The Bug’s senior political commentator Rufus Badinage was given a brief opportunity to quiz Prime Minister Scott Morrison in an exclusive end-of-year interview.
Over the many years I have served as adviser to governments and senior politicians of all colours, there is one time that I always think upon with the greatest fondness.
It was the mid-1960s when I worked alongside our nation’s longest-serving prime minister, Sir Robert Menzies. The Menzies Government had the nation’s economy humming, unemployment was low, the stresses imposed by modern technologies were decades away, and politics was conducted at a gentle, if not genteel, pace. There was no Test that Sir Robert couldn’t find time to attend.
Of course we had sent young Aussies off to fight in the jungles of Vietnam, but at that time we looked certain to win that war because US President Lyndon Johnson told us we would. What more assurance did we need?
It is no wonder so many of my favourite memories hark from that era including my all-time favourite film, The Sound of Music. Like many of my generation I saw the film numerous times and bought its soundtrack which I almost wore out by repeatedly playing it on my His Master’s Voice Automatic Electrogram portable record player much to the consternation of my good lady wife Devon.
The Sound of Music popped into my mind a few weeks ago when seeking an appointment with Prime Minister Scott Morrison to conduct one of my traditional end-of-year interviews with our nation’s leader, whoever he or she may be.
As usual I rang the PM’s office in Parliament House and simply told them it was Rufus calling. I must admit they appeared to drop everything they were doing and went out of their way to find the earliest possible opportunity for me to talk to him, even though they mistakenly called me Rupert.
They took me off hold less than a minute after I had first rung and advised me of the date and time for our get-together.
But I digress. You see, I believe The Sound of Music provides an apt and colourful metaphor for the Morrison Government. Political parties and indeed governments are like families. Each member has their own personality, outlook, goals, and beliefs. In the case of the federal Liberal Party, it is just like the Von Trapp family in the film.
The Liberal Party and Mr Morrison’s government itself appear doomed unless they can outrun the extreme far-right elements intent on imposing their will on all others.
Unlike the Von Trapps, though, there can be no certainty that the Liberals will escape their pursuers’ evil clutches and attain a happy ending. It was against that background, and while humming a selection of hits from the movie, that I arrived at the PM’s office.
There, after explaining my name was not Rupert to a now somewhat cranky staffer, and after a considerable wait, one of the PM’s senior advisers told me that the time set aside for my interview had been cut drastically to just a couple of minutes.
Regardless, I am happy to have had the chance to pose my questions in this brief but exclusive interview with the 30th person to serve as Australia’s PM.
RB: How long have you been Prime Minister now?
SM: I am 16 going on 17 … weeks.
RB: The ability to shape policy and change people’s lives for the better, are they some of the attractions of the job?
SM: (nods) These are a few of my favourite things.
RB: Are you confident you can continue doing the job.
SM: I have confidence in me.
RB: What do you as PM want to achieve?
SM: Something good.
RB: Turning now to the international stage, what global issue exercises your mind the most?
SM: How do you solve a problem like Korea?
RB: Considering the opinion polls that have been released recently it looks like the coming election is going to be a hard climb for you and the Coalition.
SM: Oh well, climb every mountain.
RB: I have read that you savour just sitting in front of the TV with your two young daughters watching that talent show, Australian…. Australian…..
RB: It’s your only….
RB: Malcolm Turnbull said he wouldn’t be a “miserable ghost” as an ex-PM. How would you describe him?
SM: A lonely goat turd.
RB: Given the limited time we have, can I ask for very brief answers to these three questions: What really motivates Pentecostal churches? Do you prefer to appear on the Alan Jones or Ray Hadley program? Leaving aside political bravado, who do you think is going to win the next election?
SM: Dough. Ray. Me.
RB: But what if you lose?
SM: Well it’ll be so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu.