Fear and loathing in Canberra

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The Opposition, oligarchs and a compliant media are desperate to bring this minority government to an end quickly, writes Graham Jackson, before the reforms of the last few years are cemented.


AS SOMEONE OLD ENOUGH to remember the last days of the Whitlam government, it’s interesting to compare the hysteria then with the mood the Opposition and compliant media are trying to create now. Whatever the real and imagined problems might have been then, it’s worth pointing out (yet again) that none of those exist now.

I won’t bore readers with statistics and commentary about how well Australia is travelling economically, other than to note that the country has nothing to fear going into the future other than those fears it creates for itself and its own innate conservatism. I’m thinking here of asylum seekers in particular, and the economic woes the neoliberal commentariat likes to imagine because we’re not throwing ourselves quickly and completely enough into the arms of the oligarchs.

And this leads me to the point of this very brief article. As much as many commentators fear the election of an Abbott government and its total subservience to the Murdochs and Rineharts, we should be aware of the obvious corollary. And that is that the conservatives are just as fearful of the election of another Labor or minority government — more particularly of another minority government.

In this eventuality, all the small steps forward taken in the past two years – and those that might be taken in the next seven months – are likely to become entrenched. Carbon pricing/emissions trading, super profits mining taxation, the NBN, the advances against the tobacco industry; even the mini-steps taken against the gambling industry might be lengthened.

For me, one of the highlights of the past political year was an interview with a bemused Rob Oakeshott on the day the poker machine legislation, such as it was, was passed. He was surprised anything was passed at all — not so much because of a lack of will, but because the number of gambling lobbyists in Parliament House that day outnumbered the politicians. I think Andrew Wilkie should take heart.

I think everyone should take heart. The Opposition and compliant media are still desperate to bring this minority government to an end quickly — before an NDIS becomes part of the Australian landscape and before Gonski education reforms are legislated, requiring funding according to need.

The corporatocracy, the oligarchy – call it what you will – and the Coalition acting as its political arm, are just as fearful of a democratic Australia as a democratic Australia is fearful of a fascist corporate agenda. I believe the remarkable corporate media over-reaction to the events of the past few days should be seen in this light.

All that has happened in the past few days is that an election date has been set, a man who for the past several years has been asking to be charged (so he could answer the charges) has finally been charged – albeit in sensationally contrived circumstances – and a cabinet has been reshuffled in the usual way. But it has all been reported in end of the world terms because the corporatocracy is fearful of Australia retaining its democratic processes. That someone might be innocent until proved guilty, and that someone judged guilty of conspiracy in a Federal Court might be required to answer further questions.

As a postscript, I might add that I’m reluctant to include the ABC holus bolus into the basket of compliant media, although it has undoubtedly become more conservative/cautious under former Liberal Party staffer Mark Scott. After the privatisation threats of the Howard years, and now with the concern about what an Abbott government might bring, there are clearly many ABC staff genuinely fearful about their future.

That said, I have to be honest and say Lyndal Curtis’ Canberra Press Club announcement of the Thomson arrest was one of the more cringeworthy efforts of recent times. I hope she recovers from it.

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