I will try to keep this letter brief as I know you have a short attention span and since you’ve never responded to my previous correspondence, I can only guess it was because they were longer than your brain capacity could absorb. The main topic of this letter is to let you know that I think you’re an opportunistic, petty, vindictive creep and that you’re running the country as if you would like to imagine that all Australians are equally as petty and vindictive as you. But we’re not. And you’re not going to win your soon to be announced election because we’re better than that.
Over the last 24 hours, Barack Obama, the greatest President America has ever had and possibly the best leader the world has ever seen, has once again shown what it is to be a visionary, compassionate, highly intelligent, gracious, composed and dignified statesman. He sang Amazing Grace at the funeral of Charleston murder victim Rev. Clementa Pinckney as if it was the most natural thing in the world for him to lead the chorus. He celebrated the decision by the US Supreme Court to recognise the constitutional legality of gay marriage by tweeting with hashtag #LoveWins. Obama is a giant of our world, whether you agree with his politics or not. And next to him, your pettiness, your aggression, your predilection for the path of least residence to the lowest common denominator makes you a meaningless flea. A blip that will be forgotten by history as a negative, sloganeering, fear-inducing, mean spirited low point of Australia’s history.
In the last 24 hours, you and your government have shown your true colours. With three terrorism attacks overseas in France, Kuwait and Tunisia, the pleasure in your eyes, the excitement at having a scare mechanism, the opportunity for you to use these events politically, make me feel ill. You’ve said the death cult is coming for Australians. You’re ramping up the rhetoric on threat levels which have absolutely no grounding in reality. You’re using the deaths of innocent people at the hands of barbaric, violent, evil, yet distant, criminals to further your own political cause. If you can’t see how low it is that you enjoy, and take pleasure out of these opportunities to be a scaremonger, let me tell you, it’s unedifying to the extreme. We know you’re only talking about national security because you’ve comprehensively failed to deliver vision, policies, negotiation, competency and functional government in any policy area so far in your dysfunctional term as Prime Minister. You therefore rely on plane crashes, on sieges carried out by mentally ill lone-wolves, and on the tragedies of people in far-away places to make yourself feel better about yourself. To keep your flag collection multiplying. For opportunistic photo stunts. Petty. Vindictive. Creepy.
And of course, everything you do, everything you have ever done in opposition and seamlessly into government is just about wrecking progressive policies with your negative ‘always on’ election campaign. We hear this morning that you’ve already produced negative attack ads about Bill Shorten. Is Shorten the first thing you think about when you wake up? I bet he is. You are the Prime Minister of arguably the best country in the world and all you care about is bashing your political rivals. Of giving jobs to your boys. You want to unpick every good progressive policy this country has ever delivered and take us back to a yesterday that none of us are interested in revisiting. Wrecking health and education funding. Destroying technological advancement. Wrecking environmental policy. Wrecking whole industries and destroying thousands of jobs. Depressing consumer confidence and in turn destroying economic growth. Wrecking social security. Dog whistling about asylum seekers while they are treated in detention centres no better than captives of the ISIS ‘death cult’. Attacking the union movement. Your nasty little thought bubbles on user-pays public education and wielding your wrecking ball into highly successful industry super funds are just the latest of the daily onslaught of terror you wreck on ordinary Australians. And why do you do it? For the same reason as a dog licks his balls. Because he can.
I dare you to go to an early election Tony Abbott. I dare you to believe that Australia wants to give you another chance to do even more damage to the fabric of our community. While you use national security as your play thing, we can see what you’re trying to do. Your leaked memo made that very clear. And when I compare you, the petty, vindictive, creepy flea, to the likes of Barack Obama, I want to cry with frustration. The sooner you give me and the rest of Australia the chance to vote you out, the better.
You would have thought it would be at least mildly damaging to the Abbott government, if not just a bit embarrassing, that one of their colleagues has leaked a memo outlining their plans to wedge Labor on national security policy. After spending an inordinate amount of effort trying to convince voters that Abbott rates national security policy as a priority above all else because it really is an important area of public policy (it isn’t), you would think it might be a bigger news story for the public to find out that, in fact the Abbott government’s obsession with national security policy is nothing more than a political game. A game to make Labor look bad. A ‘tactic’ designed to ‘wedge’ Labor, to make Labor look ‘soft on terrorism’. A scheme to get Abbott re-elected. Nothing to do with the safety of Australians. But this is not a rational world that we live in and we do not have a rational media who would make this story a rational one for their audience to understand. Instead, the release of this memo was yet another ‘nothing to see here, move along, the Abbott government can do whatever they like without being framed as completely ridiculous’ moment and we’re all meant to just go about our lives as if nothing has happened.
