Nostalgia at the AUKMIN Talks: Britain’s Forces Eye…

Give the man credit where it’s due. Few could possibly be congratulated…

Long-term immigration detention has again become a pointless…

By Peter Hughes The Howard government released long-term detainees into the community, but…

Is time up for Eric Abetz?

With a hostile Senate, a Labor government would be severely hamstrung in…

Delivering more of the same for the LNP’s…

By Denis Bright When Australia was the land of hope, our best political…

The atrocity of indefinite and arbitrary immigration detention…

In February last year, Andrew Wilkie introduced a Private Members Bill, seconded…

There’s a sense of disbelief at Morrison's ignorance,…

Diary No 6, Saturday, January 22 2022 1 When lying comes back to torment…

Surrender, Accommodation and RATs

The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test has been the mainstay of COVID-19…

The Omicron Murders?

So who will speak on behalf of the dead? Will they ever…

«
»
Facebook

Tag Archives: Conservatives

Cheap-labour conservatives

Several years ago, US blogger Conceptual Guerilla coined a three word slogan that explains right wing ideology very succinctly – “cheap-labour conservatives”.

He agrees with Karl Marx that the fortunes of the corporate/capitalist elite depend on keeping the workers “over a barrel”.

Marx saw the conflict between those that own the means of production and those who sell their labour as crucial to the maintenance of capitalism. Its function is to create an obedient, docile, uncritical workforce who will work to support the upper-class’s lifestyle and the economy.

Keeping wages low, or debt pressure high, means workers will be less likely to complain or make demands. As workers struggle to provide their families with all the temptations that a capitalist society offers, they become far less likely to risk their employment, and less able to improve their situation.

At bottom, conservatives believe in a social hierarchy of “haves” and “have nots” that Conceptual Guerilla calls “corporate feudalism”. They have taken this corrosive social vision and dressed it up with a “respectable” sounding ideology which all boils down to the cheap labour they depend on to make their fortunes.

The larger the labour supply, the cheaper it is. The more desperately you need a job, the cheaper you’ll work, and the more power those “corporate lords” have over you.

Cheap-labour conservatives don’t like social spending or our “safety net”. Why? Because when you’re unemployed and desperate, corporations can pay you whatever they feel like – which is inevitably as little as possible. You see, they want you “over a barrel” and in a position to “work cheap or starve”.

Cheap-labour conservatives don’t like the minimum wage, or other improvements in wages and working conditions. Why? These reforms undo all of their efforts to keep you “over a barrel”.

Cheap-labour conservatives like “free trade” agreements. Why? Because there is a huge supply of desperately poor people in the third world who are “over a barrel” and will work cheap.

Cheap-labour conservatives oppose a woman’s right to choose. Why? Unwanted children are an economic burden that put poor women “over a barrel”, forcing them to work cheap.

Cheap-labour conservatives don’t like unions. Why? Because when labour “sticks together”, wages go up. That’s why workers unionize. A united workforce with a representative voice is harder to keep “over a barrel”.

Cheap-labour conservatives constantly bray about “morality”, “virtue”, “respect for authority”, “hard work” and other “values”. Why? So they can blame your being “over a barrel” on your own “immorality”, lack of “values” and “poor choices”.

Cheap-labour conservatives encourage racism, misogyny, homophobia and other forms of bigotry. Why? Bigotry among wage earners distracts them, and keeps them from recognizing their common interests as wage earners.

Cheap-labour conservatives have hated compulsory superannuation and Medicare since their inception.

Many cheap-labour conservatives are hostile to public education. They think it should be privatized. School vouchers are just a backdoor method to widen the gap.

Cheap-labour conservatives hate progressive income tax.

“Free Trade” and globalization are intended to create a world-wide “corporate playground” where national governments serve the interests of corporations – which means “cheap labour”.

The ugly truth is that cheap-labour conservatives just don’t like working people. They don’t like “bottom up” prosperity, and the reason for it is very simple. “Corporate lords” have a harder time kicking them around. Once you understand this about the cheap-labour conservatives, the real motivation for their policies makes perfect sense. Remember, cheap-labour conservatives believe in social hierarchy and privilege, so the only prosperity they want is limited to them. They want to see absolutely nothing that benefits those who work for an hourly wage.

The strategy is clear. The more ignorant and destitute people there are – desperate for any job they can get – the cheaper the cheap-labour conservatives can get them to work.

Included within the slogan “less government” is the whole conservative set of assumptions about the nature of the “free market” and government’s role in that market.. In fact, the whole “public sector/private sector” distinction is an invention of the cheap-labour conservatives.

They say that the “private sector” exists outside and independently of the “public sector”. The public sector, according to cheap-labour ideology, can only “interfere” with the “private sector”, and that such “interference” is “inefficient” and “unprincipled”.

Using this ideology, the cheap-labour ideologue paints himself as a defender of “freedom” against “big government tyranny”. In fact, the whole idea that the “private sector” is independent of the public sector is totally bogus. In fact, “the market” is created by public laws, public institutions and public infrastructure.

But the cheap-labour conservative isn’t really interested in “freedom”. What he wants is the “privatized tyranny” of industrial serfdom, the main characteristic of which is – you guessed it – “cheap labour”.

Cheap-labour conservatives are BIG supporters of the most oppressive and heavy handed actions the government takes.

Cheap-labour conservatives support the “get tough” and “lock ’em up” approach to virtually every social problem in the spectrum. In fact, it’s the only approach they support. They say our justice system is “too lenient”.

Cheap-labour conservatives want all the military force we can stand to pay for and never saw a weapons system they didn’t like.

Cheap-labour conservatives support intervention in sovereign nations.

