Morrison: Oppressive nihilistic negativity

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Scott Morrison during the election date announcement, promising his version of a "strong economy" (Screenshot via YouTube)

The "strong economy" promised by Scott Morrison is far from anything the nation actually needs or grounded in reality, writes Peter Henning.

IT WOULD SEEM that the ad man has sniffed the wind and decided that a quick new paint job is needed to hide the rot in the foundations and the cracks throughout the whole crumbling structure of the moribund Liberal Party.

Nothing major, just a desperate surface polish to cover the stench of dead fish and the backwash from demonising everyone outside his happy-clappy, shiny and trustworthy “politics of enterprise” claptrap.

The fight between “enterprise” and “envy” defines Morrison’s ad man world view, as he proudly proclaimed on 4 March. 


So when the bubble ad man announced the election date, there was no self-parody in the question: “Who do you trust to deliver the strong economy which your essential services rely on?”

Just to make sure that we all got the joke that this wasn’t about “essential services” within the usual meaning of the phrase, but more about stripping them to the bone to pay for tax cuts for the rich and powerful, Morrison went on to say that “If you can’t manage money you can’t manage the country”

Morrison’s plea for “trust” as a money manager, albeit made during the Melbourne Comedy Festival, was grotesque. The Paladin scam, the Helloworld scam, the Great Barrier Reef scam, the Christmas Island scam, the Murray-Darling water scam and the Frydenberg-Morrison budget were all cut from the same cloth, as has been well documented on this site and elsewhere — to benefit corporate rent-seekers, profiteers and a small privileged group of Australians at the expense of everyone else.

Morrison has not even been an exemplar in money management in terms of “enterprise”. He is stuck in a bubble called “where the bloody hell” is my precious Gollum lump of coal, “where the bloody hell” is my right to stop all action to combat climate change, “where the bloody hell” is due recognition for keeping wages low and increasing the precarious insecurity of all workers, especially women. 

A classic example of this mindset is labelling as “communist” Labor’s policy to increase the threshold for free childcare (to $69,000) and increased subsidies (to $174,000) and fund a long overdue pay rise for workers – mainly women – in the industry.

When Morrison speaks of a strong economy, he means an economy which increases its reliance on part-time workers who have no sick leave, no holiday pay, no penalty rates and no guarantees of being able to make ends meet by being underemployed. Consolidation of the working precariat since 2013 under the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison administrations – part-time workers now make up close to a third of all workers across the spectrum, from teachers in the academy to the retail sector – has taken place alongside stagnation of real wages and conditions, exploitation of migrant workers on temporary visas, record consumer debt and the door slammed tight against millions of Australians ever being able to consider owning their own home.  

All these elements of inequitable socio-economic outcomes have been regarded as desirable by Coalition Governments since 2013. 

But something’s gone awry in this marketing plan, just when the true and trusted calls for fear of everything that smacked of inclusiveness had a semblance of hope. Suddenly, the old verities of ripping the environment to shreds, creating fear and division along the lines of religious sectarianism, racism, sexism, homophobia, ethno-nationalism, climate change, gender inequality and bashing the vulnerable and the disadvantaged, all seem exactly the same as the agendas of the merchants of ignorance, hate and violence on the far Right.

In the wake of Phelps’s victory in Wentworth, the massive desertion of “moderate” Liberals in the Victorian Election and the Christchurch massacre, panic has replaced complacent moral bankruptcy as committed true-blue Liberal candidates espousing enshrined values of exclusion are disendorsed for flying the flags of homophobia, racism and Islamophobia. 

Moreover, the need to repaint the lump of coal so it melds innocuously into the background is no easy task, especially when dinosaurs like Tony Abbott and Michaelia Cash paint scenarios of diesel utes ruling rural roads forever into the future, even as General Motors is advertising a time line for the rollout of its electric Chevy ute. Not to mention the growing stench surrounding the water buybacks in the Murray-Darling system in recent times.

Morrison’s theatrical, egocentric conceit that he can create multiple cut-out personas and be anyone he thinks Australians like – from carrot puller in Tasmania to beer drinker in Queensland and from shearer and water diviner in the bush to multicultural Sydneyite – appears to be collapsing, because the paint slosh can’t hide the preening myopia, callous inhumanity and sneering contempt. 

Instead, it further exposes the hypocritical contradictions, such as the preference deal with Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party, Michael McCormack’s National Party alliance with One Nation based on “policy alignment” and Morrison’s reliance on American-style messianic evangelical proselytising, spruiking the anti-egalitarian doctrine that wealth is a sign of divine favour — as in if you’re having a go, you’ll get a go.

Worst of all in Morrison’s shameless attempt to market a caring and inclusive image is the stark reminder, as recently described by Behrouz Boochani, of the continuing appalling treatment of asylum seekers, many of whom have been incarcerated for longer than the Second World War. This includes Morrison’s deliberate sabotage of the medevac legislation and the continuing appalling treatment of children in detention.

The failures of the current Federal Government are so all-encompassing that, ironically, it is the single area where they can claim complete inclusivity. They even failed to achieve their desired outcome in the same-sex marriage plebiscite, instead prompting hundreds of thousands of young people to get themselves on the electoral roll.  

None of this is any guarantee that Labor will win the election. The mainstream media is Morrison’s dedicated propaganda machine, joined at the hip with Coalition politicians in serving narrowly-based, wealthy vested interests and its influence remains powerful.

If there are any positive outcomes from this election campaign, one is that climate change is now a prominent issue, another is that water trading is an obscenity, that Adani is also an obscenity, that inhumanity towards asylum seekers is an obscenity — and that these issues have politicised a whole generation of young Australians, resulting in the highest recorded registration of new voters on the electoral roll.

It is to be hoped that the voice of Australians rejects the oppressive nihilism of the medieval world view of the Morrison Government and its divisive outliers, with all its bleak, incoherent and negative opposition to science, to reason, to inclusivity and to anything constructive.

Peter Henning is a Tasmanian historian and author.

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