Well I for one won’t just go on. I will call out the ridiculousness when I see it and I will question how a supposably mature and well-educated electorate of Australian voters are so keen to fall for Abbott’s bullshit on national security. Because, according to a recent poll, the one thing Australians are most anxious about is the threat of ISIS. Seriously. In a country threated by climate change, with unemployment at record highs, with whole industries dying out, with house prices in some cities far out of reach of middle-income earners, with huge cuts to education and health spending, with threats to social security and aged pensions and with a government so catastrophically inept and dysfunctional that we’re a daily embarrassment, and a danger to our international community, Australians are most scared of a handful of idiotic lunatics who inexplicably leave the comfort of their homes in Australia to fight with fanatics in a country most Australians can’t find on a map? Seriously? When people wake up every day, do they really worry more about the ISIS ‘death cult’ bogey-man-under-the-bed than they do keeping their job and feeding, clothing, educating and caring for their family? Seriously? So Abbott’s game is working. Australians are falling for his wedging of Labor hook line and sinker. Or is it by hook or by crook? Wake up Australia! The joke is on you!
Today Abbott took the ‘we will wedge Labor on national security policy’ directive further into the immature game-playing realm or absurdity today by saying that since Labor, quite reasonably and to my relief, are refusing to help give Minister-Potato-Head-Dutton ministerial control of taking away the Australian citizenship of people accused (but not proved by a court of law) of fighting alongside terrorists, that Labor are ‘rolling out the red carpet to terrorists’. Labor has said they will support legislation that removes the Australian citizenship of people with dual-citizenship if a court of law finds them guilty of supporting terrorism. You know, like when anyone commits a crime in this first-world-country we live in and are given, as an inalienable right, the right to be tried in a court of a law and to be considered innocent until proven guilty. But this centuries-old-approach-to-the-rule-of-law is evidence of Labor being ‘soft’ apparently, according to the wedge-brigade. Even though Abbott has been told his plan, which was so opposed by his own cabinet members that it was the topic of the most detailed cabinet leak the country has ever seen, is likely un-constitutional (in other words won’t happen unless Abbott changes the constitution, in other words won’t happen), he is determined to keep going with it. Because he’s trying to give Labor a wedgie. It’s all about polls you see. While he’s scaring people, he’s winning. That’s a sad fact. He actually does win when he’s scaring people and part of his plan to scare people is to tell them that the courts are no longer going to keep Australians safe. It’s now up to Peter Dutton to keep us safe. That’s scary!
But do you know what really is scary? Apart from the ease in which Abbott can play these games, aided by a compliant media who never call him out. Apart from the fact that Australians are all too willing to participate in the ISIS-is-under-your-bed-BOO!-charade. And apart from the fact that while Abbott’s playing these games, he’s not running the country and addressing real problems facing millions of Australians, and in most cases is making our lives harder instead. No, what scares me most is that Abbott’s game will be successful and he will convince a gullible-all-too-ready-to-be-conned electorate that even though he’s quite clearly the most inept human being Australia has ever had the misfortune of calling Prime Minister, that his own political game playing ‘war on terror’ makes him a ‘safer bet’ than Labor at the next, possibly quite soon to occur, election. This really is scary enough to keep me up at night.
Remember the old saying ‘sticks and stone may break my bones, but names will never hurt me’? It’s time Australian voters worried less about the stupid, insensitive, nasty, judgemental, heartless, shameless, inaccurate, bigoted, moronic, offensive things Abbott and members of his government say and focus more of what these words show us about these peoples’ values, or lack thereof, and importantly, the outcomes these lack of values have on the lives of Australians. Because these people are running the country and what they say is just a reflection of how they make decisions. We should be really seriously scared! Forget about the words, worry about the sticks and stones because they really are breaking bones! Here are some examples:
I wrote last week about Hockey’s ‘Double Dipping’, fraudster, rorting description of mothers of newborns who quite legally and legitimately receive their privately negotiated maternity leave along with the government scheme which was always set out to top up existing leave and not to replace it. As a pregnant woman myself, I found the accusation that I’m slovenly, greedily stealing from tax-payers through rorting, fraudster behaviour while I take leave from my job, incredibly offensive. But looking past this outrage, what about the outrage about the consequence this policy outcome will have on new mothers? For many, it will mean having to go back to work weeks or even months earlier than they would like to, possibly giving up on breastfeeding and forgoing the time they would have liked to spend with their newborn, but can’t afford to spend without government paid maternity leave. This is the outrage – the consequences the policy change will have on the lives of working women, their financial stress and their precious first few months at home with their newborns.
