(Image: Tom Red/Private Media)

Paul Keating returned for a caucus meeting after the March 1996 election, put his face in his hands, and left Parliament. John Howard lost his seat, so didn’t have the problem. Julia Gillard and Malcolm Turnbull left politics immediately. Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott hung around, undermining their successors, but showing up and taking their spots on the backbench. Peter Costello remained in Parliament on the backbench, by and large keeping his counsel, writing his memoir, before departing in 2009. Alexander Downer remained in Parliament for six months on the backbench. Wayne Swan sat two terms on the backbench after Labor lost.

Scott Morrison has chosen a different option: continue to draw a backbencher’s salary, but don’t bother showing up to work. Add “attendance in the House of Representatives” to the list of jobs Morrison doesn’t see as his.

Suffering an acute case of limelight deprivation, he’s fled to Japan, where he’ll join fossilised Canadian neocon Stephen Harper and David “Greensill” Cameron in a kind of “forum of the failed”.

According to his statement yesterday, Morrison wasn’t consulted by Anthony Albanese and Tony Burke on the sitting schedule for the rest of the year and they’ll just have to make do without him.

“I will be holding a series of meetings with Japanese political and business leaders,” he said, designating himself a kind of unofficial foreign affairs and trade minister. Possibly he’ll be sharing his view that you can’t trust government with Japanese political figures.

Morrison will presumably refund a week’s salary to taxpayers given he can’t quite make it to work. Every other remaining Coalition MP that he led to defeat has to eat the shit sandwich of facing Parliament from opposition; that Morrison can’t bring himself to join them in that ordeal speaks volumes.

He will exit Parliament at some stage before the next election. Better that he does it now, so that taxpayers aren’t paying more than $200K a year to a bloke paying more attention to opportunities on the international rubber chicken circuit, and trying to rehabilitate his reputation from that of international pariah and the man who wrecked the NSW Liberals to that of suburban statesman, than to the needs of the constituents of Cook.