Cheap-labour conservatives support “domestic surveillance” against “subversives” – where “subversive” means “everybody but them”.

Cheap-labour believers in “freedom” think it’s the government’s business to decide who can marry.

Cheap-labour conservatives support our offshore detention centres. They also support locking people up incommunicado with “secret evidence” and deportation with no judicial review. Then they say that progressives are “Stalinists”.

These so-called defenders of freedom share a common list of things they oppose.

“Social spending” otherwise known as “redistribution”. While they don’t mind tax dollars being used for killing people, using their taxes to feed people is “stealing”.

Minimum wage laws.

Every piece of legislation ever proposed to improve working conditions.

Unions, who “extort” employers by collectively bargaining.

Environmental regulations.

Federal support and federal standards for public education.

Public broadcasting.

Marriage equality.

These cheap-labour conservatives have no problem at all opening the public purse for corporate interests. it’s “social spending” on people who actually need assistance that they just “can’t tolerate”. And now you know why. Destitute people work cheaper, while a harsh police state keeps them suitably terrorized.

Edit: Thank you to backyard bob for providing the link to the original article by Conceptual Guerilla.

 

Malcolm Fears neither Debt nor the Conservatives.

What a monumental turn around. In a newspaper interview this week, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has shrugged off the Abbott-Hockey debt and deficit rhetoric and signalled more debt to come.

“What we’re trying to achieve is to ensure that Australians who do live today in a high-wage, generous social welfare net economy, will be able to do so in the years ahead and in an environment where wages will be higher and we’ll have a bigger tax base and we’ll be able to provide for those in need more effectively,” he told Fairfax Media.

Contrast this with some of the verbal diarrhoea that came out of the mouths of both Abbott and Hockey when they convinced the more gullible amongst the electorate both before and after the 2013 election, that austerity was necessary to rein in Wayne Swan’s debt and deficit disaster.

Turnbull went even further when he said, Everything, every single element, is on the table, and I know that always means that someone can then run a scare campaign, but I’m sorry, we’ve got to stop … this is part of the political tradition I’m determined to end. We have got to be able to consider policy options in an unfettered way.”

The significance of this statement and his acknowledgement that both revenue and spending options are on the table, cannot be ignored. While signalling a reversal of the previous administration’s scare mentality and adopting an expansionary mindset including borrowings for public transport projects, he has also, deliberate or otherwise, checked Scott Morrison for suggesting we only have a spending problem.

What are we to make of this policy about-turn?

My reading is that Malcolm has decided he will be his own man and if the party doesn’t like it, they can’t do much about it without making themselves a laughing stock. While the extreme right wing of the party might like to think it has its leader on a short leash, the opposite is the case.

Turnbull, it would seem, has decided that he will crash through or crash. To make public his intentions in such flamboyant language is a challenge to those who still cling to the ultra-conservative mindset that would hold the nation back.

trans Citing public transport as the flagship of future expansion is a good start. Who among us would deny a pressing need to upgrade and prepare ourselves for future population growth that will require some radical thinking in the area of mobility.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews will be delighted as will Mike Baird in NSW. Both have big plans for improving transport in our two major cities. Turnbull has foreshadowed that roads, urban infrastructure and ports, previously considered state responsibilities by Abbott and Co, are now up for Commonwealth funding participation through additional borrowings.

The burning question, ‘where is the money coming from’ has been answered before it has been asked. The former Goldman Sachs CEO knows how money works, unlike his parliamentary colleagues and is not afraid of debt.

This will not be good news for the banks. Such projects, normally financed within the private sector’s financial houses, will have the Commonwealth participating for part of the return on investment.

“We don’t need the same internal rate of return as Macquarie Bank would, obviously, but if we have a piece of it, then we’re able to invest more, frankly. Then we’re much better off being a partner rather than simply being an ATM, for which you get generally scant thanks or recognition,” Turnbull says.

abb anshh Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey never understood this, nor does the conservative wing of the government that never wanted Turnbull as leader. They will be alarmed at his recent comments and will fight tooth and nail to stop him. But they cannot ignore his popularity and his importance in keeping them in power.

That is why he will win and so too the unemployed. While the private sector is twiddling its thumbs Government must take up the slack. That is not a theory, it is an accounting rule for a national economy. It is exactly what is needed today. Joe Hockey failed as Treasurer because he expected the private sector to do the heavy lifting.

At today’s historically low interest rates, issuing public debt has never been cheaper and when invested in projects that add value to the nation, promote growth, increase employment and by extension, increase tax revenue, everyone benefits.

Turnbull’s approach to inclusivity will enrage his conservative colleagues, but he knows there’s little they can do about it now.

 

A lesson in how to spot a Conservative

Image by weedist.com

Image by weedist.com

Popular and well-known blogger Hillbilly Skeleton provides an entertaining synopsis on the recognisable traits of a Conservative.

Have you ever wondered what makes the conservative mind tick?

Come with me while we take that journey, through the cobwebs and fustiness, to what lies at their core. I would say, ‘at their heart’ but I wonder sometimes whether they have one! No, they do, it’s just that it seems that it is generally about the size of a currant. Why is that so? Let’s see, shall we?

I’m using as my touchstone for this exploration a paper from the ‘Psychological Bulletin of the American Psychological Association‘ Vol 129, No 3, 2003 entitled ‘Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition’ by Jost, Glaser et al. It makes for fascinating reading and if you are interested in reading all 37 pages of it it is here.

However, if you would like me to summarize, I would be glad to.

So, analyzing political conservatism as motivated social cognition (how people think about, process and make sense of the people and things in our world that form their views), the following traits have become apparent when looking at the political conservative.

