This week we witnessed the collapse of the Liberal Party of Australia. The party of Menzies, Fraser, and Howard; the party that has defined modern Australian politics, for good and for bad; the party that has been slowly tearing itself apart since the 2007 election, finally finished the job.
In the most exceptionally stupid display of unhinged arrogance from any Australian government in living memory, Scott Morrison and the Liberals signalled their intent to make Bill Shorten the next Prime Minister.
Now, we all know that Australia and racism go together like, well, Australia and racism. So, it shouldn’t have been surprising to see the Coalition siding with Pauline Hanson’s white supremacist Senate motion. I mean, yeah it was shocking, but was anyone really surprised?
The Liberals were so confident in their decision, that Mathias Cormann, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, tweeted his endorsement of the motion after the vote was taken.
Less than 24 hours later, he was claiming that the government’s support for white supremacy was an administrative error – they actually meant to OPPOSE the motion, but somehow got that mixed up. It slipped through. It’s regrettable. Fuck off.
As Crikey’s politics editor Bernard Keane put it, there is no explaining away, contextualising, justifying or dismissing this outrage by the Coalition.
It was, oddly enough, Derryn Hinch who described Hanson’s intent perfectly, an obscene motion in the contest to see who can get to the bottom of the sewer first; in supporting this motion, the Liberals plunged headlong into her filth.
And in a week that saw the ABC expose neo-Nazis joining the NSW Young Nationals in an attempt to shift mainstream politics further to the right, the timing could not be more conspicuous.
It’s worth looking at the wording of Hanson’s motion, to examine why claims of anti-white racism can be called racist, along with the racist intent behind the statement It’s okay to be white. First of all, the notion that anti-white racism is on the rise is outright garbage. There is no evidence for this, and the examples provided are almost always by people freaking out about the idea of racial equity. Structural, institutionalised racism remains the most pervasive threat to the health and well-being of people of colour (POC). For those forcibly defined by the colour of their skin and their family heritage, the idea of anti-white racism is offensive beyond belief, because it negates the actual racism they are forced to confront every day. As a white person, you’ve maybe, MAYBE faced racism once in your life. It’s never been something that has found its way into every facet of your existence. It’s never meant being profiled as a criminal because of who your parents might be. And so to call a push to build an equitable society, where those who have been born into privilege being made to give up some of that privilege, so that others can be lifted up, racism, is stupidity that beggars belief.
Regarding the statement that “it’s okay to be white”, the correct phrasing is “it’s OK to be white”. This is important, because the OK hand gesture, thumb and index fingertip touching with three fingers raised, has been co-opted by white supremacists, white nationalists, and neo-Nazis as a low-key gang sign. For them, it means white power – the three raised fingers forming a W and the thumb/index finger forming a P with the wrist.
The phrase itself originated on 4Chan, as a way to shut down debate about racism, because anyone arguing that it isn’t okay to be white would be made to look like a fool.
Not all those supporting the motion would have known the origins of this racist garbage, but it is simple enough to see how the text of the motion on racism being put forward by Australia’s most famous racist should be cause for concern.
For the sake of analysis, there can be no doubt that the support of this motion was intended to send a sign to potential Hanson supporters that the Coalition has their back. If the death camps on Manus and Nauru weren’t enough, maybe this would be. The plan seems fairly straightforward: support the motion and in the ensuing outrage, issue an insincere non-apology and then, virtue successfully signalled, wait for the next opportunity to whip out the old dog-whistle.
Speaking of dog-whistling, when Morrison signalled his intent to move the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, it was seen by many as an attempt to woo the Jewish vote at this weekend’s by-election (according to the last census, 12.5% of the Wentworth populace identifies as Jewish). Independent candidate for Wentworth, Dr Kerryn Phelps, is an active member of the local Jewish community, having converted to Judaism when she met her now-wife 20 years ago. I mean, focusing on the needs of the local Jewish community is a sure-fire vote winner, but then, the arrogance of the Liberal Party in this seat is historic:
- It is presently apparent in the preselection of Dave Sharma as candidate, parachuting him in from the Upper North Shore because he was ambassador to Israel;
- In 2004, Malcolm Turnbull bought his way into preselection, as it was a safe seat and the Liberal Party needed his money to remain afloat;
- The party, in one form or another, has held the seat since Federation, as such, central issues of voter importance are ignored. When the NSW Liberals shut down Kings Cross in 2014, they did so with the assumption that it would have zero impact on the party’s ability to hold the federal seat into the future.
- There is also the issue of the homophobic mystery email circulated claiming Dr Phelps had withdrawn from the by-election because of HIV – which she does not have – urging voters to instead support Dave Sharma. While most news outlets backed away from accusing the Liberal Party of being connected to the email, it rings of the Islamophobic stunt pulled by Jackie Kelly’s husband in 2007. If Sharma was not directly connected to the email, I have little doubt a Liberal Party affiliate was. My money is on the Young Libs, but that’s just speculation.
