Morrison and Trump, a comparison

By May 6, 2020Other

Commenter Stu has asked that I do a ‘compare and contrast’ between Scott Morrison and Donald Trump. I was intending to write about the performance of the Prime Minister since his election, and am happy to broaden the subject to include such a comparison. I don’t have a lot of space, so my comments will be brief, and set out under a set of headings that make sense to me.

Current standing

Scott Morrison is doing very well in the polls, though he was doing rather badly earlier in the year. Earlier this month some 64 per cent of those polled approved of his performance, compared with 40 per cent in January.

In the USA, Donald Trump remains below 50 per cent in terms of approval (51.1 per cent disapproving vs 43.3 per cent approving). This is the average of all major polls, and there’s not much variation between them. Mind you, he has been behind throughout his presidency, so there’s only slight indication that the COVID-19 problem is affecting his standing, whereas here it is plain that the PM’s performance on COVID-19 is a large part of his improved performance generally.

The Nation

Many Australians like to think they are like Americans, and to a degree this is true, since we take a lot of information from the USA in films and television. But as nation-states Australia and the USA are very different. The USA is thirteen times more populous, a lot wealthier, much more affected by what I used to call ‘cleavages’ (race, immigration, religion, wealth, North vs South, and so on), and saddled with a large military endeavour. Though both are formally federations, and we borrowed some American styles for our Constitution, Australia is much more a single nation than is the USA. Our accent is much the same everywhere, our State, Territory and Commonwealth Governments work relatively well together (the ‘National Cabinet’ is not much more than a renamed Council of Australian Governments (COAG)), and Tasmania apart, conditions of life for the great majority are much the same wherever they live. Tasmania is kept in the camp through subsidisation by the rest of us, and I have no quarrel with that. Yes, we have rural and urban differences. It is easier for a national leader to talk to the nation effectively in our country than it is in the USA, I think. Yes, I know about FDR’s ‘fireside chats’. There is no ‘American government’ as there is an ‘Australian Government’ What you have in the USA is ‘the Trump Administration’. That makes quite a difference.

The Emergency

COVID-19 has quite properly evoked a national response almost everywhere. The possibility that millions could die from a virus that was simply not known was too great a risk for any national government to dismiss. At times like these people look to their leaders. Who else? Isn’t this what they are for? The Australian Government acted quickly, and our country, being an island, could be quarantined no less quickly. To do so took courage and determination, as did the provision of enormous amounts of money to keep people in some sort of employment. The USA is not an island, though President Trump has tried unsuccessfully to close the borders with Mexico. Furthermore he has not the same capacity to bring the civil services of his country together, let alone to set up an equivalent of our ‘National Cabinet’.

The Message

The message here has been clear, tough and uncompromising, and I don’t need to rehearse its elements, which must be familiar to every reader. The Prime Minister has been assisted by his Treasurer and by the Chief Medical Officer, who comes across as competent and confident. Most importantly, in my view, the message has been consistent and coherent. There has been no departure from the hymn book. 

What is more, the Prime Minister has looked to be across the details of the issue, and his speech has been clear and accessible. I have heard him a lot now, and that could hardly be otherwise, as he has given many press conferences, sometimes on a daily basis, and all television channels seemed to be carrying them. I have been impressed by his capacity to speak cogently and well. In contrast, President Trump has often looked as they he wanted to have his cake and eat it too: the economy was more important than this flu-like virus, then the USA was doing better than other nations, then it was the fault of Communist Party in China, then it was something else. I’m not sure about his capacities as a speaker, since we see so much less of him in action than we do our own PM, but I think I have been more puzzled by his shifts in policy and attitude than about his speech style.

The Outcomes

I am not across the detailed arguments about whether or not the experts got it right, but so far the outcomes here have been good ones. The curve has flattened, the number of deaths has been relatively small, the new cases are slowing down, and there is a sign that some restrictions might be lifted quite soon. We might even have flights and travel to New Zealand, which has been even more successful in dealing with the virus than we have been. I read that China is getting back to business, so to speak, and that is important for us. The danger is that we could have a second round of COVID-19 cases. We are being cautious; in contrast the USA seems to be saddled with uncertainty about its priorities.

