By Loz Lawrey
That the LNP Coalition is desperate to win this election has been in stark evidence throughout the campaign.
Morrison’s bullying tone at press conferences and the constant anti-Labor fearmongering, scare tactics and verbal assaults from him and his colleagues are testament to that desperation.
But are they desperate to serve the Australian public or simply desperate for power?
Tony Windsor, one of the independent MPs who in 2010 backed Julia Gillard to form a Labor government, recalled that at the time Liberal leader Tony Abbott begged crossbench MPs to make him prime minister, joking; ”the only thing I wouldn’t do is sell my arse – but I’d have to give serious thought to it”.
Clinging to power means everything to these Liberal folk, and a threat to their incumbency and sense of entitlement can make their voices go squeaky.
Is it me, or did Scott Morrison’s “bulldozer” speech sound a lot like a domestic violence perpetrator entreating his victim to forgive his toxic, abusive behaviour and take him back?
“Awww, honey, you know I can be a bit of a… aww gee, you know I can’t help myself. I can change… believe me! Just… take me back…”. There’s a certain cringeworthy tone to it.
Like the 1952 televised “Checkers” speech in which USA republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon, accused of fundraising improprieties, tried to reframe himself in the public’s mind as a trustworthy family man, Morrison is asking Australians to suspend their disbelief in his promise to “change” and begging us to return his government for another term.
The current squawking from Liberals threatened by independent candidates standing for their seats has been loud, shrill and sometimes a little unhinged.
There’s no doubt that there are among these centrist challengers some quality contenders who, whether of a progressive or conservative bent, would likely make fine federal representatives for their local constituents.
Such excellent members of parliament can be found on both sides of politics, well-known in the communities they serve and responsive to their constituents’ needs.
The Liberals are trying to paint the rise of these “teal independents” as some sort of attack on democracy and the Australian “system”.
Both major parties are concerned at the likely erosion of their bases, as votes are lost to these new challengers.
Other Australians, however, firmly believe that the major parties have let us all down and these independent candidates may in fact help to save our democracy, yield greater transparency, force a new government into realistic action on climate change and create a Federal ICAC, among other things.
“Only Labor or the LNP Coalition can form government”. That’s the response you’ll often hear if you tell a friend you’re thinking of voting Green, Progressive or Conservative Independent, or even Loony Right Independent.
At every election, the two main parties and mainstream media send voters a clear message: only a vote for Labor or the Coalition matters. If you vote otherwise, you’re just throwing your vote away.
Yet history tells us that this was clearly not the case in 2010, when both major parties found themselves unable to form government without support from both the Greens and some Independents.
Julia Gillard and Labor won that support and, for the next term, despite an ongoing vile and misogynistic assault from both the opposition and the Murdoch media, ran a very competent and efficient government, proving that independents in government are not a recipe for the destruction of democracy.
Clearly, political parties who win government would prefer to govern in their own right, without having to consult and negotiate with independents or minor parties.
In our changing world however, good negotiation skills are more necessary than ever for the aspiring leader.
It’s been said that “politics is the art of compromise”, but for this government compromise is always a bridge too far.
Why isn’t the Nadesalingam family back in Biloela? Why were they removed from a community that embraced them in the first place? Sheer cruelty.
For the LNP, cruelty seems to be a necessary component of “strong” government.
I can never shake the memory of Morrison’s “on-water matters” announcements and the pride he took in his management of the institutionalised cruelty of the offshore detention system.
Cruelty is a structural component of the Morrison Government’s business model, as it was under Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull. Another memory I can’t shake is that of Turnbull advising Australians not to get “misty-eyed” over the mistreatment of refugees in detention.
Cruelty is certainly a structural component of the Department Of Home Affairs. Just ask anyone who’s tried to assist an Afghan friend under daily threat of torture and execution by the Taliban to apply for a humanitarian visa.
This morning I heard from a young journalist friend I’ve been trying to help. He’s just been caught and tortured by the Taliban for the second time, for simply being of Hazara ethnicity and a supporter of free speech and human rights.
The first time they caught him, he was whipped. I’ve seen the photos of his wounds and they were shocking. He lives on the run, constantly changing address to avoid capture. Now my friend tells me he’s just recovering from another assault. This time one of his hands has been badly damaged.
