So now it really begins. Scott Morrison has been extruded into the Prime Minister’s office after a week of mesmerisingly incompetent stabbings and betrayals.
First published at Junkee
Bolt, Hadley and Jones didn’t get their man in the end. Dutton at least had the grace to be photographed looking like a shell-shocked ghoul at a the saddest lunch in the world, directly after his leadership ambitions were burned to the ground on live TV. That was really the only good news in a cheerless week.
Even though it seems likely that this article will be outdated by the time it gets to you, maybe in the very short term the safest money is on self interest. The plastic bag full of writhing piranhas that we know as our Federal Government will surely make an attempt at discipline, if only because they know that an early election will tip many of them out into the yard.
Unless there are defections or resignations, it may be that come the September sittings, Mr Morrison is able to defeat a no-confidence motion in the House, in which case things may steady for a brief while. We’ll see. In the meantime, the stage is being set for a violently divisive election unlike anything many of us will have experienced. Whether things fall apart in September and we go to the polls, or they hold it together until mid-2019, it’s going to be a shit-show.
How do we know this? Well, there are signs. It seems like longer, but it’s actually less than a fortnight since the Holocaust was invoked in the Australian Senate as an oratorical hook for a plebiscite on a new White Australia policy. That didn’t come from nowhere. Stoking ambient racism for political effect is something that has been perfected over time by far more efficient operators than dead-eyed amateurs like Fraser Anning.
First amongst equals in this race to the bottom is Mr Scott Morrison, who was imploring some bleak shadow-cabinet planning meeting as long ago as 2010 to exploit anti-Muslim-sentiment and undermine public support for multiculturalism, as one of his three ‘big ideas’ for getting people elected. That line of thinking mutated into Morrison’s ‘Sovereign Borders’ atrocity which still disfigures our politics today, to say nothing of the consequences for the people trying to survive the barbed-wire purgatory of our island internment camps.
In the miserable rhetorical arms race that passes for race politics in Australia, we could choose to trace this arc back to Tampa, or Cronulla, or Hanson’s first ‘swamped by Asians’ outing, but to tell the truth, it arrived with the planting of a foreign flag on Gadigal country on January 26, 1788. Founded in an unacknowledged continent-wide war, the aftershocks of occupation are still felt in overpolicing and mass-imprisonment of Aboriginal people, welfare quarantining and other remnants of John Howard’s Northern Territory Intervention.
Even Andrew Bolt was honest enough to admit in that opinion piece that it’s not just non-white immigration that makes him uncomfortable, but that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags flying over public buildings also rustles his jimmies.
The hard news is, this isn’t going away. For all the talk of fresh faces and generational change in the ‘daggy dad’ Morrison lineup, it’s the same haggard faces who’ve been running the show for years.
These people will stop at absolutely nothing to build and consolidate power, and they are fresh out of fucks to give about how many people get hurt. Colleagues, friends, ten-year-old children attempting to kill themselves on Nauru: it doesn’t matter. With their backs against the wall in election season, they will be capable of anything at all. They will hurl the full resources of incumbency into the politics of division, and they will do it in the name of unity, Aussie values, and these mythical ‘everyday Australians’ we keep hearing about.
Right here in front of us is our chance to hand the architects of this agenda the defeat they are so desperately owed. A wipe out. A Queensland-style electoral demolition. A concession speech through clenched teeth early on election night as camera shutters whir and flash-bulbs pop. Savour it, and allow yourself to run through the roll-call of glass name-plates being removed from the suites in the Ministerial wing of Parliament House and dropped in a bin.
Now we work backwards from that moment: the day Australia stood up to the bullies and the race-haters and told them where to jam it. This going to take a lot of work, but we’re up to it. We know how to do this, because we’ve had to do it before. Seat-by -seat, door-to-door, in town halls from one end of this old continent to the other. We’ll do it for Reza Barati and for Ms Dhu. We’ll do it for the reef, for the Wangan and Jagalingou mob, for those at the front lines fighting bushfires in a winter that came without rain, and for everyone who is done with endless invocations of new police powers to protect us from ‘others’.
There are no ‘others’. There is only us, and there is only this time. Those of us who are rarely the target of calculated ‘othering’ have a particular role. Academics call it ‘bystander anti-racism’, which means linking arms with the people the late night creepy-crawlies have selected as their targets on Sky News, and helping form a protective fucking cordon. Online and offline, none of us can afford to be bystanders at this late hour.
Hold each other close, and check in with people. The Government has deliberately stoked powerful currents of sexism, racism, homophobia and transphobia, underpinned by what in the old days we’d have called class warfare. It is relentless and bruising, and it is entirely in service to their continued accumulation of political and economic power. It has to stop, and we’re the ones to do it.
Bins full of glass nameplates. Hold that thought, and together let’s organise. Now it begins.