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Issue #1597      June 12, 2013

Culture & Life

Lies, damned lies, and propaganda

You know there’s a federal election in the offing when your local TV channels are full of ads featuring Clive Palmer spruiking his United Australia Party (UAP). As if to confirm what a right wing reactionary Palmer is, the UAP was the name of the conservative party in Australia back in the 1930s, before Menzies took it over and changed the name to the equally misleading Liberal Party.

It was the Liberals under Bob Menzies who started selling off Australia’s publicly owned assets.

And you know there’s an election on the way when your letterbox begins to fill up with propaganda, propaganda so blatant that it only just avoids being labelled “lying propaganda”. The Libs have sent out nationwide a glossy card emblazoned “Broken Promises: Labor’s Dirty Dozen”. You’ve probably seen it already.

It has cleverly been printed with a strip across the bottom that can be changed for each electorate, so that it appears to have been printed for your electorate exclusively. Now, before looking at this piece of reactionary propaganda in detail, it’s worth noting that if ever the ALP deserved to lose an election it’s this one. Labor’s pundits have for decades been trying to convince the bosses of capital that the ALP would be a better manager of capitalism than the conservatives, better able to keep the workers docile and accepting of reactionary government policies, better able to head off or dampen down industrial unrest.

However, the ALP’s success in this endeavour has inevitably led to an awakening on the part of the working class to the realisation that the Labor Party is no longer the party of the labour movement. It may still hold the loyalty of many workers, but the interests it represents are nowadays those of business and commerce. In short, it serves the interests of employers, not employees.

So does Tony Abbott’s mob, of course, and in their view probably with greater legitimacy. After all, aren’t they descended in a straight line from Bob Menzies to John Howard to Tony Abbott? True, there were a few hiccoughs along the way when government inexplicably fell to the upstarts on the other side, but apart from the aberration of the period in office of the Whitlam government, the electorate would not have noted a great deal of difference between Labor and Liberal/National governments.

So what line is this first Liberal propaganda sheet for 2013 taking? Well, in this case it is attacking the government’s record: “A bad government that keeps breaking its promises.” Hang on – didn’t John Howard get into a lot of strife when he tried to justify breaking his promises by claiming that they were only election promises, not core promises? The Libs’ flyer evokes the ghost of John Howard where it suits them but conveniently forgets about him (and his record) when it doesn’t.

The Libs blame the Labor government for increases in gas, electricity and childcare prices, although I suspect that the private companies gouging profits out of those industries would have something to do with it too, don’t you think?

Many bourgeois economic pundits, especially in the non-Murdoch papers, urged Australians to “embrace the deficit”, arguing that it was economically a good thing. The leaflet ignores them in favour of bashing the government for “a huge budget deficit” with no other comment. It also claims that “under Howard, Australia had $70 billion in net assets” but now is wallowing in debt. It naturally declines to mention that it was the Libs under Menzies who started selling off Australia’s publicly owned assets, and every government since (other than Whitlam’s) has sold off more. Remember all the privatisations under John Howard? While Labor undoubtedly contributed to the resultant sorry mess, it seems a wee tad unfair to try to blame Labor for what is essentially a basic tenet of Liberal Party policy.

The Lib brochure also blames the Gillard government for failing to roll out the NBN quickly enough. But the NBN is basically for businesses, not for ordinary folk. Why should the public purse have to shell out for this costly exercise at all? The brochure also blames the Gillard government for failing to deliver on an election promise of “500,000 new jobs within two years”, and while there is unquestionably a lot more that Labor in office could have and should have done to create jobs, there is also no doubt that the Libs are conveniently blaming Labor for what is inherently a flaw in the capitalist system.

Finally, harping on their main peeve, the Libs say “Julia Gillard promised to protect our borders. Instead, border security has collapsed with over 660 illegal boat arrivals carrying over 40,000 people.” But all those people were stopped at the border, so how can they say “border security has collapsed”. Apparently the Libs want the boats stopped before they even set out. Perhaps they are under the impression that these boats advertise their departures in the shipping news?

In any case, most of the so-called “boat people” are eventually cleared as legitimate refugees, and the Libs might like to note that refugees are not illegal. In fact it is not illegal to come to Australia by boat.

Some of the claims in the brochure are true: “Labor promised tax cuts for workers” – then scrapped the cuts. True, and largely indefensible. But the people behind the Liberal Party, the corporations and big business interests, cause much greater chaos and misery by closing factories and shipping jobs overseas. Entire communities are laid waste while key executives pocket millions in bonuses for successfully “downsizing” a large enterprise. They are in fact rewarded for de-industrialising Australia.

Howard did nothing about that, neither did Julia Gillard and neither will Abbott. We need a new type of government, sensitive to the needs of the people and prepared to defend their interests ahead of those of the transnational corporations, one that will conduct its business – our business – out in the open, away from secret boardroom deals, secure in its reliance on the people to keep its dealings honest and in the interest of the working people of Australia.  

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