Scott Morrison: Daggy dad or Australia's Trump?

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Scott Morrison has effectively employed a suburban dad persona to conceal his neoliberal, divisive political vision, writes Davey Heller.

THE 2019 Australian Election has numerous parallels with the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. In both cases, the right-wing parties of Australia and the U.S. — Coalition and the Republican Party respectively — had moved further right prior to their elections.

Donald Trump ran his far-right "Make America Great Again" (MAGA) campaign in order to take over the Republican Party. In contrast, the “take over” in Australia was engineered using a different process: a backroom manoeuvre to change leaders between elections. In both the US and Australia, the social democratic parties (Democrats and Labor respectively) were wrongly tipped to win over their "conservative" rivals.

In the 2019 Election, Scott Morrison was also able to downplay his hard, far-right political image he had developed under Tony Abbott as a ruthless Immigration Minister.

Instead, he portrayed himself as a “daggy dad” from the suburbs.

Morrison was facilitated in this ruse by “outsourcing” the MAGA rhetoric to Clive Palmer, the billionaire coal oligarch who spent $60 million on a scare campaign that literally pledged to “Make Australia Great Again”. Palmer’s United Australia Party’s only clear policy positions were, in reality, whipping up xenophobia against the Chinese and perpetuating a scare campaign over the ALP’s tepid tax reforms.

Likewise, Morrison didn’t need to engage with any tub-thumping Trumpian rhetoric about “building the wall” to keep out immigrants. This was because the Coalition had already been spruiking its “stop the boats” policy for many years.

With the cooperation of the ALP, Australia — unlike the EU and the U.S. — has long had in place a militarised border, detention camps and indefinite detention for asylum seekers and a class-based immigration policy that lets in the rich and aims to keep out the poor.

All Morrison had to do in the months before the election was run hard on his opposition to the “Medivac” Bill (which was an attempt to get sick asylum seekers out of Nauru and Manus), to reinforce the “strong borders” credentials of the Liberal Government on the back of a decade’s long xenophobic campaign.

A relatively new development in this Australian Election was the harnessing of socially conservative religious communities. The Liberal Party reaped the political rewards of its divisive Same-Sex Marriage Plebiscite held in 2017. These communities became politically energised by the Coalition since the Plebiscite and flocked to the Pentecostal Christian Morrison.

Akin to the U.S., the move to the far right by the establishment involves a “reaction all down the line” including whipping up the most regressive elements of religious belief.

Another similarity with the last U.S. election are the roles that the Democrats and the Labor Party played in the rise of the far right.

The two social democratic parties have both over the last forty years ditched the pretence of trying to win reforms for the working and have instead openly become parties of big business. Therefore, the working class, by and large, did not believe the ALP’s policies would result in a “Fair Go”.

Bill Shorten, the then-ALP leader, has never been popular and in the eyes of many represented all that is wrong with the ALP. Shorten was a right-wing trade union leader who made deals that cost workers their conditions and was rightly seen as insincere by most working-class voters. Shorten was also part of the cadre that removed Kevin Rudd in a political coup.

The trade unions also unsuccessfully tried to corral workers behind the ALP with their vague “Change the Rules” campaign. Despite organising several large rallies, the union movement refused to fully mobilise its members in a real campaign against the anti-strike laws that cripple workers’ power for fear of unleashing a working-class movement they could not control.

The campaign was also politically crippled by its failure to acknowledge the basic truth that the Fair Work Commission was actually introduced by the ALP and not the Liberal Party. The failure of the “Change the Rules" campaign illustrates that the trade union bureaucracies are as discredited as the ALP is in the eyes of millions of workers.

Internationally, the social democratic parties are playing the role of "handmaidens" to the rise of fascism by betraying the working class and moving further to the right themselves. While facile, mainstream press coverage after the election claimed that the ALP had scared off its potential support by being too left wing in its campaign, the opposite is actually true.

Labor did not lose because it was too left wing, too Green and promoted too many new taxes. The ALP lost because, just like social democrat parties internationally, it has betrayed the working class with decades of pro-business and pro-war policies. The lack of left-wing leadership for the working class leaves the door open for the likes of Murdoch and Morrison to redirect working-class discontent down the most reactionary paths.

Unlike the official narrative that Australia has been relatively unscathed by the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), the same processes here have driven wage stagnation and increasing social inequality as they have internationally.

The transformation of the Liberal Party into a Trumpian style outfit has the dual outcome of installing the type of ruthless Government that will be prepared to use the full force of the state against the growing threat of working-class resistance to austerity and war. It also intends to divide the working-class through its promotion of nationalism, racism and xenophobia.

The same function is served by the far-right in the U.S., Europe, India, Israel, the Philippines, Brazil and elsewhere around the globe.

The election of Scott Morrison cannot be understood without an internationalist perspective of how it fits into the broader struggle against the far-right which is ultimately the products of capitalism in crisis.

Australia is just the most recent domino to fall to the far-right.

Workers in Australia will not be able to find any progressive path forward through the Parliamentary system but must join with their class sisters and brothers internationally in a united struggle against the far-right.

Davey Heller is a writer and campaigner. You can follow him on @socialist_davey.

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