Their personality favours authoritarianism, dogmatism and the intolerance of ambiguity. They have epistemic (to justify beliefs) and existential needs for closure, regulatory focus and terror management, and they manifest ideological rationalisations for specific types of social dominance and justification of certain social systems.

Meta analysis confirmed that several psychological variables predict political conservatism to varying degrees: death anxiety (possibly giving us an insight into why people become more conservative as they get older); system instability (could this explain why the Coalition relentlessly exploited the destabilised Labor Party government and sought to cause so much of it); dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity (explaining perhaps why Shock Jocks, where black and white are the only colours they know and shades of grey just don’t come into their commentary, are so popular with conservatives); lack of openness to new experiences; inability to tolerate uncertainty; a strong need for order, structure and closure (remember how the Coalition used to bleat repeatedly about the ‘chaos and dysfunction at the heart of the Gillard/Rudd government’ and how the electorate fell for it hook, line and sinker, whilst at one and the same time that same government were legislating far more successfully than Tony Abbott has been able to); a low level of the ability to integrate complexity (3 word slogan, anyone?); a fear of threat and loss (the Conservative Howard and his fridge magnets as a constant reminder of the existential threat of terrorism); and a negative self-esteem (from which a wellspring erupts that sees a disproportionate number of conservatives, in my experience, drawn to such private proclivities as Bondage and Discipline, and Dominant/Submissive relationships, such as those found in hierarchical religious structures and even manifesting itself in the Coalition’s approach to Asylum Seekers).

The core ideology of conservatism stresses resistance to change and justification of inequality and is motivated by needs that vary situationally and dispositionally in order to manage all manner of uncertainty and threats which they perceive. A fact which, you may note, is taken advantage of by successful conservative politicians the world over.

‘Conservatism is a demanding mistress and is giving me a migraine.’

For more than half a century the hypothesis has been tracked that different psychological motives and tendencies underlie ideological differences between the political Left and the Right.

The specific study of the political Right began back in 1950 via Sanford’s landmark study of authoritarianism and the fascist potential in personality. This asymmetrical focus on right-wing authoritarianism (RWA) was criticised heavily on theoretical and methodological grounds by, among others, Eysenck, but it has withstood the relentless tests of time and empirical scrutiny. A voluminous literature has facilitated the comparison of cognitive (thinking) styles and motivational needs of political conservatives with those of moderates, liberals, radicals and left-wingers.

A distillation of a political conservative thus comes down to, to varying degrees of extremity, one who leans toward authoritarianism, dogmatism, and intolerance of ambiguity, uncertainty avoidance, need for cognitive closure(or certainty, or absolutes), and social dominance orientation (SDO)-or needing to be top dog.

Which is to say that a case can also be made to say that such asymmetrical (one-sided) study of the conservative may be dismissed as an illegitimate, value-laden attempt to correlate general psychological profiles with specific ideological beliefs.

On the other hand, you can also make the case, ‘Why not?’. Because it invites controversy does not mean it should be avoided.

However, what is also important to take into consideration is that you do not fall into the trap of conflating the personal(ity) and the political as the essential truth. Also, it needs to be considered how much the influence of external situational factors has on the expression of conservatism by a person. For example, could it not be the case that people’s innate fear of Climate Change is what is driving them to support doing nothing about it, for to acknowledge that we need to do something is to confront the existential threat to our relaxed and comfortable way of life which Global Warming threatens?

Which essentially guides us to a generally-agreed concept of what political conservatism is. Specifically, that people embrace political conservatism(at least in part) because it serves to reduce fear, anxiety, and uncertainty; allows them to avoid change, disruption and ambiguity: and to explain, order and justify inequality among groups and individuals. This provides the framework which is built upon and worked together in the mind of the conservative to reduce and manage fear and uncertainty.

Me? As a progressive, my motto is, ‘All is flux’ and thus you are best served, and you best serve others in your community, the nation, the world and our voiceless environment best by grabbing the tiger by the tail and riding it as best you can, based upon gathering together all the best evidence available as to how best to do so. I prefer the view from there, as opposed to that from having my head in the sand any day.

Hopefully, however, you may now have more insight into why people who are conservative prefer to chop the trees down, rather then make out the differences between the wood and the trees.

On the non-theoretical side, we must also include that dog in the conservative race, ‘Self Interest’.

The romance of the retro PM

The more we see of Tony Abbott the more we are see of a person to dislike and distrust. And what we see emerging is a Prime Minister who would be more suited to leading a country in the 1950s – not the 21st century, writes Ricky Pannowitz.

The 1950s were a time of great cathartic change in everything from design to popular culture. Owning a 50’s retro car is more about perception than functionality. The regressive experience may be romantic, but it is ultimately expensive to maintain and less functional for the modern imperative. Can Australia afford a retro prime minister in a modern age?

It is no accident that Tony Abbott is a man who has gone from being the romantic notion of a simplistic bygone era to uncomfortably impractical. Like a shiny old reconditioned car in a showroom reminding us of a reminiscent past, there are many impracticalities and hidden issues that were not apparent beyond a new paint job and the aggressive sales pitch. After Tony left the showroom his transgression of trust saw a fickle voting public, transfixed by the mantra of sales spin, hit by the reality of something impractically different from what they were sold. The sagacity of wisdom from experts experienced in the realism of such decisions was barely audible beneath fervour of pitched hype. People were told across the board, the real Tony Abbott is a radical religious neo con, not this guy they are selling as centre centric. Any old school mechanic would tell you this ride will be uncomfortable, unreliable and ultimately expensive. Was Australia sold a lemon by crooked salesmen or is it a case of the buyer beware?

Friedrich Nietzsche wrote; “When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.”

