Leadership

The politics of pandemics: A front row seat

Future Women speaks to political editor of The Guardian Katharine Murphy about 2020, a year of crises and the making of a Prime Minister.

By Venetia Vecellio

Leadership

Future Women speaks to political editor of The Guardian Katharine Murphy about 2020, a year of crises and the making of a Prime Minister.

By Venetia Vecellio

For over 20 years, Katharine Murphy, now Guardian Australia’s political editor, has captured our politicians during some of Australia’s most significant hours. 2020 is no exception. It has been a year that started with one of the most devastating bushfire seasons on record and was dominated by a pandemic that changed daily life for every Australian.

Katharine Murphy has documented it all in her new Quarterly Essay, ‘The End of Certainty.’She spoke with Jamila Rizvi for Future Women about the political events of this year and her part-timeline, part-portrait of Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“It’s such an all-encompassing experience that we’re all in with this pandemic, that if you don’t actually capture it, you’ve moved on to the next crisis and you’ve forgotten it.”

“I really did want to just try and create a time capsule that would record what happened and how everybody felt about it….It’s such an all-encompassing experience that we’re all in with this pandemic, that if you don’t actually capture it, you’ve moved on to the next crisis and you’ve forgotten it.” Murphy says.

In her discussion with Jamila Rizvi, Murphy provided us with a front-row seat to the Morrison Government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.  She explored the crucial formation of a national cabinet, the early cooperation between government, business and unions, and also how she’s still trying to figure out exactly the sort of leader our Prime Minister really is.

“What I wanted to do was capture him [Morrison] in really important moments in time and it’s kind of like pressing pause…You’re doing a live action replay. You’re watching it, you press pause, then you turn him around, you pivot him in different directions, and you see what you can see,” Murphy said.

“All of the Prime Ministers I have covered in my reporting lifetime… I could identify very easily the hill on which several Prime Ministers would die…Morrison is not that kind of politician. I’ve thought about this for months as I was weighing this piece in my head, ‘What is the hill that Scott Morrison would die on?’I still can’t identify it.”

Murphy went on to explain that “we’ve had two federated crises in Australia this year, the first one was the bushfires and the second one is the pandemic.” She argued there was little doubt in most voters’ minds that Scott Morrison handled the 2020 bushfires inadequately. Australian’s disproval of his response was clearly reflected in the polls. This, Murphy told the Future Women virtual audience, may have been partially responsible for Australia’s early and decisive response to COVID-19. The Government could not afford another misstep in the face of a crisis.

With more than one millionAustralians out of work, entering our first recession in 30 years, good government is more important than ever to the average person. Australians are watching their leaders more closely and their trust in government is higher than it was before the pandemic. What will this mean as our country endures the economic hardship to come? If 2020 is anything to go by, the future remains uncertain. But Katharine Murphy will be there, watching and documenting it all.

*This is an edited version of an extended interview. To watch the original Facebook Live interview hosted by Jamila Rizvi go to the Future Women – Members Only Facebook page and search: Katharine Murphy