Scott Morrison not helped by the unhelpful

Scott Morrison's hopes of winning the election have been harmed by 'unhelpful' coalition colleagues.
Scott Morrison's hopes of winning the election have been harmed by 'unhelpful' coalition colleagues.

Scott Morrison has no margin for error if he wants to win the next federal election.

Unfortunately for the prime minister, a lot of people are being unhelpful to his cause.

It starts with his own side.

Ahead of a key overseas trip to Fiji to officially repair a rocky relationship, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton threw a spanner in the works.

Stripping terrorist Neil Prakash of his Australian citizenship is legal if the minister believes he can get citizenship somewhere else.

The Melbourne-born ISIS fighter has a Fijian father - but Fiji is extremely unlikely to give citizenship to such a security risk.

Dutton's move ensured Morrison had awkward questions to answer in the lead up to his Fiji visit, rather than clear air to speak about his Pacific "step up" initiative.

Another Liberal colleague couldn't help but throw stones while Morrison was talking up Australia's commitment to the Pacific.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells resigned as international development minister rather than support Malcolm Turnbull.

Morrison kept her on the backbench, and on Thursday she wrote an opinion piece slamming the government's $2 billion Pacific infrastructure loan program

"Given the Pacific's debt is already about $5.5 billion, including $2 billion to the ADB and World Bank, and $1.5 billion to Beijing, why are we even contemplating saddling our neighbours with more debt?" Senator Fierravanti-Wells wrote.

Morrison disputed her figures - $500 million in the fund is grant money, which won't be repaid - but the point was made.

The article was deliberately timed to achieve maximum impact on Morrison. Extremely unhelpful.

Back home, Financial Services Minister Kelly O'Dwyer floated the idea of using the Future Fund as a default superannuation fund.

Morrison and the coalition are fighting a battle on superannuation and they can potentially win an advantage, with Labor looking shaky about taking on underperforming union funds.

But O'Dwyer's idea is a step away from where the coalition is looking.

"I'm aware of that proposal. It's not government policy," Morrison told reporters.

Not completely terrible, but not exactly helpful.

As Morrison ramped up the culture wars rhetoric about Australia Day, one of his key supporters Alex Hawke was letting a little bit of air out of the tyres.

Hawke said he would advocate against changing the date of Australia Day if it was put to a public test, but there was a catch.

"Of course if the overwhelming majority of the Australian public take a view that it should be a different day that's what will happen," Hawke told the ABC.

"But this government supports it staying on January 26 and we think it's in step with the majority of public opinion."

Morrison has been trying to wedge Labor leader Bill Shorten on support for the date, but Hawke's comments showed there was another way out.

It wasn't as unhelpful as some of the others, but it wasn't helpful either.

It's not just his own party giving Morrison trouble.

At an official dinner in Morrison's honour in Fiji, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama took him to task over climate change and fossil fuels.

"I urged your predecessor repeatedly to honour his commitment to clean energy," Bainimarama said on Thursday night in Suva.

"From where we are sitting, we cannot imagine how the interests of any single industry can be placed above the welfare of Pacific peoples and vulnerable people in the world over."

Climate change is a sore point in the Pacific and Morrison has been notably friendlier on the topic than he usually is in Australia.

But such a public call-out guaranteed it would make news back home and bring back the issue tearing apart his party.

On a day when Morrison had announced more than $100 million in programs to help Fiji, it wasn't what you'd call 'helpful' to hear.

The polls show the coalition is heading to a solid defeat at the next election.

Shorten is talking up his united team as a vote winner.

He has a point.

While Shorten is campaigning without distractions, Morrison is realising good help is hard to find.

Australian Associated Press