There is something uniquely powerful about the spoken word. A great speech can rise above the everyday to convey hope, inspire change or bring optimism for a better future. In times of hardship, a well-crafted address can lift the spirits of a nation.
History is filled with examples of exceptional leaders; only some were exceptional orators. Scott Morrison, without question, deserves to join their ranks. Here we examine his greatest quotes so far.
“It’s like that movie The Croods”
In the midst of a crisis, a commanding speech can unite a nation. In his rousing ‘We shall fight on the beaches’ speech (1940), Churchill evoked the struggle of war and the never-say-die spirit of the British people. In his The Croods speech (2021) Morrison evoked the ordeals of a fictional prehistoric family from a 2013 DreamWorks animated adventure comedy.
At once stirring and haunting, Morrison’s speech was a galvanising force for the 3% of the population who had heard of the movie.
“The sooner we get there, the sooner we get there”
This is Morrison’s Gettysburg address. In just 10 words (five if you discount the ones repeated) he captures the emotion of a nervous nation and describes the pathway to a better future.
Like so many great quotes, it is what is not said (in this case that the government forgot to buy enough vaccines and thus entirely botched the rollout) that is most powerful of all.
“That is an issue for the states”
Ghandi said, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’; Kennedy, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you’; Morrison, ‘That is an issue for the states’. Great leaders are never inwardly focused. They inspire others to reach their full potential by empowering them with responsibility, in this case, the constitutional responsibilities of the Federal Government. Never one to take on a job that someone else could do instead, Morrison demonstrates with this quote the trust he places in others.
“If you have a go, you get a go”
Often, the power of a great quote is in its ambiguity. It urges the listener to probe further; to think more deeply; to ask the big questions. Like, “How can I have a go if I haven’t got one yet?’, ‘Can I get more than one go if I live in a marginal Liberal electorate?’ and ‘Are goes tax exempt, or is that only if they’re delivered as a franking credit?”
“It’s not a race”
‘Yes we can!’, ‘It’s time!’, ‘It’s morning again in America!’ Throughout history, the most famous political slogans have been infused with optimism and a sense of positive urgency. Not so this one.
In flipping accepted rhetorical conventions on their head, Morrison shows himself to be an orator of rare skill. Here, he defines the vaccination rollout not by what it is, but by what it is not. Inspiring us not to action, but inaction. Truly a master at work.
“Not far from here, such marches, even now are being met with bullets”
Throughout the ages, great speakers have won over their audiences by reminding them that they haven’t had them murdered. Evocative, cadenced, poignant, this quote shows Morrison reaching new oratory heights. If we’re being finicky, he could have dropped the word ‘even’ to create the perfect iambic rhythm. But even Shakespeare bent the rules from time to time.
“I don’t accept the premise of your question”
It’s not often that Australian Prime Ministers are mentioned in the same breath as the great Greek philosophers. But here, in this celebrated Morrison quote, the parallels with Socrates are undeniable. Socrates famously answered one question with another question. Morrison famously doesn’t answer questions at all.
“Jenny has a way of clarifying things”
It’s the simplicity of the language, the domesticity of the setting, that’s so powerful here. Is Jenny talking about which school to send the kids to? Is she explaining how to disconnect the PS5 from the TV so Scott can watch the news? No! She’s talking about sexual assault! It’s disarming, it’s surprising, it’s actually quite alarming. But that’s the power of great rhetoric.
“I don’t hold a hose, mate”
In this stirring speech, one cannot help but be reminded of Keating at Redfern. The sense of history, the quiver of emotion, the seizing of the moment – the similarities are undeniable. But there are differences too. While Keating spoke of taking responsibility, Morrison’s pitch here is to eschew it. The hose, a metaphor for responsibility itself, ‘mate’ signifying the Australia electorate. It’s redolent, it’s moving, it leaves the listener asking, ‘what else don’t you do?’
We can’t just go around and make everything free
Here we see Morison effortlessly pivot to yet another oratory technique ¬– humour. As the listener, we know full well that plenty of things are free: car parks in marginal electorates, business class travel for politicians, Barnaby Joyce when asked by a young female staffer if he’s busy tonight. But like Obama delivering one-liners at the White House correspondents’ dinner, we’re in on the joke and it’s impossible not to laugh along.
A line that works as well for the question ‘What league team do you support?’ as ‘Do you have a plan to address climate change?’ this simple two-word statement is an oratory tour de force.