“For years – decades – we have had political correctness in this country, which I fear is raising kids in our country today to despise our history, to despise how we have grown as a nation and I am disappointed that Bill Shorten would want to feed into that.” Scott Morrison
Australia Day is not for moving, despite protests from thousands of Australians across the nation – and as far as London’s Westminster Bridge. At least this is the view of our current PM, Scott Morrison, who won’t move the date because, as he says Cook might have made the odd mistake, (ask the Hawaiians) but to change the date would be to kowtow to political correctness. The wishes of indigenous people don’t seem to count at all.
Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples see the commemoration of 26 January as a day of mourning, less a reminder of the arrival of Arthur Phillip’s first fleet than a harbinger of the genocide, alienation, dispossession and brutal oppression that followed. Nevertheless, Morrison’s government is seeking to keep the day and to deify Cook, in policies which seem calculated to celebrate white supremacy, invasion, slavery and forced colonisation.
Morrison’s recourse to “political correctness” is dangerous nonsense, a dog-whistle to the alt-right who as the term to invoke an imagined conspiracy to silence them. To be politically correct in its original sense means respecting diversity, modifying language to avoid giving offence to others. But Morrison is a Trumpista.
Trump constantly abused the term. Political correctness was to blame for everything in his 2016 presidential campaign. A Muslim with a gun killed forty-nine people at a night club in Orlando. Trump blamed Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton. They had “put at risk the lives of ordinary people.” Why? Political correctness.
“They have put political correctness above common sense, above your safety, and above all else,” Trump raved. When Fox News’ Megyn Kelly asks him if he were part of the war on women, he rants,
“I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. ”His audience applauds. “I’ve been challenged by so many people, I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either.”
Ironically, Trump’s own rise to success comes from a nation where voicing criticism of your government could put you in gaol, as Pussy Riot discovered, gaoled for hooliganism for two years in 2012 because they had challenged the support of Russian clergy for Putin and his regime.
Or it could be fatal. Twenty-one journalists have been killed since Putin came to power in March 2000. In most cases, no-one has been held responsible for the murders. Now the press is too frightened to tell the truth.
Only the RBC media holding, made a name for itself over seven years by its investigative coverage of business and politics, including Putin insiders. Otherwise a fearful Russian press ignored the Panama Papers.
A few weeks after its Panama Papers report, RBC’s top editors were dismissed. RBC holding changed ownership a few months later. It was bought by pro-Putin Onexim Group, controlled by metals magnate, Mikhail Prokhorov.
Trump became president with a little help from his friends; Russian oligarchs whom the West helped install in the carve-up of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. Their funding helped rescue The Donald from himself; a series of disastrous business failures. Yet who could have predicted he would become a role model for Morrison?
“I think we both get it”, ScoMo tells The New York Times’, Maureen Dowd. Even though Australia did not get rocked by a recession like the US, some people feel forgotten, left off the globalism gravy train. “And that’s what we get. The president gets that. I get it.” What gravy train? No, ScoMo, you just love the propaganda technique.
Despite his posturing as battlers’ hero, Dowd sees ScoMo as a lucky chump, the Stephen Bradbury of Oz-politics.
“In 2002, ice skater Steven Bradbury became the first Australian to win a Winter Olympic gold medal when his three top rivals crashed in a last-minute pileup. The right-wing Peter Dutton kicked off the coup that felled Malcolm Turnbull, but then the slimy Dutton and the soignée Julie Bishop crashed in a pileup that allowed the unprepossessing Morrison to glide across the finish line.” Not that ScoMo didn’t have his skates on, already.
Heroic hamster-in-a-wheel, ScoMo the party apparatchik, remembers a forgotten people he never knew; ordinary folk, average workers, whose interests neither he, nor Trump, will do anything to promote; everything to imperil.
Wages are flat-lining and despite all the turd-polishing from government media spin units, workers are increasingly likely to be part-time, underemployed, underpaid and in casual, insecure jobs. They feel ripped off.
Overall, Australia may be richer but the rich are the winners. Alan Austin reports that Credit Suisse’s annual global wealth report and wealth data-book — which show more Aussie millionaires — confirms that since 2013, wealth continues to flow from the working- and middle-classes to the rich.
For the Coalition, Frydenberg argues it’s just not happening. As for ScoMo, he’s too ordinary to be elitist.
Morrison’s minders script a PM of faux-mundanity who spends Australia Day with Jen and the kids at the Shoalhaven Heads Hotel, having a feed of flathead and chips as he savours a beer and his own propaganda-show.
“Can this cloying folksiness be any more unconvincing than his policies on energy, climate, anti-discrimination, anti-corruption and refugees both offshore and onshore?”, asks The Saturday Paper’s Richard Ackland.