The thing about Tony Abbott is that there’s never a shortage of outrageous comments flying around that are just as offensive as Hockey’s ‘Double Dipping’ and also just as hurtful as being struck with sticks and stones when you haven’t even had time to get over the last assault. Another example from this week was Abbott’s statement to a Queensland small business group that his ‘work for the dole’ policy will allow business owners to ‘try before you buy’. Yes, he’s talking about trying people, workers, employees, before hiring them. As if they’re cars being taken for a test spin or a pair of shoes, as noted by an ABC interviewer who called him out on this phrase. You’ll notice though, that it’s the phrase the interviewer was worried about, and not the policy itself. Yes, it’s absolutely revolting that Abbott would refer to unemployed workers being farmed out to work for the dole schemes, who get paid no more than they get on the dole ($37 a day, or $4.60 per hour for an 8 hour day) as being ‘tried before they are bought’. But what’s more disgusting than this characteristic Abbott-way of talking about desperate and vulnerable unemployed people is the policy itself. We already know through Abbott’s decision to throw unemployed youth off welfare for 6 months, which was then changed to 1 month to try to get it through the Senate, he doesn’t have an inch of compassion for the perilous situation people find themselves in when unemployed. But now he’s proving that he has absolutely no qualms with people working at slave labour rates, which he no doubt wishes was the minimum wage if there had to be one at all, and that he has no concerns that this free month of work will actually keep the unemployed person from having the time available to find a job. A real job that actually pays them a salary. He knows as well as any person that if you give businesses free workers, they have zero incentive to actually employ, and pay workers. What would stop these businesses from ‘trying’ a new worker every month, every year forever and never having to actually employ anyone ever again? Is this Abbott’s job creation strategy? To create an underclass of working poor by bypassing the minimum wage and allowing businesses to treat people like slaves? Take a look Australia. This is the man you put in charge. It’s depressing beyond belief.
Finally, my last example, also from this week, once again shows the outrage at Abbott’s ineloquent, nastily worded sound bites is misplaced when you consider the actions behind the statement. When asked if Australia would, on the urging of the United Nations, work with regional neighbours to find a solution to the displacement of thousands of Rohingya refugees, Abbott’s reponse was, like a three year old child rejecting broccoli – ‘Nope, nope, nope’. He then went on to say that ‘To start a new life, come through the front door, not the back door’ and that ‘Australia is ‘a good international citizen’. Let’s look at the values behind these words and the outcomes. The first obvious outcome is that, whether Abbott believes it or not, Australia is not a good international citizen. And the citizens of Australia have let the citizens of the world down by electing a man who lacks even the basic compassion for families so terrified of being killed that they’ve jumped on boats to escape and nearly starved on the open waters while they wait for someone to show enough compassion to help them. What is clear from Abbott’s ‘front door’ versus ‘back door’ statement is that he only wants privileged people migrating to Australia. He only wants those who come from countries with migration channels, who can afford visas, or who have the education for skilled migration status. He doesn’t want poor people. Especially if they are brown. Because Abbott hates poor people. For someone who describes himself as a Catholic, he’s decidedly unchristian. And the depressing part is, Australia, in the majority, loves him for it.
Words are important, but only because they launch the sticks and stones that break people’s bones. I’m just as guilty as everyone else who is reading this thinking that they are liable to let their outrage of what Abbott and his government colleagues say overshadow the outrage at these people’s actions. Being outraged at words is easy, but let’s look deeper and call out the outrageous values and actions that are signposted by these outrageous comments. And let’s work at electing a government that doesn’t bash its people with sticks and stones on a daily basis.