The Future

President Trump has an election to contend with in November. His likely opponent, Joe Biden, is not impressive, so the Democrats will be hoping that the handling of the COVID-19 episode will rebound on the incumbent President. Maybe it will. But Americans are used to Donald Trump now, and there is no sign I can see that his popularity, such as it is, is waning fast. American Presidents have great standing, not in the polls this time, but in terms of the office itself. My guess, for what it is worth, that President Trump will be back again for another term. These are early days, however.

Scott Morrison doesn’t have to worry about an election for a couple of years yet, and must be feeling that his position has improved a great deal. It has been difficult for the Leader of the Opposition to do other than agree with the course of action the Government has implemented, and indeed he has hardly been visible in the last couple of months. The weight of a National Cabinet that now seems to include New Zealand, competent medical advisers and good outcomes has made it impossible for Anthony Albanese to find a good position from which do his job, and I rather feel for him.

Nonetheless, the quick shift in support for Scott Morrison suggests that the popular mood could change quickly in the other direction too. I hope that, in addition to being pleased with his current standing, our Prime Minister is reflecting on what the real elements of his success have been, and how he can build on them.

Join the discussion 33 Comments

  • Doug Hurst says:

    Thanks Don. Agree most of that. Neither has strong opposition and I expect both to win the next election unless the world changes greatly.

    I see Morrison’s greatest threat is from the press. There is only one story in town, the virus, and they all need an angle on it. This has too often led to ignoring the good news and good leadership, nitpicking every decision and blaming Morrison for not going against the advice of experts and either shutting more things down or turning everything on again.

    This all has become rather tiresome and a very good reason to get the football – of all kinds – back as soon a possible to give the press something to talk about that they can’t blame on the politicians – who too often, I think, are being criticised for not being able to predict the unpredictable.

    Even allowing for an element of luck, a death rate per capita 120th that of the UK – if we had their rate more than 8 000 would have died here, not 97 – tells me some good decisions have been made and we should listen to the experts, not the press.

    • Bryan Roberts says:

      We are in for a serious recession, if not a fully-fledged depression. People who are unemployed and struggling to put food on the table do not buy season tickets to the football.

      • Doug Hurst says:

        True the unemployed don’t buy seasons tickets to the footy, but they can watch it in TV. Many will, and will feel better for it. It will also put something on the news other than the ignorant and opinionated views of various journos on the virus, who have confirmed my long held believe that we have too many journos and not enough news.

        As for the economic ruin from the shut down, the UK delayed their action, have just as much economic ruin and 30 000 dead ( a total that almost included PM Boris).

        We elected federal, state and territory leaders to act on out behalf to run the place and handle emergencies. They acted swiftly and we have a very low death count, and considerable social and economic damage. No one knows what would have happened if they had done less, but the UK seems to be an example of letting things rip before doing something. But our leaders united, got the best advice that could about a situation with many unknowns, and did what they were elected to do.

        If you don’t like what they did, vote against them next time. But if you do, think hard about who to vote for. The ALP would generally have gone even harder and the Greens were even worse.

        As I said previously, I think much of the criticism boils down to blaming those in charge for not being able to predict the unpredictable.

    • John Stankevicius says:

      Thank you Don on your balanced article.
      Stu – I disagree with your comment – Mr Trump is saving a society and restoring to what made it the most successful society. Males are doing skilled creative and masculine jobs again, some thing the English in the mid lands are dying for. Stopping illegal immigration and the discriminatory practices of the Democratic Party, (the universal Labour parties) and barracking if not providing money and weapons to kill those who oppose them abroad and on home soil.
      The Democrats like the Labour Party are doing what Russia did post WW 2 – bring in a large population into a foreign country and when this group squeals foul they send in the troops to murder the locals.
      Of course there is this nonsense of all the isms which was a ploy used by Lenin and his cronies in the countries bordering Russia.
      Good on Mr Trump for standing up for something, his country and reducing the incidence of world conflict.
      In Oz I feel we are not far behind in a civil war than Western Europe, UK or the USA.
      By the way, to the primary producer, before cyclone Katrina hit the federal govt call the governor of New Orleans, who told the federal govt to get stuffed and we know what we are doing.

