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Scott John Morrison (born 13 May 1968) is an Australian politician who has been Prime Minister of Australia and leader of the Liberal Party since August 2018.
He previously served in Cabinet from 2013 to 2018, including as Treasurer. Morrison was born in Sydney and studied economic geography at the University of New South Wales.
He worked as director of the New Zealand Office of Tourism and Sport from 1998 to 2000 and was managing director of Tourism Australia from 2004 to 2006.
Morrison was also state director of the New South Wales Liberal Party from 2000 to 2004.
He was later elected to the House of Representatives at the 2007 election, representing the Division of Cook in New South Wales.
After the Coalition victory at the 2013 election, Morrison was appointed Minister for Immigration and Border Protection in the Abbott Government, in which capacity he was responsible for implementing Operation Sovereign Borders.
In a reshuffle the following year, he became Minister for Social Services.
He was later promoted to the role of Treasurer in September 2015, after Malcolm Turnbull replaced Abbott as prime minister.In August 2018, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton unsuccessfully challenged Turnbull for the leadership of the Liberal Party.
Leadership tension continued, and the party voted to hold a second leadership ballot on 24 August, with Turnbull choosing not to stand.
In that ballot, Morrison defeated both Dutton and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to become leader of the Liberal Party.
He was sworn in as prime minister by the Governor-General later that day.
Morrison went on to lead the Coalition to an upset victory in the 2019 election.
Early life and education
Morrison was born in the suburb of Waverley in Sydney, the younger of two sons born to Marion (née Smith) and John Douglas Morrison (1934–2020). His father was a policeman who served on the Waverley Municipal Council, including a single term as mayor. Morrison's maternal grandfather was born in New Zealand. His paternal grandmother was the niece of noted Australian poet Dame Mary Gilmore. In 2012, on the 50th anniversary of her death, he delivered a tribute to her in federal parliament. Morrison is descended from William Roberts, a convict who was convicted of stealing yarn and transported to Australia on the First Fleet in 1788.
Morrison grew up in the suburb of Bronte. He had a brief career as a child actor, appearing in several television commercials and small roles in local shows. Morrison attended Sydney Boys High School before going on to complete a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) honours degree in applied economic geography at the University of New South Wales. His honours thesis, a demographical analysis of Christian Brethren assemblies in Sydney, was deposited in the University of Manchester Library's Christian Brethren Collection. Morrison contemplated studying theology at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada, but he instead chose to enter the workforce after completing his undergraduate education, in part due to the disapproval of his father.
After graduating from university, Morrison worked as national policy and research manager for the Property Council of Australia from 1989 to 1995. He then moved into tourism, serving as deputy chief executive of the Australian Tourism Task Force and then general manager of the Tourism Council of Australia; the latter was managed by Bruce Baird, whom he would eventually succeed in federal parliament.
In 1998, Morrison moved to New Zealand to become director of the newly created Office of Tourism and Sport. He formed a close relationship with New Zealand's tourism minister, Murray McCully, and was involved with the creation of the long-running "100% Pure New Zealand" campaign. He left this position in 2000, a year before the contract schedule.
Morrison returned to Australia in 2000, to become state director of the New South Wales division of the Liberal Party. He oversaw the party's campaigns in the 2001 federal election and in the 2003 New South Wales state election.
In 2004, Morrison left the NSW Liberal Party post to become the inaugural managing director of Tourism Australia, which had been established by the Howard government. His appointment was controversial due to its openly political nature. He signed an initial three-year contract. Morrison approved and defended the contentious "So where the bloody hell are you?" advertising campaign featuring Lara Bingle. His contract was terminated in July 2006, which at the time was attributed to conflict with tourism minister Fran Bailey over the government's plans to further integrate the agency into the Australian Public Service. He had been awarded a pay rise by the Remuneration Tribunal three weeks before his sacking. A 2019 investigation by The Saturday Paper suggested Morrison was sacked due to concerns that Tourism Australia was not following government procurement guidelines for three contracts relating to the "So where the bloody hell are you?" campaign, with a total value of $184 million. A 2008 report from the Auditor-General found that "information had been kept from the board, procurement guidelines breached and private companies engaged before paperwork was signed and without appropriate value-for-money assessments". It was suggested that M&C Saatchi, which had previously worked with Morrison on the "100% Pure" campaign in New Zealand, received favourable treatment in the tendering process. In 2022, following the ministerial positions controversy, Fran Bailey revealed that Morrison showed no respect for his colleagues at Tourism Australia and he left her feeling bullied, also confirming that he “point-blank refused” to provide her or the board with any documentation or to answer questions about how the ad campaign was awarded to Saatchi.
