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Former PM Scott Morrison bows out of parliament

Former prime minister Scott Morrison has bid farewell to federal parliament, using his final speech to thank his family, reiterate warnings on China and even work in references to Taylor Swift.

Feb 27, 2024, updated Feb 27, 2024
Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison will farewell federal parliament on Tuesday. Photo: AAP/Mick Tsikas

Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison will farewell federal parliament on Tuesday. Photo: AAP/Mick Tsikas

In his valedictory speech to the House of Representatives after more than 16 years in parliament, Morrison said he would be leaving politics without any bitterness.

“I leave this place not as one of those timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat, I leave having given all in that arena, and there are plenty of scars to show for it,” he told parliament.

“While politics may be an important and necessary place for service, I would also warn against it being a surrogate for finding identity, ultimate meaning and purpose in life. There are far better options than politics.”

At times choking up, the 30th prime minister said his final speech was not a chance to run through a “bullet point list”.

He paid tribute to his parliamentary staff and party colleagues, public servants for their work during the COVID pandemic, as well as his protection team, singling out officers who were injured in a car crash in Tasmania during the 2022 election.

Morrison also took time in the speech to thank current prime minister Anthony Albanese.

“Too often in this place we confuse differences of policy with judgements about people’s intent and motives, this is not good for our policy,” he said.

“We might disagree but we need to honour the good intentions of all of us.”

The former prime minister used the speech to give a warning for the economy not to be “reinstitutionalised”, while also sounding the alarm on strategic competition and China.

“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,” he said.

“Tactics change but their strategy remains the same. We’re not alone in waking up to this threat.”

Morrison also managed to work in references to Taylor Swift albums during his speech at the request of his daughters Abbey and Lily, who were in the chamber for the address.

“Often when subjected to the tortured poets who would rise to attack my reputation, in response I always thought it important to be fearless and speak now,” he said.

The departure of Morrison from federal politics will trigger a by-election in the southern Sydney seat of Cook, but a date has yet to be set for the poll.

Morrison served as prime minister between 2018 to 2022, having gained the leadership position following tensions within the coalition.

He guided the party to a “miracle” election victory in 2019, but soon became mired in controversy over his handling of the Black Summer bushfires and his decision to fly to Hawaii for a holiday while the nation burnt.

Morrison also led the country through the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and national lockdowns, launching the job-saving JobKeeper scheme, but he came under fire for the response to the vaccine roll-out.

He was also widely criticised when it later emerged he quietly had himself appointed to administer five ministries during the COVID crisis, despite there being incumbent ministers in those portfolios.

Morrison was instrumental in creating and launching the AUKUS defence agreement with the US and the UK which is set to deliver nuclear-powered submarines to Australia.

Prior to becoming prime minister, he served as immigration minister under former leader Tony Abbott, as well as in the social services portfolio.

It was in that position where he was involved in the set-up of the robodebt scheme, which was later ruled illegal.

Morrison’s handling of the scheme was criticised in robodebt royal commission final report, which was released in 2023.

He also served as treasurer under former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, handing down three federal budgets.

Albanese also paid tribute in parliament to his predecessor.

“He has certainly left nothing on the field, and he can be proud of that, he has shown a real respect for this parliament,” he said.

“I can say on behalf of the Australian Labor Party that Prime Minister Morrison was a truly formidable opponent.”

Morrison is set to join the US-based consulting firm American Global Strategies, as well as take up an advisory role with DYNE Maritime, following his political departure.

– AAP

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