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Scott Morrison and the art of the economic sales pitch

Treasurer Scott Morrison addresses the National Press Club in Canberra. Photo: Andrew Meares Treasurer Scott Morrison at the National Press Club on Wednesday. Photo: Andrew Meares

Treasurer Scott Morrison gets animated during his Press Club speech. Photo: Andrew Meares

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Once upon a time, Scott Morrison was the head of Tourism Australia.

His most memorable accomplishment was his decision to green-light a campaign featuring another resident of the Sutherland Shire, Lara Bingle, which featured the irresistible slogan: “Where the bloody hell are you?”

His nose for a catchy phrase became handy once Mr Morrison entered federal Parliament and became synonymous with the concise summary of immigration policy now known to all Australians – “stop the boats”.

Mr Morrison’s take-no-prisoners, aggressively political approach to explaining policy was a natural fit for the Abbott years.

But it looked a bit dated with the ascendancy of Malcolm Turnbull, who declared upon rising to the top office that he wanted to respect people’s intelligence by persuading voters instead of lecturing them.

Mr Turnbull enters Parliament with a piece of advice from his father-in-law, former attorney-general Tom Hughes, which is to “treat every question, no matter how offensive, as a polite request for information”.

Not so Mr Morrison, who still favours a quick one-two punch when addressing members of the opposition.

His manner in question time and appearances in favoured media outlets such as The Daily Telegraph and Ray Hadley’s radio talk back program rely very much on a pugilistic response to criticism, derision for the opposition and a healthy smattering of sporting references.

If Mr Morrison had been treasurer for the same duration as he was immigration minister it is difficult to say whether “stop the boats” or “work, save and invest” would be the more popular catchphrase.

“Work, save and invest” did not make an appearance – quite – in Mr Morrison’s Wednesday address to the National Press Club, which marks the beginning of the race to lay the foundations for the budget that will be released on May 10.

But a new mantra popped up – “the only way to have lower taxes is to have lower taxation”.

Expect to hear that repeated ad infinitum in the coming days and weeks.

Although the aggression was dialled down, the sporting references were not.

Fixing the economy is “a Test match not a Twenty 20 Big Bash”, Mr Morrison told the audience who were left to wonder if that meant it was a job that was supposed to take just five days.

Gone was his predecessor Joe Hockey’s favourite “debt and deficit disaster” and more talk of “control” and wanting to be a government that enabled and encouraged.

“How can I help you win today,” is the question Mr Morrison wants voters to ask of him.

It is not a million miles away from another infamous political promise from another political fighter, Kevin Rudd, who used to liked to say: “I’m Kevin and I’m here to help.”

In politics, as in life, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

But it’s better than “revenue – where the bloody hell are you?”.

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