New South Wales Liberal Party state director Scott Morrison’s
step into the tourism arena is being touted as a “reward”, but everyone
is convinced.

>
Farewell to Scott Morrison
Crikey email – 16 November

What better way to reward a top party functionary for a job well done than to give him a $350,000 job in tourism?

Step
forward, Scott Morrison, state director of the NSW Liberal Party and
new head of the tourism promotion body, Tourism Australia.

Cabinet’s
decision yesterday to make the prominent Hillsong church member
Australia’s tourism tsar is a breathtaking reminder that when it comes
to cushy jobs, clearly the best candidates reside in the upper ranks of
the ruling political party.

You may remember that Morrison
was the man behind those sneaky “Greens” flyers during the recent
election campaign. The ones designed to look like Green Party
literature, but which urged voters to vote Liberal – with no reference
to their Liberal Party origins and a tiny authorisation from Morrison
in fine print down the bottom.

Morrison has tourism
experience over the Ditch, and is credited with implementing the “100%
Pure New Zealand” campaign. We trust Morrison will bring this
experience and his own personal style to the job.

What
would Australia’s tourism campaigns look like under Morrison, we
wonder? Would we see a little of the subliminal marketing that Morrison
made his hallmark while in politics?

Or maybe some straight out creative work: “Visit Australia, home of the Pyramids, the Taj Mahal and Mt Rushmore!”

Send your suggestions for our new global marketing strategy to our man in the Press Gallery: [email protected]

CRIKEY:
Meanwhile, Crikey hears that Morrison’s career plans also include
knocking off veteran Liberal nobody Alan Cadman in Mitchell after about
two years raking it in from his new tourism gig.

>

Scott Morrison’s sideways promotion
Crikey email – 17 November

New
South Wales Liberal Party state director Scott Morrison’s step into the
tourism arena is being touted as a “reward”. Sources close to the NSW
Party are not so sure. They say it is more a case of sideways
promotion. Sure, the money is better – but that is not what it is all
about.

Morrison has had his moments with many NSW Liberal
parliamentarians and is not held in universally high esteem – no matter
what spin you hear. There have been many occasions where his judgment
has been called into question – especially his tendency to favour the
right over moderates in internal stoushes.

The increasing
numbers of clap-happy evangelicals seeking positions within the party
under the leadership of the pastor of the right, David Clarke MLC, is
raising many eyebrows. Some Liberals have been wondering when Morrison
and the Hillsong Brigade will launch an official take-over offer for
the NSW Branch.

One thing noticed by all is when the right-wing Christians get involved tolerance flies out the door.

Indeed,
Morrison’s departure will not be lamented by many in the NSW Liberal
rank and file. Morrison was not noted for his keenness in promoting
high ethical standards for politicians and political aspirants. His
first thought was for how important people might be and how not to
offend them or their staffers.

The NSW Liberal Party made
a big push into local government on his watch – a level of government
chronically plagued by rumour and innuendo of corruption. A number of
councils have been dismissed by the state government in recent years.
Indeed, one former Liberal Rockdale Councilor was recently convicted of
corrupt behaviour on the basis of intercepted SMS messages.

Morrison
was always rumoured to be interested in standing for a federal seat but
perhaps these aspirations have been put on hold for the time being –
hence the sideways step and the washing away of sins via the
God-bothering brigade.

>

Selling Oz: Scott Morrison’s tourism campaign
Crikey email – 17 November

What
would Australia’s tourism campaign look like under former NSW Liberals
state director, Scott Morrison, we asked yesterday. Would we see a
little of the creative subliminal marketing that Morrison made his
hallmark while in politics? Our subscribers think Morrison would be
more blunt. Niall writes:

“It’s
time to properly translate the politics of fear into the tourism
sector. What about a scare campaign featuring pictures of September 11,
and a brand new slogan: ‘Come to Australia – untouched by terrorism
since 1788’.”

Meanwhile, a ponytailed advertising executive from Paddington has sent through his pitch:

“In
conjunction with The Hon. John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia,
& The Hillsong Church, we welcome queers from all around the world
to come and celebrate our Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, Sydney.

“There’s
nothing quite like it. Sydney shakes and gets turned upside down for
one extraordinary queer night of passion, fun and pure sass.

“The
Mardi Gras Parade is a unique event where politics, religion and
entertainment collide to produce a vital, sweaty and unforgettable
statement of gay and lesbian confidence, queer family values and their
place in this city.

“After the parade, more than 20,000
revellers head to the official Mardi Gras Party to immerse themselves
in sweaty bodies, pounding beats and celebratory excitement. (Copyright
Tourism Australia 2004).”

All framed under a smiling photo of the PM beneath our unfurled flag. Nice. Now go to it, Scotty.

>
The Scott Morrison legacy
Crikey email – 17 November

Dancing
in William Street, Woolloomooloo? No, it’s not working girls at 2:00 in
the morning. It’s New South Wales Liberals outside party HQ,
celebrating State Director Scott Morrison’s departure.

Look
at his record, they say – two federal wins and one state loss. Two
federal wins run from Canberra and a disappointing performance at the
March 2003 state poll he had responsibility for.

