(Image: Tom Red/Private Media)

The best things Scott Morrison has going for him as he heads into a fraught 2021 are his old right-wing mates Donald Trump and Boris Johnson.

Compared with the absolute shitshows they’re putting on, our conservative prime minister’s handling of the coronavirus rightly makes him look like a political genius and veritable world statesman.

Not that there should be any doubt about that given the special pressie Trump gave his Aussie mate on the eve of Christmas: the Legion of Merit award, an honour normally bestowed on top US military brass but this time given to a couple of international political allies in recognition of “global leadership”.

Said leadership could refer to anything from playing bad cop with the Chinese to sucking up to the White House. It doesn’t really matter though, because Trump’s behaviour means ScoMo has probably hidden the award behind the toy boat on his desk.

As the hopefully outgoing US president slides deeper into dangerous derangement, and buffoonish PM Johnson blows up Britain, Morrison’s problems look relatively manageable. So much so he felt safe enough to take a Christmas holiday. To be fair, Dan Andrews and Gladys Berejiklian are off on well-earned breaks too.

One MP explained: “The electorate just don’t want to see a politician at this time of year.” Obviously no one’s told him this doesn’t just apply to January.

While the NSW and Victorian premiers might find it difficult to relax under the cloud of the latest COVID outbreak, Morrison may have less trouble given some of his comments before heading off. It would seem he’d either checked out early or pretty well given up on the whole leadership thing for the moment.

This from the Sky website on New Year’s Day:

Mr Morrison conceded he is all but powerless to make states change their mind on border policy, dismissing the need for a national cabinet meeting to be held. ‘Their views on borders will be the same if they met this afternoon as they were a month ago,’ he said.

He added he was confident Berejiklian had it under control and that it was a pity he couldn’t attend the third cricket Test where he would like to have sung the new national anthem.

Yes, Scotty From Marketing’s new year gift to the nation was to change one word in Advance Australia Fair from we are “young” and free to we are “one” and free.

The simple change, proposed by the NSW premier over a year ago, was something he had been looking at for some time apparently but wanted to wait for the appropriate time.

Whatever kudos he got for such a simple and obvious change didn’t stop his myriad detractors scoffing it would take more than one word to show meaningful movement on reconciliation.

Luckily he was gone before the latest corruption scandal emerged. Only four days into the new year and Liberal MP Gladys Liu was once again accused of giving government access to a dubious Chinese donor.

Former solider and Liberal donor Huifeng “Haha” Liu is no relation to the federal member but was certainly close enough to attend her inaugural speech in parliament last year.

He has since been deported as a national security risk which Gladys Liu has found “concerning”. But what is most concerning is that she is still there given the litany of similar accusations which prompted a never-seen internal inquiry.

The Liu, Angus Taylor, Alan Tudge, Christian Porter, Stuart Robert protection rackets will continue this year as normal, presumably.

What will surprise will be the date of the next election, which is not due until mid-2022. But why waste a good crisis? The PM’s office has reportedly cleared the decks in September and October should the mood take him to capitalise on his current pandemic poll bump.

While every incumbent, Liberal or Labor, can be confident of electoral success while COVID is well managed, there is much that can go wrong outside the government’s control — like the precarious global economy, for example.

As we’ve seen in NSW, the virus will threaten lives and jobs for some time, and while we’re not in the same dire situation as the US and UK, debate is starting here about the vaccine rollout.

Morrison has stuck to his March timetable but this week Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese made a rare risky attempt to score pandemic points by pushing the government to bring the date forward.

With his troops restless and mutterings about his lack of cut-through, there are murmurings about Albanese’s successor. Tanya Plibersek’s media push late last year did not go unnoticed — complete with a newspaper article on her “friendship” with right-wing darling Alan Jones.

Labor’s Treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers fancies himself for greater things but often manages to make Josh Frydenberg look like a heavyweight.

Still, September or October are a long way from March when the real test will come on the economic front with the so-called fiscal cliff.

Peter Fray

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