“To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”― George Orwell
First they came for America and paved the way for the rise of Trump. And the British looked on from across the pond at the sheer insanity of it all and thought ‘only in America’. But then they came for the British and the unthinkable happened… The Brexit. Its shockwaves still rebounding across the globe. There’s talk of recession and already the wound is beginning to fester.
They, in this instance, are fear, ignorance and lies.
How can we avoid these imposters taking hold here in Australia? There’s constant vigilance of course, but there is also not voting for the Coaltion or Labor this Saturday.
Hear me out.
Trump has managed to usher in a whole new brand of untruth. Politicians have always lied (normally strategically), but this is different. Trump simply makes stuff up, all the time, on the spot. Call him on it later and he flat out denies he ever said it and pivots to the opposite if it suits him in that moment. Media don’t know how to deal with it, but he’s entertaining — so they give him more air time. He plays on the people’s ignorance of facts and complexity and appeals to their basest instincts with flat out lies on who is responsible. He rose on the back of this to become the presumptive Republican nominee (even if his campaign is now beginning to unravel).
Meanwhile, we’re not even a week out and already the leaders of the Brexit ‘Leave’ campaign are climbing down from their campaign promises. Nigel Farage told Good Morning Britain that the claim written on the side of the Vote Leave Bus — that leaving the EU would release £350m a week that could be spent on the NHS — was “a mistake”. After convincing middle and working class Britain that their lack of prospects was down to Johnny Foreigner, the Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan has climbed down from the campaign’s claims that a leave vote would halt immigration. But the cat is out of the bag and social media is awash with hundreds of instances of hate speech being reported, with Leave voters gleefully telling immigrants that they will soon have to go home.
What happened was succinctly captured by Umair Haque:
“What was Brexit really? It was the losers brainwashed by the winners of a broken financial system into being even bigger losers.”
It’s an echo of what is happening in America and it can happen here in Australia. We have a broken global financial system that is leading to rampant inequality, stagnant economies and little to no social mobility. It is a top heavy ponzi scheme where the spoils get siphoned to the top and out the sides to sit idly by in tax havens (rather than being spent on human capital, hospitals and schools). But instead of fixing the system, the winners of this system run a propaganda campaign to blame it all on the ‘brown people’. Those who made it through the net are taking your jobs, want to blow you up or introduce Sharia Law. And if that’s not bad enough, there is a tsunami of desperate humanity trying to break down our borders and destroy our way of life. It’s a genius slight of hand. And it’s working.
Because the experts have been telling us the blame lies elsewhere for quite some time. Umair Haque again:
“So you do need to hear the voices of the people who really know what they are talking about. You need to hear them desperately, constantly, and really listen. I don’t mean thinktank pundits and cable news talking heads. I mean Nobel Laureates and giants like Amartya Sen, Ken Arrow, Joe Stiglitz, Thomas Piketty. I know. Many of you don’t recognize those names. That’s the problem.”
It’s the problem alright. Michael Gove said in the lead up the Brexit vote that “People in this country have had enough of experts.” And so off the back of a lack of curiosity and an aversion to complexity, a rising tide of populism swamps the seemingly stable politics of the world’s two dominant western cultures.
It can’t happen here, you say. Look at our lacklustre election, you say. But therein lies the problem.
With Abbott on the backbench and Pauline Hanson not gaining traction, the demagoguery may not be front and centre — but the radicals are in power. Make no mistake. Dutton, Joyce, Brandis, Abetz and even Bernardi and Christensen all have clout (and Turnbull by the cojones). And if you think Malcolm winning the election will give him a mandate, think again. This will be a close election and the right will have him wedged just as much as he is now. Progressive Malcolm is but a fantasy. Regardless of what the LNP will have you believe, this schism in the Coalition (on issues such as climate change and gay marriage) is no guarantee of stability — just as a Tory civil war on British sovereignty begat the Brexit.
And the central pillar of the Coalition’s ‘plan for jobs & growth’ is also based on a fantasy. Trickle down economics has been proven to be a ruse, a lie peddled to shore up the wealth at the top. Don’t believe me? It was implemented by Thatcher in the UK and Reagan in the US and has perpetuated since. Again, lets looks to Brexit and Trump to see how their social harmony and inequality is going for them.
Most of the funds from the Coalition’s corporate tax cuts are shifted way down the line (10 years for some) and will end up in the bank accounts of foreign investors. A study by the Australia Institute found:
“Cutting the company tax rate will neither create the jobs nor produce the economic growth that the government and the business lobby claim it would, according to a historical examination of Australia’s business tax reductions and that of comparable OECD economies.”
“Living standards were higher when education funding was higher, according to a comparison of countries in the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development”
But the status quo steam train keeps rolling on.
A little while back (when things were looking shaky in the polls) Turnbull called on his dog whistling bag man Dutton to gin up fear of the hoards of boat people. First there was his claim that:
“They won’t be numerate or literate in their own language, let alone English. These people would be taking Australian jobs, there’s no question about that.”
And then last week, when it looked like Labor going negative on Medicare was starting to bite, they abandon their policy of total secrecy around boat arrivals and never discussing “on water matters” to let us know there was a boat turn back from Vietnam.
It seems that “running a shipping news service for people smugglers” is OK after all.
Watch the hand.
But then Labor don’t offer Australians much of a choice. They’ve lost their gumption for genuine progressive politics (in the modern sense of the term) and are devoid of any coherent narrative. They’re really just a different side of the same coin. Sure, there isn’t the malice that sits in the dark heart of the coalition’s right — but they are a unity ticket with them on things that truly matter.
