Welcome to the Australian Federal Government — one of the world’s pre-eminent marketing firms, and the home of its hugely successful and popular manager, Scott John Morrison. In his first eighteen months at the helm bushfires are raging, the climate is in crisis, and government approval ratings are through the floor – so where in the world is Scomo?
For those of you who don’t know him already, you may have heard of his exploits. The boats? He stopped them. The budget? He’s putting it back in black. Hawaii? He loves it. And now, the unofficial diary of his first eighteen months in the top job is available, courtesy of Tosh Greenslade and Andrew Weldon. And yes, this work is fictive, and should not be taken seriously by anyone.
Tosh Greenslade, best known as an ensemble member of Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell, makes his literary debut with The Scomo Diaries, a satirical novel detailing the intimate and profane private life of the current Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison. Illustrations by Melbourne cartoonist Andrew Weldon (The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Australian, and The Big Issue) give a texture of authenticity to the book, perhaps best described as a political Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
Our first glimpse into the inner life of Scomo is the day he won the Liberal leadership spill in 2018. From here, Scomo regales us with his early life, and we learn that as ‘far back as [he] remembers, [he] always wanted to be an ad man.’ As a child actor from Cronulla, Scomo recalls the day on set he first came face to face with real-life advertising executives, who drank whiskey, smoked cigarettes, and owned houses in The Shire — Sydney’s crown jewel. Those ad men sometimes even went to the Melbourne Cup, not to gamble, but on the off chance, they might get to see a horse killed.
Scomo left the world of loose morals, drugs, and decadence that is showbiz for the more wholesome pursuits of advertising and politics. In any case, he can spend more time with Jenny and the girls this way. He just wishes they shared his enthusiasm for beach holidays.
We eventually become acquainted with Scomo’s professional colleagues. Malcolm Turnbull is the bane of Scomo’s life, who’s negative leadership approval ratings keep getting lower even after he has left politics! Peter Dutton is an eyebrow-less cop, who divides his time between taking credit for stopping the boats and creating more Horcruxes, and Christopher Pine is the satanic Lizard who haunts Parliament house. With company like that, it’s hard for Scomo to select good ministers, especially when the PC police are on his case about having barely any ‘lady ones’. Luckily his deputy, the Nationals leader, is there to help — it’s just so unfortunate Scomo can’t remember his name.
Scomo has a tough time of things in his first year in charge. Between the ramblings of Daddy Murdoch, and the sneaky Labor party trying to make everything he says and does political, Scomo just wishes he could have his Christmas holiday at the beach. But his hard work is rewarded in May 2019, when the underdog wins his first election as PM. The tax cuts he promised during the election won’t get through parliament in time, but it’s a price he’s willing to pay to get away from it all.
No matter what Scomo does, the so-called ‘tolerant left’ is always coming after him on ‘Tweeter’. It’s a ‘cesspit’, Scomo proclaims, ‘everything I do is pored over and made into memes within minutes’. Lately, those Melbourne Lefties have been taking the mickey about an alleged incident in 1997 and the Engadine McDonald’s, in which Scomo is said to have potentially soiled himself. What other kinds of conspiracy theories would you expect, coming out of a place that is an answer to the question, ‘What if Sydney was worse?’.
But all publicity is good publicity, and if sitting through a Pacific Nation’s Forum pretending to listen to Jacinda Ardern rattle on about sea levels and whatever else is the price he has to pay to see his good friend Donald, then he’ll buckle down for all it’s worth. After all, he has his Christmas holiday in Hawaii to look forward to.
For a debut novel that certainly isn’t guilty of taking itself too seriously, Tosh Greenslade manages to artfully toe the line between satire and storytelling. The at-times ridiculous caricatures of politicians and public figures don’t come at the expense of good taste (although some of their real-life counterparts may beg to differ) and each lends a dimension to the fictive world of the eponymous Scomo.
The character’s voice certainly isn’t lost is the haze of zany characters, and the privileged first-person perspective gives us characterisation without extensive exposition. The Scomo Diaries is straightforward enough to follow even for those not plugged into the political scene because it takes place in a world of its own — the absurd world as seen by Scomo.
But it can’t be said that this book is all killer no filler and despite its briefness, one can’t help but feel that the ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ novelty wears a bit thin as the book progresses. The satire itself is cutting and full of witticisms, but this alone isn’t special in a book full of them. The early exploration of Scomo is largely wasted on a mid-novel climax, and the rudder-less — buoyed only by Andrew Weldon’s weird and wonderful illustrations — second half has no choice but to meander to an abrupt, unsatisfactory end.
Short and clever, The Scomo Diaries is a promising debut from an up and coming satirist, and an easy read. While this may qualify as a fine Christmas gift, Tosh Greenslade should probably have waited for another eighteen months worth of plot to have structured a fine novel. That being said, full steam ahead for the inevitable volume two.
So what happened at the Engadine Maccas? Pick up a copy of The Scomo Diaries and find out once and for all.
Tom Loudon is a Journalism Student at QUT and former editor of Scratchthat Magazine. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing.
The Scomo Diaries is out now from Penguin Random House Australia. Note: The book featured in this review was provided to Glass and Tom Loudon free of charge by Penguin Random House as a press copy. However, the opinions of the reviewer are their own.