News National From tough guy to cuddly friend: Scott Morrison’s transformation

From tough guy to cuddly friend: Scott Morrison’s transformation

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Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison at the height of the Coalition coup. Photo: AAP
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Scott Morrison stood beside the embattled Malcolm Turnbull until the end this week, only to emerge on Thursday morning as the so-called “compromise candidate” in a bitter leadership battle.

His leadership credentials had been discussed in the past, but as he stood beside Mr Turnbull on Wednesday, embracing him and pledging his loyalty during a press conference he seemed an unlikely leader at that point.

Yet after a series of extraordinary events, he is likely to end the week as Australia’s 30th prime minister.

Mr Morrison has been federal Treasurer since Mr Turnbull became Prime Minister in 2015.

Before that, he was Immigration and Border Protection Minister under Tony Abbott, having held that portfolio in opposition since 2009. In that role he made the phrase “stop the boats” his own.

Once in government, he became a divisive figure for instigating Operation Sovereign Borders, the military operation to prevent asylum seeker boats reaching Australian waters. The policy was contentious, but Mr Morrison was rock-solid in implementing it.

“Those who oppose those policies would like nothing more than for us to let down our guard again,” he told a NSW Liberal Party function in Sydney in 2014.

“It won’t happen. The government will never, ever move away from the policies that we know work.”

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Mr Morrison and Operation Sovereign Borders commander Lieutenant General Angus Campbell in 2014. Photo: AAP

Mr Morrison entered parliament as the member for the southern Sydney seat of Cook in 2007, having started his working career in 1989 at the Property Council of Australia. From 2000-2004, he was the state director of the Liberal Party’s NSW branch, overseeing campaigns in the 2001 federal election and the 2003 NSW election.

In 2004, he became the inaugural director of Tourism Australia. He attracted controversy for approving and defending the controversial “So where the bloody hell are you?” national advertising campaign, featuring a young Lara Bingle.

Mr Morrison’s time at Tourism Australia ended in 2006, when he was sacked – apparently due to conflict with then tourism minister Fran Bailey. He was preselected as the Liberal candidate for Cook for the following year’s federal election, following the retirement of the previous member, Bruce Baird.

Mr Morrison grew up in beachside Bronte, in Sydney’s east. His father was a policeman and his mother worked in administrative positions; both were involved in their local church.

He and his wife, Jenny, have two daughters, Lily and Abbey. His official biography on the parliamentary website describes him as “a netball dad, a member of Shirelive church, No.1 ticket-holder of his beloved NRL Cronulla Sutherland Sharks and a big Tina Arena fan”.

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Mr Morrison is congratulated by his family after delivering the 2017 federal budget. Photo: AAP

Mr Morrison is an evangelical Christian who worships at a Hillsong-style Pentecostal church in Sydney. He is staunch in his defence of Christianity.

“Where I think people are being offensive to religion in this country – whichever religion that might be, but particularly the one I and many other Christians subscribe to – well, we will just call it out and we will demand the same respect that people should provide to all religions,” he told Fairfax Media in an interview in December 2017.

“It all starts when you allow religious freedoms [to be eroded], mockery to be made of your faith or your religious festivals. It always starts innocently and it’s always said it is just a joke – just like most discrimination does.”

In 2008, the day after Kevin Rudd’s national apology to indigenous Australians, Mr Morrison said in parliament that he felt “proud”.

“There is no doubt that our Indigenous population has been devastated by the inevitable clash of cultures that came with the arrival of the modern world in 1770 at Kurnell in my electorate,” he said.

In his maiden speech to parliament, Mr Morrison paid tribute to British anti-slavery figure William Wilberforce, and also to Desmond Tutu and U2 singer Bono for their humanitarian attitudes to suffering in Africa.

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