Just as we look back at the attitudes from another less progressive and enlighten time as cultural cringe, equally cringe worthy is the attitude to Abbott’s regressive assault on the hard fought rights of ordinary Australians. The very fact that the ideals, which have been fought and won with bipartisan acceptance long ago, are in Abbott’s sights is in itself a glaring example of his reckless judgement in embarking upon a politically suicidal assault on social cohesion. The sociology of political change tends to occur after a slow conciliatory process which culminates in a glacial shift that is usually in step with changing attitudes of contemporary society. Reconciliation, gender equality, sexual equality, racial equality, universal heath care, superannuation, equitable quality education, anti discrimination, protection from vilification, humanitarian responsibility, equitable immigration, a healthy public broadcasting sector, freedom of press, freedom of speech, the minimum wage, fair industrial relations, economic sustainability, research and technological capitalisation and welfare for the disadvantaged, affordable healthcare to name a few are all measures of Australia as a progressive egalitarian society. Then there is Tony Abbott; a radical ideologist who maintains a narrow centric view embodying the current pendulum swing to the furthest right axis of the social divide. Abbott is putting it all or nothing out there at once in an expedient assault of his ideological will with indifference to consequence. There is no doubt that this is all propagated by a free ride on the populous news cycle which is afforded far more democratic weight than its current erroneous substance should allow. It’s also punctuated by a heavy agenda as there are much money and favour behind Tony’s assault. A 880 million dollar tax bill payed to a media proprietor who supported him during the campaign that could possibly be a down payment to purchase the soon to be privatised telecommunications infrastructure which would monopolise delivery of his future content. Abbott has many such scores to settle in his rise to the top job.

John Avlon who wrote; “A wingnut is someone on the far-right wing or far-left wing of the political spectrum – the professional partisans, the unhinged activists and the paranoid conspiracy theorists. They’re the people who always try to divide rather than unite us” Partisan Division is a tactic that has served Tony Abbott well, until now.

Abbott represents the remnants of everything that connotes an old world view of a young, rich colonial power trying to punch above its weight on the world stage. A nation struggling with the shame of its arrogant colonial past whilst seeking to define the identity of its future as a progressive independent multicultural nation.

To understand Abbott one must look at the ideology of that which shaped him in his formative years as a student on the SRC at Sydney University. Deeply religious, highly opinionated and in contempt of anything that he considered to be of lesser social value or challenged his moralised ideological thinking; Abbott was a radical religious conservative chauvinist. Where others use university to explore, test and challenge convention through the development of critical thinking, Abbott was a defiant sycophant of ultra conservative class elitism, preferring to oppose and demonise progressive social thinking flippantly as a ‘socialist disease’ or ‘communist propaganda’. He dogmatically shoehorned all philosophy into the supposition of his inflexible world view. Tony Abbott was a political operative of Bob Santamaria, an ultra conservative religious anti communist in the 70’s who was the voice of catholic ultra conservative right. Santamaria groomed Abbott as the new charge of ultra conservative Catholicism which would ultimately come to embody the neo conservatism of the Tea Party movement and Toryism.

Abbott sees himself as a man of great morality, however this is at odds with his actions which define him as a bare knuckle combatant moralist who will say or do anything to win political advantage. Abbott is consistently a contradiction of his christian values, even when the issue on the table is at odds with the best interest of Australian society. Abbott demonstrates hypocrisy by virtue of his past and present actions. A fundamentalist catholic who entered the priesthood but ultimately failed due to the constraints of ethical dilemmas presented by his burning political ambition driven by a dogged lust for power at any cost. Abbott’s views are those of a religious conservative Australia in less progressive times that most Australians would rather forget than revisit. A dark age of xenophobic ardour, coercion of challenge to conventional institutionalism, suspicion of sociological advancement, political tyranny, scaremongering, corruption steeped in misogyny and the bigotry that maintained an indefensible position of religious faith over personal choice. Abbott believes there is no case for the separation of Church and state, in fact his religious beliefs consistently promulgate Christian influence over his Prime Ministership and publicly funded programs.

It was apparent to anyone that knew anything of Abbott’s politics and ideology before the election that he was incapable of governing for the majority as Tony Abbott knows no middle ground. Abbott’s view is all black or white; for or against as compromise is just not in his DNA. Tony is a poor negotiator who treats everything as a political game to win rather than a bipartisan outcome for the common good no matter what’s on the table. Abbott gives no quarter considering anything but ‘all or nothing’ weak and effeminate, irrespective of what the fallout or social consequence may be.

Image courtesy of the conversation.com

Image courtesy of the conversation.com

Abbott’s general tactic for even the most extreme obstinacy is usually to deny or offer a conditional, insincere apologetic acknowledgement to minimalise political capital before reloading to maintain assault. This is a man who has strategically manoeuvred to make his move at a time when political discourse in the country has arguably hit the lowest ebb in the nation’s history. Abbott has taken Howard’s most extreme regressive policies that tapped into the dark underbelly of prejudice, racism, hatred, misogyny and class welfare; then amplified them one hundred fold into a sensory assault strategy based on divide and conquer. The new ‘Minister for Women’s Affairs’ has long held grudges and his retribution can sometimes appear contemptibly childish to prove a point. Simplistic language dispenses a bitter pill administered with faux spin that is manufactured for the political expedience of powerful ideological encroachment rather than any visionary social progression. Tireless three word sloganism as a grinding, unrelenting mantra for political sleight of a back hand to his detractors.