He’s also run out of funds to support himself and under the Taliban, finding work isn’t an option.
In October 2021 I helped him lodge an application for a humanitarian visa to Australia. We are now in May 2022 and no response whatever has been received from the Department.
One has to ask: does a Department of Human Affairs actually exist in the real world, or is it a paper tiger, a mere semblance of a department?
Is it like some Hollywood movie set, just a false façade to fool the public?
Try calling the Department, if you can find their phone number. They do have one, buried on the department website somewhere. But should you find the number, make the call and wait an eternity for the phone triage system to connect you to a live person, you’ll never get past the “enquiry guy”, who politely tells you he knows nothing, has no answers, can’t refer you to someone who does know, but can send you a website link where you may lodge an email enquiry.
The whole setup seems designed to keep the public at bay and in the dark. Human Services? There’s simply no service to be found there at all.
And if you’re a desperate human seeking assistance from a first-world country that claims to be humane, it’s a great shock to discover that in reality you won’t even get a polite refusal. Home Affairs will simply ignore your application and leave you swinging in the wind, in danger and in fear for your life.
Yes, in the Morrison government, cruelty is entrenched.
One can only hope that a new government (hopefully less cruel, with a leader who won’t require empathy training) will replace it, one with an actual vision for the betterment of our nation beyond simply clinging to power for power’s sake.
That new government may need to negotiate with new independent MPs to form government.
Which brings us back to negotiating and achieving outcomes in the national interest. The “art of compromise” has over time become a lost art, thanks to the wolf-warrior tribalism that infects our system.
For Morrison, politics seems to mean never negotiating and finding compromise, but rather doing whatever it takes to keep up appearances: Bald-faced lies straight to camera, if that’s what he thinks will consolidate his grip on power.
For years we’ve endured Morrison’s shouty carnival-barker style, with announcements delivered in an aggressive bully-boy manner, jaw thrust forward, slightly reminiscent of America’s former president Trump, that master of belligerence and misrepresentation.
One of Morrison’s public nicknames is “Scotty From Marketing” and it’s true that he often sounds as though he’s trying to flog you a mattress or a used car. And those family-handyman, curry-cookin’ footy-boy selfies… ’nuff said.
But I don’t want to “play the man”, tempting as it is…
I have no idea what outcome we Australians will collectively choose on voting day.
My fervent hope is that this time we’ll opt for change and a new direction.
Of course, that’s what I hoped last time and I was stunned to see the Morrison government returned, so… I’m not holding my breath.
I was stunned to see Australians reject a raft of nation-building policies that would, had Labor won government then, by now be well in place and yielding positive outcomes for our country.
Yet where are we now? A failed three-term government is relying on Australians being politically disengaged sheep with short memories, who will simply cave in to an avalanche of spin and re-elect them.
“Better the devil you know” as it were.
Morrison talks of refusing pay rises and imposing ongoing poverty and misery on so may of us, all in the name of that old trope “the economy”.
I can see the people, but I can’t see the economy. Is it imaginary? Is it just theoretical? I’m just joking, of course. I know that “the economy” is a synonym for “the machinery of capitalism”.
That economic machine, founded as it was on slavery, was never originally intended to benefit us all equally, but in these days of democracy it surely should, shouldn’t it?
But it doesn’t. It’s broken and out of balance. There is a huge gap between “haves” and “have-nots”.
If the very workers whose lifelong daily efforts create and maintain “the economy” can’t meet their own costs of living due to galloping inflation and wage stagnation, then capitalism has failed in its mission to benefit us all and remains true to its roots as a system that didn’t serve the people, just an elite few.
Morrison’s “the economy” mantra, wielded like a bat whenever wage rises are mentioned, elevates business and commerce above the people.
In that paradigm capitalism doesn’t serve most Australians, rather we simply exist to “serve the economy”. We the people are subservient to it, apparently.
It’s time to vote for candidates who want the economy to serve us all.
I dare to hope that this time Australians will choose a better option. I believe it’s time for change, but then I did at the last election, and the one before that.
Instead, we’ve had another three years of ministerial scandals and aimless, indifferent, lacklustre government.
If there’s an independent running for your seat and you feel their policy agenda reflects your values and priorities, why not give them a go?
Whoever you decide to back, please, please, please vote this government out.
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