I am writing to you about your announcement on Mother’s Day that you’re going to deprive 80,000 working mothers from the government funded Paid Parental Leave scheme due to their existing employer scheme. I wasn’t sure whether to address this letter to you, the Treasurer who announced this latest horror, or to the Prime Minister, who went to the last election promising a more generous PPL scheme which he has now back-flipped on, or Scott Morrison who seems to be jockeying for his own bully-boy spotlight on budget night. Maybe you can share this letter with Peta Credlin and then I’ll have everyone covered.
So apparently after the shocker of your first ‘lifter – leaner’ budget, which thankfully is lying in ruins, dead, buried, cremated, after 12 months of failure by your government to negotiate with a Senate who rightly see you as the lying, cheating, nasty, ineffective bastards that you are, you wanted budget number two to improve your political popularity. But this Mother’s Day announcement to cut PPL from women who rely on this scheme to make the whole journey of work, have baby, pay bills, keep roof over head, look after baby and eventually go back to work, successful for their family, isn’t going to make you popular. Because it’s outrageously unfair to working mothers.
Let’s look at the words you’re using to explain why women who negotiated paid maternity leave as part of their salary package with their employer, have been told they will no longer be eligible for the Paid Parental Leave scheme Labor introduced. You have managed in the last two days to get the phrase ‘double-dipping’ all the way across a compliant media who pick up little slogans like this and throw them around with glee, never questioning what these words actually mean. I looked up the origins of the phrase ‘double-dipping’ on Urban Dictionary and found that it started as a joke on Seinfeld and has come to be known as ‘a favourite behaviour of crude diners’ who are over-indulging in dipping sauce by re-plunging their chip, biscuit or vegetable stick into the dip after they’ve already taken a bite. It describes a process of gluttony and greed – the act of putting one’s pleasure in eating dip ahead of the unhygienic process of placing saliva topped food into a shared meal. And this is how you describe women who are caring for a newborn baby? You are framing mothers of newborns as greedy, untrustworthy, germ-sharing parasites? What the fuck is wrong with you Joe? Do you honestly not see how incredibly offensive it is to lecture women who have taken time out of the workforce to bring up the next generation of Australians at great expense to their own careers, their sanity, their lifestyles, their financial stability and their personal relationships and to call them greedy? Sure, babies bring great joy. But they also bring great expense, particularly when a household has previously relied on the double income of both parents, often to pay mortgages in cities like Sydney that eat up more than 50% of the household budget. Let’s not forget that the PPL scheme is already means tested, so it is only available to women earning less than $150,000 a year. This is not the mega rich we’re talking about. This is middle and lower income earners who will have to re-evaluate their entire baby-making plans when they learn they’ll no longer receive the PPL, nor the Baby Bonus that was once available to all new mothers.
Now, I know how much you hate workers entitlements of any kind, and no doubt you wish we lived in an age where workers didn’t have to be paid at all. You know, it’s called slavery. But in fact Joe, my arrangements with my employer to provide me with maternity leave pay is absolutely none of your business. In fact, like most women who have paid maternity leave, I have sacrificed a higher salary because of these types of additional entitlements that are included in my salary package. Many women who you are calling ‘double-dippers’ have, like me, taken lower paid jobs than they would otherwise have in a workplace that has a paid maternity leave scheme, because they saw this scheme as making up for the lesser salary. But what you’re doing is penalising women who have negotiated in good faith with their employer, an entitlement that is part of their salary package. And you’re also dis-incentivising employers to do the right thing by working women by offering paid maternity leave. Because why would companies offer paid maternity leave if by doing so, they’re making it impossible for their female employees to receive the government funded PPL that is available to everyone else? But I think this is all part of your plan Joe. You’re transparently ugly like that. I’ll say it again. My private negotiations with my employer are absolutely none of your business and this is why your whole ‘double-dipping’ narrative is complete bullshit.
I hope you feel the full force of the political pain that this policy is going to cause you. As a woman who is currently 32 weeks pregnant and, no doubt like most expectant mothers, already anxious about the delicate balancing act I’m about to take on – a break from my career, from my salary and the journey after maternity leave back into the workforce, with child care to come and all the additional costs no one warns you about, I hope the political pain causes you the same sort of anxiety you’re causing to working mothers across the country.