Now, any politician can tell you the trick to appeasing Israel is simple: turn a blind eye to their ongoing genocide against the nation of Palestine, mention the close relationship between Australia and Israel every now and then, disabuse anyone critical of Israel by reminding them of the Holocaust, and that’s about it. You can throw in the odd condemnation of the BDS movement, but really, they’re one of the easiest apartheid states to keep on-side, there’s no need to ramp up the rhetoric and put national security at risk by moving an embassy.
Also, terms like “anti-Semitism” are supposed to be reserved for those advocating in favour of Palestine, not tossed out over a question about cynical political stunts. So, for Morrison to shift gears, operating in lock-step with Donald Trump over Israel and putting trade relationships with dozens of nations, including Indonesia, in jeopardy; dismissing Labor’s criticism of this as anti-Semitic, shows how incredibly out of touch with reality this clown is.
And as long as we’re on the topic of impulsive, unstable clowns – Barnaby Joyce. According to those within the Nationals, the most punchable face in Australian politics is begging for a second round. Apparently 8 months on the backbench is all it takes to correct the mistake that is the Member for New England.
As the Coalition partner to the Liberals, any time the Nationals shit the bed, it flows on to ScoMo and friends. This week, Barnaby Joyce, while defending his fellow Klansmen in the Senate, declared that most of the time he doesn’t even know what he’s voting on. This is the man the Nationals party room believe should return to the deputy Prime Ministership.
Even if you put aside his philandering; nepotism; deception; pork-barrelling; accusations of sexual harassment; scandalous payments from media organisations for the story of his affair; not to mention his handling of the water portfolio – which was so incompetent it verged on outright corruption; the fact that he is so willing to admit he has no idea what is in the legislation he votes for, shows that he is unfit to even sit in Canberra, let alone lead the junior Coalition partner.
Though, when it comes to being unfit to serve, few will be as memorably forgettable as the Liberal MP whose name and portfolio most journalists and pundits have had to repeatedly google: Environment Minister Melissa Price. The rules for being a politician are pretty simple, don’t get caught rorting the taxpayer, and don’t cause an international incident. Insulting the former President of Kiribati, to his face, rates up there with chartering a helicopter flight to a party fundraiser.
This comes just a week after the Minister. For. The. Environment. declared her enduring support for coal in a trainwreck interview that everyone should listen to if they get the chance. She has previously shown a disregard for the science behind climate change, and has now been accused of misleading the House, over her denial of the incident, in which, multiple witnesses allege she said “I know why you are here, it’s for the cash. For the Pacific, it’s always about the cash. I have my cheque book here, how much do you want?”
In any other government, she would have been axed to stave off the backlash at the polls.
The central issue here, as has been the case for almost the entirety of the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison governments, any single one of these issues would be an outrage on their own, but, just like the US under Trump, Australia is caught in the outrage mill.
Incompetence becomes background noise as scandal after scandal breaks. No one is punished for their actions, and legislation stagnates as debate focuses on whichever headline grabs the most attention. The swing to the hard right from the Coalition has drawn the ALP towards the new centre, shifting the entire political spectrum again, to the right.
If we were to look at Australia today through the lens of the last great progressive government, even as this country has moved forward, we’ve either stalled or been dragged kicking and screaming along the way. If today’s standards were applied to the Whitlam government, we’d likely see a nation pulled further to the left than the Greens.
There is a genuine opportunity to shift the political debate of this country away from the sock-puppets employed by Murdoch and his ilk. The reaction against Alan Jones and the Berejiklian government in NSW earlier this month should show that there is a way to harness the outrage of progressives and the apathy of those being abandoned by politicians and media outlets desperate to mirror Trumpism.
Most voters are sick of hearing about politics, because all that seems to be reported now is more in the endless cycle of fuck-ups. There is no good news coming out of Canberra, it’s bullshit posturing and relentless wankers in baseball caps desperate to keep their half-million salary, plus expenses.
As a community, as individuals, we can all do better. The way out of this quagmire is not simple, it means demanding more accountability from elected officials, political parties, social movements, and each other. It means forcing people to be politically engaged, by becoming politically engaged. It means refusing to be ignored or shrugged off. It means taking to the streets, calling and writing to politicians, not just tweeting your dismay or updating your profile picture. You can achieve more than you think, if you just try.
The Liberal party could collapse on its own, but it doesn’t hurt to help them achieve that goal. There has never been a more exciting time to despise idiot conservativism.
One last fun sidebar on the subject of Israel. There is a prevailing theory in US politics, that the reason the Trump administration moved the embassy to Jerusalem was due to pressure from evangelicals within the Republican party.
It is said that the evangelicals truly believe, in their heart of hearts, beyond all doubt, that the triumphant return of the nation of Israel – descended from the tribes of Benjamin and Judah – to Jerusalem, will bring about the rapture, and the second coming of Jesus.
Scott Morrison is an evangelical.
It is entirely possible that the Prime Minister is moving the Australian embassy to Jerusalem because he believes it will help bring about the end of the world.