Unconvincing or contrived? What is the Coalition’s climate, energy, immigration, population or water policy? As with economic and environmental policy, it is non-existent. Anne Summers finds “…so many policy deficits in Canberra, it is difficult to know if there are any established, well-based and effective policies still in existence.
Faux-Mo overlooks how Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan sheltered us from the GFC. Even if prompted, he’d rant about Rudd’s pink batt disaster or school hall folly, Abbott-Murdoch lies, which demean both projects’ role as community assets and as economic stimulus. But Faux-Mo is a post-fact poster boy. Spin is everything.
Part of his act is ignorance. This week Morrison imagines James Cook RN circumnavigating Australia, a school boy howler. Those who know their nation’s history shake their heads. Yet it is also a wilful re-writing of history in the service of white supremacy, evident in Morrison’s $5.7 billion fetish for all things Cook, an imaginary or fantasy Cook – the bearer of civilisation. It’s a calculated gesture of contempt for all indigenous peoples.
The racist Donald Trump whose real estate company in the 1970s avoided renting apartments to African-Americans, in favour of whites, in the 1970s would be proud of him. If he were interested in anyone but himself.
Or if he could read. Or if his inattention span or his narcissism permitted. In other words, were he not a bigoted, boorish, pre-literate, vainglorious lout. Or wooing his “base” with follies such as his hard-line on the Mexican wall, his potentially disastrous trade wars with China, his isolationist foreign policy – less policy than populist retreat.
And here’s the rub. It’s not so much that ScoMo admires Trump’s discovery of the people who “fell off the global gravy train”, whose interests both Trump and Morrison imperil in their mission to service the rich. It’s the bully.
ScoMo and some other locals – including what’s left of One Nation – have become fans. They are drunk on Trump’s contempt for convention and misread his wilful ignorance as licence to misbehave badly. Because it works: just look at Fox. Or Sky. Or anything by Greg Sheridan. It’s the vulgarian Trump’s bad-boy behaviour that appeals.
Trump peddles a heady but pernicious mix of philistinism, prejudice and brute ignorance, often confused with iconoclasm, strength or independence, by the naïve, immature or uneducated who form most of his base. Their uncritical adulation fits hand in baseball mitt with our US Alliance, a one-sided, unrequited love affair with the US as our protector when, in reality, the relationship is a liability.
Seriously. Both, moreover, require maintenance.
The Coalition is “joined at the hip” to our once-great and powerful friend, the disunited states of America whose current decline into anarchy is presided over by a clapped-out, TV celebrity game-show host, Donald J Trump, heir to a real-estate fortune; a grifter whose career peaked when he appeared on a 1990 Playboy magazine cover.
The playboy who would later be drafted into The White House, in the emperor’s new clothes, is depicted in black tie, minus his jacket which he’s chivalrously given to Brandi Brandt, his Playmate companion. It’s all she’s wearing.
Oddly, there is no comment from Morrison’s government now that the fake president has hit a wall – in Mexico. You’d think there’d be a bit of applause from a PM who built a career on demonising immigrants and colluding in off-shore incarceration on Manus and Nauru so cruel, the UN says it’s torture. Or refusing medical treatment, especially to sick children, many of whom have been driven mad by five years of imprisonment, neglect and abuse.
Morrison could turn a blind eye to Trump’s lie that Mexico would stump up $5.7 billion, or so, to wall themselves in – just as he’s made no comment on Trump’s Mexican stand-off with congress. Morrison or Marise Payne could offer congrats – not that Trump’s backed down on his government shutdown, but on his bullying Congress that it had better pay for the wall come 15 February or he’d declare a state of emergency.
800,000 government workers are on leave or working without pay. Trump tells them to get credit at the store.
But still not a peep, not a word in any tongue from ScoMo or his government. Could it be that “chaos is reigning; the PM is jumping at shadows and doesn’t know what to do?” as a Liberal “hard-head” tells Paul Bongiorno.
Rats continue to jump ship. Nigel Scullion joins Michael Keenan in the rush to desert the sinking, stinking, Liberals.
Trump has hit a wall or two before, of course. After squandering the $413 million bequeathed him by his builder father, Fred C Trump, a bankrupt Trump Jnr allegedly sought help from Russian financiers.
Craving approval and control, Trump surrounds himself now with sycophants and incompetents. In his court are enablers and rent-seekers such as VP Mike Pence, who this week crowns Trump, – as a type of King.
Colluding in Trump’s paranoid delusion of invasion by a migrant caravan, Pence claims Martin Luther King, would support the President’s empty threat to build a wall along the US-Mexico border. “Now is the time to make real the promises for democracy,” Pence quotes King on the weekend of King’s birthday. It’s sycophancy on steroids.