This episode and, more generally, his career in marketing led to his satirical sobriquet, "Scotty from Marketing," originating with the satirical news website The Betoota Advocate in August 2018. It was taken up on Twitter in early 2019, and spiked at the height of the bushfire crisis on 29 December 2019. In January 2020, Morrison referred to the name as a "snarky comment" used by the Labor Party to discredit him.
Morrison sought Liberal preselection for the division of Cook, an electorate in the southern suburbs of Sydney which includes Cronulla, Caringbah, and Miranda, for the 2007 election, following the retirement of Bruce Baird, who had served as the member since 1998. He lost the ballot to Michael Towke, a telecommunications engineer and the candidate of the Liberals' right faction, by 82 votes to 8. Paul Fletcher who came closest to Towke received 70 votes. Fletcher went on to win Liberal preselection for the North Shore seat of Bradfield.
However, allegations surfaced that Towke had engaged in branch stacking and had embellished his resume. The state executive of the Liberal Party disendorsed Towke and held a new pre-selection ballot, which Morrison won. The allegations subsequently proved to be false, and The Daily Telegraph was forced to pay an undisclosed amount to settle a defamation suit filed by Towke. At the general election, Morrison suffered a two-party swing of over six percent against Labor candidate Mark Buttigieg, but was able to retain the seat on the strength of winning 52 percent of the primary vote. In 2022, Towke accused Morrison of engaging in ‘racial vilification’ during the 2007 preselection, including ‘saying Mr Morrison told party members they should not vote for him because he was from a Lebanese family and because of rumours he was a Muslim,’ a claim Morrison denied.
In September 2008, Morrison was appointed to Malcolm Turnbull's coalition front bench as shadow minister for housing and local government. In December 2009, he became shadow minister for immigration and citizenship, coming into the shadow cabinet for the first time during Tony Abbott's first cabinet reshuffle shortly after winning the leadership.
In December 2010, forty-eight asylum seekers died in the Christmas Island boat disaster. In February 2011, Morrison publicly questioned the decision of the Gillard Labor government to pay for the relatives of the victims to travel to funerals in Sydney, arguing that the same privilege was not extended to Australian citizens. After fellow Liberal and shadow treasurer Joe Hockey disagreed with Morrison's statements, Morrison said that the timing of his comments was insensitive, but did not back away from the comments themselves. Other Liberal Party members including former prime minister Malcolm Fraser and former opposition leader John Hewson also criticised Morrison for his comments. In the same month, it was revealed that Morrison had "urged the shadow cabinet to capitalise on the electorate's growing concerns" about Muslims and appeal to the public perception of their "inability to integrate" to gain votes.
In February 2013, Morrison said that the police should be notified of where asylum seekers are living in the community if any antisocial behaviour has occurred, and that there should be strict guidelines for the behaviour of those currently on bridging visas while they await the determination of their claims. The new code of conduct was released by the immigration minister for more than 20,000 irregular maritime arrivals living in the community on bridging visas.
Following the Coalition's victory at the 2013 federal election, Morrison was appointed Minister for Immigration and Border Protection in the Abbott government and included in cabinet.
