News National Scott Morrison drops the baseball cap as he switches to statesman mode

Scott Morrison drops the baseball cap as he switches to statesman mode

Scott Morrison Solomon Islands
The newly elected PM, pictured in the Solomon Islands, has proved himself a fast learner. Photo: AAP
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Scott Morrison, on his first overseas junket since being democratically elected as prime minister, has left the daggy dad persona back home.

He is now playing the role of international statesman as he sets about convincing the voters who entrusted him with the top job that he’s up to the task.

His choice of the Solomon Islands as his first destination since the election throws him directly into the path of the two superpowers vying for influence in our “family neighbourhood”, as Mr Morrison describes the South Pacific.

What we are seeing is Mr Morrison the fast learner. During the election campaign he stumbled badly when he described China merely as “our customer”.

The implication being it was a long way beneath his estimation of the importance we place on the United States.

In Honiara we got this assessment in “real politik” – the diplomacy based on a reality we can’t change.

“We have a comprehensive strategic partnership with China. We have our single largest trading agreement with China. They are our single largest trading partner,” the Prime Minister said.

This was in response to a journalist noting Beijing’s Defence Minister thought the massacre in Tiananmen Square 30 years ago today was “a correct decision”.

Mr Morrison noted the comments reflected China’s position held “for a very long time”, and that Australia has challenges “in all our relationships”.

We certainly do with Donald Trump’s America and its burgeoning trade war with China, but there was no mention of that.

After rejecting any view that we must deal with the South Pacific in a “binary way” – that is, for China or the US – Mr Morrison left no doubt that Australia’s $250 million grant announced on the trip was to help the Solomons achieve “independent sovereignty and independent economic sustainability”.

Beijing would not have missed the two “independents”.

There is a view that Australians don’t take a lot of notice of what PMs do on these trips, but they certainly do if there is a major faux pas that could damage our prosperity.

John Howard, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating’s business-like relations with China were widely seen to bear fruit during the mining boom that increased the wealth of everyday Australians.

The images that will adorn our TV news screens this week, as Mr Morrison jets over to the United Kingdom for D-Day anniversary commemorations and another fleeting official visit to Singapore on the way home, will consolidate his “miraculously” won credentials as PM.

Coach Albanese

While Mr Morrison was playing world leader, Anthony Albanese was more the captain-coach selecting his team for the political slug fest ahead.

Make no mistake, while Mr Albanese says he wants to be the “Labor leader” rather than the “Opposition Leader”, he won’t be pulling his punches.

albanese retirees tax
Mr Albanese says he’ll ‘hold the government to account’. Photo: AAP

Nor does he want his players to be shrinking violets, warning that “Peter Dutton will know he’s alive each and every day with Kristina Keneally as the shadow (Home Affairs) Minister”.

Mr Albanese says he too will “hold the government to account each and every day”. His new shadow treasurer is of the same mind.

Jim Chalmers, a doctor of economics, says “the people-facing part of the economy … has weakness as far as the eye can see.”

He adds that the ALP is “spoiling for a fight on the economy. We will engage vigorously, rigorously, continuously”.

Even before the official in-depth post mortem of the so-called unloseable election that was lost, key people in Labor are angry the “chaotic Liberals” were let off the hook over economic management.

Historical precedent is against Mr Albanese winning the next election, but on that he is sure to take a leaf out of Mr Morrison’s book and try to deliver a “miracle” of his own.

Like Mr Morrison in the campaign, the new Labor leader is determined not to die wondering.

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