By Ad Astra
I was motivated to write my last piece: ’Will they ever learn?’ after viewing the first Question Time of the recent sitting of the House of Representatives. Some our most senior politicians, immediately after showing that they were capable of courtesy and decent discourse, went on to display offensively aggressive behaviour towards each other, all in the full glare of the cameras, knowing that the world would see them as they were. What was shoddier was that they seemed not to care about how dreadful they looked.
Only the naive would have expected the ensuing election campaign to be more edifying. It hasn’t been. Indeed it has deteriorated steadily into a nasty, vindictive, undignified slanging match.
No, they will not, indeed they cannot learn.
In a comment made about ’Will they ever learn?’ the writer asserted that politicians’ behaviour ‘was all about greed – pure unadulterated, narcissistic greed’. The message was that all they wanted was to win, to take the prize and the power that goes with it, and that they care not how they achieve this. As political cynics say: ‘Do whatever it takes’.
The election campaign has been an unedifying example of this saying: an appalling exhibition of scarcely concealed anger, lies, misrepresentations, exaggerations, rudeness, sneering, and nastiness.
How many times have you heard our PM call Bill Shorten a liar? How many times have you heard him say that Shorten lies all the time; that we cannot believe anything he says, that we can never trust him? How many times have you heard Josh Frydenberg obediently echo Morrison’s words?
How many times have you heard them insinuate that Shorten doesn’t know what he’s talking about, that he doesn’t know his own policies, that he gets his facts and figures wrong, again and again? Have you noticed the thick layers of sarcasm in which they wrap their condemnation? Their object is not just to destroy Labor policies, but to destroy Shorten himself.
We saw Morrison in full flight again in the first Leaders’ Debate, on Channel Seven: smirking, self-assured, condemnatory, sneering, yet according to the audience, the loser.
Morrison capped his condemnation when he told us recently that Shorten was ‘dishonest, sneaky and clueless’, in other words, an incompetent liar, that is not just incompetent, but incompetent even at lying!
What sort of language is that to describe a fellow professional? Yes, they are supposed to be professionals!
Coalition minders have scripted a high-taxing mantra about Shorten and Labor. At every opportunity Coalition members recite a catechism of new taxes they insist Labor will inflict on all of us, $387 billion in all, taxes on everything and everybody! No one shall escape.
These taxes will target everyone, from the loftiest businessmen, who will have to pay $25 billion purchasing carbon credits (or is it $35 billion that Morrison now insists?), to the poorest pensioners, whom Shorten will short-change: ‘He’s coming after your money’; he’ll have his hands in your pocket; ‘Bill Shorten will send you the bill’. On and on it goes, until voters feel like throwing up.
Is anyone listening? I suppose the minders believe this nauseating repetition will yield dividends. Time will tell. Will it change anyone’s vote, or will it simply reinforce the entrenched beliefs of those already determined to vote for the Coalition?
Of course, Coalition propaganda dares not to venture onto territory it finds alien. How often have you heard mention of its climate or environmental policies, or its energy policy, or its plan to lift wages and address punitive penalty rates, or its answer to social inequality, or how it expects those on Newstart to survive. Morrison repeats endlessly that he wants ‘a fair go for those that have a go’, but never tells us what a fair go is. Those on Newstart are having a go to get a job, but what sort of ‘fair go’ does Morrison have in mind for them?
In a flagrant case of the pot calling the kettle black, Morrison puts out his own brand of lies. Of course, they are better quality lies – everything the Coalition does is superior.
Morrison would have us all believe that all workers earning less than $130,000 will receive a lump sum payment in their bank accounts from July 1. But as this requires the passage of legislation that has not even been presented to parliament, and as Treasury says that it has insufficient time to put systems in place to achieve this, can this really happen? What will Morrison and Frydenberg say if workers find the money doesn’t magically appear in their bank accounts on time? No doubt they’ll blame Labor! Only Labor breaks promises.
In his budget speech, Frydenberg announced with an arrogant flourish: ‘We’re back in the black’ – present tense. He went on: ‘The government is extremely proud to be delivering the first budget surplus in a decade’.
No, we’re not in the black, and won’t be until 2019/20, when a $7.1 billion surplus is predicted. Nothing certain there!
Top earners were excited by Frydenberg’s promise of substantial tax cuts for them until it dawned on them that their bonanza will occur only if the Coalition is elected in May, and again three years later!
