Australia's LNP Government has developed a reliance on the Right-wing Trump Administration as a political model, writes Peter Henning.
THERE'S NO DOUBT Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his senior ministers would be gnashing their teeth and wailing in distress at the comprehensive victory of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in the New Zealand Election. Not only because she’s refused to be bullied by them, especially Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, but because she’s refused to imitate them and grovel to U.S. President Donald Trump.
Trump hates Ardern, of course, partly because she’s an honest and humane political leader who has been very successful in uniting her country to fight bigotry and the challenge of the coronavirus, but mainly because she is a woman who has publicly rebuked his inane comments.
When Trump attempted to demean New Zealand’s policies to combat the disease, Ardern called him out, saying his comments were “patently wrong” and making a direct and damning comparison of the New Zealand situation with that of the Trump Administration.
She said in August:
“...anyone who’s following COVID and its transmission globally will quite easily see that New Zealand’s nine cases in a day does not compare to the United States’ tens of thousands.”
Morrison and his senior ministers dislike Ardern for similar reasons, partly because she had made it very clear that she doesn’t support their cruel and despicable treatment of asylum seekers. Her government has taken in many refugees rejected by Australia, the most notable being award-winning writer and human rights activist Behrouz Boochani, who attended a conference in New Zealand on a one-month visa, escaping from detention in New Guinea to do so.
His subsequent employment by the University of Canterbury stands in stark and bleak contrast with his imprisonment by the Australian Government and is a telling reminder of the huge difference in moral values and principles between Jacinda Ardern and the members of the Morrison Government.
Those differences in values are markedly represented in responses to the Trump Administration. It is very clear that the Morrison Government has always regarded Trump as a model to be followed and to be lauded, particularly in relation to strengthening socioeconomic inequality while pretending to do the opposite. This includes ignoring climate change, attacking internationalism – in Australia’s case, especially the United Nations – wrecking the environment, lavishly supporting the fossil fuel industry and being Trump’s lackey in foreign policy and relations with China.
There is nothing transformative about the Morrison Government. The last thing they want to happen is for there to be no Trump in the White House for another four years. Morrison and others who share his belief that divine intervention was responsible for him being Prime Minister are surely praying and shouting in their virtual charismatic religious services for Trump – a true exemplar of a certain faux-Christianity that a sign of divine favour is power and wealth – to retain office by whatever means possible, amen.
It would be particularly disastrous for Morrison if Trump is prevented from retaining the Presidency. Not only because he is fully committed to implementing the main elements of Trump’s agenda in Australia, but also because he knows he will be exposed on the global stage, together with Boris Johnson, as completely out of place in a Trumpless world — a puppet without a puppeteer.
Dutton might also be deprived of his great opportunity to build a more thoroughgoing state within a state. This would be a “snap back” to a 1930s New Guard, streamlined to operate more like the East German Stasi, with modern additions to secret camps, secret trials and expansion of detention facilities for young children – an extension of what has already begun on Christmas Island – with normalised late-night raids on journalists and other undesirables.
All it needs, surely now that the “very stable genius” has become 20 years younger after apparently recovering miraculously from the coronavirus, is for him to arrest the Biden, Clinton and Obama families as “criminal families” and no other exciting last-minute Kristallnacht operations will be necessary.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg would be devastated if his great plans to reinstate full-blown trickle-down Thatcherism in the Australian context is thwarted by Trumpism leaving the economic arena. After all, he’s done an amazing job in avoiding all temptation to use the Budget for nation-building in every way, even in reforming the federally-controlled aged care system which has been thoroughly exposed as scandalously life-destroying.
As for the environment, Trump’s influence on the current Australian Government is at its most dangerous. Morrison has absolutely no interest in saving what’s left of Australian ecosystems.
One of Australia’s research scientists involved in reporting to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr Joelle Gergis, has recently written that:
‘...governments like ours are willing to sacrifice our planetary life-support system to keep the fossil fuel industry alive.’
With Trump in the White House for another four years, there can be little hope for the future of Australia. Trumpism in this country will become more dominant, for many of its features have already infiltrated the political mainstream. This is evident especially in the ranks of the Federal Coalition, but also at state level, such as in Victoria where “freedom” to ignore safety protocols to combat COVID-19, like mask-wearing, has become a catch-cry for mini-Trump Liberals.
Australia is unfortunate not to have a Jacinda Ardern, but I suspect “unfortunate” is a serious understatement.
Peter Henning is a Tasmanian historian and author.
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