View from The Hill: Labor ‘highly unlikely’ to contest the Cook byelection, as Morrison bows out with ‘plenty of scars’

Labor is not planning to contest the coming byelection in the Sydney seat of Cook, following the departure of former Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who delivered his parliamentary valedictory on Tuesday.


  • Michelle Grattan

    Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Cook is on a 12.4% margin and Labor – currently on tenterhooks over Saturday’s byelection in the Melbourne Labor seat of Dunkley – doesn’t want the political or financial pressure of running in a seat it could not win.

Labor sources said it was “highly unlikely” to field a candidate. No date has been yet set for the byelection.

The Morrison valedictory was heavy on saying “thank you” to many people in and out of politics, and emotional at times.

It had a riff on Taylor Swift. His daughters had suggested he should “play a type of Taylor Swift bingo [ … ] by trying to work the names of every single Taylor Swift album into my remarks”.

Morrison said he departed “having given all” and had “plenty of scars to show for it”. He reflected on “three things I have learned along the way that may help those dealing with the challenges of the future who continue in this place”.

The first was that “all good government must start with nurturing a strong, innovative, dynamic, entrepreneurial, market-based economy”.

In a warning against attempting to “reinstitutionalise” the
economy, he said “such an approach will only negate the
capacity we have as a nation to deliver on the essentials that Australians rely on”.

Secondly, Morrison warned about the threats to Australia’s security and the dangers posed by the “arc of autocracy”, to which he had referred when prime minister, ranging “from Pyongyang to Beijing to Tehran and Moscow.”

On China he said: “The 2022 election may have provided an
opportunity for Beijing to step back from their failed attempts at coercion. But we must not be deluded. Tactics change, but their strategy remains the same.”

Thirdly, Morrison highlighted the importance of “the Judaeo-Christian values upon which our liberty and society was founded. Even if you may not believe, it would be wise to respect and appreciate this important link and foundation.”

Morrison said he left parliament “appreciative and thankful, unburdened by offences, and released from any bitterness that can so often haunt post-political lives.

“This is due to my faith in Jesus Christ, which gives me the faith to both forgive but also to be honest about my own failings and shortcomings,” he said.

Speaking in response, Anthony Albanese described Morrison as “a truly formidable opponent”.

Earlier, at the Coalition parties meeting, Morrison told his soon-to-be-former colleagues to “work you arses off. That’s how you win an election.”

Meanwhile both sides are flat out trying to manage expectations ahead of the Dunkley outcome.

The PM told caucus the average swing against Labor governments was 7.1% “and we hold this seat by 6.3%”. The 7.1% is the figure senior Labor figures are using repeatedly. It is the average swing in byelections in government seats since 1984.

The opposition is choosing more modest figures.

In the Coalition party room Peter Dutton said Dunkley was not a marginal seat.

Dutton said the average swing against governments in byelections since the second world war was 3.6%. The average byelection swing against a first-term government was 1.5% and no first-term government had lost a seat in a byelection since WWII.

In Aston last year, Labor achieved a 6.4% swing to win the Liberal seat.

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

/Courtesy of The Conversation. View in full here.