Through my study of political narratives I’ve learned many interesting things. But the one most important lessons is that a political narrative has to be simple to be effective. I will add yet another opinion to the thousands that are being written this weekend to analyse what went wrong for UK Labour by saying that their political narrative was all over the place and didn’t give mainstream voters something concrete to hang their hat on.
I’ve already seen a lot of commentary on Twitter from progressives who are saying ‘if only Labour had been more left-wing, they would have won’. There’s no evidence for this. If Labour had been more left-wing, in fact, they probably would have lost by even more. And if being more left-wing was the answer, why did the Greens do so badly? This attitude seems to be the usual knee-jerk reaction from many progressives, who think that if only a major party appealed more consistently to a single individual’s values, they would win easily. Because we all think we’re mainstream – even those of us who are further left than the Socialist Alliance. Perhaps it’s not that we all think we’re mainstream. Perhaps it’s that we all think our political values are the correct ones and if a party wants to win they should adopt these correct values and then all their problems will go away. This attitude is not only spectacularly selfish, it’s also completely unhelpful. Because just standing there where you are and saying ‘if only Labour was more like me’ doesn’t help to convince the myriad of voters out there who fall all over the political spectrum, from left, to right, to moderate, to swinging in the breeze, to having no idea what left and right is, to the racists who voted UKIP, that Labour is the party FOR THEM. The truth is, to win an election, you need to show you’re ready to govern for EVERYBODY and progressives need to get better at showing how their values are GOOD FOR EVERYBODY – even those who have different political values to theirs. This is the simple platform that Labour should have built their political narrative around – appealing to the better values of all voters in the UK, not just the values of progressives.
In fact, if progressives have bothered to check out UK Labour’s policies, they were, in the most part, extremely left-wing, particularly as compared to the Conservative alternative. Raising the minimum wage. Re-funding and not-privatising the NHS. Pro-immigration. A mansion tax. More vocational education opportunities. Tightening loopholes that assist with tax evasion. Sure, if you’re looking for a party who will completely reject the idea of capitalism, you’re not going to find the Labour party appealing. But the mainstream are not interested in rejecting capitalism – the point is the mainstream just needs capitalism to work in favour of the masses, rather than the few very rich. This was an idea that Labour leader Ed Miliband did try to communicate, but it was drowned out by a very messy narrative of having to defend against other progressive parties hell bent on splitting the progressive vote, it was drowned out by unhelpful progressives urging voters not to vote, and it was drowned out by a Murdoch campaign the likes of which should send shivers down the spines of progressives worldwide. Do people really still do what Murdoch tells them? Yep! So what are progressives going to do about it?
I’ve written before about a clean, simple, narrative based on the idea that wealth equality is good for everyone. It’s good for the rich, it’s good for the poor and it’s good for everyone in between. I don’t see any evidence of UK Labour, or for that matter, the Australian Labor Party, taking any of my advice while they flounder from one issue to the next, poking holes in the Conservative narrative but not offering anything convincing to hold onto instead. Labour and Labor have mostly the right mainstream progressive policies, which mostly fit neatly into this simple narrative. Wealth inequality is bad for everyone (except the ultra rich). Wealth equality is good for everyone. I just wish progressives would jump on board and help promote this message, and rally Labour and Labor to own it, rather than sticking with the really unhelpful ‘if only Labour/Labor was more left wing’ narrative. Because we have an election of our own coming up and if Abbott wins again, I honestly think I’ll lose my mind.
After today’s shock Greens leadership change, new leader Richard Di Natale has been quoted as saying he wants the Greens to be ‘the natural home of progressive mainstream Australian voters’. Fine. I can see where Di Natale is going with this. This is code for ‘I want the Greens to challenge Labor as the left-wing major party’. The Greens have always wanted to replace Labor and now Di Natale is being more straight talking about this than previous Greens leaders Milne and Brown. But what does this mean for the Greens, this new ‘mainstream’ mission? I’ve got a suggestion as to what the Greens will have to do in order to make this statement more meaningful than an election slogan.
Mainstream political parties cannot pretend they are above politics.
From what I can tell, a large appeal of the Greens to Greens voters is that they are not a ‘political party’ in the sense that they eschew the messiness and politicking of the Labor Party and the Liberal National Coalition. Whereas Labor, Liberal and the Nationals are portrayed by the Greens as being full of politicians, who act politically, the Greens like to frame themselves as above all this nonsense, and as real people who really get the electorate and what the mainstream progressives want. However, being a pure, uncompromising, non-negotiating non-politician, and appealing to mainstream voters is not, in my view, possible to do at the same time. Because politics, and more importantly, getting things done in politics is by its very nature, a political process.
