The full import of the activity by Tony Abbott and his extremist cohorts is crystal clear and unconcealed, yet still it eludes the grasp of the mainstream commentariat, writes Judy Crozier.
I HAVE LONG BEEN PUZZLED by our media commentators’ failure to grasp the full import of current political activity by the far Right in Australia.
That is, of course, speaking of commentators other than those employed by Murdoch — the agenda there is clear.
But for the rest, the mystery remains.
It is, I suppose, a ‘woods for the trees’ thing.
You don’t get the sense of a sentence through defining one word from it. Words say nothing on their own; each clause lends meaning to the next.
Neither do patches become a quilt until sewn together.
A dot is just a dot until it’s joined with all the others.
And you do not get a sense of politics and the directions they move in by taking each statement, declaration, policy outside of context.
Quite some time ago, Aristotle said:
"The whole is greater than the sum of its parts."
Yet so many are unwilling to parse the sentence, complete the quilt, see the whole picture, add the elements together. It is – in this age where it is uncool to discuss ideology – an exercise in logic that is assiduously avoided.
And so opinion-makers fail to discuss what’s behind political policy, are puzzled by the coming together of a hundred thousand Australians under banners decrying many policies.
Yet context is all.
Put all this together, for example:
- It was Abbott’s mentor, John Howard, who assembled WorkChoices. It has always been the Liberals who have sought to limit how much oversight of industry practice unions may have. This is despite the correlation between worksite practices and the level of workplace accidents. Unions, not surprisingly, regard oversight of worksite practices as part of their purview.
- There is no clear jobs plan in place by this government, yet – and in spite of the subsidy of auto industries by governments the world over – the mainstay for the network of manufacturing jobs in auto-dependent industries was put in very real jeopardy when the Tories refused to continue the subsidies for Holden and, by implication, Toyota. These industries are highly unionised.
- The Federal LNP government declared the car industry is in danger, not because of government lack of support, but because of soaring wages and the carbon ‘tax’. The industries denied it.
- The Feds declared a war on soaring wages; economists of all persuasions declared nothing of the sort is happening, and has not for some time.
- When SPC-Ardmona sought Federal Government support, part of the unacceptable line from government was that the company should reduce wages by up to 40 per cent. The Feds then sought to spread tales about outrageous conditions at the factory — tales that even local member, Liberal Dr Sharman Stone, just couldn’t hack.
- And of course, there is the continuing loudhailer screech conflating Craig Thomson’s corruption with all unions and unionists, topped up with a Royal Commission. Another Liberal-instituted Commission that will cost a lot of taxpayer money for many headlines and not one conviction.
- In quieter moments, Abbott muses about how workers and employers alike would love to ditch the penalty rates that, dare I say it, make sense of all those struggles for the 8-hour day and the 40-hour week. Or weekends, come to think of it.
- The Federal Government is now also attacking 457 regulation, even to the point that companies need not actually truthfully declare how many people are being imported. I assume this also means we will not know their conditions or work, what they are being paid, or whether Australians were in fact available and trained for that work.
- Meanwhile, trade deals are being made that tie practices and policies to foreign corporations and their agendas. Abbott is about to sign one with China, which includes the right of Chinese workers to flood our workplaces. Would I be right in assuming they would be paid less, work under worse conditions and be offered jobs Australians are also qualified for?
Now, I’m not a professional journalist/commentator. But is it so unreasonable to assume, from what we know of Tories and what we have seen of their current activities, that the aim is the creation of a pool of unemployed or people in insecure employment, who are not protected by unions and who will end by begging for work that is paid at a fraction of today’s rates and whose conditions will range from barely adequate to downright dangerous?
It’s about ideology — it always has been.
This is the context — and what is perhaps scariest of all is that, while our Tories dish out three-word clichés to augment popular mythologies and generally to distract, their aim is crystal clear and has been stated.
The wish list of the right-wing think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), says it all. It has become a check list.
While media comment looks at each statement, at each action of this government without any reference to other statements and other actions, the Tories feel perfectly assured that nothing will be matched against the IPA declaration.
The bleeding obvious will remain unnoted.
Abbott will be confident that, while he makes feel-good declarations about Aboriginals, no-one will note the contradiction with his cuts to fundamental social programs for Aboriginals — legal aid, domestic violence, education….
And while he plays with smoke and mirrors on education, no-one will notice that his Gonski promises are a chimera, while its original and fundamental planks are dismantled. Remember, please remember, that the Liberals’ main contribution to school education has, under Abbott’s hero John Howard, been to divert funds to wealthy private institutions.
Who recalls the rather startling support of funding for nannies, and then links it to the PPL proposal that seeks to reward rich women who have babies? Who then sees this in the context of underpaid childcare workers, whose pay increases has been quashed? Who notes that access to quality childcare is far, far more valuable than a six-month bundle of notes? Who speaks up for the calibre of childcare workers, and of the women who most need their ongoing services (well beyond the six months of the Coalition’s PPL policy)?
Childcare workers are joined by aged care workers in this betrayal.
And here again, the links exist.
I note that two union-led successes are being singled out for destruction. May I conclude that well-paid workers are not a priority of this government’s and neither are the kind of education attainments that inevitably bolster a nation’s intellect? May I conclude that universal health is, to them, secondary to health as investment for corporations? Do I have good reason to assume that women’s issues and voices are of no interest to the Coalition?
I know damn well that the Coalition broke with bipartisanship on refugee policy simply because it wanted to divert red-neck votes from Pauline Hanson. They broke the system, along with countless lives and psyches, and they continue to do so. It has been, frankly, in their interest that an industry has grown up that puts people at risk at sea and it suits the Coalition that any policy put forward to create a regulated system that does not seek to punish the innocent is ridiculed into oblivion.
Similarly, xenophobic voters and the well-known effects of fear politics are why we now have such appalling relations with our regional neighbours — who know very well why they are being used this way, and that this region is the key to a well-regulated and fair refugee system.
Well, I could go on. And on.
I could mention the loss of rights now legislated in Queensland and Victoria; I could mention the undoing of work on the preservation of our environment.
I could make a sad joke about how many scientists it takes to change policy on climate change. (A: One, if he’s on the board of a company owned by Gina Rinehart.)
I could go on.
Perhaps this inability to think clearly is in part a result of Howard’s belittling of comment as ‘chattering’.
Suffice it to say that, for the rest of us, one big march in March represented the parsing of Abbott’s politics.
It is sum of what the Coalition stands for that, frankly, scares us to death.
Pity our commentators can neither read nor add.
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