This continuing language of deception is evidentiary in a budget that is little more than a manifesto of social engineering rather than a statement of prudent economics. Every thread of the Australia’s social fabric at odds with neoconservative ideology is attacked as unsustainable, unwarranted, superfluously unimportant or irrelevant. We all must do the ‘heavy lifting’ as Australia just can’t afford anything that Tony is opposed to and anyone who questions the budget with conflicting factually inconvenient critique is a ‘fiscal vandal’. The message behind the transparency of the language is arrogant, insulting and rhetorical ‘heavy grifting’ at best. The process of implementation of the budgets methodology was a prequel led by the “Commission of Audit”. This was a series of warning shot across the bow of middle Australia designed as conditioning for the predictable shock and awe of an unnecessarily tough budget to come. “You will thank us”, he reiterated, “we’re making the necessary hard decisions”. “Budget Emergency” “Big Black hole” Tony’s fire truck had arrived and its full of gasoline.

Under the scrutiny of experts across the political divide and with superficial micro explanation by the architects, both the audit and budget just don’t add up. Abbott is not a good orator with a fundamental understanding of economics at best. His subsequent response affirms he is in fact an “economic simpleton”. When pressed to explain himself he resorts to the rhetoric of slogans, outright lies and attack, all tactics that served elect him. This may well work in a election campaign but as a PM under the microscope in clear air, its a different proposition. The treasurer delivered the budget, tried to explain it and his approval together with his confidence rating severely tanked just like Abbott’s. Abbott and Hockey are not good performers under pressure, especially when thrown to the wolves without a script. The sheer weight of this ideology is drowning Abbott and Hockey and may well sink this government. Abbott’s freestyle oratory incompetence has seen a series of gaffs unbecoming and unworthy of his high office, further eroding his already dismal relationship with the Australian voting public. The mean spirit, retribution, hash cruelty, and inequality coupled with lack of detail, poor salesmanship with the absence of any qualified evidentiary substantiation underpinning the methodology constitutes a the budget bordering on amateurishly incompetent at best. If an election was held now this government would be deservedly decimated into political wasteland. The harsh critical analysis from all corners of society is a resounding vote of ‘no confidence’ in the Abbott Government ‘trying it on’. Such fervent discrediting asserts Abbott’s first budget to be nothing more than the wish list of corporate interest, free market capitalists led by assumptions from a socially disconnected elite. A doctrine of those who shape the ideology machine of the controlling neo right of the LNP.

Australia underestimated Abbott and his ability to tap into a festering reserve of underlying hatred, intolerance and political apathy that has polarised political debate in Australia. The reality of political lies is when they are exposed the voting public’s retribution is brutal and unforgiving. John Howard is testament to this fact and he was popular, a luxury not afforded Tony Abbott. Consequently Abbott may well be the most hated Prime Minister since Billy McMahon. History will not be kind to this government, especially now the cloaked reality has lifted and the sobriety of the real Tony Abbott’s rhetorical lies hits his enticed aspirants in the hip pocket. The voting public have began to realise they have been conned, surprised and subject to the will of a man that has no plan other than rhetorical propaganda simplified to three word slogans as a means to impose his extremist ‘retro’ ideology. Everything that Abbott said he was not and would not do, he is doing or has done. He has abandoned the people who believed his lies hoping to win them over with more of the same medicine show. This is of no surprise to those who understood Abbott before he was hastily reinvented. The real Tony Abbott is a man who embodies the personification of everything that he professes to be against such as entitlement, dirty deals, subterfuge, character assassination, slush funds, political perks, corruption, nepotism, racism and misogyny. This is evident by his words and actions. The real Tony Abbott has no shame whatsoever. When faced with the prospect of being caught in a lie, he compulsively qualifies the lie with another. The real Tony Abbott has the auspicious honour of being unpopular when elected and descending lower in the polls, all the while selling himself by claiming a mandate.

There aren’t many people left for Tony Abbott to upset. As thick skinned and unfazed by being disliked as Tony is, there is not much possibility of Abbott riding this out unscathed. Abbott and his cohorts have been very sloppy along the way, with a trial of political impropriety that is lying in waiting for the next headline. Abbott’s biggest miscalculation may have been to arrogantly open a can of worms that his machine will not be able to control. The bygone political operatives of the time they wish to emulate had the benefit of controllable information, however in an instantaneous information age nothing is controllable. The process of lighting a fuse to test credibility and competence with show trials, may well see Abbott with nowhere to run. Tony was born to rule and has fulfilled his ambitious quest to do so against all odds, but for how long and at what price? The gloss is washing off the car, the tyres are flat, it’s overheating, blowing smoke, this lemon is breaking down on the first leg of the journey. It may have seemed like a romantically good idea at the time but ultimately this bomb is an impractical rusty relic destined for the political scrap heap no matter how you paint it.

When you reduce the complexity of consequence down to the simplistic, the devil is always in the detail and the detail is most certainly in the devil they didn’t know.

People ‘cost too much’: the Abbott Government and Neoliberalism

Image from slideshare.net

Image from slideshare.net

Where will our Conservative government take this country, if allowed to do so? Dr Strobe Driver turns to America for an insight – and possibly the answer.

What to do, what to do . . .

The current non-acceptance of the 2014 Budget by the Australian population—which in turn has been reinforced by the majority of state government premiers—does not bode well for the future of the Coalition as a unified force in politics. Perhaps what is worse for the Abbott Government is it comes on the back of the debacle by Attorney-General Brandis and the proposed changes to racial vilification laws. The seeding of dissent in a party is usually political death as the Australian population witnessed under the Rudd-Gillard years, and Brandis’s byproxy non-acceptance that Australia in now a multicultural country, (some of whom these ‘other’ cultures live in the seats of Liberal Party members) may be a bitter political truth for many a person wanting the ‘good old days’ of ‘Anglo-only’ Imperialism back. Nevertheless, wanting those days back does not reshape the reality that multiculturalism is here to stay. Moreover, the same blithe attitude that was exhibited to those objecting to the changing of the law, now appears to be exhibited towards those that expect honesty from their politicians with equally dismissive statements. The treatment of dismissing people out of hand in terms of delivering a ‘this is what you get, take it or leave it’ attitude smacks of a ‘born-to-rule’ attitude, one which has as its undertone that ‘we’ (the Conservatives) will not be questioned by those that know less. This is a dangerous though not unexpected path for Abbott’s Conservatives to do down. A broader perspective than the decisions of the 2014 Budget need to be addressed in order to find out how this attitude has become manifest.

