Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently visited Williamtown Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) base, about 26km north of Newcastle, and a photo was put up on his Instagram account showing him walking from the aircraft on a red carpet with an honour guard of six RAAF personnel on each side of the carpet holding flags and rifles1.
Many people assumed that the photograph had been photoshopped to make Morrison look like a fool. I suspect the reason they thought this, was because it has happened before. Morrison was photographed in one of his numerous promotional photographs with his wife and daughters, wearing expensive joggers. Some bright spark in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) decided to photoshop some run-of-the-mill joggers, but Morrison was photoshopped with two left feet, which seems entirely appropriate2.
However, it seems the photograph was not photoshopped, as the red carpet treatment has happened before with Morrison. In February of this year Morrison visited Williamtown, with Ministers Linda Reynolds and Melissa Price, and the red carpet was laid out then. However, the red carpet has not been laid out with previous prime ministers, such as Tony Abbott, Kevin Rudd or Malcolm Turnbull. Indeed, in reply to a statement from a Defence Department spokeswoman that a red carpet was kept for VIP arrivals, executive director of the Australian Defence Association, Neil James, said, “It doesn’t matter whether you’re visiting a ship, an army base or an air force base, this just doesn’t happen.” According to James, a VIP welcome is reserved for dignitaries such as the Governor-General, a visiting head of state, or the monarch. He, like many others, initially thought the photograph was a “photoshopped hoax”1.
A spokesman for Morrison declined to answer questions about who arranged for the red carpet and ceremonial guard, but did confirm that the image was not photoshopped1. Morrison has previously refused to comment “on gossip” that he had tried to get Hillsong impresario, Brian Houston, into a White House soiree, but later had to admit that he had attempted to get such an invitation for Houston3. Given this previous instance, I suspect it is a safe bet that Morrison or perhaps yet another bright spark in the PMO had asked for the red carpet and honour guard. It simply made Morrison look like the self-important buffoon everyone knows him to be.