Divine revelations

The media’s focus on Scott Morrison’s anxiety medication leaves more pressing questions hanging

How good’s the Australian media?

Scott Morrison must be having a right old chuckle to himself around about now. Left, right and centre, journalists have latched onto his revelation that as prime minister he was on anxiety meds. As repositioning goes it’s worked wonders. The most secretive of prime ministers is being hailed as a champion of transparency ­– a trailblazer, no less, for breaking the taboo on mental health.

The medication angle is the big story to emerge from the advance sizzle on Morrison’s forthcoming book, Plans for Your Good, Morrison’s testimony to the role God played in his time in politics.

That, at least, is the big story in the secular media. Among Morrison’s evangelical Christian tribe the story is quite different. And, as usual over Morrison’s time in public life, this is the story which the media has missed.

Speaking at his local Pentecostal church a month ago Morrison made no mention of his anxiety medication. Having moved on from parliament and now in full pastor mode, Morrison recounted the high toll of high office. From COVID to China, the horrors contained in official briefings were such that at times he didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. His remedy, he told fellow Pentecostal Christians, was to read the Bible first thing every day, rather than the briefing notes which had piled up overnight. 

“I decided the first thing that’s going to come at me every single day is going to be from God,” he sermonised. “And so instead of being bombarded with the avalanche of what the world was going to say and do, I got that word from God every single morning.”

Morrison resolved to read the Bible “from cover to cover” during his time as prime minister. In this he was following the advice of leading US pastor, Rick Warren, that in a time of chaos, “we’ve got to get back to the Word.”

In the same address Morrison compared his plight as prime minister to biblical figures who had come under sustained attack from secular powers simply because of their faith. (For the record they are Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego who were thrown into a fiery furnace and survived due to their faith.) “The minute you start to do well is the minute you find out how many enemies you have,” Morrison proposed. “When you know that you are moving in the things of God, you’ll find your enemies. They will come looking for you.”

Scott Morrison’s view of himself as a persecuted Christian who took comfort in the Bible is at odds with the medication story which has been championed this week.

The story has also overshadowed other confessions. Courtesy of an exclusive report in The Australian (naturally) we learn that Morrison texted “his group of pastor friends” before contesting the Liberal leadership in 2018. To this select group he sent the message “Staff is up, I am walking towards the sea.” Morrison chose to text the same group of pastors in the days after announcing the AUKUS pact. Who are these pastor friends exactly? Might they include Hillsong founder, Brian Houston? We don’t know. 

We learn too that Morrison prayed alone with the deeply religious former US vice president Mike Pence, as they grappled with what to do about China. This is in addition to Morrison’s friendship with Pentecostal pal and former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo. Morrison has joined Pompeo in a business consultancy which capitalises on the AUKUS submarine deal Morrison cooked up before the last election.

The more Morrison speaks, the more it becomes clear how profoundly the nation’s media has failed when it comes to telling the full story of the former prime minister.  

Rather than now lionise Morrison for his mental health disclosures the media should insist that Morrison explain another of his legacies. Why did he secretly grab a handful of ministries and thereby undermine faith in government?  Was he guided to do so by God? 

As he tells all, maybe the former prime minister could explain this one thing. 

“We keep shoving every societal problem back to schools. Teachers are leaving already because the workload and responsibility are so onerous. Maybe time for the rest of us to use our emotional intelligence and model the behaviour to kids?”

Public education defender and advocate Jane Caro on calls for schools to do more to prevent violence against women.

“The best abortion ban in the nation.”

Republican senator, Anthony Kern, defends Arizona’s so-called 1864 abortion ban. The senate voted to repeal the law.

300

The number of estimated arrests as police move on pro-Palestinian protests at university campuses in New York in the last 48 hours.

The Federal government will trial a “porn passport” to block children from watching explicit content online.

The move came from a national cabinet meeting on ways to counter violence against women.

Subscribe now to the newsletter, delivered to your inbox each day at 4pm

    Room for nuance

    Room for nuance

    As Australian society becomes increasingly polarised by the actions of Israel and Hamas, politicians should be appealing for respectful disagreement