Category Archives: February 2019

Australian Election 2019 Guide 1: Refuting the Rhetoric

Some time in the first half of 2019, the third conservative Australian prime minister in five years will be compelled to call an election, which his Coalition government will lose. That man is Scott Morrison, the dodgily-selected member for Cook, representing one of the whitest and most racist areas of Sydney.

The career best of Scott Morrison is a thing called Operation Sovereign Borders (OSB) which h e co-designed with former army general and now Senator Jim Molan, a man repeatedly and credibly accused of war crimes in Iraq. The multi-billion dollar policy rests on the entrenched false assumption that refugees who arrive by boat to seek asylum are a threat to national security.

There is literally no evidence for the proposition. None.

Like his predecessor, Morrison took the office in August 2018 by a secret ballot in the Liberal Party room. He ascended from chief persecutor of refugees via the Human Services ministry and its vicious and lethal cashless welfare and Robodebt policies; and Treasury, in a government that has doubled the national debt to over $350 billion. His government allocates vast sums of public money, in blocs of up to $500 million, to private sector interests, shell companies, charity fronts, and white nationalist legacy projects which I wrote about here, like $498 million to a war memorial which does not honour the Frontier Wars and $100 million on a single general in France.

Apart from the monumental waste represented by these fiscal facts, we have the grotesque spectacle of a parliamentary press gallery absolutely wedded to continually reproducing and disseminating the ‘received wisdom’ that Coalition governments are ‘stronger’ on the economy and border protection. Their pretzelesque reasoning? Polls indicate that voters believe these lies, so the media can and should keep publishing, rather than refuting, the same lies.

For the record, the last Labor government (2007-2013) was lauded globally by economists like Nobel prize winner Joseph Stiglitz for embracing Keynesian economic policy over austerity and sandbagging Australia from the worst of the Global Financial Crisis. The GFC was in turn caused by the kinds of neoliberal policies preferred by the Coalition, which are based on an entirely discredited and deliberately dishonest fallacy. The laughable ‘trickle down’ nonsense entails conservative politicians beholden to wealthy donors transferring public resources to vested private interests; and mobilising media complicity to disseminate the un-credible fabrication that rich people will share, later.

All of this is underpinned by unconscionable attacks on the poorest people and households and extensive, relentless racism. Racism is, by definition, also a lie. It assigns characteristics to people based on broad categorisations designed by white males. It has no factual or moral basis, which is not to say it has no efficacy: there is a reason white patriarchal societies are so deeply invested in reproducing racist lies for each generation. It works to maintain white supremacy.

In other words, the entire Coalition pitch is a mountain of lies. The Labor Party are by far the better economic managers on every indicator; and Australian-born citizens have committed every designated act of terror, as well as the vast majority of violent attacks not designated as terror-related, on Australian soil.

Recently, some influential political journalists belatedly decided to call out the Australian government on its refugee policy lies and vast costs. Despite the warm praise from colleagues, I am not linking to these half-hearted walk-backs. Above all else, major media protects its own erroneous and injurious decisions, like endorsing the misogynist and xenophobic climate denier Tony Abbott; and valorising the haplessly inept and hopelessly compromised Malcolm Turnbull.

So yes, we are finally seeing a few political journalists call out government lies and dodgy dealings. But. Those same media people are still reproducing the entrenched false assumptions that rely on a substratum of racism, and racism itself is a meta-lie. Just last week, Barrie Cassidy (ABC), Katharine Murphy (Guardian Australia) and Peter Hartcher (Nine Fairfax) – all very senior political personnel at outlets that engaged, progressive voters rely on – do this.

The vanity of the gallery is to assume that voters do not remember previous Coalition campaigns run on racism. From ‘bucketloads of extinguishment’ (superb Wik Peoples doco here) to ‘children overboard’, from the Northern Territory Intervention to Stop the Boats – newsflash – yes, we do. Of course, the goldfish paradigm has a purpose: deflecting from media complicity in debasing public debate and denying racist discourse.

Mainstream commentary invariably infers that Howard and Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison – and their compadres in cabinet and caucus – special mention to walking cadaver Phillip Ruddock and demonic walloper Peter Dutton – dehumanise racialised peoples because racism resonates in the electorate. While this is true, this type of ‘analysis’ also legitimises racist views articulated by powerful figures.

Using racism for the purposes of personal ambition in pursuit of power is a wrong in itself. Yet the strategy of mobilising racism is framed by political journalism as clever and successful, rather than dishonest and harmful.

Such favourable framing stems from basic tenets of liberal ideology. Neo/liberalism encodes self-interest as rational and aggression as competition; and asserts that the individual pursuit of both produces aggregate social good. None of this is true. We are a social species, not lone hunters. Unequal distribution of resources produces excess luxury for some and deprivation for others, not aggregate social good.

Enter the liberal tenet of just desserts: some ‘deserve’ that third yacht, that $40 million mansion, because reward is commensurate with merit. Back in the real world, inherited wealth derived from violent seizure of lands and collaboration with invaders is the predominant determinant of socio-economic standing. But meh, facts. Liberalism is an ideology, and ideologies rely on beliefs. This one was designed to rationalise wealth inequality, which it does by re-branding primogeniture with meritocracy mythology (as I explain here).

While some in the gallery have found their moral compass directs them to call out government lies, this stance is nullified where racist rhetoric is presented as a successful campaign strategy reflecting electoral attitudes, rather than a lie in itself which constitutes an objective moral wrong.

As mentioned, racism itself is a meta-lie; and lies are bad, right? The logic of racism as an objective moral wrong goes further. It is not complex. It simply observes that racism is never harmless. There is no upside to racism. There are gains to white people, huge gains, but white people do not experience racism.

Racism is an essential tool in the neo/liberal project, and we will see this again throughout the 2019 election campaign. The failure by our political media to join these dots is why I am spelling out the wrongs of racism in this way. Context is urgent, because the Coalition is increasingly desperate. When the political leadership is ramping up racist hate, white people in particular must consistently and diligently push back.