The Coalition’s political strategy has been, for some time now, to attack individuals in relentless smear campaigns. This does absolutely nothing to advance policy. It does nothing to encourage debate, inform the electorate, or garner support for action. It does nothing to improve the lives of Australians.
Looking back over this century so far, it is hard to remember the good things that have resulted from political decisions.
Instead, we remember the tragedy of illegitimate wars and argue about how to deal with the innocent victims. We attack people like Gillian Triggs who try to remind us of our obligation to protect human rights and to inform us of the harm being caused by our inhumanity.
We are told we should revere our civilised Western culture and our Judeo-Christian heritage, ignoring the way in which we built our wealth – invading countries, stripping them of their natural resources, stealing their land, massacring or enslaving the native population, instilling the fear of our god whilst spreading disease and debauchery.
We have sold off our common wealth, resources, crucial infrastructure, and profitable government businesses that provided competition to private providers, without consideration of future consequences.
We see inequality condemn millions to poverty as company profits soar, wages stagnate, employment becomes increasingly insecure and welfare payments fall further and further behind increases in cost of living.
We subsidise property investors ignoring the hundreds of thousands who can no longer afford anywhere to live.
We were briefly world leaders on tackling climate change until Tony Abbott convinced enough people that paying a few dollars a week to save the planet was an evil plot. Reversing the trend of a decade, emissions have increased every year since they “axed the tax”.
As we endure coral bleaching, massive flooding, devastating droughts and bushfires, changing rainfall patterns, increasing temperatures and the melting of the polar caps and permafrost, we brag about economic growth built on the export of fossil fuels. We attack Tim Flannery for passing on the warnings from the science community and disparage environmental protection through the legal system as green “lawfare”.
We wring our hands about falling educational standards as we pay teachers a pittance, pour more money into the private system whilst cutting promised funding to our most disadvantaged schools, decimate the TAFE sector, and burden university graduates with huge debts before they even start their working lives. Bureaucrats and conservative think tanks push rote learning in opposition to the initiative, creativity, communication, teamwork and leadership skills employers are asking for.
The private health system, rather than easing the burden on public health, has led to rising costs for everyone and longer wait times in the public system. Emergency departments are unable to cope as beds lie idle and jobs are filled by overseas visa workers. Primary health has had funding frozen and private health insurance costs soar as do the government subsidies to prop it up.
We had a chance to listen to our Indigenous people about a way forward in addressing disadvantage and giving them a voice in determining their own lives. Except we took their Statement from the Heart, screwed it up, and threw it in the bin without even a cursory glance. I cannot imagine how that must have felt to the people who worked so hard to bring everyone together.
We almost had a world class NBN until Abbott and Turnbull decided to demolish it. To all those lumbered with FttN, I empathise. You wouldn’t want a job with the Telecommunications Ombudsman right now.
The outsourcing of services, whether it be the jobactive network, aged care, the NDIS, private colleges, call centres etc, has not improved efficiency or cut costs but has led to a myriad of problems and opportunities for unscrupulous rorting.
We chose to let out car industry die rather than subsidise it and then decided to subsidise arms manufacturing instead – a fraction of the jobs for immeasurably higher cost. We cannot afford foreign aid but we have hundreds of billions for more weapons.
Rather than tackling the important issues facing government, we have endured endless scandals and directed attacks on opponents.
We have had three Labor leaders dragged before very expensive Royal Commissions. Julia Gillard was subjected to months of attack in parliament over legal work she did decades ago. Bill Shorten is now facing similar attack for a donation made over a decade ago.
In what has become a disturbingly familiar pattern, Craig Thomson’s arrest was televised. The destruction of Peter Slipper’s life also occupied the Coalition for a long time. Meanwhile, Kathy Jackson remains at large and no-one suffered any consequences for illegally sharing copies of the Speaker’s diary or for referring a possible debt of $900 to the police.
Sam Dastyari was forced to resign after asking a donor to pay a couple of small bills and then telling him that his phone might be tapped. No-one ever answered who told the government that this had happened. Is ASIO passing on information to be used for political purposes? And what of Andrew Hastie using parliamentary privilege to reveal an ongoing investigation by the FBI into a donor?
As they throw mud at everyone else, the character of Coalition members and the integrity of their actions often avoids scrutiny as they refuse freedom of information requests, ignore court directions, withhold evidence and advice.
Even with the protection racket, the Coalition have had more than their fair share of controversy.
Tony Abbott told us, when asked about the qualities of a female candidate, that she had “sex appeal”. Jamie Briggs was stood down for inappropriate and unwanted advances to a staffer. Barnaby got a staffer pregnant and is facing sexual harassment complaints. Both the head and deputy of Border Force stood down for affairs with junior staffers. Allegations of inappropriately securing jobs for their girlfriends remain unanswered.
Peter Dutton texts that a journalist is a “mad fucking witch” and Greg Hunt tells a female mayor to “fucking get over it”, “robust” language he also admitted to using to bully a public servant. Turnbull goes toe-to-toe with Abbott on a plane telling him “you’re fucking hopeless, you’re a fucking c#nt, you should resign.” And, in Parliament, Christopher Pyne calls Anthony Albanese a word that sounded a little bit like grub and a lot like c#nt.
Bronwyn Bishop and Sussan Ley both lost their positions for abusing travel entitlements.
The head of the ABCC is found guilty of breaching Fair Work Commission laws and the Public Service Commissioner resigns amidst questions about his links to the IPA. Michael Lawler also beats a hasty retreat allowing Michaelia Cash to bury the report into his protracted “sick leave”.
Tim Wilson went through no selection process for the job created for him at the AHRC, an organisation he had campaigned should be abolished, where he warmed a seat collecting a hefty salary for a short while whilst waiting for a safe Liberal seat to be gifted to him.
James McGrath was admonished for paying for tawdry dirt files to be complied on Labor members and was then gifted a job as Senator.
Andrew Robb and Bruce Bilson both took jobs before they left parliament which presented significant conflicts of interest.
Speaking of which, how has Stuart Robert survived the many controversies surrounding him?
The Coalition want proof of the process for approving the donation made by the AWU to GetUp in 2005 yet refuse to disclose the process for approving the $30 million grant to Foxtel Sports and the $443 million to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation (whoever they are). And why was Gina gifted $70,000 to host a dinner where she gave $40,000 to Barnaby?
The Coalition has spent all of its time attacking unions, attacking Labor, attacking individuals who question their policy, and fostering division by ‘othering’ various groups in our community. Five years in and they still are looking for others to blame.
The rich have got richer but the vast majority of the population are feeling disappointed and uneasy, concerned about the future.
It doesn’t need to be this way.
The Coalition election strategy is, once again, to go for character assassination of the Labor leader – “Kill Bill” and “Unbelieva-Bill” and other such puerile nonsense
It is up to the public to reject this inadequate attempt at deflection and to demand a genuine debate of important policy.
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