Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, former prime minister Paul Keating and current Prime Minister Scott Morrison mark Remembrance Day at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Picture: Gary Ramage
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, former prime minister Paul Keating and current Prime Minister Scott Morrison mark Remembrance Day at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Picture: Gary Ramage

Morrison faces toughest test yet

Scott Morrison has shown - to varying acclaim - he can stand with the mob on the hill at the footy, pie in one hand, tinny in the other.

But can he stand by Australia's sovereign interests and values when mixing it with global heavyweights who eat timid leaders like a halftime Chiko Roll?

That's the question to be answered, the test to be applied, this week when the Prime Minister ditches the baseball caps and dons a statesman's garb for some critical engagements.

It will be a long way from tossing out fair-dinkums like political safe words in marginal Queensland seats, and catching a bus down country roads.

His will be the real business of national leadership and issue management, and will reveal a Scott Morrison not previously displayed.

Mr Morrison will fly to Singapore for a meeting of our near neighbours in the East Asia summit.

He then will go to Darwin for a remarkable and historic occasion - commemorating the World War II bombing of the city by Japanese planes.

Alongside him will be the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe.

After which it's to Papua New Guinea, where preparations for the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit resemble work on the set of a Fellini movie.

Representatives of 21 countries will be whisked around Port Moresby in 40 - count them, forty - Maseratis; staff and observers will be put up on parked cruise ships; US Vice President Mike Pence will commute from Cairns each day.

Mr Pence's boss, Donald Trump, and Russian overlord Vladimir Putin will not be there, but Chinese President Xi Jinping and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will. As will the bulk of our most important trading partners.

And not just the big players will be testing the Morrison mettle.

The Prime Minister wants to hold a barbecue for Pacific leaders at which he will elaborate on plans for a greater Australian presence in the region. President Xi has his own plans for exactly the same area.

Other issues will be the trade deal with Indonesia; any backlash to Mr Morrison's announcement of a review of resisting our Israeli embassy in Jerusalem; what to do about Nauru and stranded asylum seekers; security and the spread of Islamic extremists.

New prime ministers usually switch fluidly from domestic campaigning to summiteers.

It took just one APEC, in Manila, for John Howard to realise he liked this rubbing elbows with global titans.

However there is an instability in global affairs and a suspicion of multilateral action today that didn't operate at Mr Howard's debut.

It will be a hard week for Mr Morrison at the end of what had been a tortuous year for the Liberals.


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