Borders most of all; fragile against the terrible desires of sea-borne asylum seekers.
The people smugglers, Morrison wants us to know, are massing, waiting to see the whites of Bill Shorten’s eyes.
But wait! The PM has a booklet.
“Our Plan to keep our economy strong and secure Australia’s future for all generations,» is splashed across its title page.
There is a season for prime ministers brandishing booklets. You can just about set the electoral clock to their appearance.
Morrison, facing an electoral clock with no more than three months to run — and seven nervous days of parliament first — was a man in sore need of the most compelling booklet his advisers could produce as he occupied the stage of the National Press Club on Monday.
The message he found within was as unsophisticated as you’d expect of a leader less than six months into the job and facing judgment just over the horizon.
No time for something as nuanced even as John Howard’s wily “alert but not alarmed”. PM Morrison and his booklet went straight for the frighteners.
Morrison’s “plan” boiled down to this: the world outside your front door crawls with peril and horror, but so long as Australians re-elected him and rejected Labor and Shorten (who, of course, would weaken borders and go soft on everything else and leave the nation dangerously exposed to who knew what), he’d keep them safe.
Morrison began his speech by reciting his recent trips to Melbourne for the 10th commemoration of the Black Saturday bushfires, to the disastrous floods in Queensland and to the troops in Iraq. No matter that any national leader would be expected to undertake such duties and that even Shorten has done exactly the same visits, including Iraq: here was the self-portrait of a Prime Minister keen to be seen as particularly strong and dependable.
“National security is all about making the right decisions,” the modest Morrison said.
“Because, as a government and as a prime minister, you have to make them every day. You make these decisions on the basis of your values, instincts, experience and, when required, courage.”
And yes, he had his Plan.
“We have a future plan and it’s a passionate plan,” he said, having recited the catalogue of modern panics, waved around his booklet and damned Shorten as a weakling.
“I can tell you, I’m pumped as on this plan because I know it’s going to make Australia stronger, not weaker,” the Prime Minister declared in his peculiar skate-park vernacular.
He didn’t say precisely how pumped he was, however. Arnold Schwarzenegger? An over-inflated bicycle tyre?
Or just the early puffs of what, as the election nears, threatens become a full-blown campaign to scare voters into submission?
Tony Wright is the associate editor and special writer for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.