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    In my opinion, the government panicked, and instituted a range of measures that were ill-considered, and mostly unnecessary. They were also hideously expensive and economically destructive. When the impacts actually start to be felt, I think he can farewell the popularity figures.

    • Aynsley Kellow says:

      I agree Bryan. The best action was to limit border crossings and the imposition of quarantine for 14 days (quatorzine?) If you look at the pattern in Europe, the early access into Northern Italy by the many Chinese workers in the textile and fashion industries, returning after Chinese New Year, was a big factor early on. From there, all the comorbidity factors and demographic factors led to rapid spread before anyone was much aware of what was going on. The Schengen Agreement allowing the effective removal of borders in Europe than took effect. The UK failed to control its borders.

      The sensible social distancing and hygiene measures are also important, but the government took it too far in closing cafes and restaurants, rather than allowing them to practice social distancing – which they were.

      All this is based on dubious modelling, which assumes, inter alia, that people will not voluntarily take measures – so they must be forced to. That assumption is nonsense on stilts.

      • Bryan Roberts says:

        I see that although the government believes it can pay to keep employees in work, it has not yet worked out how to keep customers.

    • BB says:

      I thought that, that is the populous will turn against the government when it appears that is been all a miscalculation. I think you have missed something the opposition wanted to go a lot harder with all the lock downs. The Victorian government is the furthest away from the government politically but it appears it is not willing to take the foot of the neck of the voter any time soon.

  • Stu says:

    Don, thanks for responding to my request, much appreciated. I agree on everything you wrote. But I hope you are wrong on the Trump re-election. The reason is that I believe he has been a very negative force on global institutions and stability. I know that his policies are about “America first” etc but we are a middle power subject to the winds of change from wherever and his antics have really unsettled a system that has largely worked well for everyone, including us, since WW2. The yanks profess to worry about the rise of China, his actions have facilitated that rise. On the other hand as it becomes the leading world economy soon I can see it having a legitimate role encompassing world interests. Trump wants it both ways.

  • Aynsley Kellow says:

    Trump, as you note, is a poor communicator, but he is up against a worse media than we have. Ours is just alarmist, reporting absolute numbers rather than per capita, for example.

    The US media are out to get Trump, distorting what he says and granting others a free pass. He never advocated injecting disinfected, for example, but asked his scientific adviser (at whom he was looking directly). having discussed the effectiveness of disinfectant, ‘if we could we could inject something like that’? IN other words, ‘what is the prospect of getting an effective injectable drug.’ Not sensible to toss ideas around in a public forum, but the conduct of the media was reprehensible in distorting that to ‘Trump advocates injecting Dettoll’.

    Compare that with the free pass given to Di Blasio’s NYC administration. On 2 February, his Public Health Commissioner was advocating that people should keep using the subway and should attend the Chinese New Year parade the following Sunday. The NY infection and death rates (which distort the national statistics) tell the story:. NY 16,828 cases/m; 1,285 deaths/m. New Jersey: 14,829 cases/m; 934 deaths/m. US as a whole: 3,739 cases/m; 218 deaths/m. Worst globally is Belgium: 4,358 case/m; 692 deaths/m.

