Was I too tough on Scott Morrison?

Please allow me to provide context and a sequence of events.

Yesterday I saw this tweet:

My immediate response was “Oh, this couldn’t be true, it’s a mean meme.” **

Looking further afield, I started to think there may be some truth to it, so I went to the source, the ABC Insiders web page.

Indeed, that is how the interview transpired.

I was horrified. Yes, I watched the video. The following pic is a screen grab of Scott Morrison’s expression after Cassidy asks the question and before Morrison answers.

Screen Grab

Screen Grab

That expression didn’t fill me with happiness.

I accept that as I have experienced suicide in my family, I am perhaps a little more sensitive to what I perceive to be insensitivity about suicide. If I was the young man’s family, I would have been horrified.

I published Could he have avoided overstaying his visa?

Today a fellow conservative took me to task, very nicely I have to say. He pointed out the following:

  • The video I had looked at was a “cut down version” (but I don’t know where the cuts are)
  • There is always a delay in the comms on these hookups
  • He was clarifying the question

I promised to watch the video again, acknowledging my personal bias relating to insensitivity towards suicide. I watched it three times.

The other aspect I took into consideration is I know what it is like to be thrown a curve ball on camera. It has happened to me. I was being interviewed by Bert Newton about German Shepherd Dogs and had my male with me, together with some pups. The male was named after the racehorse Bonecrusher and called Crusher for short.

Cool as a cucumber, Bert said something along the lines of, “It is such a pity Crusher ate the floor manager before we came on air.”

At the time, we were fighting a bit of a battle around the Companion Animal legislation and my job was to assure people well bred, well trained Shepherds are a wonderful breed. This was definitely a curve ball.

The best I could come up with was, “But the good thing is I won’t need to feed him tonight.”  Bert is, after all, a comedian and this was supposed to be lighthearted. Thankfully, everyone laughed.

So I’ve been there, done that.

There is a difference between Morrison’s gaffe and the curve ball I faced.

Morrison is the Minister in charge of the detention of people detained for immigration matters. He should have been well prepped for the interview and he and his minders should have expected to be quizzed about the suicide. It was all over the news.

A delay in the comms could explain the expression above. If the comms line was unclear (i.e. he was unsure of the question), to ask if the deceased could have avoided overstaying his visa is, in my humble opinion, silly. Of course anyone can avoid overstaying their visa unless they happen to be incapacitated at the time. An example would be hospitalisation resulting from a car accident. I would hope, however, we as a nation are not so unforgiving as to not allow someone an extension in such circumstances. So to me it was not a rational clarification question as the answer was obvious. Apart from anything else, in his position he should have known it would sound extremely unfortunate.

I also accept that any of us, caught on the hop, can blurt out inappropriate things. The other side of the coin is that this is a Minister of our government we are talking about. He should be better skilled at handling “difficult” media moments.

Cassidy trying to recover from the “clarification” was interesting, I thought. It sounded to me as if he was shocked and was trying to save the day as quickly as possible.

Was I too tough on Scott Morrison yesterday? On balance, perhaps I can put it down to inexperience, but I feel I am being generous. I can’t help feeling for the family of the deceased if they see the video. To those who feel I was being too tough, I trust this follow-up will provide some clarification.

** It has been suggested I am at fault for not having highlighted the meme above paraphrased Cassidy’s question (the original question is clear in the previous article and in the transcript on the Insiders’ website). To me it wasn’t important as my response was driven by watching the video at least four times, the meme had done nothing more than brought the situation to my attention.

As this obviously upsets some people, please note that Cassidy’s question was paraphrased in the meme. Perhaps it would have been wiser for the creator not to do that in the interests of transparency. I repeat the meme was, in my view, a minor issue. So minor in fact I did not mention it at all on my initial article. I only included it above to explain how I found out about the interview at all when my view was challenged.

15 comments on “Was I too tough on Scott Morrison?

  1. […] Cassidy to Morrison: “An Indian student committed suicide in detention last week after overstaying his visa. Could this have been avoided?” Morrison: “Could he have avoided overstaying his visa?” […]


  2. Morrison, most times knows exactly what he is saying. He is quite cool most of the time making sure he gets his points and only his points over. But if you really want to see him different, watch this mornings first interview on ABC24 very worried and unsure. Then he came back hours later, must have taken a calming pill as he was back in charge again very interesting contrast..

    Very sad our Country has come to this. Labor have to take some blame. As they were trying to please voters and Media etc by acting tough on people who mostly only want to find some peace, safety and happiness in their lives….


    • I didn’t see the morning interview, Maureen, but I find your observation very interesting. Sounds like he was out of his comfort zone. He knows the media are right onto this secrecy thing, so I am not surprised he might have appeared off balance.

      Yes, indeed. Labor DO have to take some blame. Kevin’s political gamemanship has lead to this.


  3. He also could have asked “can you please clarify your question”, or the shorter version “say again”. I do not think the question repeated by the Minister is not remotely similar to the question asked: he answered albeit with a rhetorical question.


  4. My first thought on reading this title was that I would have to reject the premise of your question. Surely it is not possible to be TOO tough on Scott Morrison? But that was just a general thought. I had, to be honest, forgotten the exchange, simply because that’s not my time of day. I watched the first part of the program, including the Morrison interview, then dozed off, as I was extremely tired, having been up most of the night writing.

    Reading this brought the whole thing back to me, in all its excruciating detail. There was no doubt in my mind at the time, this was an insensitive, flippant, callous, obnoxious joke from Morrison. Cassidy could not possibly have meant that. No civilized person, cognisant of the details of the case, could possibly have meant that. And Cassidy is most definitely a civilized person.