Free education and healthcare are the cornerstones of Western liberal-democracies, at least those that follow the Western European style of democracy (a style of democracy that the United States of America willfully abandoned many years ago), and it was essentially borne out of many historical precepts. For the purpose of this article however, two instances to articulate where welfare ‘came from’ are the Industrial Revolution and the subsequent demands from the population—this is where unionism also sprang from—to be cared for so they could work for the industrialists; and the wage-earning individual could pay taxes which equaled mutual prosperity. The aftermath of the horrors of the Second World War also placed demands on Western liberal-democratic governments as those returning home insisted the State—which they had sacrificed so much for—help re-join their shattered lives. From this there was a maturity of populations, as populaces realised that the State in fact had demanded (and continued to demand) so much from them in terms of taxes, labour, loyalty, citizenship and even death in defence of the system (through the wholesale drafting of the population in world wars), is to mention only a few demands the State placed on its citizenry. We can now turn to what has happened to America and the way in which it has gone on to influence the world and in doing so influenced Australian politics, in particular the Liberal Party in Australia. Whilst the US has in general a shocking and despicable system of healthcare, one which can only be held up and praised by the most wealthy and hardened industrial capitalists and/or people whose judgement is deeply affected by lobby groups, as the poor are simply disregarded. A cursory Google search of Wisconsin’s history of medical care toward there citizenry is a shocking read to anyone wanting to be informed about adequate healthcare for the poor, particularly under the current governor. America, however, does have free education for some as it does healthcare: those that have served in the military. The benefits one gets during and after service are life-long and generous and what’s more this has the offshoot of building an ongoing military–never having a shortage of recruits. Starving the general population of generous benefits and giving them to the military will always draw in a stream of new recruits as it is seamlessly coupled to an assumption that a posting to a war zone is unlikely; and if that happens the war is eminently survivable. Of course there are other ways of ensuring a vibrant military and having a well-cared for population (examples being Switzerland and Finland) however, this is not the neo-liberal way.

Back to the point of free education and excellent healthcare, Prime Minister Abbott seems to not understand that after WWII those that fought demanded a high standard of free healthcare, not dissimilar to what he expressed would happen under a Coalition Government prior to the last election. And there is the other issue of those baby-boomers that were the children of those who fought and died for their country, they too were inculcated by their (sometimes widowed) parents about what to expect from the government in terms of benefits and moreover, the State should do the ‘heavy lifting’ on their part. More to the point the baby-boomers have grandchildren now and this is perhaps the point which seems to be fundamentally lost on a Conservative and intellectually stultified Front Bench. Telling a baby-boomer (even if he/she was faithful enough to vote for the Coalition in the first place) that their grandchildren will not be able to see a doctor for free is, and will be, a very dangerous political move. However dangerous it is, it is shaping up to be trumped by Abbott’s commitment to the US-style neo-liberal system. Including but not restricted to the cutting of all welfare; a disdain for those that cannot work; the Howard-style belief that private enterprise is able to deliver and care for the public much more efficiently than a dedicated public service; and the commitment to create a two-tier Australia along the lines of the American model. An assured outcome is that of having a working-poor that underpin the wealth of the elite. How does this work? One need not look far to see the system which the Abbott Government wants in action with regard to how a two-tier Australia will ‘work.’ Whilst this is moving away from healthcare it nevertheless offers evidence. A good example of the two-tier system is that of Walmart employees in the US having to have their wages topped-up (read: a welfare payment from the government to move their wage into the category of a ‘living’ one), and this is due to their minimum wage being so pitifully low that although they work five-plus days a week, their wage remains so abjectly moribund that the government has to contribute to their well-being through a top-up—the two-tier system in action. The advantage, however, for companies who use this model is that they are able to claim that people have a job and therefore ‘dignity’; and a ‘better’ place in society. Regardless of the disdain a company such as Walmart shows to their workers and of the executive being resentful about paying any sort of respectable wage—as has been the case shown in recent times by some mining entrepreneurs and other industrialists in Australia—the true ‘worth’ for companies in having employees is the political leverage they obtain; and the power that it brings. Threats of a future offshore location of a business is enough for governments to be panicked—especially Conservatives—into adopting the ‘too-high minimum wage’ mantra. The truth of having a minimum wage so low, as per the American model, is that it in turn needs to be topped-up by government (read: taxpayer) funds. A further insight this offers is it displays the near-absolute contempt a company such as Walmart has for not just their own employees but all American taxpayers–further highlighting their slavish dedication to the Industrial Capitalist system. One could also go on to question where the morality is in taking money from other taxpayers in order to sustain a billion-dollar company’s network of employees, but that is beyond the remit of this article and has been exposed in the aforementioned. The American model comes into stark relief as the Conservative Abbott Government begins to push harder and harder on welfare recipients and works toward bringing in a neo-liberal agenda. What is also of interest here, however, is what if Australians reject the Liberal Party’s neo-liberal agenda; and in doing so see the American model for what it truly represents? What to do, what to do?

