Prime Minister Scott Morrison has denied he engaged in blatant and unacceptable politicking at an event in Darwin on the eve of Anzac Day.
As part of a swing through the Northern Territory the Prime Minister’s election caravan stopped at the Darwin RSL Club late yesterday afternoon to mix with patrons.
When Mr Morrison arrived at the RSL Club (main picture) he was dressed in Army fatigues, wore a Royal Australian Navy dress cap, and had RAAF badges on his chest.
One of the PM’s minders told the travelling media that even though the visit fell on a campaigning day as agreed by the major parties, Mr Morrison had been at pains not to ‘politicise’ RSL premises and his choice of attire was ‘purely coincidental’.
“His plane was late and he just grabbed what was at hand,” the minder said. “As you know we agreed, as did Labor, to suspend campaigning on Good Friday and on Anzac Day.
“The PM will cease campaigning at midnight tonight and will not resume campaigning until Friday morning.”
However, once inside and after mixing with current and past service personnel in the bar area, Mr Morrison allowed himself to be photographed skolling six schooners of different beers to appeal to as many local drinking tastes as possible before asking if he could make a short speech.
The PM then leopard-crawled up to a small stage where he was handed a microphone by the club manager. After telling club officials, patrons and media to “stand easy and smoke if you’ve got them”, Mr Morrison began by speaking of the valour of those who had answered their nation’s call to serve in its defence.
“Those brave Australians, like many of you here in uniform today, have put your lives on the line to repel attacks on our way of life,” he said. “Many took slugs from enemy rifles.”
“And I don’t mean a tax like Bill Shorten is wanting to slug you with, although it’s probably just as threatening to your way of life.”
Spotting a Owen machine carbine in a display cabinet on a side wall, Mr Morrison then challenged those present to test whether they could disassemble and reassemble it any faster than he could, before adding that the weapon reminded him of the nation’s armed forces every day when in Canberra.
“You can’t go many places in Canberra without seeing the National War Memorial,” he said. “Every time I drive past it I always think of brave, fair dinkum Aussies like the men and women we see in uniform here at the Darwin RSL.
“I also think of the service and sacrifice the Unknown Soldier represents and the way he lies there as a permanent reminder to this and every generation.
“Not like Bill Shorten lies, and lies, and lies, on everything.
“Who knows how the Unknown Soldier gave his life. Was he shot by an enemy bullet? Or killed by an enemy bomb?
“Just like jobs of fair dinkum Aussies will die when Bill Shorten drops a $387 billion tax bomb on the Australian economy.”
Prior to his speech the club’s management had agreed that the Prime Minister could recite the Ode traditionally read every evening at RSL clubs across the nation.
After the club lights had been dimmed, Mr Morrison slowly and clearly read from a card handed to him by club staff who were surprised when he inserted the words “If you have a go you get a go” as an extra line to the usual three-line Ode.
On his way out of the club, Mr Morrison spied a Darwin stubbie on the bar. Putting his hands behind his back and just using the strength of his lips and mouth, he upending it and downed its contents in just over a minute, leading to wild applause.
You could almost hear the assembled media rehearsing lines such as “Mr Morrison comes across as your average bloke next door, one of us who goes to church as well”, “the margin between the parties is narrowing”, “Shorten must surely know he’s in a contest now” and “No wonder no-one likes Shorten”.
As if sensing what the scribes were indeed thinking, Mr Morrison grabbed a broom near the entrance and executed shoulder arms and present arms with fair military precision. “I’m a bit rusty,” he joked.
The PM didn’t take questions as he left but said he had been appalled to learn that Opposition Leader Bill Shorten had indeed tried to use Anzac Day and associated events for political purposes.
He was referring to an event in Melbourne where Mr Shorten invited media representatives into a special field kitchen tent he had erected in his inner-Melbourne backyard (pictured).
“I’m having time off from the campaign trail as you all know,” Mr Shorten said.
“So I’m baking Anzac biscuits which I do at this time every three….. I mean, every year.”
Mr Morrison said he regretted the decision by Mr Shorten to debase Australia’s day of solemn reflection for all those who have died in battle over the last century or more.
“He’s clearly unfit to be prime minister of this great country of ours,” Mr Morrison said before firing off a snappy salute, slow-marching to his vehicle and executing a perfect shoulder roll to reach the door.