Show me someone who’s never had to behave politically and I’ll show you someone who talks a lot but achieves nothing. There is politics in all productive action, from debating, negotiating and compromising with your children about what time they should go to bed to positioning yourself for a promotion at work, to running a large multi-national corporation. It may sound crass, and I’m sorry to break the hearts of the bleeding hearts who refuse to believe the world works the way it does, but the tooth fairy doesn’t exist. Shit doesn’t get done without political nous – and this means giving in to the understanding that achieving something is better than achieving nothing, that sometimes you don’t get exactly what you want, that compromise and negotiation is an inevitable reality of mainstream politics and that, to use the philosophy of Tony Judt, sometimes the best we can hope for is incremental improvement to unsatisfactory circumstances. The mainstream do not want revolution and if you try to push it down their throats, you’ll soon learn just how much they don’t want it. What are some of the practicalities of this reality for the Greens? Here are a few:
- The Greens need to release a fully costed budget reply that shows exactly how they will fund their policies and what tax will be paid by various segments of the community in order to make all these policies actually happen. The mainstream care a lot about how much tax they pay. Whether you like this or not, it’s inescapable.
- The Greens need to stop taking credit for policies that they didn’t create. Sure, they can pat themselves on the back for voting for a policy they like, but this is a different concept than actually stealing the credit for Labor policies that Labor has developed, Labor has got through the parliament (through a political process) and Labor has implemented.
- Related to the above, if the Greens want to be able to take credit for their own policies, they need to implement policies, not just ideas. When I step out my door every morning, I can see Labor policies everywhere. Public transport. Health services. Public schools. Maternity leave. Workers’ rights. Infrastructure. Labor policies touch every aspect of my life. Greens ideas might sound nice, but they amount to little more than soundbites, or thin air if you like, until they are actually implemented.
- On the subject of policies, a mainstream Greens party will need to acknowledge that a mainstream political party cannot ignore that they need to have a working relationship with business. It’s all very well to wish and hope, as some Greens supporters seem to, that businesses would just pay more tax and not pollute the environment, and not treat their workers badly, and keep creating jobs and keep investing in the economy without political parties working hand-in-hand with them to get the best outcomes for everyone. This is never going to happen. Working constructively with the business sector is a political reality of mainstream politics and if the Greens don’t recognise this, they’re not a mainstream political party, they’re a lobby group or perhaps an activist organisation.
- Lastly, the inflexible positions that the Greens have taken in some policy areas will need to be more compromising if they are to appeal to mainstream Australians. For instance, it’s not good enough to just say ‘we can solve the asylum seeker policy by just letting everyone come by boat’ and ignoring deaths at sea. It’s not good enough to simply say that there will be a cap on the number of humanitarian visas, and that if that quota, however high it is, is filled up with people who can afford to pay a people smuggler, and are lucky enough not to drown on the journey, who ultimately take the place of someone who may be just as desperate yet can’t afford a boat journey, then so be it. Bottom line is, there is no simple solution to complex policy problems such as the arrival of asylum seekers, and a mainstream political party should be able to discuss this type of problem without being accused of being heartless, murdering, bastards. Are the Greens up for this challenge? Are they ready to stop screaming in people’s faces when they try to discuss achievable solutions?
I guess this advice leaves me with two final questions. If the Greens were able to achieve all of the above, how would they be any different from Labor? And would Greens voters still support them? And I’ll throw in a final question just to keep the conversation interesting: do we, as intelligent, progressive, mainstream voters really think it’s a good idea to use all our political courage, resources, money, support, motivation and energy to split the progressive vote, to fight a war amongst ourselves? If someone could tell me how this stops Tony Abbott winning the next election, I would be interested to hear it.
I agree with Tim Dunlop when he says we’re currently living through a phase of ‘the normalisation of bad politics’. There are hundreds of examples of the way in which the low expectations of the Abbott government due to their blatantly, and now universally acknowledged ineptitude is giving them a free pass to keep being inept without the usual outrage that follows. Just this week, Hunt has been on a campaign of lying, saying his Direct Action policy is stunningly successful and that it will easily meet the 2020 target of reducing emissions by 5%. But it won’t. All you need is a calculator to understand why. And he gets away with lying that the Carbon Price wasn’t working, when in fact a cursory search of Google will show factually that it was, in its short life time, working just as it was meant to thank you very much.