Assuming the Abbott Government keeps taking negative hits from their neo-liberal policy, not unlike those that led to the systemic decline and then decimation at the polls for the Thatcher Government in Britain during the very beginning of the 1990s—the Poll Tax being the ‘bridge too far’ to save the Tories, the Abbott Government too will be faced, if the polls continue on a downward trend, with the dilemma of either replacing or politically resuscitating their leader. Of course, they will not be able to depose Abbott due to the ramifications it would have in the political sphere of their unrelenting criticism of Labor; and the unseating of an elected member of parliament, and leader of the country. Therefore, resuscitation will be their only real answer. The other problem for the government will be the Coalition as a political entity will be faced with what it represents to the public: the domain of aging, elitist, out-of-touch (mostly) white males. A point one could argue that was symbolically driven home by the punitive treatment of under-30s in the election. High profile senators—and a possible leader of the future amongst them—Abetz, Andrews, Hockey, Truss, Dutton, Robb, Pyne, Brandis, will be pushed to do something as Abbott’s credibility declines and this will bring about an inconvenient realisation which will need to be considered: the under-30s are the grandchildren of the baby-boomers. Thus, giving credence to the argument that the Coalition-the Thatcherism-aspects of simply not understand inter-connectivity elements within society. Thatcherism reigns supreme. The Coalition’s belief in the neo-liberal mantra that Thatcher instilled (or at least attempted to) that ‘there is no such thing as society, only individuals’ ultimately means they do not understand, or deliberately ignore that there is an inter-reliance within society and this attitude is rusted-on. Within this paradigm fail the Conservative Abbott government also fails to understand that grandparents’ actually love their grandchildren and are committed to what’s best for them. Neoliberalism has blinded the Abbott government to their Western European-societal roots, in which it is the actual duty of the State to care for its citizens. Once again what to do, what to do? The Coalition has two choices, to ride out the punitive measures of the Budget and hope that the Australian people—come the next election—will forgive them for their dalliance into the Americanisation of Australian society, or they will continue to push hard and eventually tell the Australian people it’s time they gave up on Western European societal norms because they ‘cost too much’. If the ‘costs too much’ scenario is successfully implemented and the shift toward the individualistic Americanisation of Australian society is successful, there will be no turning back.

To be sure, the ethics and morality of how a person and/or people have come to ‘cost too much’ is far beyond the template of this essay, suffice to say that Abbott who is highly-educated in theology should be at the forefront when it comes to care and wellbeing of the Australian people. Notwithstanding, convincing pensioners however, who will be in need of the most care that they should fend for themselves and that hospitals, (of which most are an arm of the State), will be reticent for them to attend their emergency wards because they’ll be too crowded by people using them as substitute for their General Practitioner will be a game-changer for pensioners. Yet again, this offers the premise that the Coalition is addicted to the neoliberal ‘American model’ of society utterly and completely. This said however, one does need to ask how a Front Bench which has such an array of deeply-religious God-fearing people on it could possibly resort to such Dickensian treatment of the poor and underprivileged. It must be that they do believe and it is present in their rhetoric, that they know best and that they have the highest moral/ethical values but in turn have a low application of these principles when delivery of care to their populace is required. Everything about health (and education) is ‘too costly’ even if the Federal government is the eventual beneficiary of an intellectually robust and healthy nation.

Should the American (insurance-industry driven) model is embraced it will mean a two-tier health system which will eventually exclude the poor, low-class and the elderly, and if the new education principles are adopted it will also be a two-tiered system. Eventually being only for the ‘deserving’ (read: wealthy) people, essentially those that have a lesser chance of going to prison. This amounts to both education and health being reserved for privileged, upper-middle class (mostly) white people. There is a distinct correlation to the Abbott Front Bench and inter-connectivity in this scenario too.

This article was first published on Geo-Strategic Orbit and has been reproduced with permission.

 

The Budget: All cruelty springs from weakness

Image source: laberal.blogspot.com

Image source: laberal.blogspot.com

 

It can’t be denied any longer, conservatives really do believe they have no responsibility to the vulnerable, and it is perfectly acceptable to the Abbott government that those who can least afford it endure the most harsh of financial limitations.

This piece in the Sydney Morning Herald reveals that while high income couples stand to lose scarcely at all, families on benefits may lose up to 10% of their income. Known as “Detailed family outcomes,” this information was withheld from the budget, contrary to custom, by Joe Hockey, obviously because it reveals the Abbott government lie that everyone will be doing their fair share of the heavy lifting allegedly required to get the budget back on track.

Abbott also stated in an interview with Alison Carabine on Radio National Breakfast this morning that the highly paid, such as politicians, judges and senior public servants, will suffer a pay freeze for twelve months, costing Abbott something like a $6000 addition to his $500,000 plus benefits salary package. Not even the most witless among us could possibly believe this can be in any way comparable to the situation of a young person without resources denied Newstart benefits, and low-income families and pensioners having to choose between a middy, a treat for the kids, the doctor’s bill, and medicine, for which they will also have to pay more.

Pensioners also stand to lose extras such as free car registration, and reductions in rates, water and electricity. These concessions were made available to the people in the community who were recognised as vulnerable and needing assistance by governments unlike this one, governments who were capable of making such acknowledgements.

The question I am waiting for a journalist to ask the Prime Minister and the Treasurer is, why are they placing an intolerable burden on the most vulnerable while the wealthy are called upon to do comparatively very little?

What is it in the conservative psychology that makes such unfairness acceptable to them?

No country can afford to be governed by people who hate and fear vulnerability, as do these Australian conservatives. Far from being adult such people are dangerously immature, incapable of understanding any life experience other than their own. Convinced of its superiority, this government asks little or nothing of those best placed to contribute to the country’s needs, while demanding that those least able, relinquish what little they already have. In other words, the Abbott government is determined to punish the vulnerable for their vulnerability.

