From the beginning, the Abbott campaign has been waged in the media. Every move he makes is purely for the media. The ridiculous photos of Abbott, Hockey, and Corman sitting there looking at oversized graphs, the crews who just happen to be at Manly Beach to catch Tony surfing, the tweets of here I am driving a fire truck, the endless photos of Tony on the factory floor, the purchase of bigger planes to accommodate his burgeoning entourage of film crews, micro-managed photo shoots in Arnhem Land, way too much lycra – all designed to promote the image but woefully short on substance.
Tony doesn’t have time to meet with Ban Ki Moon but he always makes time to go see Rupert Murdoch. When he decides not to pursue the repeal of the racial discrimination laws, he contacts Andrew Bolt before telling Parliament. Organisations and individuals read about their future dismissal in the Daily Telegraph.
Abbott has used the media effectively and ruthlessly to manipulate the public discourse even to the degree where he convinced the Australian public that, rather than polluters paying for the damage they cause and to move their businesses towards sustainable practices, we should pay for their factory upgrades whilst eliminating their clean competitors. If they choose not to cut their pollution there will be no consequences.
In fact, Andrew Robb, who just oversaw the deal to sell uranium to India, tells us that coal is the future.
“Instead of thinking brown coal’s day has passed, we need to bear in mind its potential to support new industries and jobs in the future”.
This astonishing thinking, which flies in the face of all scientific evidence and international consensus, suggests that economic growth is a trade-off for action on global warming.
Imagine you were told your child was gravely ill and in need of urgent treatment. Would your reaction be to ignore that advice and pay off the mortgage instead? Would you tell the doctors they are “talking through their hats”?
Abbott, backed by Gina’s billions, was also able to convince the majority of people that asking mining companies to pay tax on their superprofits made by selling our resources was unreasonable. So keen were we to protect their record profits, we were willing to give up the increase in the superannuation guarantee, the increase in the tax free threshold, and to slow the rate of increase in pensions.
The beat up about mining jobs has proved to be just that. Since the repeal of the carbon and mining taxes, every day we hear of more job losses in the mining industry with more to come. They have never been a big employer and show no loyalty to anything except the bottom line.
But perhaps the most disgraceful display of media manipulation was the demonization of asylum seekers. Who could forget the “Egyptian jihadist terrorist kept behind a pool fence” who occupied weeks of parliamentary sitting time, only to turn out to be an accountant who had been a victim of unfair persecution. This sort of “scary Muslim” rhetoric has seen far right wing groups like the Australian Defence League ramp up a campaign of frightening online harassment against Muslim women and their children. Politicians like Jacqui Lambie and Cory Bernardi legitimise the xenophobia and discrimination with radio shock jocks and vile people like Larry Pickering whipping up hatred against a section of our community because of their faith.
The dog whistling was lapped up by the ugly Australians, many of whom were themselves migrants to this country. “Economic migrant” became a term of abuse as if these people had no right to seek a better life for their families. This set the stage for draconian measures that were sold to us as a “humanitarian” measure to stop the drownings at sea. Had it been accompanied by any increased facilitation of intake through regular channels then perhaps this argument might hold some water. Instead, they cut the intake by some 7000 and effectively closed the doors while refugees accumulate in their millions in poorer countries.
Morrison and Abbott continually bemoaned the arrival of “50,000 asylum seekers a year”. This is completely untrue. The government reported only 17,202 asylum seekers in 2012 and a further 13,108 to the end of June 2013, totalling 30,310 arrivals over a year and a half — a long way from 50,000 arrivals per year. In July last year there was a spike of 4236 arrivals. However, the following month only 1585 arrived — the lowest count for five months at that time. Further, just 3753 asylum seekers arriving by boat between July 19 and September 17, 2013. In other words, the statistic that Abbott keeps referring to simply does not add up.
According to the Liberal Party’s own press release, “over 50,000 people have now arrived illegally by boat since Mr Rudd dismantled our border security policies,” yet Tony Abbott tells us “They were coming in July at the rate of 50,000 a year.” He repeated that claim in January ”If boats were coming at the rate of 50,000 illegal arrivals a year, which was the case in July and if now they’re hardly coming at all, obviously some things have changed,” and again in July. This was no slip of the tongue, it was a deliberate falsehood propagated for media consumption.
50,000 refugees in 6 years kind of pales into insignificance when we see 140,000 Kurdish refugees flood into Turkey in the space of a few days while Turkey are already hosting some 1.5 million Syrian refugees from the three-and-a-half year conflict
Despite assuring us they would not engage in “megaphone diplomacy”, Abbott has done just that from day one. We began by insulting Indonesia by telling journalists that we didn’t need their permission to turn back boats. When Julie Bishop chose to castigate the Chinese and Russian ambassadors, she first alerted the press so they could film their arrival and quote the dressing-down.
But now this obsession with government by media has moved into very dangerous territory.
The decision to send over 800 police to round up a small group of young people could perhaps have been justified by intelligence that we were not aware of except for the way that it has been handled which exposes it as very much a propaganda exercise which is having disastrous consequences.
Since when have ASIO and the AFP released video of covert operations showing suspects and their homes when they have not been charged with anything nor committed any crime? Why do we need new harsher laws if these operations could proceed under existing laws? If there was evidence that these people had committed or intended to commit a crime, why have they been released without charge? Why use preventative detention laws which do not allow the detainee to be questioned (or to contact a lawyer, their family or employer)? Why has the stabbing of a policeman by a teenager been labelled a terrorist act?
Last Monday’s Q&A was an important program in that it gave voice to how the Muslim community are feeling and the victimisation to which they are being subjected by members of the public. Some of these women are truly afraid and with far more reason than “chatter” or a vague intercepted phone call.
The Australian Defence League has been following and photographing Muslim women on public transport, displaying anti-Islamic posters outside mosques and filming at Muslim schools and posting the videos online.
The League, which incites its followers to violence, is a registered not-for-profit organisation led by a former soldier who claims to have support from within the Defence Force.
The national president, Ralph Cerminara, posted this on facebook: “I’m calling for the end of Islam in our country and hopefully the world. If Muslims have to die then so be it. It is us against them.”
His incitement goes further as shown in this interview on 7:30 report in April.
The terrorist rhetoric being brayed in countless interviews by Abbott, Brandis and the like has backfired on them. Their emphasis of local threat and very public heavy handed approach, while failing to address the threat posed to local Muslims, has increased tensions immeasurably.
If the raids had been secret (and far smaller), the young people could have been brought in for normal questioning. It would have been useful to have Muslim counsellors there to speak with them. By broadcasting it to the world under explosive headlines, it is obvious that it was publicity rather than information that they wanted.
Brandis has jumped on recent incidents in the hope of having his new anti-terror laws rushed through parliament without scrutiny. This would be extremely dangerous as they take away many of our rights. One can only hope that sanity prevails and the Senate puts the brakes on while cooler expert heads investigate the implications of such laws.
I have come to fear tomorrow’s headlines and a government that seems not only oblivious to the consequences of Murdoch-led opinion but happy to use it to contribute to the hysteria for a boost in the polls.
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