  • Ted1. says:

    When Trump first started campaigning four plus years ago, I viewed him as a competent businessman opposed to incompetent bookworms. And so it has proved to be, despite the worst efforts of those bookworms. But he has been all at sea since the virus struck.
    I remember Hurricane Katrina. I, an Australian farmer from the back blocks, who had never been out of the country, knew that New Orleans was a disaster waiting to happen. It seemed that the American government did not know this, and took a long time to recognise it. This event reminds me of that one.
    As for Scott Morrison. When he scrapped political correctness and called a spade a spade after the terrorist murder of a Melbourne restaurateur I declared that this bloke can win the election. He did, though it may have depended on the blow off from Clive Palmer’s campaign to get him there.
    The “Left” were stunned by his election victory, and took a long time to reorganise. But the forces which twice got rid of Tony Abbott succeeded in attacking Scott Morrison at the time of the bushfires. Nobody noticed that he performed above expectations.
    Since The Virus struck he has had almost a free run. This may have been helped by a TV interview by David Speers, where when David Speers attempted to do the ABC thing by monstering the PM Scott Morrison quite marvellously monstered David Speers without so much as raising his voice. As I watched DS regaining his composure I thought he won’t try that stunt again. ScoMo is a good speaker.

  • Rod Stuart says:

    “His likely opponent, Joe Biden, is not impressive”.
    I hereby nominate this for the understatement of the year!

    • Boambee John says:

      Rod S

      Pretty much as in 2016, when “not impressive” would have been a flattering assessment of Hillary Clinton.

      Trump seems to be lucky with his opponents (who include the US media).

  • Karabar says:

    Assessing either man depends to a great extent on one’s world view.

    From my perspective, Potus 45 is one of only a few in leadership who recognise that a virtual war is underway for control of every individual on the planet. This extends to a virtual civil war in the USA, which will sooner or later break out into a physical war.

    DJT was duly elected POTUS to oppose the Totalitarian impulse that inspires a raft of very influential people in the Club of Rome, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderberg Group, and a host of hangers on who have seconded not only large swathes of congressional and parliamentary members, but nearly all of the civil service in the so-called “Free World” as well.

    The operatives in this struggle are in the CCP in conjunction with the Kremlin. The Chi-com virus is not an accident of either nature or man, but a carefully engineered insidious strategy to conquer not only the United States of America but every individual life on the planet.

    As such, the courage and steadfast leadership delivered by Trump makes him the greatest living human being (as stated numerous times by Ross Cameron).
    The careful observer is aware of this virtual war as is waged in the USA, but it is underway behind the curtains and out of view in all of Western Civilisation.

    As for SCOMO, It seems to me that Scott is such a nice guy that he could be too easily persuaded (and quite possibly has been) by the Deep State as it operates throughout the globe.

    • Boambee John says:


      Indeed. Progressive, cosmopolitan, internationalists hate Trump. Parochial nationalists love him.

      The latter have the numbers, the former have the “influencers” of the media, academe, and multiple international organisations.

      As Monty might have said, “The campaign is developing in a very interesting way”.

  • Aert Driessen says:

    Don, an interesting comparison but your focus was mainly on the virus, and not its Siamese twin (or whatever that country is now called), the cost. That said, several commentators did cover it. If Scomo does not win his next election, he will be voted out by those who are angry, and I think that they will outnumber those who are grateful. I think Trump will win with a bigger majority than Scomo, big call, I know. You point out good outcomes and you are absolutely right. But at what cost? The cost is huge ($40 billion for every week that we stay locked down) and will affect the quality of life of many now, as well as the next generation. Closing the borders was the best and most effective thing done. So, what next? I haven’t gone back to the precise stats but I believe no one under 40 years of age died from it. The most vulnerable were the old, and then more so those with other underlying health issues. This is the cohort that should have been isolated, even from their own families, especially grandchildren and children out in the workforce who could convey it to them. Most of the people should have been allowed to carry on as normal — work, shop, whatever. Scomo is now starting to succumb to a recognised political syndrome — better to do nothing (or very little) rather than run the risk of making a mistake. If there are outbreaks with the model that I have suggested, hit that hard. People will see the sense in that. But what we have experienced in recent weeks has been unnecessary, I think. Keep writing.

    • Bryan Roberts says:

      “If Scomo does not win his next election, he will be voted out by those who are angry, and I think that they will outnumber those who are grateful.“

      Grateful for what? Debt? Unemployment? This will go down as an historic mistake, and the PM remembered accordingly.

