Wednesday, 09 July 2014

Interview with a Minister

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A King’s Tribune exclusive: Ben Pobjie was granted an interview with Immigration Minister, Christian and saviour of the not-drowned, Scott Morrison.

I’ve only just entered Scott Morrison’s tastefully-appointed Sutherland villa and I’m already wrestling with a dilemma. It’s quite a coup for the King’s Tribune to have scored an exclusive interview with the notoriously shy Immigration Minister, and I don’t want to say anything that might upset him and cut the interview short; but some things simply cry out for attention. Treading as carefully as I can, I ask Morrison why the façade of his house is entirely covered with a photograph of Chuck Norris. To my relief, he smiles graciously as he answers:

“It’s just a reminder, to always be focused on the most important thing: getting the job done.”

I nod understandingly as the Minister speaks for ten minutes on the subject of Mr Norris and how good he was at getting jobs done.

“So you see, I never want to forget the lessons he taught me,” he finishes, striking a kung fu pose as he pours me a drink. It’s at this point that I notice that the lounge room is littered with broken pieces of wood. I don’t want to spend all day on the subject though, so as I sit on his plush leather sofa, I move the conversation towards Morrison’s early life.

The Minister is forthcoming, describing in vivid detail his years at Cronulla’s prestigious St Darren’s Boys’ School, where he says discipline was “tough but fair”. He shows me a scar on his bicep where his English teacher set a Staffordshire bull terrier on him for running near the toilets. Common practice in those days, he says experiences such as these taught him to respect rules stringently. “For example,” he offers, pointing to a sign on the wall above my head reading “NO SHOES ON THE CARPET”, and punching me viciously in the stomach.

“I don’t just preach my philosophy; I live it,” Morrison says as he helps me up.

This brings us to what might be described as the seminal moment in the Minister’s childhood: the death of both of his parents in a freak boating accident. Morrison himself disputes the appellation “freak”, but it is difficult to think of one more apt when describing such an occurrence as the day that Mr and Mrs Morrison Senior were riding ponies along the Colo River when an ancient Chinese dhow fell out of the plane transporting it to the National Museum and crushed them both.

Morrison becomes emotional when recounting the story, his eyes tearful yet steely. “That was the day,” he says, his jaw set firmly, “that I decided I would never in my life cease my fight against boats, and the evil and violence they do to man.”

This has been a running theme throughout Morrison’s life: as a young man he was arrested several times for swimming into Sydney Harbour and attacking ferries with knives and axes; and at university he was president of the Student Anti-Rowing League, which would spend weekends picketing regattas.

It’s not difficult to see a common thread throughout Morrison’s career: Christianity. “I always try to live my life in a Christlike way,” he muses, throwing a bible at my head to illustrate. “Jesus, as you know, hated boats,” he adds, pointing out that the Saviour would rather leap onto the water and run across it than stay on a boat. Once again, I nod.

What does the Minister see as Jesus’s position on asylum seekers? Morrison opens his bible – not the one he threw at me, the one he keeps in his pocket – and shows me the passage in Luke where Christ feeds the five thousand with five loaves and two fishes, with particular attention paid to the verses where Jesus refuses any bread or fish to those members of the multitude without correct paperwork.

“There are any number of stories just like that,” the Minister insists. “Think about the Sermon on the Mount: ‘Blessed are the meek, for they have arrived through the proper channels’. Or when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead and offers him a financial incentive to go back where he came from.”

So the government’s current border protection policies are based on Jesus’s example? “Absolutely,” Morrison enthuses. “That’s the only reason I’m doing it, to be honest: I’m simply driven by my Christian faith to live a godly life in all ways possible.”

There can be little doubting the Minister’s piety: much of the artwork on his walls is Christian in nature, and later on, as he takes me on a tour of the house, I note the presence of many authentic Catholic instruments of torture on display in the pool room. He also interrupts the interview to force me to kneel beside him and chant hymns for three hours before resuming, which some might see as fanatical behaviour, but in Morrison it seems a simple and heartfelt expression of faith.

When we do resume, and as the Minister lightly flogs himself – “keeps me in trim,” he says brightly – I ask him about the criticism he has received from some sections of the community. He scoffs.

“What you have to realise,” he explains, “is that I am in the business of saving lives. With Labor in power, people were drowning at sea, thanks to Kevin Rudd’s ‘Let’s Drown People At Sea’ policy. But with Operation Sovereign Borders, my sinister helmeted strike force has managed to completely reverse the Rudd-Gillard killing spree and usher in a new era of people not seeing photographs in newspapers of things that happen at sea. We’ve managed to save so many lives, by stopping the boats, the boats, the boats, the goddamn BOATS!” – here Morrison became agitated and took some minutes to regain his composure.

“You see,” he resumed, “it’s the boats killing people, so by stopping the boats, we’re stopping the deaths. I make no apology for that, and if you expect me to make an apology, you’re some kind of lunatic. I’m not in the apology-making business, I’m in the life-saving business, and every refugee who doesn’t come here on a boat, that’s a life saved. Every refugee who applies for asylum through correct processes, that’s a life saved. Every refugee who stays where they are, that’s a life saved. Every refugee who spends the rest of their life in a refugee camp, every refugee who gives up their futile efforts to infiltrate sovereign nations’ borders, every refugee who just accepts whatever they’ve got coming….that’s a life saved. There are about fifty million refugees around the world today,” at this point the Minister was jabbing a finger into my chest, spittle flying into my eyes, “and if we make sure none of them get to Australia, that’s fifty million lives I’ve saved. Have you ever heard of a greater humanitarian?” he screamed, urinating on a special edition DVD of Schindler’s List. “Have you?”

I confess I have not, and after a brief, intimate embrace, I take my leave, shaken but oddly inspired by the experience of meeting a man who bears such a heavy burden, yet manages to do so without losing his humanity or sense of humour. As I reflect on my last glimpse of Scott Morrison, Immigration Minister – shirtless and crawling nimbly across his front lawn on his belly, yelling for the deer to stop hiding and meet their fate – I can’t help but feel a little bit safer. For no matter what you might think of immigration policy in this country, there is no doubt that it is in the hands of a man who truly believes that his hands have immigration policy in them. And that’s something you can bank on.

Ben  Pobjie

Ben has not one but TWO hilarious books out now. Surveying the Wreckage and Superchef.

Follow him on twitter @benpobjie