Scott Morrison and Waleed Aly face off on The Project.
Scott Morrison and Waleed Aly face off on The Project.

How Australia made NZ all about us

COMMENT

Australia takes as its own a range of New Zealand-grown products from actors to footballers. Now we have appropriated the nation's greatest modern tragedy.

That Christchurch murders have quickly become an element of the Australian election campaign.

That is why Prime Minister Scott Morrison and The Project's Waleed Aly last night spent half an hour on TV in grim-faced questioning and stylised, affable answers.

Scott Morrison says he had a history of working well with Australia’s Muslim community.
Scott Morrison says he had a history of working well with Australia’s Muslim community.

And that is why Mr Morrison most likely came out ahead in what was essentially a party-politics based discussion on an issue the Prime Minister believes he has broad voter support.

"Do the Liberals have a Muslim problem?" asked Aly, whose tone and follow-up questions indicated he was pretty sure they do.

READ MORE: Scott Morrison and Waleed Aly face off on The Project

The demand for someone to be declared a winner or loser underlines the political nature of the event.

Few viewers will have switched their votes after last night's engagement, again to Mr Morrison's advantage.

Aly, a high-profile, articulate and well-regarded Muslim voice, would have impressed his own constituency.

There is a wider issue of Islam in Australia and Aly did touch on it. But in essence the encounter was about Scott Morrison's suitability as Prime Minister, and from that his election chances.

Waleed Aly grills the PM.
Waleed Aly grills the PM.

That parochial perspective might not impress the New Zealanders today joining mass mourning.

Believe it or not, understanding the Christchurch atrocity doesn't boil down to whether Scott Morrison and Waleed Aly can agree on what happened in 2011.

And it isn't something that will be resolved when we see where major parties put One Nation on their how-to-vote cards.

READ MORE: Viewers pick over ScoMo's body language

But almost immediately, the evil in Christchurch was harnessed here as a tactical opportunity in the federal election expected in May. They just couldn't wait.

Mr Morrison agreed to the Aly interview because he wanted to draw a line under the damaging accusations that in 2011 he had urged shadow cabinet to politically exploit community hostility towards Muslims.

The week had been packed with people amassing witnesses for the prosecution and the defence of the prime minister, and the government's agenda centred on its broader immigration policy release had been sidetracked.

Meanwhile, the government's opponents had been quick to use the Christchurch tragedy to highlight criticisms of Mr Morrison and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton on the matters of race and religious tolerance.

An Australia election campaign trumps a mass murder.



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