With the fall of the Trump Presidency, the Australian Government now finds itself in a position where its political puppet strings have been cut, writes Peter Henning.
WHEN JOE HOCKEY, former cigar-chomping Australian Treasurer in Tony Abbott’s government and Australian ambassador to the USA between January 2016 and January 2020, made it clear that he agreed with his golfing buddy Donald Trump that fraud “for sure” characterised Democratic Party voting and that “there’s plenty of good reason to have litigation, I mean it is a complete dog’s breakfast right across the country,” he did more than jump into the unaerated, putrid goldfish bowl.
He inadvertently shone a light on the real nature of the relationship between the current Australian Government and the Trump White House, a relationship which exposed the Australian Government as a kind of ex-officio branch of the Trump Republican Party.
As is well known, Prime Minister Scott Morrison agreed to help Trump in discrediting the Mueller investigation, sought to emulate Trump’s embassy transfer in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, agreed to serve on the G7 to strengthen Trump’s political position, followed Trump’s lead in attacking the World Health Organisation, acted as Trump’s agent to hinder ICC investigations of possible war crimes in Palestine, acted as Trump’s surrogate in creating a new Cold War with China and supported Trump’s attempts to prevent effective action to combat climate change.
Hockey was clearly speaking in his own ex-officio capacities and in that sense, his stunning endorsement of Trump’s baseless claims of widespread electoral fraud added another dimension to the Australian Government’s partisanship in the U.S. Election. The claims are only supported by the most ignorant and/or hard-Right elements in the U.S., sponsored in particular by Trump’s key propagandist, Rudy Giuliani.
It is noteworthy that many Republicans, from former leaders like Mitt Romney to current office-holders like Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, have dismissed Trump’s allegations, leaving Hockey in the fairytale land of the naked emperor wearing long red ties.
So what? Who cares? After all, it’s all over now, right?
But Morrison’s fulsome support of Trumpism has been thoroughly documented in full frontal marketing photography, deliberately designed to portray a “matey” personal relationship symbolically articulating shared political values across the board, which go well beyond the norms of even close relationships between heads of government.
The Morrison dilemma then, in the face of all the damning evidence, is how to create a revisionist narrative to gloss over his love-in with Trump, a Herculean task requiring all kinds of miraculous shape-shifting, chameleonism, burning of bridges and scuttling for refuge under rocks and hollow logs.
Even before the count has been completed, Morrison has started to rewrite the script of being Trump’s most prominent non-American acolyte among national leaders, completely enthralled with the Trumpist attempt to create a Mussolini-like neo-fascist state.
Australians need to be aware of the fool’s gold alchemy now being seeded in the mainstream – and willingly reported without question – that Morrison was never an enthusiastic lackey of Trump. For example, it is now doing the rounds that Morrison told colleagues privately that “we got through it”.
Morrison and his key ministers will, in reality, be very disappointed that they have lost their puppeteer, for can anyone imagine Morrison facing the gaze of Angela Merkel or Jacinda Ardern without realising he stands in isolation, without cover and without trust.
The one thing that we can take from the Election result, both in Australia and the U.S., “is that we aren’t in a freefall to hell anymore,” to use the words of New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Perhaps it is even possible that some elements of the mainstream media will cast off their trepidation and fear of Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, but perhaps that’s just too much to ask. One thing that has differentiated the best of the mainstream media in the USA (such as The New York Times) from all the mainstream in Australia (excluding The Guardian) during the Trump Administration has been its willingness to unflinchingly deal steadfastly and without equivocation with Trump on the issues.
Another difference between Australia and the USA, to return to the example of Ocasio-Cortez and the growing cohort of Democratic Party politicians like her, is that such strong progressive voices are simply non-existent within the ranks of the Anthony Albanese Labor Party. The closest any Labor politician comes to having strength and fortitude against the odds is Daniel Andrews and the fact he stands out so far above the rest in principled leadership serves to show the depth of vacillating mediocrity within Labor at the federal level.
So while the oppressive atmosphere of impending destruction of democracy has lifted for the moment, it needs to be held firmly in view that the Morrison Administration has had little to oppose it as it has continued down the path of jettisoning accountability, increasing inequality at every opportunity, tearing at the fabric of democratic conventions and moving inexorably towards a Stasi-style state.
The Morrison Government’s rancid commitments to Trump’s policies on climate change, its rejection of science-based evidence and its denigration of international cooperation as “negative globalism” were all on display as recently as a week or two ago when Morrison rejected calls from the United Kingdom, France and Italy to increase Australia’s efforts to fight climate change.
Morrison’s pomposity was pure mini-mouse Trumpism as he blustered:
“Australia will set our policies here. Our policies won't be set in the United Kingdom, they won't be set in Brussels, they won't be set in any part of the world other than here.”
The problem for Australia is that the rancorous denialism undermines the nation’s credibility in the global arena about anything. The chance for Australia to take a leading role in renewable energy technology and reinvigorate industry has also been squandered.
Briefly returning to Hockey, the division of Australians into “leaners and lifters” and the proclamation of ‘the end of the age of entitlement’ for those who had nothing, grimly acknowledged the close working relationship between the industrial dinosaurs and his own class of political dinosaurs. A highly entitled class of “leaners” has been maintained, all leaning heavily backwards in the last four years while contemplating the comfortable image in their respective mirrors of a large, orange tweeting goldfish.
Why is it that an Australian government can not only wilfully ignore the grotesque inhumanity and the deliberately destructive actions of a racist, misogynistic, socially divisive White supremacist neo-fascist, but enthusiastically promote his agenda by integrating it within their own vision for Australia?
The answer is plain enough. Australia is stuck in a kind of permanent adolescent semi-nation syndrome, unable and unwilling to know itself, let alone have any mature capacity to make decisions in the interests of its own people and the very land itself.
Peter Henning is a Tasmanian historian and author.
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