Critics
say Morrison had too much say in choosing candidates, too much say in
strategy, waaaay too much influence on the decision not to go in hard
and attack Carr himself, too much involvement in the advertising, too
much to do with flimsy preference deals – too much responsibility for
an election that ended up being a wasted opportunity, in fact – and
sheeted the blame on to Liberal Leader John Brogden and his staff.

Watch out tourism, they say.

How Scott Morrison turned around the NSW Liberal Party
Crikey email – November 24

A senior Liberal insider writes:

The record should be set straight about Scott Morrison, who is an excellent Government appointment at Tourism Australia.

Morrison will be missed inside the Liberal Party because he’s widely
believed to have been one of the best State Directors the Party has had
in recent years. His experience in the tourism industry combined with
his knowledge of Government make him an excellent choice for his new
position.

Morrison had become the third-longest serving State Director in New
South Wales, a clear demonstration of how difficult and demanding the
job is. He’d managed the Party in the State through three campaigns,
which is a tough ask of anybody.

At a Party level, Morrison helped engineer two Federal wins for the
Coalition and the Liberal Party picked up seats across NSW during his
tenure. He also helped restore the Party to the black after his
predecessor left him with debts of more than $2 million.

While the ALP retained government in the 2003 NSW election during which
Morrison was State Director, it failed to pick up any seats. This was
despite outspending the Coalition almost 4-1. Many people credit
Morrison for his skill at managing a message with very little money for
avoiding a complete wipe-out.

After all, the Party had little money, a new Leader up pitted against
the experience of Bob Carr in a time of global turmoil and in the wake
of the Bali bombing. However, the State Coalition emerged on level
pegging with the ALP and in a strong financial position for the next
campaign. It all could have been much worse for John Brogden.

Most people who matter recognise that the Party was staring down the
barrel in 2003 and Morrison helped it sidestep the bullet, particularly
as Bob Carr and the ALP unleashed a massive advertising blitz designed
to put the Party on the mat.

As Kim Beazley would say, Morrison helped avoid the train wreck that
would certainly have happened under Chikarovski and was looking likely
with the inexperienced John Brogden. He’ll be missed by his dedicated
staff and most members across the Party in this State who enjoyed his
honest, forthright and hard-working approach.

Charles Richardson on Scott Morrison
Crikey email – November 25

Crikey psephologist Charles Richardson writes:

For all I know, your “senior Liberal insider” may be right about Scott
Morrison’s talents. But their interpretation of the 2003 New South
Wales election should not be allowed to go without challenge. (By the
way, Liberal Party conformism is worse than we thought if the author of
even such an obvious puff piece isn’t prepared to put their name to it).

Here is what Crikey’s psephologist wrote at the time:

A more adventurous premier than Bob
Carr might have adopted at this election the objective of destroying
the Liberal Party as a viable political force. (Then again, a more
adventurous premier probably would not have been in such a strong
position to start with.) That has not happened. The Liberals, and maybe
even their leader, will live to fight another day.

Carr’s objective was more modest: to consolidate his majority so as to
be assured of another two terms in office. That goal has been achieved.
Labor’s best performance was in the marginal seats that it won in 1999,
where its new sitting members have now entrenched themselves. Although
the overall swing to Labor was only 1%, those 9 seats swung by an
average of about 4.5%.

The effect of that consolidation is that to win government next time,
even counting all of the conservative independents in its column, the
Coalition will require a swing of about 9%. Barring a political
disaster of the first magnitude, Labor is in power in New South Wales
for another 8 years.

In other words, Brogden and
Morrison did pretty much what Mark Latham did last month – they lost
ground in just the places they could least afford to, fortifying their
opponents in power. The difference is that John Howard was coming off a
relatively narrow win in 2001, whereas Carr’s starting point was the
1999 landslide.

Yes, it could have been worse. Perhaps in the NSW Liberal Party that’s the best testimonial you’re likely to get.

The Morrison mailbag

Could it really be so? Might the decision of New South Wales
Liberal State Director to stand down end up being a richer source of
Crikey copy than the Wentworth preselection.

The mailbag is overflowing. Take just these two examples from yesterday. Subscriber William Street writes:

“It seems one or two disaffected NSW Liberals are very unhappy with
soon to be tourism boss Morrison, and have chosen to have a good old
fashioned dump on Crikey – that should settle the score.

“So just who would want to settle a score with Morrison?

“Perhaps it was one of the many hacks who Morrison routinely ignored or
frustrated who were only ever interested in internal rubbish and who
you can never find when it comes around to actually doing some work in
a campaign.

“Or perhaps it was one of those who fell foul of the new rules Morrison
brought in and were then surprised that a NSW State Director would
actually follow through and kick them out.

“Maybe it was one of those lazy old state MPs who found Morrison a bit
of a threat to their cushy little life in Opposition, grabbed their
public funding and then actually made them get out and work their
electorates and raise funds for the election? What a bastard.

“Any way it could be any one of these salt of the earth Liberals who
made the Party what it was when he turned up four years ago – broke and
heading for oblivion.

