Politics

No one is buying the Coalition's neoliberal message

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Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons

Despite tax cuts and an ongoing fear campaign, the Coalition Government is gone, writes Canberra correspondent John Passant.

THE LATEST  harebrained idea from PM Scott Morrison is to build a replica of Cook’s Endeavour and have it circumnavigate Australia.  

Now, as most readers know, Cook never circumnavigated Australia. So much for historical accuracy.

The first inhabitant of Australia to do so, as far as we know, was Bungaree. While there are statues and other tributes to Matthew Flinders – the Englishman who sailed around Australia – there are none to Bungaree. Bungaree is the Indigenous Australian who sailed with Flinders.

His treatment shows that the erasing of Aboriginal people from history began early. So too did their physical elimination. History Professor A. Dirk Moses estimates that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations numbered around 750,000 people in 1788. In the 1911 Census, there were only 31,000 people of Aboriginal descent listed.

This genocide continues on to today. The building of the new system required the destruction of the old ways — physically, mentally and ideologically. 

As Patrick Wolfe says:

'... settler colonialism is a structure rather than an event.'

This Cook’s adventure by Morrison is part of that ongoing process of dispossession — that is, genocide. Stolen children, poverty, early deaths, huge imprisonment rates, discrimination — all are the result of the genocide, then and now.

The Cook puffery is an attempt to deny history. We could perhaps respond with a further chapter in Cook’s history. On 14 February 1779, a group of angry Hawaiians killed him. Perhaps at every one of the planned 39 landings of the replica of the Endeavour, we could re-create Cook’s death at Kealakekua Bay in Hawaii, to emphasise that the revenge of history awaits the colonialists and their capitalist successors.

Morrison’s fake history and capitulation to jingoism and white supremacy that is the 250th-anniversary celebrations will cost around $50 million. Meanwhile, five Indigenous kids suicided in the last few weeks, but there is nothing for improved services to prevent further suicides.

As NITV's Karen Wyld says:

‘... saving lives is more important than colonial dress ups.’

Morrison is not the only one who does not have a grasp of the basics of "our" history. For those – like Deputy Nationals Leader Senator Bridget McKenzie – who do not know James Cook landed at Botany Bay on 29 April 1770 and not, as McKenzie thought, 26 January 1788. So much for historical accuracy. 

Speaking of ships, how many rats will remain on the poop-deck with Captain Scott "Titanic" Morrison in the run-up to the election this year? In the last week, three ministers – Michael Keenan, Nigel Scullion and Kelly O’Dwyer – have announced they will retire at the forthcoming election. More will go as the reality of a crushing defeat and the likelihood of years in opposition looms.  

Remember Government backbencher Senator David Bushby? He secured a comfy Government job in Chicago recently — just 60 minutes after he resigned from the Senate. Immigration Minister David Coleman might leave, as could Julie Bishop, Craig Laundy and several other Government Parliamentarians.

It is not all bad news for Morrison. Former Labor Party President  Warren Mundine is a Labor rat who has jumped on board the Good Ship Morrison. As some people on Facebook and Twitter have noted, he is the first rat in history to board a sinking ship.

It is a brilliant tactical move by the PM to impose Mundine on the Liberal Party in the electorate of Gilmore — despite the rank and file members, there, having preselected Grant Shultz as their candidate for the 2019 Election. The swing against Mundine and the Liberals will likely be huge, and as a consequence, Mundine will be lost forever to our political ranks. Clever, Prime Minister, clever!

In keeping with our historical theme, Morrison’s action in imposing Mundine on the Liberal Party in Gilmore reminds us of the dictatorial powers our early penal colony governors had. Except Mundine’s appointment is a complete stuff-up by Morrison, as the vote count in Gilmore on election day will likely show.

The Government will try to buy us off with "a tax cuts for workers" Budget on 2 April as well as other goodies for voters, such as seniors and parents with school-age kids. But its budget surplus fetish will trap the Government into not giving away too much of the extra tax they have collected from bracket creep and increased company profits.

The other main offerings will be hatred, racism, xenophobia and division. This will be led by reactionaries like Morrison himself and his political alter ego, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. Yet despite the tax cuts, spending blandishments and the fear campaign, this Government is gone.  

It is dead right now and will be buried in May. The fact that so many of its stalwarts are leaving, or considering it, before being thrown out, shows they know the game is up. Their neoliberal message is not echoing with many voters.

Spouting that the Government has returned the Budget to surplus does not mean much when real wages growth has slowed to virtually zero, the total remuneration gender pay gap is 21.3%, many jobs are precarious, underemployment is running at 8.6%, and unpaid hours give $110 billion free to the bosses.  

According to social researcher Hugh Mackay, wealth inequality in Australia is at an all-time high:

 ‘The top 20% of Australian households, in wealth terms, are now 100 times richer than the bottom 20%.’

All the while the existential threat that is climate change grows greater and greater. While writing this article, the temperature in Canberra reached 42 degrees. It was the 12th day in Canberra in a row where the temperature has been above 32 degrees, breaking the 11-day record set in December 2018, which itself co-equalled 1947. It will be above 32 degrees until about Friday of this week.

As Jasper Lindell pointed out a few days ago in the Canberra Times:

‘For 25 years between 1973 and 1998, Canberra did not see a single 40 degree day. There were nine days that reached 40 degrees between 1913 and 2006 and then 16 times since 2007.’

Add in today’s 42 degrees and that figure of 16 becomes 17. As global warming continues, according to some scientific analysis, in the near future Sydney and Melbourne could start to experience 50 degree days. Let’s be blunt, neoliberal policies cause climate change. 

According to the Carbon Disclosure Project:

'Since 1988, a mere 100 companies have been responsible for 71% of the entire world's industrial greenhouse gas emissions.’

While Morrison prances around in his Captain Cook jacket, the rest of us are sweltering from the extreme weather events greenhouse gas emissions are producing.  

The current Coalition Government, a prisoner of the fossil fuel industry and free market nutcases, does nothing but engage in useless neo-colonial white supremacy stunts and other culture war antics. Meanwhile, Australia melts.

Captain Morrison, your political Kealakekua Bay awaits.

You can follow Canberra correspondent John Passant on Twitter @JohnPassantSigned copies of John's first book of poetry, Songs for the Band Unformedare available for purchase from the IA store HERE.

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