestine holiday to Hawaii during the catastrophic Black Summer fires of 2019 as the beginning of the end.
‘After he was flushed out, Morrison uttered the unforgettable line ‘I don’t hold a hose, mate’ to explain his absence. Those six words now warrant being engraved on his political tombstone’ (Bulldozed, 2022).
The other two phrases that should be included on Morrison’s political epitaph are: ‘It’s not my job’, which he used to deflect any criticism, and ‘It’s not a race,’ when asked about the slow progress of Australia’s vaccination at the height of the global Covid pandemic.
The photo of Morrison wearing a Hawaiian lei and the three one-liners became key Labor messages during the 2022 election campaign.
He ain’t Lazarus
Long serving Coalition prime minister, John Howard distinguished himself as a political Lazarus. Every time we thought his political life was dead he’d rise again. Not so for Morrison.
Yet, he got a second chance Savva says, at the beginning of the Covid outbreak.
“He began well, he listened to the experts, and got along with all the other premiers.”
“It fell apart; the premiers and he would agree on measures and then he would “do quite sneaky things.”
“After a National Cabinet meeting Morrison would rush out and take credit for any good ideas they had, or he’d give a different interpretation of what happened.”
“The whole thing disintegrated, and when things did go wrong, – and why wouldn’t they, who gets everything right in a pandemic? – he rushed to blame someone else.”
In Bulldozed… one of Morrison’s ‘closest allies’ said “Covid saved him, then damned him”.
Morrison kept repeating the same mistakes fuelled by obstinacy, conceit, and malice.
They thought that Morrison “could repeat in 2022 the miracle of 2019” when he usurped the prime ministership from Malcolm Turnbull and beat Bill Shorten in the 2019 federal election.
The 2022 election was different, particularly, as Savva points out, the government’s underestimation of the now prime minister, Anthony Albanese.
In the book she reflects on Albanese’s blooding in NSW Labor factional fights. The poor boy brought up by a single mother was tough.
“The government underestimated Albanese, a lot of the Liberals thought he was too weak, he wasn’t.”
“They thought he’d get waylaid by his own side, so they underestimated him, and they overestimated Morrison’s capacity to come good, to rebuild.”
There was also his adroit decision to focus his opposition on the government. Tony Burke, the federal minister for infrastructure, told Savva that Albanese reminded his colleagues that they were not the government.
‘If members of the media wanted to know what Labor would do, he would say: “We are not the government.” (Bulldozed: 2022)
One of Morrison’s many great failures was his attack on Christine Holgate, the former head of Australia Post on the floor of parliament.
“He stood up and attacked her over her gift of watches for executives and sacked her on the floor of the parliament and in a very menacing way,” Savva says.
“It was an example of his stubbornness when he wasn’t in possession of the full facts.”
“Many told him that he could ‘fix this, go back into the parliament and say, ‘I now know why these watches were given to these people, and I might have overreacted’.”
“He never had it in him to admit that he made a mistake, to apologise and then to correct it, that was a pattern of behaviour all the way through his tenure,” Savva says.
The Opposition were the first to raise the issue of Holgate in the Senate because as Savva says, “they thought they were on a winner there” and that was lost on the prime minister.
“Labor soon realised it was a mistake and went very quiet, and after a little while they changed their position and realised it was backlash by professional women and that was the beginning of the end for him.”
It was a watershed moment “when professional women abandoned the Coalition.”
A cascade of bad decisions
Then there’s the environment, which Morrison never took seriously, because of the “hard right who just don’t accept climate change.”
Then she says he tried to “incite a religious war with his proposed religious freedom legislation.”
“There was no need for that legislation, yet he pressed ahead with it and couldn’t get it passed because his own party wouldn’t wear it- they had enough, but it was too late,” Savva says.
After that legislation was defeated, he is quoted in the book as saying, ‘I surrender now to God’.
“It was an extraordinary thing to say – that was his other view of life.”
There’s more, like when he backed Catherine Deves to run for Tony Abbott’s old seat knowing what her views were on the transgender community.
“He hoped he could use that, to appeal to conservative ethnic communities out in the western suburbs of Sydney and, you know, in the outer reaches of Melbourne,” Savva says.
But, the election proved, that culture wars don’t work “even conservative people, in ethnic communities are focused on critical issues like jobs and cost of living.”
He stood for nothing
Above all else Savva says that “Morrison never actually stood for anything”.
“I challenge people to name one single issue or policy that he would have fought to the death for. Morrison was an empty vessel, and it was pretty much whatever he thought would get him through the 24-hour news cycle. When they called him ‘Scotty from marketing’ they were right.”
Bulldozed… is a guide for aspiring leaders on what not to do, how to avoid blowing up due to an inflated sense of self.
‘Bulldozed, Scott Morrison’s fall and Anthony Albanese’s rise’ is published by Scribe and available in all good bookstores
For International Women’s Day, 8 March, the Hellenic Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (HACCI) will present ‘ Innovative Storytelling Towards Equality’ and on the panel will be Niki Savva, a HACCI lifetime achievement award recipient.