The Abbott Hustle

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Events in the first three months of the new Government show the Australian people have been hustled by the Abbott grifters and their many eager mainstream media accomplices. David Horton comments.

I'VE BEEN RE-WATCHING a whole lot of old DVDs lately — Callan, Dad's Army, Party Down, Monty Python, a very small glass of Last of the Summer Wine, and, of course, Groundhog Day!

I’ve also been watching Hustle

Although I've been trying to ignore Australian politics since September, since writing about it required more depths of gloom than even I am capable of, Abbott's latest antics, coinciding with a viewing of Hustle, sent a metaphor racing into my brain.

If you haven't seen Hustle, it is a kind of modern-day Robin Hood set in the forest of London, in which Micky Hood (sorry, Stone), his band of merry men, and Maid Stacey, cleverly outwit a whole series of evil Sheriffs, take their money and ‒ often ‒ give much of it to the poor.

So far, so the complete opposite of Tony Hood, his band of merry men, and Maid Julie, right … but bear with me.

At the end of almost every episode, there is a standard scene in which the victim, the "mark", opens a briefcase in which he or she confidently expects to find a large sum of money. Instead, through sleight of hand, and a lot of lies, the case is full of newspaper instead of bank notes. Meanwhile, back at Eddie's Bar, the good guys are opening an identical case which is indeed full of money, and they have a jolly good laugh at having outwitted the mark.

Well, I guess you know where I am going with this metaphor.

The Australian public is the mark, Abbott and his team are the "hustlers", con merchants, confidence tricksters and "grifters". The public thought they were voting for something real, but when the election was over they discovered they had been left with a case full of cut up newsprint, paper towels and Jeffrey Archer novels. Meanwhile, Tony and friends are laughing all the way to the bank.

Pretty obvious metaphor really. The sort of thing the media, skills honed by attacking every single thing the Gillard government did, would leap on with the alacrity of Carl Bernstein heading into an underground car park. Well, er… no.

You know your Hamlet dialogue:

Hamlet: Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in shape of a camel?
Polonius: By th' Mass, and 'tis like a camel, indeed.
Hamlet: Methinks it is like a weasel.
Polonius: It is backed like a weasel.
Hamlet: Or like a whale.
Polonius: Very like a whale.

Well, substitute Abbott for Hamlet and Polonius for, well, any Australian journalist at all really, and you have a template for the abrupt change in media interview performance following the election of a neo-con government pleasing to Rupert's eye.

To come back to Hustle, the Australian journalist's role in this Abbott "long con" ‒ and it is a long con, three years in the making ‒ is to stand next to the mark and explain, convincingly, that although to the untrained eye this may look like newsprint or pages from an Archer novel, to the professionals of the media this is indeed real money — good as gold, would I lie to you?

So there, I managed to plunge to the gloomy depths of Australian politics, conservative style. Nothing they have done yet, even the appointment of an IPA member to the Human Rights Commission ‒ which the IPA's policy is to abolish ‒ has, sadly, surprised me — nor would it surprise any sentient creature paying attention in the three years leading to the election. The only surprises are the speed of their actions in attacking human rights, unions, the environment and science, and their utter contempt for the public in announcing the launching of those attacks.

Before September, we could pride ourselves ‒ perhaps not entirely accurately ‒ as being a civilised enlightened country. Oh, not in the league of, say, France or Finland, but well ahead of, let’s say, America or Russia.

Not any more. The dive back to the dark ages is swift and sure.

It will take a future progressive government many years to try to bring us back to where we were in August 2013, if indeed it can be done at all with the slashing of government revenue, the sale of assets, the loss of businesses, the impact of climate change, the collapse of an austerity economy, and the control of all media and advisory bodies that survive.

It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times. We were a country that thought we had a case full of cash, but it turned out we were conned.


This story was originally published on David Horton’s The Watermelon Blog. You can follow David Horton on Twitter @watermelon_man

The originals of John Graham's art, as featured in this piece and elsewhere on IA, may be purchased by contacting the editor at editor@independentaustralia.net.

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