There really is nothing like a monumentally important by-election, in which the fate of a government hangs in the balance, despite the fact that said government engineered it.
Yes, it's the Wentworth by-election. The by-election created when sitting Prime Minister Turnbull was ousted by his own Party, for reasons known only – or perhaps not even – to his own Party.
Eight weeks after the overthrowing of Malcolm Turnbull, the cracks that had formed during the Abbott regime and manifested during Turnbull’s are now crevices with their own postcodes — mainly in the division of Wentworth.
While there have been disputes over energy and climate change, economic policy and a host of other things, none exposes the divisions within the Coalition as much as everything to do with human rights. This is because this Government, under all three leaders, has singularly excelled in its flagrant disregard of human rights.
Over recent days, however, the Morrison Government has managed to take this contempt to a whole new level, while simultaneously spending an inordinate amount of time denying it, in a last-ditch effort to save its one-seat majority that is the Federal Seat of Wentworth.
Last week, the issue of the Ruddock Report – by far the most talked about yet-to-be-released report in living memory – drew attention to the fact that, just as the Liberal Party isn’t “liberal”, the Philip Ruddock-led report on religious freedom was never about “freedom”.
Basically, in order to appease the losers of the same-sex marriage postal survey, most of whom have taken up residence within the Coalition, a report was commissioned to find a way to make it okay to discriminate against gay people. The person to lead the review was carefully chosen among a plethora of candidates and, lo and behold, the eminently qualified Philip Ruddock, best known for his “Children Overboard” lies, became the mastermind behind the imaginatively-labelled,‘Ruddock Religious Freedom Review’.
Former MP and Attorney-General Philip Ruddock is an angry man. His record both within government and in opposition shows a person obsessed with keeping Australia white, Christian and bigoted.
But, obvious personal prejudices aside, perhaps he is not clueless about human rights but qualified to prepare a report on “Christian freedom”? For example, he could have a PhD in theology, psychology, sociology or, perhaps, philosophy? Maybe he spent considerable time trying to improve the human rights of others? Sadly, Mr Ruddock’s “qualifications” for the role amount to a law degree – no, not in human rights law, but as a solicitor – and a lifetime of trying to stomp on the most basic human rights of others.
Let’s take a short, stomach-turning trip down the Philip Ruddock memory lane.
The Children Overboard affair was nothing less than a despicable lie in which Ruddock, the then Immigration Minister, attempted to drum up public hatred for asylum seekers by saying they had thrown their own children into the sea. But even after a Senate Inquiry found that this was patently false and that Ruddock had “misled the public”, he refused to concede, saying instead: “I don’t apologise for that at all”.
So cruel was Ruddock's enforcement of refugee policy as Immigration Minister during the Howard regime, that Amnesty International asked him to stop wearing the Amnesty badge, causing even his own daughter to publicly express her disgust at his cruelty and move overseas.
Eminently qualified, then, to find a new way to discriminate against gay people, which he of course did.
PM Morrison, however, after insisting ad nauseam that his Government did not see any reason to upset the status quo, which already allowed (in most states) the blatant discrimination of the gay community, suddenly, though not inexplicably, had a sudden change of heart, decided this was not a good look and announced it would be fixed after all.
It's okay to be white — it's non-white that's the problem
Still struggling with the meaning of "freedom" and "human rights", many Morrison Government Senators chose to support a motion put forward in the Upper House by the Senator best known for her "compassion" on the issue of human rights, One Nation's Pauline Hanson.
Yes, the deeply philosophical, 'It's okay to be white' motion, addressing the universal issue of racism against white people, although defeated, was supported by no less than 23 Coalition Senators. After a public backlash, however, the ever-creative Finance Minister Cormann blamed it all on a tragic "administrative error". If only the motion had had a clearer title, less prone to administrative error, so there would be no confusion like, maybe, It's okay to be a white supremacist.
Proving once and for all that foreign policy – at least for this Government – is only important when it can directly be linked to votes, PM Morrison tried his hand at shoring up the Jewish vote for Wentworth Liberal candidate, Dave Sharma.
Putting aside decades of Australia's so-called commitment to a two-state solution, Morrison opined that the Australian Government, inspired by that well-known peacemaker, Donald Trump, now supported Jerusalem as Israel's capital and was happy to move the Australian embassy there.
As reported in The Conversation:
In a series of major announcements in relation to the Middle East, Morrison told a Tuesday news conference:
Australia this week would vote against a motion on the Palestinian Authority taking the chair of the Group of 77 of developing nations.
The government would “review without prejudice” Australia’s support for the Iran nuclear deal, to determine whether its current policy was still fit for purpose.
Australia and Israel would strengthen their defence and security co-operation with the appointment of defence attaches in their respective embassies.
Perhaps assuming no one would notice that this refuted Australia's previous stance, Morrison also mumbled platitudes about the importance of the two-state solution in the Middle-East and Australia's support of that.
Maybe he should have stuck to backtracking on domestic policy as international disdain came thick and fast and included Indonesia's reconsidering of its trade deal with Australia, as well as suggestions Australia would become an "international pariah" on the world stage.
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