It is a week of mutual Endeavour. In the US, The Donald’s rabid fearmongering about how the land of the brave and the free is to be invaded by drug-crazed, diseased and dangerous criminals aka “many gang members and some very bad people” – from South of the Border, is boosted by his VP. Pence calls it an epoch-making speech, an epic, if not heroic, evocation of human rights worthy of the late great, civil rights leader himself.
For Trump’s small and powerless pal, ScoMo, too many Cooks are never enough when it comes to invaders. What’s left of Morrison’s government goes cuckoo over Cook. James Cook that is.
In Cairns, the PM busies himself setting the record crooked reinventing the doughty Scots-Yorkshireman as an icon of Western Civilisation, a scientist, whose mission was not to observe the transit of Venus or to make his men eat sauerkraut but to bear the precious gift of The Enlightenment to the poor, benighted inhabitants of this land.
The myth that Cook discovered Australia has been taught in schools for decades – too long-established to quickly challenge. ScoMo may know this. He has a solid base of disinformation to build his culture warfare on. Just for the record, however, James Cook never held the rank of Captain. The British navigator was a Lieutenant when he landed in Botany Bay in April 1770 and was promoted to Commodore soon after his return to England in 1771.
Not to be outdone in cooking the books, Nationals’ deputy leader, Bridget McKenzie, a “flash bit of kit”, according to former Tsar, Barnaby Joyce, not only wants to keep Australia Day on 26 January, she wants to rewrite history.
“That is when the course of our nation changed forever. When Captain Cook stepped ashore,” Senator McKenzie tells Sky News viewers on Tuesday. “And from then on, we’ve built an incredibly successful society, best multicultural society in the world.”
Australia Day commemorates the landing of Arthur Phillip in January 1788, nine years after Cook’s death. “The best multicultural society” boast is rhetorical nonsense; impossible to quantify. Yet it also slights or treats with contempt the migrant experience of racist rejection, exclusion, scapegoating and discrimination, at school, in the workplace and in society at large from the treatment of the traditional owners of the land through the Chinese gold-diggers, forced to walk 900km from Sydney southward across the Murray River to the goldfields to avoid the 1855 Victorian poll-tax, to Dutton’s African gangs. And the White Australia Policy is the elephant in the room.
Sadly, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young also errs. Incredibly, she hadn’t time to read her release before publication, she says. “Despite an important national debate about changing the date of Australia Day away from Captain Cook’s landing at Botany Bay, the Government has decided to spend taxpayer money it is stripping from the ABC on yet another monument to Captain Cook on the land of the Dharawal people,” her statement reads.
ScoMo will go ahead with his captain’s call, the commission of a replica of HMB Endeavour, a replica of James’ Cook’s barque, itself a copy of a Whitby collier, broad in the beam and shallow in the draft, ideally designed to navigate the shallows, or cope with running aground, even survive a collision with the Great Barrier Reef.
Top of the list it has a generous storage capacity for coal – a happy metaphor for Morrison’s government itself.
Oddly, Morrison’s second captain’s call is not going so well. Drafting wily Warren Mundine from his pay-TV show on Sky Mundine Means Business as candidate in the NSW ultra-marginal south coast seat of Gilmore, over the heads of the local Liberal Party branch may not fare so well. Ann Sudmalis was ejected from the seat in favour of Grant, “you better watch out” Schultz, the real-estate agent son of former Liberal party MP Alby Schultz.
Already there’s a bit of a fuss over the fact that Wokka’s company has received half a million government dollars to date, in two government grants in 2017 and 2018, in a process cryptically described as being “a closed process”.
Schultz quits the party and will run as an independent but not before firing a fine parting shot.
“I can no longer be a member of a party that does not support democracy or act with integrity,” he tells reporters.
Sometimes the rats get it right.
David Tyler (AKA Urban Wronski) was born in England, raised in New Zealand and an Australian resident since 1979. Urban Wronski grew up conflicted about his own national identity and continues to be deeply mistrustful of all nationalism, chauvinism, flags, politicians and everything else which divides and obscures our common humanity. He has always been enchanted by nature and by the extraordinary brilliance of ordinary men and women and the genius, the power and the poetry that is their vernacular. Wronski is now a fulltime freelance writer who lives with his partner and editor Shay and their chooks, near the Grampians in rural Victoria and he counts himself the luckiest man alive. A former teacher of all ages and stages, from Tertiary to Primary, for nearly forty years, he enjoyed contesting the corporatisation of schooling to follow his own natural instinct for undifferentiated affection, approval and compassion for the young.