      • Aert Driessen says:

        Bryan, the unemployed would be in the ‘angry’ category. The grateful would be those who got a cheque for $750 (?) and because they didn’t need it, simply put it in their savings account.

  • Chris Warren says:

    I am very wary of making comparisons between a US President and Australian Prime Minister no matter who the incumbents are. Can you really compare a Gillard with a Bush?

    I suppose you could compare every leader across the globe on such measures as electoral prospects, polling, and doing a good job etc. The cleavages in the US seem to me to loom large irrespective of which-ever President occupies the White House so, at this point we are really comparing US as a whole to Australia as a whole.

    If you want to compare Trump with Morrison, then personalities and behaviours are relevant and Trump is clearly far more opportunist, gung-ho and irascible than Morrison. Trump almost constantly provides fuel for lampooning and is pandering to a particular segment of US society while Morrison, occasionally makes missteps that raises some mocking and has to pander to all Australians. This focus on all Australians results from the structure of our electoral system, something that is broken in the US. A US politician only has to mobilise a “base”.

    It is not reasonable to speculate on the forthcoming US election as the pandemic has thrown everything into confusion and imbalance.

  • Of the upcoming Trump/Biden match, you write: “His likely opponent, Joe Biden, is not impressive …”

    (How do I dislike thee, Donald Trump? Let me count the ways …”)

    While I’d normally bridle at the words “likely” and “not impressive,” I agree with you 100%. Sad to say, the unelectable and churlish Bernie Sanders, will only help Trump further by not releasing his supporters to the Biden camp.

    • Bryan Roberts says:

      Biden is the only person in public life who has got away with putting his hands on, and fondling, clearly uncomfortable little girls.

      • Stu says:

        Bryan, do you have a bad memory, are you blind or just bone headed? To criticise Biden while the right wing continues to ignore the more than 25 plausible claims of sexual assault? One of those is ongoing in court and Trump is fighting having to provide DNA for evidence. Plus the hollywood access tape. It is laughable but on par with the appalling “swift boat” attack against Kerry in support of a man who like Trump used every trick to never actually serve in Vietnam.

        Even that staunch Trump supporting Republican senator, Lyndsay Graham, says “nothing to see here” in regard to the accusations against Biden.

        • Bryan Roberts says:

          Watch this, and tell me the guy’s normal.

          He’s not, and if he was in Australia, he’d be in jail.

          • Stu says:

            Oh do grow up please. The evil is in the eye of the beholder. And then you give a free pass to Donald, amazing.

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            So Don screws a porn star, half the male population is probably envious. But Stormy is an adult, and clearly can look after herself, even if Avenatti can’t. Kids can’t do that. They were stuck in an awe-inspiring and frightening situation, with the APPROVAL of their parents, and had to grin and bear it. Have another look at their expressions and body language.

          • Stu says:

            Hang on mate, it is not just Stormy. There are 25 others including one in court now where he is fighting to prevent giving his DNA for a test against the clothing of the lady. Much bigger than you seem to acknowledge. I wonder if Biden will do the Trump debate technique of inviting them all to front seats at the debate. Probably not, he has class, while Trump has none.

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            There is plenty of video evidence of Biden’s hands on children’s bodies. But never a question. Sleepy, maybe, creepy, yes.

        • Boambee John says:


          Which of the 28 were pre-teens or early teens in a public space, and unable to move away?

        • Boambee John says:


          “while the right wing continues to ignore the more than 25 plausible claims of sexual assault?”

          Ajd your reaction tonBill Clinton and the blue dress was what?

  • Laurie Wilson says:

    Don – I shared your article with an American family member – a committed Republican and Trump supporter who involves in debate and analysis on US politics – here is his comment in response –

    “I found the article very interesting and read it more than once, very carefully each time. I felt his 1st point was that Australia is a much more cohesive country than we are. He is absolutely spot on. It is difficult to imagine a country more fractured by the factors mentioned in the article than the US. That will never change and may well lead to the destruction of our society unless the mainstream media becomes fair and balanced. I did not find in the article a comment on the Aussie media.

