Scott Morrison doing the numbers

September 15, 2015, 1:30 pm Michael Pascoe Yahoo7 Finance

What sort of Treasurer would Scott Morrison be? I don't think he is a cigar smoker.

The dogs were barking before Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister that Scott Morrison would be doing the numbers for him. I mean, become Treasurer, as opposed to rounding up people to vote for Malcolm.

It seems ScoMo, as he is called in the Twitterverse, has been carefully doing the numbers in all sorts of ways for some time.

He wants to be Prime Minister himself someday, but is happy to be thought of as a patient man, having relative youth on his side and many bridges to build before he has a shot at the title.

What matters for the nation in the time ahead is what sort of Treasurer he might be.

In this decade of negative politics, it’s easiest to work out what he hopefully won’t be like: he predecessor, Joe Hockey.

That means he will actually have to work out what’s important for the nation first, rather than for the Liberal Party, and he’ll have to be better at communicating policy once it is developed and avoid embarrassing gaffs – such as “poor people don’t drive cars”.

I don’t think he’s a cigar smoker.

ScoMo has been the hope of the right wing of the Liberal Party – those who very actively dislike Turnbull and his mild social stance.

Morrison is considered to be on the conservative side of the religious divide.

By not aligning himself with Turnbull, by pledging to vote for Abbott (though not prepared to stand with him as his candidate for deputy leader), ScoMo kept himself “nice” for the right wing.

But a good Treasurer will have to be above the left and the right, capable of building bridges with all sectors of the community.

A good Treasurer, facing the reforms Australia has to has, will end up offending just about everyone on economic policy – so he can’t afford to do it on mere social matters.

ScoMo had very few (if any) fans outside the right wing when he was Immigration Minister. All that secrecy of “operational matters”, never mind the militarisation of Border Force that he began and bequeathed to Peter Dutton.

He also had two things from his past going against him: the manner of his pre-selection and his performance as CEO of Tourism Australia.

Morrison was given pre-selection for his seat of Cook in highly dubious circumstances, as detailed elsewhere by Paul Sheehan.

Pre-selection had been won overwhelmingly by Michael Towke, but Liberal Party heavies leaked false and defamatory allegations against him to Murdoch’s Daily Telegraph until Towke was forced to step aside for Morrison. It was grubby Liberal Party politics at its worst.

Before winning his seat, Morrison had worked for the Liberal Party, the Property Council and Tourism Australia.

As managing director of the latter, he carried the can for the “Where the Bloody-Hell Are You” campaign and was let go – by the then coalition government.

You might think that failure would be an embarrassment for a Federal Treasurer, but people have thick skins in politics and the electorate has little memory.

His role in “stopping the boats” secured his reputation with the Liberal Party’s right wing, but it was one remarkable Press Club presentation as social security minister that changed the press gallery’s perception of him. Morrison showed a grasp of the issues and a delicacy of touch that looked especially sharp after the dull performance of his predecessor in that portfolio, Kevin Andrews.

Those who work in the social security sector generally have praise for the way he has gone about the job – and social security types tend not to be from the right.

Social Security is a tough gig. The thinking, or hope, is that if Scotty could handle that with a degree of delicacy and policy nous, Treasury is indeed possible.

And, just like following Andrews, Hockey’s has not been a hard act to follow.

We should all find out soon enough.

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