They back a refugee policy that renders people who are fleeing lands we bomb to concentration camp conditions — rife with torture, rape, child abuse and people self immolating out of sheer hopelessness (Labor voters: Please think on that before voting on Saturday). The fact that both parties agree to such an inhumane policy and that a majority of Australians still approve of such barbarity, shows that we’re not that different from UKIP in the UK or the Tea Party in the US when it comes to our popular stance on immigration. It’s also a signal that our own Brexit or Trump moment only needs the right trigger.
And while better on climate change and more proactive on a move to renewables than the coalition, Labor are still funded by big mining and not fighting the approval of huge new mines in ecologically sensitive areas. They refuse to do anything truly meaningful to decarbonise our economy while Tassie’s ancient Gondwanan forests of thousand year old trees burn and our beloved reef bleaches and dies.
Losing electoral traction as a direct result of their lack of vision and ideas, Labor too have resorted to negativity and lies on a Medicare scare campaign that (at the point of writing this) has backfired on them badly.
Watch the hand.
It would seem Saturday’s election is but a mere choice illusion. Until the electoral funding laws are changed, both major parties do not represent us. They represent the vested interests funding their campaigns and the ex-staffers wandering the corridors of power as lobbyists returning favours via a system of legalised bribery.
It’s the reason why both parties will not take any meaningful steps to tackle the most pressing issue for every citizen on this planet and the decarbonise our economy. It’s the reason why, as Naomi Klein states:
“For the past three decades, since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was created and climate negotiations began, the refusal of our governments to lower emissions has been accompanied with full awareness of the dangers.”
In the case of the Coalition, their policy stance included a deliberate suppression of alternative technologies. This is wilful, malevolent negligence. Forget the deficit, this is the true inter-generational theft. You can’t apply quantitative easing to our one and only ecology. We need leaders with the political will and wisdom to apply the indigenous concept of ‘seventh generation thinking’ — how will this affect society 200 years ahead?
But what about the economy you ask?
Neither party has a plan for the very real implications of amorphous digital economy and the coming wave of automation that will be the final lethal blow to the working and middle classes. Any physical task that is dirty, repetitive or dangerous will be done by robots. Any white collar job that features repetition or patterns will be done by algorithms. This will be upon us much quicker than anyone thinks, as in the next 5 to 10 years. Moore’s Law will see to that. Yet… we don’t have a plan.
Inaction here has nothing to do with lobbyists or corporate donations, just apathy and a lack of vision and understanding of what is happening in the real world. Malcolm’s agile innovation economy proved to be mere empty words and devoid of policy. As if just saying the right buzzwords would spur us on to create an Aussie Uber or AirBnB. And Bill Shorten? I don’t think he had even thought about this until Malcolm uttered his empty words.
So, the status quo steam train steam rolls on. On to a stagnant economy, increasing inequality and a lack of social mobility. Which will then make us fertile ground for populist demagogues and dog whistlers to rise up and turn our ire on to the immigrants and refugees who will land upon our shores fleeing wars and environmental catastrophes of our own making.
This isn’t Game Of Thrones, our fate isn’t written. But we need to take it in our own hands and demand wholesale change. A system of collaborative, decentralised, open source enterprise that puts people and planet above a system driven by the profit motive — that commoditises people and destroys the planet. There are some incredibly smart people trying to work this out, but in the meantime we need to buy these academics and experts some time. We need to work with our current system and pull the levers to ensure we avoid a fate like the US or Britain.
Our current system does offer something approaching a choice in this hopeless hot mess:
Don’t vote for the Coalition or Labor on Saturday
Both the Coalition and Labor have rolled out the big guns trying to convince us that we waste our votes if we give them to minor parties or independents. They’re seriously concerned. They see the disillusionment and antipathy we have towards their cynical short-term politicking and so they roll out their lies to shore up their incumbency as the only legitimate Government and opposition.
Malcolm is certainly worried. Using a sizeable chunk of his campaign launch to perpetuate the myth that the Gillard minority Government held in conjunction with the Greens and independents was a chaos we cant afford to revisit. Yet, the Gillard Government (in conjunction with the Greens and independents) had the highest rate of passing legislationof any parliament. That legislative record included a Carbon Tax that wasn’t the wrecking ball for the economy Tony Abbott promised (another lie) and reduced emissions dramatically (emissions that are now back up since the laughable and oblique Direct Action scheme has been implemented). Compare that to the record of the Coalition in the last few years. A majority government does not guarantee stability, effectiveness, nor reform.
They tell us that if your local member cannot form Government, that your concerns and interests won’t be properly represented. Another lie that my local NSW MP Jamie Parker put paid to just last week.
Always. Watch. The. Hand.
So here’s the rub: polls are neck and neck and if enough disenfranchised Australians voted for a minor party or an independent on Saturday, then the balance of power could be held by politicians whose interests are not that of big corporate donors, but of their constituents.
This is a nightmare scenario, not for us, but for the Coalition and Labor. It would send a message to the big parties that we will not tolerate the status quo anymore and that we want genuine change, vision and leadership for an always shifting and a, frankly, uncertain future.
History doesn’t repeat, it rhymes. And we have the Trump and Brexit examples screaming at us to change course away from the neoliberal status quo.
This Saturday, vote Greens, vote for the Nick Xenophon Team, or vote independent if you want a genuine change. Look at their policies and vote for the members who have your interests at heart.
Otherwise, we’ll end up where we’re heading.