Another whopper of an example is when Abbott recently cancelled, after putting on hold, his paid parental leave scheme. The most the media could muster over this huge broken promise to Abbott’s ‘signature policy’, or what Howard once would have called a ‘core promise’, was a few lines in the newspaper or a mention on the nightly news. And then it was done. Nothing to see here, move along. Sure, it was a brain fart of a policy to start with, and deserved to be dumped. But I have no doubt that some voters liked the idea of being paid their salary for six months of maternity leave, and voted accordingly. Where was the outrage from these people? There was no one calling Abbott a liar. There was no on questioning his credibility as Prime Minister. There was no one turning his name into a description for someone who doesn’t tell the truth.
The worst part was that the media aren’t the only ones who have given up being surprised by Abbott and his government’s backflips and lies. The electorate, us, have come to a point where we too expect the worst from Abbott, and when, every day, the bar for the ‘worst thing Abbott did’ was raised a little higher, I worry that we’re too fatigued by the long and continuous disgrace of this first term abomination of a government, that we too can’t muster the energy to respond with the appropriate, and justified level of hot blooded rage. For some, it might not be a problem of lack of energy, but rather lack of time. We all have lives, we’re all busily trying to survive in this country which is being whacked daily by the Abbott wrecking ball and there’s just too many outrageous Abbott government disasters to mount a campaign of outrage for every single one. You would need to be ready every day with your outrage energy loaded. I’ll put my hand up as someone who just literally finds it hard to have the time to keep up with all the damage Abbott is doing, let alone respond to every single detail.
I also agree with Dunlop that the failed leadership spill which saw Abbott remain in his job as Prime Minister, was a massive hit to the outrage energy levels. Sure, the rational part of me wanted him to stay and wanted him to maintain his bad polls so that he will comprehensively lose the next election and become a one-term blip that we will eventually laugh about after brick-by-brick rebuilding our damaged communities. But the emotional part of me just wanted him gone. And when he wasn’t gone, the incompetence and embarrassment, and shame, and disappointment, and fear of the damage he’s doing that can’t be undone, and daily frustration that this man was ever elected Prime Minister in the first place, remained. It was like someone moved the horizon that we were running determinedly towards and now it feels like we’re going to be stuck with this moron forever but we don’t have the energy to run anymore. Sometimes I don’t have the energy to even walk. I’m limping!
But luckily, I’m an optimist at heart so this is not where the story ends. Because I’ve got an idea. I’ve got a plan for how we can re-boot the outrage in a productive way. What we need to do is to try to stop focussing on the trees and deal instead with the wood. Rather than trying, and failing to highlight our outrage for every single thing the Abbott government does, we need to focus on the big picture ideological problem and maintain the rage that such an ideology runs this country. We need to change the way we vent our outrage so that it becomes a blanket that covers everything and anything the Abbott government does in one all-encompassing umbrella.
For instance, it’s clear that the Abbott government lies about almost everything it does – particularly when it comes to explanations for their policy motivations. So rather than unpick every policy detail of the upcoming budget, let’s just all scream in unison ‘stop lying to us about the state of this nation to justify your ideological small government!’ Because that’s what Abbott’s been doing since he won the top job. We also know that the Abbott government will always, without fail, preference the rich and industry barons over the poor, middle class, workers and welfare recipients. So rather than look at one pension change, or one tax fiddle that hits the poor but leaves Gina Rinehart untouched, let’s unite to say ‘we’re not going to stand for this inequity! Stop protecting the rich at the expense of the poor!’ And every time Abbott and co. do these things, call them out for the big picture. Remind voters that all Abbott’s policies, and all his reactions to Labor policies, fit in these boxes. This is who the Abbott government is and we need to make sure voters don’t forget it. Make memes, tweet about it, share outrage on Facebook, tell your workmates, rant about it on the bus. But forget about trying to cover all policy bases, all the outrageous details. Focus on the beast rather than the teeth. And the beast will be slayed. We have just over a year to make this work. Fire up! Who’s with me?