Thursday, 25 June 2015

The War on Dissent

It seems like only yesterday Tony Abbott invoked "Team Australia" to help build a more inclusive society. The PM could barely go a doorstop without mentioning the turgid phrase in a direct or awkwardly oblique way. This rote repetition stemmed from (surprise surprise) an Abbott Government bungle: the aborted amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act that managed to offend almost everyone. From terrorism to tax, "Team Australia" became Coalition de rigueur, reassuring everyone that the Coalition was out to help not vilify them. Of course it couldn't last.

As Abbott's approval ratings plummeted toward the end of 2014, the pugilist PM reverted to his usual state of promoting panic. By the time of his infamous six-flag terror crackdown announcement, "Team Australia" was dead, buried and cremated: "I’ve often heard Western leaders describe Islam as a ‘religion of peace’," six-flag Abbott stated, "I wish more Muslim leaders would say that more often, and mean it." Team Australia: time of death, 23rd February 2015, 11am.

Since then, things have only gotten worse. Unable or unwilling to offer an actual agenda for the nation, Abbott has set about stoking public fear of terrorism through his mastery of the three-word slogan. Those who dare question Abbott's thirst for executive power (the ABC, "left-wing" media, the opposition, lawyers etc) are essentially committing treason, giving aid and comfort to the enemy in a time of war.

Contrary views are not to be tolerated; political discussion is to be kept to a minimum and within the strict boundaries defined by the executive. Take the grilling the ABC has faced (and is facing) after Zaky Mallah's appearance on Q&A. Abbott likened it to a "betrayal" of the country: "frankly heads should roll over this," he said. A depressingly amusing comment, given the barbarism Abbott so opportunistically opposes.

Unfortunately the only betrayal here is Abbott's, of Australia's liberal-democratic traditions. Of habeas corpus and of the rule of law, of the separation of powers and of representative democracy. It's strange how conservatives almost exclusively fetishise the "law", but have the least respect for it. The Liberal Party has almost no respect for liberty.

The Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015 is not Orwellian satire, it's a real bill introduced to parliament by the Coalition. It's a bill that invests unparalleled power in a single minister to revoke the citizenship of an Australian citizen.

Former cop turned Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the bill "formally removes a person from the Australian community when they themselves have breached their allegiance to Australia." Sounding like McCarthy during the Red Scare, Dutton stated that all citizens owed an allegiance to their state or sovereign: "Australian citizenship involves a commitment to Australia - it should not be taken lightly." This sort of vague, almost jingoistic language runs counter to the ideals of a pluralist liberal and democratic nation, the sort Australia aspires to be.

Abbott and his criminally incurious ministers have adopted the absolutism of the enemy, dividing the country into a Bush-esque "us and them". The terrorists are "evil", people smugglers are "evil", the ABC is "evil"; only the Coalition government will keep you safe from evil. It's like a six-year-old's binary conception of the world, except emanating from a man who is allegedly the leader of a modern nation-state.

The two-party political system has failed us again, with the parliamentary Labor Party largely endorsing the new citizenship (or more correctly anti-citizenship) legislation, eager not to be wedged on "national security" issues. Afraid of being portrayed by the Coalition (and Murdoch press) as "soft on terror", Labor is repeating the same mistakes they made with immigration policy moving inexorably to the right for no electoral benefit. This puts every Australian at risk as the executive seeks more and more power with fewer and fewer checks and balances.

But it's too late now. The naked partisan, trying to bolster his flagging approval ratings (with flags), has had his way. It's very difficult to go back from here. To get some idea of how bad it is, we need only look at the Daily Telegraph's treatment of shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus. Dreyfus dared to question the unprecedented power granted to a minister to strip citizenship, arguing foreign fighters should be allowed to return to Australia to face trial (something Coalition cabinet ministers also suggested). You know, so the rule of law can do its thing. The Telegraph, far and away Australia's worst newspaper, launched attack after attack after attack on Dreyfus, labelling him "soft" on border security etc. Mature debate on such a serious topic is the fevered dream of a madman.

We are now in a legalised state of "love it or fuck off"; our elected representatives telling us to be loyal or else. If one person doesn't like the cut of your jib, you're potentially stripped of your citizenship, even if you've lived here all of your life and are as connected to your other passport as <zinger>OS X Yosemite is to WiFi </zinger>.

The state determining what is and what is not suitable behaviour for citizens is dangerous at any time, let alone with an incurious zealot in charge. Remember well the halcyon days of the previous Labor government when the then-Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor formed the view that he had "too much power" under the law. I doubt we'll ever hear those words spoken by a minster of the Crown again.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Bad Wireless Reception

Tony Abbott's comments yesterday about those "visually awful" wind farms was, as usual, about as well thought out as a drunken brawl on King St. Obsequious as ever with Alan Jones, Abbott also alarmingly found himself agreeing with the haranguer-in-chief on the "potential heath impacts" of wind farms. Ugh.

So basically, 'our' PM (by 'our', I mean the person who has been elected by the 1% to represent the federal division of Warringah and by some cruel stroke of fate was elected leader of a bunch of antediluvian flat-earthers who hold, due to an electoral collective fit, a majority of seats in the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia) has joined such distinguished and reputable company as anti-vaxxers, moon landing hoaxers, 9/11 truthers, grassy knollers and NWO patriots.

On the plus side, Abbott's proven he'd make as good a Minister for Science as he does Minister for Women.

To be fair to Abbott though, he's not the only 'leader' to bow down like this before the king of the radio diatribe. Leaders and identities from both major parties were and are far too deferential to 2GB's hyperactive gerbil and his legion of prejudiced and panicked long time listeners, first time callers.

In some ways, I can't blame them, it's called "The Alan Jones Breakfast Show" for a reason; agree with the host or be subjected to a 20 minute diatribe on why you're an idiot or should drown at sea. But politicians are leaders and should not be afraid to occasionally, heaven forbid, lead.

But leaders of both major parties are obsessed with occupying the middle electoral ground, too afraid to tell a caller that they are wrong, ill-informed or just plain racist. It's all thoughtful nodding and reassuring noises, validating Rex from Rooty Hill's assertion that all 'them Asians' are taking 'the homes', 'the jobs' and their 'way of life'. Oh to sit in the booth and say "Well, you sound like a bigoted fuck. Next caller pls."


But there was one...

(honourable mention to Malcolm Turnbull's post-budget appearance with the Tiradenator, the best performance of contemporary talkback to date)

Monday, 1 June 2015

Andrew Bolt Does Angry Spear-Throwing Masturbation Act

Andrew in fine form doing...what? I'm not exactly sure. But he's got his war face on. He's clearly enjoying it.

In the aftermath of Adam Goodes' boisterous post-sports points scoring celebration, Bolt joins other luminaries of the Internets complaining about the "reverse racism" that abounds in the AFL etc., with logic like: "if i done this wot Adam Goods is done id be told im a raceist (sic)", or my personal favourite, "im not raceist but I don't like him becoz hes arrogant" and then proceed to talk about race at every opportunity.

There are many similar arguments out there. If you have hope for the future, don't read any public opinion on it. Just read the Chris Graham's brilliant article published on the New Matilda.