Based on a series of off-the-record interviews, in June 2014 Morrison was identified by Fairfax Media as the leader of an informal grouping of "economically moderate, or wet" government MPs, also including Greg Hunt, Stuart Robert, and Josh Frydenberg. It was linked with another moderate grouping led by Christopher Pyne. It was further reported that Morrison had unsuccessfully argued in cabinet for a $25 million bailout of SPC Ardmona.
On 18 September 2013, Morrison launched Operation Sovereign Borders, the new government's strategy aimed at stopping unauthorised boats from entering Australian waters. Cabinet documents from this time revealed in 2018 that Morrison asked for mitigation strategies to avoid granting permanent visas to 700 refugees. His office reported that there were 300 boats and 20,587 arrivals in 2013 to only 1 boat and 157 arrivals for all of 2014. The UNHCR expressed concerns that the practice may violate the Refugee Convention. In September 2014, it was reported that zero asylum seekers had died at sea since December 2013, compared with more than 1,100 deaths between 2008 and 2013. The annual refugee intake, which had been increased to 20,000 for 2012–13 by the previous government, was reduced to 13,750, the level it had been in 2011–12. Morrison stated that "Not one of those places will go to anyone who comes on a boat to Australia [...] they will go to people who have come the right way."
Morrison defended his use of the terms "illegal arrivals" and "illegal boats," saying that "I've always referred to illegal entry ... I've never claimed that it's illegal to claim asylum."
During his time as Immigration Minister, Morrison's dealings with the media and accountability to the public were widely criticised by journalists, Labor and Greens senators, and others for refusing to provide details about the matters within his portfolio. Morrison asserted that to reveal details of operations would be to play into the hands of people smugglers who used this information to plan illegal smuggling operations. On many occasions Morrison refused to answer questions about the status of asylum seekers or boats coming to and from Australia, often on the basis that he would not disclose "on water" or "operational" matters.
In November 2014, the Australian Human Rights Commission delivered a report to the government which found that Morrison failed in his responsibility to act in the best interests of children in detention during his time as Minister. The overarching finding of the inquiry was that the prolonged, mandatory detention of asylum seeker children caused them significant mental and physical illness and developmental delays, in breach of Australia's international obligations. The report was criticised by Tony Abbott as being politically motivated, with regard to the timing of the report's release after the Abbott government had taken office. The government released the report publicly in February 2015.
In early December 2014, Morrison had the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014 passed through the Australian Parliament. The bill gave Morrison more power than any previous minister in dealing with people seeking asylum in Australia, including the power to return asylum seekers to their place of origin, detain asylum seekers without charge, and refuse asylum seekers who arrive by boat access to the Refugee Review Tribunal. The bill reintroduced temporary protection visas to deal specifically with the backlog of 30,000 people who had arrived under the previous Labor government but who had yet to be processed. The bill allowed those on bridging visas to apply for work, and increased the refugee intake to 18,750.
In a cabinet reshuffle in late December 2014, Morrison was appointed the Minister for Social Services and ceased to be Minister for Immigration and Border Protection. The appointment was criticised by Australian Greens leader Christine Milne who claimed Morrison had a lack of compassion. With a softened change in image, Morrison was commended by welfare and community groups for his accommodating approach and eagerness for the portfolio. Morrison encouraged working mothers and endorsed fixes to the childcare system by making indexation changes to the Family Tax Benefits payment. In April 2015, he announced the introduction of the "No Jab, No Pay" policy, which withholds family and childcare benefits from parents who do not vaccinate their children. His time as minister was criticised by his opposition counterpart Jenny Macklin, who said that "Scott Morrison was appointed to clean up Kevin Andrews' mess but left behind more chaos, confusion and cuts."
In March 2015, three hundred alumni of Sydney Boys High School signed a letter protesting Morrison's attendance at an alumni fund-raising event. The protest letter expressed the opinion that the school should not celebrate a person who has "so flagrantly disregarded human rights."
During May 2015, Morrison promoted his plan for a $3.5 billion overhaul of the childcare subsidies system. His substantial advertising efforts led to claims that he was overshadowing the role of Treasurer Joe Hockey. Morrison insisted that he did not desire to take over the position of Treasurer despite his strong performances.