All cruelty springs from weakness, declared the philosopher Seneca. Wealth and power do not guarantee strength of character, and it’s hard to detect that quality in Abbott and Hockey. Strength of character requires the ability to identify vulnerability and refrain from taking advantage of it. Hockey and Abbott have indeed identified the vulnerable, and have proceeded to take the most appalling advantage, of the kind they would never dream of imposing on the wealthy and comfortable.

Conservatives are, in general, weak and cruel. Our government is weak and cruel. We are in dangerous times, with this weak and cruel government. As we have seen with the treatment of asylum seekers in this country, (and this has been demonstrated by both major parties) once the bar has been lowered for the treatment of a particular group of human beings, it is very easy to escalate ill-treatment.

This budget is devastating for the vulnerable, and pays no mind to their survival. This budget will lower the bar on the treatment of vulnerable people in our society. It will become easier to treat them even more harshly, to consider them even less worthy, to demonise them as threats and parasites, just as has been done to asylum seekers in the last fourteen years. And in the way of things, as history has demonstrated over and over again, ill-treatment becomes normalised, and scapegoats become the bitter focus of a community’s fears and discontents.

Beware of cruel governments. They will only become more cruel. Because they are, at their heart, cowardly and weak, and when the cowardly and weak attain power, the vulnerable will be the first they destroy.

This article was first posted on Jennifer’s blog “No Place For Sheep” and reproduced with permission.

[twitter-follow screen_name=’noplaceforsheep’ show_count =’yes’]

Abbott uses society’s vulnerable as means to an ideological end

Can anybody make any sense out of what this government doing? asks Jennifer Wilson.

It seems to me that it’s a core conservative tradition to use the most vulnerable people in society as a means to an ideological end. There are endless current examples of this: threats to pensions, restricted access to Newstart for unemployed youth, destruction of universal healthcare, proposed reduction of the minimum wage and a cap on that wage for the next ten years, all part of the Commission of Audit’s recommendations to the Abbott government prior to its first budget in a couple of weeks.

None of these measures will affect anyone as disastrously as they will affect the poor, and while middle class journalists on a good wage, some of whom are Abbott’s most vocal supporters, scream like stuck pigs about the flagged “debt levy” on incomes over $80,000, nobody much is pointing out the ideologically-based, systematic crippling of the lives of those who struggle hardest to keep poverty from their doors.

Conservatives seem to hold the ideological position that poverty is a moral failing, for which the individual is solely accountable, and if that individual has been incapable of taking care of her or himself and his or her family, they’ve no one to blame but themselves. If they do sink into a morass of underprivileged misery then they ought to be able to find ways to redeem themselves. If they don’t manage this feat, they obviously only deserve what little they get, and the conservative will do his or her best to take even that away.

This unexamined belief that the less financially fortunate are immoral and a drain on the prudent is, it seems, impossible to eradicate from the consciousness of the privileged and entitled, who lack any ability to comprehend context, and the myriad forces at work in society that affect the course of a life. This, coupled with the conservatives’ traditional love of a good clichéd stereotype, works to reinforce their sense of entitlement, and their contempt for anyone less blessed than are they.

The conservative disregard, some may even allege contempt, for those other than (lesser than) themselves, allows them to use rational agents as a means to an end, contradicting the Kantian position that to use others as a means, and not an end in themselves, is to flout the fundamental principle of morality. Perhaps this is nowhere as starkly obvious as in the current and previous governments’ treatment of asylum seekers. Both major political parties have, for many years now, used boat arrivals as a means to achieve political success, and not as rational agents deserving of consideration as ends in themselves. In this sense, the ALP finds itself on the same side as conservative politicians, something that should chill the heart of any ALP supporter.

There is no point in decrying the lack of humanity and compassion in conservative ideology. Both qualities are regarded as belonging to the bleeding hearts of the left, hindrances to freedom, obstacles to profit. So we find ourselves in the bizarre position of having a Human Rights Commissioner for Freedom, Tim Wilson, who recently claimed that McDonalds has “human rights to own property” and that “spending” is an expression of free speech.

It’s a dangerous situation when a Commissioner for Human Rights equates the ability to spend with the right to freedom of any kind, including speech.

It makes no sense to take any measures that prevent or discourage people from taking care of their health, such as co-payments for doctor visits for example. This will increase the pressure on accident and emergency departments, already stretched beyond their means, and result in people becoming chronically ill, at much greater expense to the taxpayer.

It makes no sense to continue to spend billions of dollars incarcerating a few thousand asylum seekers, for example, when there are many less expensive options such as allowing refugees to live in, work, and contribute to the community.

It makes no sense to waste billions on a paid parental leave system when the money could be much better invested in increased child care for parents who want to work, but find it difficult to access adequate care for their offspring. Good child care is also an investment in our future: children can benefit enormously from early education and socialisation, a child care centre doesn’t simply “mind” them, it educates them.

However, none of the above is of any consequence to a political party driven by ideology. Humans are, to such a party, a means to an ideological end, not an end in themselves. Obviously, it is much easier to treat the less financially blessed as a means to an end, and if you already believe poverty and disadvantage to be indicators of lack of morality and worth, why would you care anyway?

You may not agree with Kant’s categorical imperative, but there is something very dark about the Abbott government’s willingness to impose harsh circumstances on those already doing without in this wealthy country. It is easy, Mr Abbott, to make life more difficult for those without the power to protest. It is more of a challenge to work towards an equitable society based not on ideology, but common sense, and respect for everyone’s humanity.

Note: It’s with my tongue firmly in my cheek that I use this conservative image of Jesus.

This article was first posted on Jennifer’s blog “No Place For Sheep” and reproduced with permission.

Image courtesy of politifake.org

Image courtesy of politifake.org