When Scott Morrison first became Australia’s prime minister in 2018, he was so little known that when he went to shake the hand of a football fan, the confused man asked, “So what’s your name?”
After nearly four years in power, this time Mr Morrison saluted voters that he and his conservative coalition were known figures in a world of economic and geopolitical uncertainty. Australia continues to grapple with the emergence of the pandemic, fallout from the war in Ukraine and Chinese encroachment in the region.
“It is a choice between a solid future and an uncertain future. It’s a choice between a government you know and a Labor opposition you don’t know,” he said in April when calling for the election. “Now is not the time to risk that.”
Mr Morrison, who won a surprise victory in the country’s last federal election three years ago, is the only prime minister in 15 years to serve a full term. But his tenure has not always been smooth, with moments that have tested the Australian public’s confidence in his leadership and the scandals that have rocked his administration.
The biggest and possibly most lasting moment came early in his tenure, when he and his family set out for Hawaii while devastating bushfires raged in Australia in late 2019. His terse explanation he in a radio interview – “I don’t hold the faucet, man” — has become emblematic of what many have criticized his government’s inadequate response and reluctance to take climate change seriously as a trigger for disaster.
Some public confidence has been restored thanks to his administration’s early success in containing the Covid-19 pandemic. Rapid border closures and aggressive policy measures have kept Australia untouched by the levels of deaths and hospitalizations that other countries have suffered. But the government’s delay in vaccine purchases, and Mr Morrison’s remark that ensuring the shots were not a race, dented restored confidence.
In the final days of his campaign, Mr Morrison admitted that his leadership style had displeased some Australians, suggesting he could be “a bit like a bulldozer”. But he says his approach has been needed in recent years and he promises change.
His challenger, Anthony Albanese, said Mr Morrison should not have been given another chance: “A bulldozer destroys everything, a bulldozer knocks everything down. I am a builder”.
Mr Morrison, the son of a police officer and raised in a Sydney beach suburb, is a devout Pentecostal who first entered largely secular Australian politics. He served as the marketing executive for tourism campaigns promoting Australia before being elected to Parliament in 2007.
He emerged into wider national consciousness in 2013 as immigration minister, when he took a hardline approach to enforcing Australia’s “Stop the Boat” policy, aimed at stopping applicants refugee access to the country’s shores. After serving as minister of social services and treasurer, he became what some call prime minister “accidentally” when he was the last man left in an internal party uprising. .
In 2019, Mr Morrison, 54, running for his first full term as prime minister, painted himself as a likable Everyman, a football-loving suburban dad – “ScoMo” as he liked to call himself. me. He seemed as stunned as anyone when his centre-right coalition won, calling it a “miracle”.
“It was a personal marketing hit in 2019,” said Frank Bongiorno, professor of history at the Australian National University.
But this time, he can no longer rely on a personal brand. Mr. Morrison has to run his course, and there is frustration around his government’s handling of pressing issues like climate change, the treatment of women and corruption, Mr. Bongiorno said.
“Perhaps it is time for a change, and that is reflected in the polls at the moment,” he said.