    I do not understand and/or agree with some of the comments in The Message paragraph. I believe that in this instance Trump wholeheartedly believed that dealing with the virus and its numerous effects on our society was first and foremost. Please remember he shut down most air travel to and from the US before the end of January [ at enormous political risk ] and immediately put together his Response team of physicians and scientists. Simultaneously his team began the legislative process to provide economic help to workers and business. As days and weeks went by the issue of how long we could maintain the lock down arose. It was at this point that people began to ask whether the cure will be worse than the illness and who will make the Hobbsian choices of balancing the need to reopen against the loss of life occasioned by doing so. This discussion was absolutely necessary. It could not remain the 800 pound gorilla in the room. I hope this adequately responds too the comment that Trump seemed to want to have his cake and eat it too.

    I am not sure about what the writer means by his reference to the Communist party. If he means that it was not responsible for this pandemic and did not try to cover it up he is sadly very much mistaken and that opinion would be contrary to the vast amount of preliminary scientific study and opinion currently published.

    With respect to Trump’s capacity as a speaker, I would respectively refer the writer to any of Trump’s State of the Union speeches or any of his Trump Rally speeches, the latter having replaced Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats. Beauty is of course in the eye of the beholder but if you are a Republican these speeches are real beauties. Also please keep in mind that in discussing what Trump does and says, one must keep in mind that he is a master negotiator. He will send up trial balloons to test which way the wind is blowing, he will be non committal, he will say ” well lets see what happens and if we can’t make a deal then we can’t make a deal ” and he means it. He will walk away from the table if he thinks that is the right thing to do.

    Lastly in trying to understand the political Trump please remember that he loves this country and sacrificed what he did to become it’s President. He ran on the promise to clean up the swamp and is trying to do that in the most treacherous, perfidious, toxic, spiteful, hypocritical, disingenuous, vicious and egotistical atmosphere in the Universe and he is doing it in spite of the Media which hates him and it’s personal, which constantly produces fake news, biased news, half news and questions him with the deliberate intent to score a gotcha question or deliberately misinterpret his answers and misreport them.

    There is much more that could be said about the Democrats and how they have acted in response to the crisis. The governors of New York and California, both Democrats have praised Trump. Nancy Pelosi the ” wicked bitch from the west ” has attempted to further Progressive objectives totally unrelated to the crises and to use it to change the principles and morality upon which this country was founded, by demanding such provisions in the stimulus bills as a condition of their passage.

    Sorry I went on so long but any time you ask a lawyer to express an opinion you are not asking for brevity. Cheers. Bill

  • Stu says:

    Regarding attacks on Biden’s suitability for office check out this video. Of course stumbling over words and trouble with reading is not something to laugh about or belittle, in ordinary people. But when it is the leader (or was) of the Free World and the most powerful country on earth you have to wonder. How did the system enable such a person to lust after the highest office? And then to elect him.

    Can you imagine the comments if Morrison made even a few of these gaffes? And then there is his spiteful late night tweeting. However the good news is that very smart people have worked out how to get under his skin and provoke him. He is assumed to suffer from narcissistic personality disorder. And does seem to exhibit all of the diagnostic characteristics of such a condition. It is likely he will implode at some point and/or the Cabinet will invoke Amendment 25.

    Although most of the Senate Republicans appear to still be supporting him, many are getting nervous about very negative poll results. They fear losing their seats and with them the Senate majority and they fear that more than losing the presidency. Seats that should not be in play are now appearing to be at risk.

    • spangled drongo says:

      “How did the system enable such a person to lust after the highest office? And then to elect him.”

      All that was well known prior to his election but would it ever occur to you, stu, that to win an election and become President when you have a handicap like that, he must have other talents that more than make up for it.

      And when the majority of people can plainly see that, it might be smarter to keep those mean, rude, one-eyed, prejudiced remarks from displaying one’s meanness, rudeness, stupidity and prejudice.

  • John McDougall says:

    Check the website. The NZ performance is roughly the same as Australia; marginally (if that matters) worse.

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