For someone who was such a tough nut on immigration and still is one of the federal government’s hardline enforcers, likening Scott Morrison to Father Christmas seems absurd.
The treasurer, himself, didn’t appear too happy with Nationals leader Michael McCormack’s Santa description.
Nor is Morrison about to concede that his third and likely pre-election budget will be a giveaway one.
There will be no ‘bag of goodies’ but a responsible budget that shows the government living within in its means.
The man who set up the tough ‘turn back the boats’ policy as immigration minister under former prime minister Tony Abbott has been more pragmatic in the role of treasurer.
You can call them back-flips, but Morrison has no hesitation fronting up to the media when there has been a change of heart over government policy – dropping the Medicare levy increase being the most recent case.
It’s like water off a duck’s back.
He has also avoided falling into the trap of his immediate predecessors of making outlandish promises about future surpluses, only that the budget is on a path to one by mid-2021.
He is reaping the benefit of a strong global economy, a tax revenue windfall and record employment growth, even if the Australian economy overall is still not firing on all cylinders.
Morrison still has aspirations to lead the Liberal Party if and when the job becomes vacant, although a recent opinion poll found only two per cent of voters agreed with that idea.
Even so, it’s a marked turnaround from a year ago.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull found the need to defend the competency of his treasurer after presiding over the biggest quarterly contraction in economic growth – subsequently revised – since the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.
And, as if to add insult to injury, Sydney shock jock Ray Hadley dumped Morrison from his weekly slot on his 2GB radio program after the treasurer stood him up for an interview with the ABC.
Hadley accused Morrison him of lying to him, being ‘boring’ and treating him ‘like an idiot’.
Like his predecessor Joe Hockey, Morrison met howls of protests over his first budget – from opposition parties, vested interests, the media and even his own backbench.
The treasurer was bagged for his changes to superannuation, which ended up being watered down to appease the Liberal Party base.
A large part of his 10-year company tax cut plan also remains stuck in the Senate.
For his third effort on May 8, the centrepiece is expected to be much-needed personal income tax cuts at a time when wage growth remains close to the slowest pace in at least two decades.
How lucrative they will be remains to be seen.
They may even resurrect images of a Santa dressed Morrison on newspaper front pages in the post-budget wash-up.
But don’t hold your breath.