Politics Opinion

Freedom protesters and Craig Kelly central to Morrison’s re-election plan

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MP Craig Kelly has joined Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party, which could help Scott Morrison's chances of re-election (Image by Dan Jensen)

The Prime Minister needs help to win the upcoming Federal Election. Dr Martin Hirst suggests that Morrison’s white knight might just be the Craig and Clive clown show.

IT’S HARD TO PICK this week’s scariest moment from the car crash on replay that is Australian politics right now.

Was it Squirmo’s grotesque “Delta Dawn” speech, or MP Craig Kelly announcing he has joined the political circus that is Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party?

These two highlights are intimately linked, as I’ll explain, but first let’s deal with the Craig and Clive clown show.

Scott Morrison now has some serious competition on his right flank. This week’s unsurprising announcement that rogue Liberal MP Craig Kelly has joined Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party means that the battle for the votes of angry racist conservatives who are marching for some ill-defined anti-government freedom is well and truly engaged leading into the 2022 election season.

Uniting Kelly’s political base with Palmer’s dirty millions creates a potentially viable proto-fascist political formation in Australia for the first time since the New Guard of the 1930s. The anti-lockdown marchers have shown a strong desire to engage in political violence and the Nazi filth is actively trying to recruit from this milieu.

Palmer may come across as an ignorant fool (he is), but only a bigger fool would underestimate his ability to buy votes and appeal to the kind of voters who are willing to “march for freedom” while willfully ignoring any scientific evidence that the coronavirus can kill you or leave you unconscious on a respirator in the ICU.

Palmer has made a direct appeal to the miasma of disaffected voters known as the “freedumbs” who gathered in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and other places recently to rail against public health orders and defiantly declare that they are anti-mask, anti-vaccine and anti-lockdown.

This group might be scientifically ignorant, but they have been goaded to anger by the right-wing media and those supposedly sensible centrist journalists who can’t see past their own short-sightedness, or through their fogged-up ideological spectacles.

The so-called “freedom” these deluded mobs are chanting for is devoid of any real content, it is reactionary and ultimately not even in their own narrow health or economic interests.

In philosophical terms, they don’t really know if they want freedom-from or freedom-to.

They’re confused, incoherent and don’t seem to care or realise just how stupid their vacuous shouts of “freedom” are in the face of the pandemic.

Despite their lack of insight or cohesion, Craig Kelly is a favourite of this semi-outcast “petty bourgeois” and lumpen mass. He proudly claims he won’t get vaccinated and has been booted off most social media platforms for his obnoxious blend of QAnon conspiracies and COVID-19 quackery.

Now Kelly’s joined forces with the crooked and cooked Clive Palmer and the apoplectic freedumbs finally have a champion to focus on and a political party to shift their votes to.

Is this a problem for the Prime Minister?

Well, it could be, if Palmer and Kelly’s candidates can pull votes away from the Coalition in Liberal and National seats. That would certainly threaten Morrison’s tenuous grip on the government benches but only if there was a drift of their preferences towards the ALP.

This is unlikely, so too is a sweeping victory by Palmer’s shock troops, even though they are threatening to stand in every House of Representatives and Senate seat across the country.

The drift to the UAP is unlikely to have a big impact on solid Labor seats in the lower house but it could play a decisive role in the Senate race, particularly in Queensland and, to a lesser extent, in NSW.

In fact, the UAP could actually help Morrison by mobilising angry and confused voters in marginal electorates and delivering preferences to the Coalition. If this happens, then Morrison can hold on to a slim margin in the lower house and increase his control of the Senate.

This is a sickening prospect, but you don’t need rocket science to work out how this situation has emerged. Morrison and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian have been poking the freedumb bear for months.

Berejiklian has been touting a promised Nirvana when lockdowns can be lifted as soon as a couple of magic numbers are reached in terms of vaccines. Morrison has consistently refused to condemn the anti-public health protests or to discipline his Trumpian backbenchers who have championed the anti-vaccine, anti-lockdown cause. Conservatives and their media allies continue to downplay the science and public health benefits of lockdowns.

This leads us to Morrison’s Delta Dawn.

Around the same time that Craig Kelly and Clive Palmer were orchestrating their media offensive around no more lockdowns, Scott Morrison was also at the lectern promising to lead us into a bright new future.

As usual, the marketing and spin overwhelmed the substance of Squirmo’s remarks, but his rodent-featured speechwriters were earning their exorbitant salaries with the flowery and dramatic rhetoric they put into his smirking gob.

It is worth repeating the Prime Minister’s words as relayed by his own office:

It is always darkest before the dawn and I think these lockdowns are a demonstration of that, but the dawn is not far away and we are working towards that dawn and we are hastening towards the dawn. We should not delay it. We should prepare for it. We should not fear it. We should embrace it. And we should move forward together.


There will be those who will seek to undermine the national plan. There will be those who will seek to undermine confidence in it. I think their motives are clear. But there are also those who may fear it. And have concerns about what it means when you get to Phase B and what that means in terms of increases in cases.


Our goal must be to help people overcome those fears and not give in to them. Because this cannot go on forever, this is not a sustainable way to live in this country, without those freedoms that we all cherish. We understand, all sensible Australians understand, that there has had to be restrictions.


There has had to be a curtailment of what we can do during the course of a global pandemic. The virus doesn't respect ideologies. It doesn't respect any of these things. It's just a virus and we have to deal with it. Australians get that.


But equally, they also know there has to be a plan out. There is a plan out and we need to move forward with that plan.

Yes, wordy, long, full of hollowness and replete with the usual dog-whistling, but also remarkably in tune with the sentiments of the freedumbs.

In Morrison’s topsy-turvy world, the freedumbs are “sensible Australians” who “cherish” their freedoms. Those who oppose this are some formless, faceless mass who “seek to undermine confidence” and the “national plan”. He says “their motives are clear” without making the motives he ascribes to critics in any way clear.

There is a direct connection here with Clive Palmer’s anti-science jibber-jabber, too.

There is a groundswell of public support for the Morrison/Palmer rhetoric about opening up the economy.

It is reinforced every day by the language Gladys Berejiklian is deploying at her press conferences and it is spearheaded by the nonsensical idea that rising case numbers can be ignored as vaccination rates creep up.

The medical community is almost unanimous in rejecting this as a policy approach and anybody who lifts their head out of the “Merde Orc” news sewer for even a few seconds can see that in every part of the world where lockdown measures have been lifted and removed from the COVID-19 tool kit, the numbers are horrific.

The Delta variant is also thriving in younger populations and in epidemiological and evolutionary terms, opening up actually makes the virus stronger because it can mutate faster and become both more virulent and more deadly.

We are in a weird political space where science is being sidelined in favour of ideology.

We need to remember that the Spanish flu killed an estimated 50 million people.

COVID-19 is just getting started.

Morrison is banking on things being just alright enough to provide a moment of clear air and create a window for him to call and win a quick election before it all goes to shit again.

Palmer and Kelly are there to help him do the Devil’s work.

God help us all.

Dr Martin Hirst is an Independent Australia columnist, a journalist, author and academic. You can follow him on Twitter @ethicalmartini.

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