Pastor Joel A'Bell and Scott Morrison (Images: Facebook, AAP)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has claimed that “the Lord” wanted him to be prime minister as far back as 15 years ago — before he had even entered Parliament.

Morrison was apparently so certain of these plans that he was prepared to move cities if needed to find a seat where he could be pre-selected.

Morrison’s ruminations on God’s intentions have been retold by one-time leading Hillsong pastor Joel A’Bell and his wife Julia in a recent video seen by Crikey. The video was made late last month, intended for an online Pentecostal audience.

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It is an eye-opening account of Morrison’s take on himself and his destiny circa 2006 as told to A’Bell. It was a time Morrison was on the make politically. He had already served as NSW state Liberal Party director from 2000 to 2004 and had overseen a state and federal election campaign. He then had a stint as head of Tourism Australia — an appointment branded as openly political at the time. He left the role mid 2006.

In the video A’Bell — with some help from wife, Julia — retells the conversations they had with Morrison around this time.

“Have you ever met anyone really significant?” A’Bell asks in the video. “We’ve had the chance over the years to meet significant people — some of the prime ministers of Australia. The current one is a Christian. He’s a believer. Scott. The prime minister.

“And we’ve known Scott and Jenny [Morrison] for about 15 years. In fact they were in our church as part of our congregation for years before he was prime minister. I remember having breakfast with him. He said, ‘Joel I really feel like this is what the Lord wants … He wants me to become prime minister’.”

Morrison said he and his family may “have to leave here and go somewhere else to try to get a different seat, a different city”.

Describing Morrison’s appearance at the Australian Christian Churches’ national conference, which was held on the Gold Coast in April this year, A’Bell said he didn’t know “whether to bow, curtsy or just give him a high five because I know him personally, but I know that he carries the weight of the significance in his title. And that’s how God does things. He introduces himself”.

Morrison gave a shout out to A’Bell from the conference stage, along with senior Hillsong pastor Brian Houston. 

“It’s like the ghost of pastors past here tonight because there’s Joel and Julia A’Bell over here, who we knew when we were at Sydney at Hillsong,” Morrison had said. “And of course, you Brian and Bobbie [Houston]. Just pay you honour, mate.”

Morrison then went on to recall Houston’s advice to him: “Use what God has put in your hand”. (Context: it is also part of Pentecostal belief in Australia that a great Christian revival will begin in “the great southern land of the Holy Spirit” — a phrase used by Morrison at the beginning of his conference address. The idea was also promoted by an English-born evangelist called Smith Wigglesworth who visited Australia in the 1920s. Wigglesworth allegedly prophesied that God would use Australia to make an impact on all nations.)

Morrison had moved from A’Bell’s church to a different one, the Pentecostal Horizon Church in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire, which gave him local presence. It turns out there was no need to move to another city: Morrison ultimately gained preselection for the seat of Cook. But as Crikey has reported, it was a messy affair. 

Despite references from senior Liberal figures including John Howard, Morrison did not even make the final ballot in the 2007 preselection, losing to businessman Michael Towke after gaining only eight votes.

But Towke was forced to move aside after The Daily Telegraph published a series of stories alleging branch stacking and false claims on his nomination form.  

The party’s state executive then anointed Morrison as candidate, parachuting him in without preselection. Towke later won a defamation settlement with the Telegraph.

The Lord’s work was indeed done — a miracle which was given a helping hand by the high priests of Holt Street, the Tele‘s head office. It seems Rupert works in mysterious ways.

Crikey has made several attempts to contact A’Bell, a one-time rock star preacher who lived the high life at Hillsong as the church’s lead Australian pastor before he departed three years ago. He is now a regular at the Pentecostal Glow Church on the Gold Coast and is a regional leader for global charity Convoy of Hope. A’Bell has not responded. 

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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