    Morrison wasn’t clarifying the question, he wasn’t playing for time. No, he was merely demonstrating, as he has done so many times before, that he is utterly lacking in empathy, and that he doesn’t give a toss about ‘Johnny Foreigner.’ He is a vile, execrable, racist disgrace of a man, who should never have been allowed power over the lives of others, or to represent Australia in any capacity.

    Is that too tough?


    • Your reading of the intentions saddens me, Derek. I know you can have a tendency to be at the far end of the critical range 🙂 but I have to be careful I don’t end up in court for publishing your words. 😛

      I couldn’t see anyway to justify what I considered a very flippant “clarification” when I wrote the first article. Despite having watched it several times, I still can’t get my head around the unfeeling attitude. I just can’t.


      • Nor can I Robyn. And I can’t see how what he said allows of any other interpretation. Given the tragic news from Manus Island to which we have awoken this morning, surely there is now no honourable course available to Morrison other than to resign. If I am wrong about him then I expect his letter of resignation will be on the PM’s desk by this evening. I am not, however, holding my breath.

        It is not my intention to get you sued, but I do believe everything I said I can defend, either as truth, or in the case of some of the more subjective terms I used, as my honest opinion (good faith). Another truth is that I am ashamed that this man represents Australia, especially in a portfolio which is not only domestic, but in one which may involve having an influence on how people in other countries perceive us.


      • Horrible, just horrible. The news from Manus is just horrific. I am having trouble absorbing it, in all honesty. And I’ll bet we haven’t heard the worst of it yet.

        He needs to fall on his sword, ASAP>


      • I can only echo your sentiments Robyn, and add that when I came here in the 80s I came to a country justifiably proud of its human rights record and humanitarian values. I see little evidence of those values today. Today’s news demonstrates, if any further demonstration were needed, that we have taken people who came to us seeking refuge and compassion, and placed them in an intolerable situation which threatens not merely their sanity, but their very lives.

        These are not the actions of a civilized nation. We can only stress that this is done not in our name, and hope that what Abraham Lincoln would have called ‘the better angels of our nature’ will soon reassert themselves and that we will come to our collective senses and return to those values we once held dear. Because this shames us all.


      • I think you commented on this months ago https://teamoyeniyi.com/2013/07/19/so-now-we-dump-people-on-third-world-countries/ As someone said it is sad to see predictions come true. Of course, I wasn’t the only one making the predictions, yet NONE of us were listened to. It is SO frustrating and demoralising.

        This is NOT the actions of a civilised nation. And they’ve spent $4.3 million on see the “mood” of the people on social media? http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/social-media-trawled-as-government-spends-43-million-on-research-contracts-20140215-32snf.html

        The mind boggles at the sheer WASTE of money.

        Yes, it shames us all.


  5. I think Morrison’s remark was quite calculated with the intention of dehumanising the poor young man, thus making his suicide seem inconsequential.

    I don’t believe there is an ounce of human kindness, compassion or empathy in the entire mob of hypocrites in the Coalition cabinet, particularly as they are always at pains to spruik the lie that they are committed and passionate Christians.

    Not one of these alleged Christians seems to demonstrate that they have any idea of the teachings of Christ.

    Frankly, I don’t believe that you can EVER be too hard on these hypocrites. They should be reminded every day that nobody is fooled by their mealy mouthed “piety”. It’s as genuine as a Godfather’s kiss.


    • Hi Jane. I hate to think you are right, but it certainly seems to be the thought of many. No suicide in inconsequential and it terrifies me that we DO seem to be dehumanising innocent people. Overstaying a visa is not a crime deserving death. He stated it was a complicated case. I wonder did the young man overstay because of or as a result of a psychiatric illness?


  6. Robyn I watched Insiders yesterday and was shocked at Morrisons comment. In another part of the interview he refereed to the student who had suicided as “this individual”

    Two aspects to this…agree Morrison would have or should have been expecting a question regarding the death in detention. He knew other aspects of the case which he didnt want to discuss, so obviously he had been briefed. Morrison is a well seasoned “media performer” who has often been more than happy to front media. I think you are being kind to him…my initial response was what a smart a…insensitive comment. The smirk said it all for me. Agree that Cassidy seemed shocked as many others were. The majority of twitter comments on #insiders were outraged.

    Secondly there has been several reports on the impact on mental health with detention. Morrison said during the interview that this young man had “other issues” going for him. I was disappointed that Cassidy didnt enquire further as to what supports were available.

    Cassidy’s question to Morrison was “could this have been avoided” and this critical question remains unanswered.

    Thank you Robyn for continuing to highlight these serious issues. I dispair where we are headed as a country with this appalling government.


    • Thank you Betty for sharing your assessment. I have my doubts about Morrison’s media skills – one of his early interviews is a shocker! The mental health impacts of detention are not only well documented, we still live with them some years later. Mr O will still ask “Who’s that?” in a defensive tone if I accidentally wake him when I go to bed (given our different work hours, we often go to bed at different times). That is from the fives times a night bed checks, I am sure. Almost amounts to sleep deprivation, one could surmise. After all, having finally fallen asleep, then awakened, it would be hard to fall asleep again. Five times a night.

      The question of the smirk is really about any delay. He did seem to lose the smirk when he started speaking.

      Bottom line for me is we need to know more about this case. I hope a police report is eventually made available. Is this the Federal Police or Victoria Police? Are we likely to see the report? Will there be a coroner’s report? A lot of questions around this case.


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