At the most challenging time in our history, there is not only debt and deficit and chaos and dysfunction but diseased boats sailing right on through, writes executive editor Michelle Pini.
SEVEN YEARS of conservative rule may have dimmed the memories of many, but we seem to recall a six-year period of Labor government, derisively labelled by the Coalition as the “Rudd/Gillard/Rudd” years.
During this time, the Federal Coalition attacked the Labor Government incessantly, usually via three-word slogans.
The first was Labor’s “debt and deficit”, which, according to the Coalition, was the "worst in history". This referred to the Rudd Government’s expert navigation through the global financial crisis (GFC) – at the time, the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression – by instigating an economic stimulus package that created a modest public debt.
Though this debt was lower than any other developed nation, still the Coalition, under chief three-word sloganeer Tony Abbott, railed against Labor’s economic “mismanagement”. This, despite Labor sailing Australia through the GFC as the only Western nation to avoid recession — an achievement not lost of the rest of the developed world.
Next, there was Labor’s “chaos and dysfunction”. The Coalition shrieked mercilessly about Labor “knifing" a sitting prime minister (Rudd, then Gillard). Labor’s so-called “dysfunction”, despite its excellent record in minority government on passing key pieces of legislation, was also hammered at every turn.
And then there were those pesky boats. Labor was accused of being so weak on border protection, it was in league with the people smugglers. Only the Coalition could “stop the boats” and “keep Australians safe”, according to the conservatives. Under Labor, the boats may as well have docked at Sydney Harbour and been waved on through.
All of these merciless taunts were faithfully trumpeted by the mainstream media – led by News Corp, as usual – such that Labor’s many significant achievements were ignored and eventually forgotten. Then the Coalition kicked the Labor Government into electoral oblivion, leaving only a trail of three-word slogans in its wake.
Today, it is as though Australia broke a mirror in 2013 — as we have experienced seven years of bad luck. And like a broken mirror, the people now in charge have reflected everything they claimed their Labor predecessors did wrong, but in a distorted and disturbing way.
BAD LUCK ECONOMY
We seem to recall, however, a time when providing a stimulus for the economy was akin to turning everyone into a dole-bludger, ready to spend their last pennies on a big screen TV, if not drugs or other loathsome depravities. Why would people even bother to work when the government was just giving them money? For doing nothing. Oh, the humanity!
Now, of course, the Coalition Government – the same Government that came into power with promises of a surplus in its first term and riches for all, but has spectacularly failed to deliver – is undertaking an economic stimulus on a grander scale than Labor could even have dreamed.
Some may say: "Yes, but this is different. After all, we have never had a global pandemic of this magnitude before, desperate times call for desperate measures!" — and other specious nonsense. However, this Government – the same one who promised a surplus in 2013, and then again in 2016, and then again in 2019 and then even pretended it had one – has actually doubled Australia’s debt.
And let's not forget, the Liberals did this long before COVID-19 was even a mutating twinkle in COVID-18's RNA.
Despite all the evidence of bad economic management under this Coalition regime, where are the catcalls of "debt and deficit",or of "worst economic managers, ever" from the mainstream media? As usual, when it comes to holding the Coalition to account, the sound of crickets is deafening.
BAD LUCK LEADERS
We also seem to recall a time when changing leadership mid-term was used as indisputable evidence of an unstable government. What party could possibly hope to govern when their internal politics was so unstable as to produce three different leaders in six years? The mainstream media were irate and engaged in leadership spill leaks in lieu of actual reporting for year after year. Because Rudd/Gillard/Rudd was madness. A complete joke! It was “chaos and dysfunction” on an epic scale!
But only if Labor do it. Because fast forward to the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison (ATM) governments, not only did the Coalition change PMs faster than anyone could say Rudd/Gillard/Rudd but with hardly a condemnatory peep from our ever-compliant mainstream media.
Rumblings of further Liberal spills (and National Party spills) have also been a constant feature ever since Newspoll losses were cited by Malcolm Turnbull as reason enough to overthrow a sitting prime minister. Yet, hardly a peep has been heard about “chaos”, “instability” or “dysfunction”.
BAD LUCK BOATS
We also recall – quite vividly, in fact, since the current PM uses this gem as his chief claim to fame – a “crisis” created from Labor allowing a few bedraggled boats, bearing desperate “boat people” fleeing for their lives, sanctuary on our privileged island. According to the Coalition, the Labor Party were just aiding and abetting “people smuggling” and/or allowing hordes of terrorists to walk among us.
At that time, like the witches in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, if the asylum seekers didn’t drown, they were surely up to no good. Perhaps not quite witches, but clearly terrorists, according to the conservatives. This disgraceful, heinous policy, which has seen innocent people imprisoned and tortured without hope for years on end, is Prime Minister Scott Morrison's most prized achievement — one which is commemorated with a boat-shaped trophy that reads, 'I stopped these', sitting proudly on a bookshelf in his parliamentary office.
Though this claim, too, is easily debatable, as we have discussed elsewhere and, leave aside the psychological implications of such boasting, it now looks as though Scotty from Marketing will need a new trophy for his office, given that the only boats that have likely ever actually needed to be stopped, simply were not.
Instead, these disease-ridden boats – cruise ships, in fact, such as the Ruby Princess and others, carrying thousands of passengers – were allowed to dock at Sydney Harbour and their passengers to disembark during a global pandemic! No Border Force. No AFP. No testing. No quarantine. No isolation. Not so much as a Health Department official to insist they first wash their hands.
While we were effectively rolling out the red carpet of welcome, where was Border Force? Why is chief "border protector" Peter Dutton (himself suffering from coronavirus), not lifting a finger to detain them? To isolate them? To sentence them to indefinite detention? Where, indeed, was Dutton's chief border bouncer Mike Pezzullo?
We need to know why there was no temperature testing for the passengers aboard the Ruby Princess. Why was there no testing for COVID-19? And why, while Australia and most of the world is in lockdown, were they not quarantined?
CRACKING THE LUCKY VENEER
While the Prime Minister rambles on – often overruling what he said hours before, about who and what are "essential" and the importance of self-isolation, but only after footy games and Hillsong conferences, and not for little kids or their teachers, or 30-minute hairdresser visits – boat after enormous coronavirus-carrying boat has somehow slipped through the amazing detection system upon which this man has been praised and awarded himself a trophy.
It needs to be said that, even though the Coalition displayed not even a scintilla of bipartisanship during its relentless criticism of the Labor Government's performance during the GFC, the Anthony Albanese Opposition has afforded the Morrison Government support during this time of crisis, as it should, of course.
Finally, since in this time of real and present danger, the mainstream media is once again ignoring this Government's grave failings, it is incumbent on us to highlight that this really is a dishonest Government, focusing on political point-scoring at every opportunity instead of governing for the common good.
Karma's a bitch sometimes. Now that the mirror has well and truly cracked, not only is the Coalition finding that out but also, one hopes, are the Australian people.
This editorial was originally published as part of the Independent Australia weekly newsletter. These editorials are usually only available to subscribers and may be read online in the IA members-only area.
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