Were these assertions just misleading? Or merely political poetic license? Or were they simply old-fashioned barefaced lies?
Opinion polls that ask which party is best at managing the economy repeatedly put the Coalition above Labor. I wonder why. Could it be that Coalition members endlessly repeat: ‘Labor doesn’t know how to manage money’? It’s a sickening slur we hear every day. Forget how Labor steered Australia through the Global Financial Crisis better than any other nation. Truth and facts such as these are irrelevant to Morrison and his sidekicks.
How many times have you heard that the Coalition is paying off Labor’s debt, yet again? Just like Howard and Costello did. You won’t hear them concede that since the Coalition last took office, national debt has soared, and continues upwards. The debt they claim to be paying off is as much their own as what they inherited.
Speaking on an episode of Q&A, Shadow minister for Finance, Jim Chalmers, asserted that net debt had doubled since the Coalition took office. This was subject to a Fact Check by Mark Crosby, professor of economics at Monash University, that was published in The Conversation. It concluded: “As at July 1 2018, the budget estimate of net debt in Australia was about A$341 billion. That’s roughly a 95% rise since the Coalition took office in 2013, making Chalmers’ statement about net debt having doubled under the current government broadly correct.”
Arguments about national debt are complicated. To understand these complexities, read the Conversation article, which offers a lucid analysis.
PM Morrison persistently tells us that a strong economy is the basis of everything else – that it supports all the services and infrastructure the nation needs. He then goes on to insist that he is running a strong economy. But is he?
Consumption growth is down, business confidence is shaky, wages growth has been stagnant for years, unemployment and underemployment are up despite all the jobs Morrison says he’s created, and inflation is at zero, a telling sign that something has gone horribly wrong with the economy, and out in voter land people are struggling to pay their rent, or service their mortgage if they’ve been fortunate enough to buy a house, as well as paying their power bills and having enough left over for daily necessities. If that’s a strong economy, how come so many people are hurting, hurting badly? Even Morrison concedes that is so!
There is an explanation! Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank, Guy Debelle, gives it: “The main explanation as to why consumption growth has slowed is the low growth in household income, and an increasing expectation that it is likely to remain low”. ‘Likely to remain low’ are the worrying words. The RBA’s forecast for wages growth is 2.5% by June next year and 2.6% by June 2021 – that is, wages growth will scarcely move. Yet Frydenberg and Morrison tell us that wages are lifting. Another lie. They are not. All this talk of wages lifting is based on a pathetic adherence to the long-debunked ‘trickle down’ theory: give the bosses tax breaks and benefits and this largesse will eventually find its way down to the workers. That’s bunkum, and they know it.
The government predicted in its recent budget that wages growth would accelerate to over 3% in 2020-21 and then to 3.5% after that! That’s nonsense. Just a few days ago, Finance Minister Cormann told us, perhaps inadvertently, that the Coalition had deliberately pursued a stagnant wages policy to assist the economy.
According to Crikey’s Bernard Keane, tax cuts, especially ones that deliver most of the benefit for people on middle incomes, like the ones the government unveiled in its budget, will do little to address sluggish household incomes. Bill Shorten claimed some weeks ago that the election would be a referendum on wages. Keane agrees: ‘As far as the health of the economy goes, if you’re not talking about wages and lifting growth, you’re missing the point.’ He sums up the situation well in his and Glenn Dyer’s article in Crikey: The dominant story of the election is weak household income.
I trust I’ve given you enough facts and figures to convince you that this election campaign is riddled through and through with misrepresentations, deception, mendaciousness, barefaced lies, lies piled upon more lies. The players lie flagrantly, brazenly, unashamedly, and sometimes insolently. Don’t they care what damage they’re doing to their reputation? Their only mission seems to be to convince enough voters to give them the prize they crave. To do so, anything goes, no matter how atrocious. Yet these are our representatives, the ones to whom we entrust the health and security of our nation!
How sad is it that they are prepared to sink to such a degraded state, prepared to wear the tag of ‘liar’, prepared to be publically humiliated and deprecated, all in pursuit of power, money and self-interest. How desperately sad it is when they need to send out that genius at retail politics, Barnaby Joyce, to defend the government’s shonky $80 million water buy-back, now suitably tagged as our very own ‘Watergate’.
No, they won’t learn, they cannot. Oh dear!
This article was originally published on The Political Sword
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