Morrison was appointed as Treasurer in the Turnbull government in September 2015, replacing Joe Hockey. In his first press conference as Treasurer, he indicated a reduction in government expenditure and stated that the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) and White Paper on tax reform would arrive on time.
In May 2016, Morrison handed down the 2016 Australian federal budget. It included the introduction of a 40 percent diverted profits tax (popularly known as the "Google tax"), which is an anti-avoidance measure designed to prevent base erosion and profit shifting. It was passed into law as the Diverted Profits Tax Act 2017 and took effect on 1 July 2017. The new tax received criticism from some quarters, with the Corporate Tax Association stating that it would have "unpredictable outcomes" and negatively affect Australian business.
In February 2017, Morrison addressed the House of Representatives while holding a lump of coal, stating "This is coal. Don't be afraid. Don't be scared. It won't hurt you," and accusing those concerned about the environmental impact of the coal industry of having "an ideological, pathological fear of coal." He handed down the 2017 Australian federal budget in May 2017.
In December 2017, the government introduced the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry (popularly known as the Banking Royal Commission). Morrison originally opposed the creation of a royal commission, believing that a Senate inquiry would be sufficient. He voted against a royal commission 23 times between April 2016 and June 2017, and in September 2016 described it as "nothing more than crass populism seeking to undermine confidence in the banking and financial system, which is key to jobs and growth in this country." In announcing that the royal commission would take place, Morrison described it as a "regrettable but necessary action." In response to the commission's findings, in April 2018 he announced the introduction of new criminal and civil penalties for financial misconduct, including potential prison sentences of 10 years for individuals and fines of up to $210 million for companies.
Morrison handed down the 2018 Australian federal budget on 8 May. He subsequently rejected calls to increase the rate of the Newstart Allowance, saying "my priority is to give tax relief to people who are working and paying taxes."
Morrison is a fan of rugby union and supported the Eastern Suburbs RUFC during his childhood. After moving to the Sutherland Shire, he became a fan of the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks rugby league team and was named the club's number-one ticket holder in 2016.
Morrison began dating Jenny Warren when they were both 16. They married in 1990, when Morrison was 21 and Warren was 22, and have two daughters together. After multiple unsuccessful IVF treatments over a period of 14 years, their daughters were conceived naturally. Their daughters attend an independent Baptist school. Morrison has stated that one of the reasons for this choice was so that he could avoid "the values of others being imposed on my children."
Morrison was raised in the Presbyterian Church of Australia, which partly merged into the Uniting Church when he was a child. He later became a Pentecostal and now attends the Horizon Church which is affiliated with the Australian Christian Churches, the Australian branch of the Assemblies of God. Morrison is Australia's first Pentecostal prime minister. As a Pentecostal and evangelical church, Horizon is not a mainstream church in Australia. Some members believe in divine healing, and practise "speaking in tongues", which is seen as a miraculous gift from God.
While the Australian Christian Lobby welcomed the appointment of a prime minister with such a deep faith, some Australians have been suspicious of its effect on his rulings. As Treasurer of Australia during the vote for legislation on same-sex marriage in 2017, Morrison abstained from voting due to his faith. He has said, "the Bible is not a policy handbook, and I get very worried when people try to treat it like one". In late 2017, Morrison stated that he would become a stronger advocate for protections for religious freedom.
He thinks misuse of social media is the work of "the evil one" and practises the Christian tradition of the "laying on of hands" while working. He said in a speech to the Australian Christian Churches conference in April 2021 that he believes he was elected to do God's work, although he later said that his comments were mischaracterised and that they were meant to reflect his belief that "whatever you do every day... is part of your Christian service".
In July 2022, he told a Pentecostal church congregation that, speaking from experience, he believed that people should not trust governments or the United Nations but should put their trust in God. Morrison's successor as prime minister, Anthony Albanese, found this statement "quite astonishing" and the reference to the United Nations a "nonsense throwaway conspiracy line".