“But I suspect it wasn’t any one of the 18 State and Federal MPs who
got elected on his watch – such as federal MPs Pat Farmer, Sussan Ley,
Ken Ticehurst, Louise Markus, Malcolm Turnbull or on the State scene
Judy Hopwood, Robyn Parker, Shelley Hancock, Anthony Roberts, Gladys
Berejiklian, Andrew Constance and the list goes on.

“And I’m sure it wasn’t the MPs who Morrison got through close shaves
like Marise Payne who got back in 2001 when she thought all was lost
and the federal MPs in marginal seats who got elected in 96 and who all
now have their parliamentary super thanks to Morrison’s 2001 and 2004
campaigns – such as Jackie Kelly, Jo Gash, Kerry Bartlett, Jim Lloyd,
Bob Baldwin, Dana Vale… even Ross Cameron.

“In fact Cameron is the only MP to lose his seat in a Morrison campaign – and you can hardly blame him for that one.

“And its seems the Member for Bennelong is also pretty happy – here’s
what he had to say at the Liberals last State Council ‘I’m encouraged
by the strength of the New South Wales division. Can I pay a very
special tribute to the partnership of Chris McDiven and Scott Morrison?
I’ve been a member of the New South Wales division for a long time and
I have to say, and I say this without any disrespect to anybody else, I
haven’t seen it in a healthier state organisationally, particularly as
far as its federal focus is concerned, at any time, and I thank all of
you for that.’

“So those happy with Morrison seem to be in gainful employment (in some
part due to his efforts) and have a bit influence around the place.
Those who are unhappy seem to be living at the quieter end of the
political spectrum – not hard to see why.”

Old-timer Riley Street (no relation, we presume), however, has this to say:

“Both sides of the story should be considered when assessing the recent
fortunes of the NSW Liberal Party and the performance of the recently
resigned State Director Scott Morrison.

“The 2003 NSW state election result can not be described as anything
but a disaster for the Liberal Party. The Party is still two
elections away from office, despite the best attempts of Bob Carr and
his Ministers to speed up the change of government.

“The Labor Government fortified its position with huge swings to it in
just about every marginal seat. The Liberal Party now faces
double-digit margins in seats that it has held in recent years, such as
Georges River, Ryde and Strathfield.

“Two points need to be made in relation to campaign finance.

“Firstly, it is true that the Labor Party significantly outspent the
Liberal Party. However, why was the Finance Director Michael
Yabsley not able to match his Labor counterparts in raising the
necessary funds? Was he too busy using his position with the
Millennium Forum to direct potential clients to his business? Was
he able to use the fact that he assisted Morrison to get the State
Director’s job to silence any criticism that might have otherwise been
directed to him?

“Secondly, the fact that the Liberal Party started in a position of
financial weakness makes the tactical nous of the State Director even
more important. In this area, Morrison was found wanting time and
time again. Candidate selection was an obvious area of
concern. Morrison will argue that candidate selection is a matter
for the rank and file, but it is well known that he regularly meddled
in the pre-selection process with disastrous results. It is well
known that a significant amount of the Liberal Party’s campaign
expenditure was directed to ‘safe’ seats, such as Hornsby, Bega,
Hawkesbury and Willoughby, following controversial
pre-selections. In each of these seats, the Liberal Party is
reported to have spent close to $200,000.

“Ultimately the State Director has to be responsible for the fact that
there was not enough money available. Complaining that it is unfair
that Labor raised more money is like complaining that it is unfair that
they got more votes. This in turn brings into question his relationship
with the Chief Liberal Fundraiser Michael Yabsley and the circumstances
in which he was appointed in the first place.

“While every State Director is going to be hated by some quarters and
not particularly well liked by most of the rest, Scott Morrison has
made an art form of alienating large sections of the Party’s
rank-and-file membership, who he appears to have little understanding
of. There are a number of instances of Morrison’s total disregard for
Party traditions or the interests of Party volunteers.

“Clearly the Liberal Party was outflanked by the Labor Party, who ran
not only a more expensive but also a more clever campaign. The Liberal
Party failed to see the danger posed at a grassroots level from the
conservative independents.

“At the end of the day, the Liberal machine did not function as well as
Labor’s machine and money was wasted. A classic example of this is the
number of mail-outs that went to the wrong electorates – you can’t
blame that on Labor’s fundraising ability or the Howard Government’s
policies on Iraq!

“The fact that Morrison was the third longest serving NSW Liberal State
Director doesn’t mean a thing. What is more important is the
campaigning experience that he brings to the job. Each Labor
State Director can be expected to have around ten years experience, in
the Liberal Party this is not necessarily the case.

“If it is OK for Scott Morrison to take credit for the electoral
performance of the Howard Government in New South Wales at the last two
federal elections, then it is fair enough for him to cop his share of
the blame when the result is a shocker.

“Lack of campaign experience is not something that Morrison can be
blamed for, this is something that all Party members should share the
blame for. Long-suffering Liberal branch members like myself will
be hoping for improved candidate selection by State Executive when
Scott Morrison’s replacement is chosen.”

Keep it up folks, keep it up.