By Loz Lawrey
As Australia suffers the stewardship of a man apparently devoid of vision, inspiration and the self-confidence and character to truly lead, the word “hypocrisy” will forever define the prime ministership of Malcolm Turnbull.
We’ve had toxic PM’s before; John Howard and Tony Abbott come to mind. By “toxic”, I mean those whose determination to consolidate and entrench their own power at all costs subsumes their desire and capability to take our whole community forward, together, towards a greater common good.
Rarely are such people able to articulate a coherent plan for the betterment of our nation beyond spin-doctored platitudes such as Turnbull’s meaningless “jobs and growth”, or Abbott’s ghastly negative three-word slogans (remember how we choked on those?).
Such “leaders” don’t agitate for change or betterment. Rather, they seek to impose upon our present a white-picket-fence conservatism from the past. They don’t move with the times; they want to freeze us in time.
They’ll say or do anything to score a political point, to shut down debate and maintain their authority at any cost. But many Australians recoil in horror when shallow, mean-minded and divisive language spews forth from those who would purport to govern our nation.
Language is the most basic and important tool in the leader’s kit. Language has the power to unite, to inspire, to uplift. It is the brush which paints great visionary concepts into our public consciousness: the ‘light on the hill”, the “clever country”… such truly great verbal imagery encourages a nation’s people to share and embrace aspiration, moving forward, together, towards a brighter future.
But what do we get from Turnbull and his ministers? As Zorba the Greek might have put it, we get “the full catastrophe”. We get platitudes and scripted sweet nothings. We get bluster and manufactured outrage.
We get rhetoric designed to achieve nothing more than deflect attention away from the government’s own failures and shortcomings. We get hypocrisy.
We get constant attacks upon the Labor opposition as if the Coalition really believes that this is what Australians want to hear: a relentless, negative ever-flowing river of rubbish.
It’s New Year’s Day, 2018. What is Malcolm’s message to the people? Might it be something along the lines of: “We’ve found a new way to manage our country’s wealth, resources and social organisation. Our focus is to create a society in which everyone is included, cared for and afforded the opportunity to participate fully in the pursuit of the happiness that should be the birthright of every Australian”? Or perhaps something less cheesy but inspiring and inclusive nonetheless?
Nope. From Malcolm, we get this: “We are very concerned at the growing gang violence and lawlessness in Victoria, in particular in Melbourne. This is a failure of the Andrews Labor government.”
Ministers Greg Hunt and Peter Dutton, singing in harmony from the same songsheet, highlight the fact that they’re talking about “African youth gangs”.
And so, here we are. On the first day of the new year, Turnbull and Co. are already hard at work demonising a minority group, inciting hatred and dividing our community. Inspiration? Leadership? No. This is casting poison into the well. It’s classic “divide and conquer” stuff, astoundingly blatant in its arrogance.
Yes, folks, this week’s New Year effort by our federal government has been to pick a state government issue which Victoria is already addressing, inflate it into a message of fear and loathing and dump it on Australia’s coffee table like a steaming turd. Umm … thanks, Malcolm. The Sudanese community, in particular, thanks you. Not.
How stupid does the Turnbull government think we are? Now, there’s a question… we did elect them.
There’s no doubt the federal Coalition hates state Labor governments and grasps with eager hands any perceived opportunity to attack them.
We’ve witnessed Turnbull try to make political capital from the South Australian power blackout of 28 September 2016, when Australians concerned about climate change were stunned to hear him cynically blaming the state’s renewable energy policy for what was, in fact, damage to the grid caused by a severe weather event.
It’s as if the Turnbull government (and the Abbott government before it) is constantly trying to drag us backward, forcing its regressive, outdated worldview upon a society yearning for progress, like missionaries trying to impose their fanatical belief system upon a culture foreign to their own. It’s as if they’re constantly trying to insert a square peg into a round hole. It just doesn’t fit!
That’s the trouble with hypocrisy. It requires a suspension of disbelief, but try as we may, we can’t get away from the fact that the emperor has no clothes. In the end deception, truth-twisting, dissembling and misrepresentation cannot hide the reality, the facts.
Professor Google tells us that hypocrisy is “the practice of claiming to have higher standards or more noble beliefs than is the case”. Well, there it is. Sorry Malcolm, the jury’s back. Your pompous pronouncements in praise of multiculturalism and the “fair go” belie your government’s constant ongoing attacks on whole community sectors. You simply can’t claim to stand for all Australians as you single out some of us for vilification by the rest. You can’t let ministers like Peter Dutton target Muslim Australians of Lebanese extraction or young members of our Sudanese community with his insulting, condemnatory rhetoric. When you do, you out yourself as a hypocrite.
“Divide and conquer” has been an evident weapon regularly deployed by Coalition governments, at least since John Howard’s “we will decide who comes to this country and the manner in which they come” during the 2001 Tampa affair.
Sadly, it seems that hypocrisy is on the rise and, thanks in part to Donald Trump (its very embodiment in the USA), becoming normalised. Cynics among us might say that hypocrisy is as old as the human race. Sure, there’s no argument there. There was once, however, less tolerance for it from our politicians and in our public discourse generally.
Standards are slipping. We want leadership, well-intentioned leadership. Instead, we’re getting hypocrisy, garnished with obfuscation.
Hypocrisy, Malcolm Turnbull, shall be your epitaph.