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Issue #1625      February 5, 2014

Culture & Life

The Abbott offensive

It’s started! The Abbott offensive has begun. He’s launched serious attacks against key “left-wing” unions, the MUA and the CFMEU. Dubious practices by some union officials have played into his hands, allowing the tabloid media and the ABC to rip into the unions as criminal entities.

Abbott has no truck with the notion that “the people have a right to know”. For Abbott, the people have no “right” to know anything, and should be content to be told only what the government wants them to be told.

Abbott has however rejected the idea of a Royal Commission into the CFMEU. He wants to be able to attack the unions without being constrained by the legal niceties of actual evidence and cross-examination that a Royal Commission would entail. Trial by Murdoch media is much more to his taste.

Abbott is no intellectual, but these days that is no hindrance to political success. Look where George W Bush got to, and he can’t tell his Apex from his Base (or his arse from his elbow if you prefer). One does wonder sometimes whether Abbott’s obvious hostility towards the ABC might be because its programs are just too sophisticated for him. Perhaps I do him an injustice, but really, what are you to think of someone who – with a perfectly straight face – can accuse the ABC of being unpatriotic because it gave coverage to the revelations of an American whistle-blower about Australia’s intelligence agencies spying on East Timor and Indonesia.

The fact that the revelations were true was apparently irrelevant, as far as Abbott was concerned. He has no truck with the notion that “the people have a right to know”. For Abbott, the people have no “right” to know anything, and should be content to be told only what the government wants them to be told. Only left-wing troublemakers would want to know more.

He was also outraged that the ABC gave screen time to refugees who claimed they were thuggishly treated by Australian Navy personnel who boarded their ramshackle fishing boat and “turned them back”. To Abbott, refugees are “illegal immigrants” and “queue jumpers”, and Australia has no obligations towards them despite our nominal support for the UN Charter. He’s not exactly what you would call a caring man, is he?

Instead of being concerned about the plight of refugees, he is concerned that the left wingers who (everyone knows) run the ABC have seen fit to criticise one of imperialism’s most sacred cows: the armed forces. After the revelations of sexism, racism, bullying etc at Duntroon and on several Australian warships, does anyone apart from Abbott still harbour illusions about the character and moral fibre of our military?

Did Abbott watch Obama’s State Of The Union speech, I wonder? I am sure he would have, if only to pick up pointers on how to work a large hall with a mixed audience of supporters and opponents. The supporters (Democrats) applauded – and stood up for added emphasis – often and loudly. The opponents (Republicans) sat and occasionally clapped politely. Obama, with the aid of two almost invisible teleprompter screens, worked the crowd with professional zeal, presenting himself as the people’s champion, willing to defy Congress itself.

But, when the chips are down, Obama has little to offer the American people. His summit the other day on unemployment demonstrated that. He summoned the CEOs of the biggest US corporations to the White House, but all he got them to agree to was an undertaking that when their Human Resources division was hiring employees the length of time someone had been unemployed would not count against their chance of getting a job.

Actual job creation measures did not enter into it. But jobs are needed before people can get hired for them. Obama talked up the state of the US economy, especially US manufacturing, despite the glaring evidence of the innumerable industrial ghost towns scattered across what was once the USA’s “Steel Belt” and despite the flight of manufacturing to low wage countries in Asia and South America. There was an air of desperation in the way every little sign of recovery was hailed as a sign that America was once again top nation.

Obama made one statement that probably upset Tony Abbott. He said that “global warming is fact, not myth”, and called on the USA to lead the fight to cut the greenhouse gasses that cause it. That is ironic considering the consistent fight the USA has put up in international forums against efforts to effect meaningful reductions in these gasses. But at least Obama acknowledges the nature of the problem. Tony Abbott refuses to accept that there even is a problem.

At the most recent international meeting Abbott attended, in Tokyo, many people in Australia expected him to speak out against continued Japanese whaling, an anachronism in today’s world and an environmental affront to most other countries which have long since abandoned the outdated practice. Abbott chose not to, preferring instead to promote an idea dear to the hearts of US corporations: free trade in the Asia-Pacific region.

Australia has lost most of its manufacturing industry, and the jobs that go with it, thanks to abandoning the policy of protecting local industry. That protection was withdrawn largely because of pressure to do so from the US. Abbott, for all his talk of local small business leading our recovery, is more interested in giving Australian corporations a leg up to join other small to middling capitalist economies as they try to scoop up some of the crumbs from the imperialists’ table.

That might help a few Australian entrepreneurs to make a buck, but it will do precious little for the bulk of the Australian population. It won’t create jobs, it won’t put money in the pockets of consumers to spend in retail centres or on paying their mortgage, it won’t encourage local manufacturing. It will only help Australian capitalists trying to get a bigger share of the imperialist pie.

Abbott is their man, and behind Abbott is Rupert Murdoch. How could such a powerful combination possibly be wrong about how to manage this nation’s economy? Might as well ask how could they be wrong about global warming?

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