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Issue #1671      February 4, 2015

Culture & Life

Speaking with a forked tongue

Tony Abbott has warned the Australian people against getting rid of an unpopular leader prematurely. He wants them to give him more time, to give his policies a chance to “work”. Fortunately for him, the Australian people are not in a position to get rid of Abbott and his ultra-conservative religion-driven policies just yet. There is no election due for some time. Only Abbott’s parliamentary colleagues can oust him right now. And their only worry about his policies is a fear that “voter backlash” might take them down with him.

That the policies of Abbott and his despised Treasurer Joe Hockey are unpopular is abundantly evident: the “Bust the Budget” demonstrations and rallies, the banners bearing Abbott’s likeness and the slogan “Ditch the Drongo”, the panicky moves within the ruling class to dump Hockey. Don’t make the mistake however of thinking that Abbott’s parliamentary colleagues don’t support and agree with his reactionary policies. They do. Wholeheartedly.

Their problem – if they have one – is only with the Abbott government’s image and tactics. Perception, not reality. The implication in the pleas not to change leaders just yet is that we must give their policies time to achieve their ends. The further implication is that those ends are somehow in the interests of ordinary Australians.

Abbott’s removal of the carbon tax, a gift to the mining industry and the big polluters, was promoted as reducing household electricity bills. His privatisations and wholesale destruction of NGO-operated (and government-subsidised) social welfare organisations is similarly promoted with misleading claims and outright lies.

The social fabric of our country is being ripped apart by a cabal of extreme right-wing politicians who all subscribe to the view that the role of government is to support business – and nothing more. Everything else can be supplied by private enterprise as and if required – for a price. And if you cannot afford to pay the price then do without, or appeal to a charity for help. The state has no responsibility for the well-being of the people or indeed any interest in them other than as consumers and cannon fodder in this brave new world.

A frank admission of such a goal would be most unlikely to gain electoral support, however. So instead, in a tradition that dates back several hundred years but was perfected by another extreme right-wing government (that of Nazi Germany), Abbott and his cohorts say one thing to the electorate, the “common people” whom they claim to serve, and they say another thing to the bosses of the business world whom they actually serve.

Hitler functioned under Fascism, so he had total control over the mass media. But the people knew that and knew exactly how much trust to place in the veracity of the “news” in the Nazi regime’s papers. Today, in Australia, we don’t have Fascism but we do have Rupert Murdoch. His near monopoly of the mass media means news is just as false and misleading as anything from Hitler’s Germany, but it has the appearance of being “free” and “independent” – and hence credible.

Murdoch’s local rival, Fairfax Media, which is clearly not enamoured of Tony Abbott, is nevertheless not going to challenge his class position. That would be revolutionary, and Fairfax is still a ruling class media corporation. So the most reactionary federal government this country has seen for many a year is effectively free to spread the lying furphy that “we are living beyond our means” and that we cannot afford the Medicare system, or women’s refuges, or even old age pensions people can actually live on.

Hitler said similar (and similarly false) things to the German people, while saying often the exact opposite to the heads of German industry. Abbott is too canny to do anything so blatant. Instead, he and Hockey employ the talents of sophisticated speech-writers and publicists to put such a “spin” on their pronouncements that they can say black is white while keeping a straight face – and they frequently do. And Murdoch’s media in particular backs up everything they say.

The grim reality is that this federal government is carrying out the greatest attack on living and working conditions (especially working conditions) in the history of this country, an attack occasioned by the crisis confronting capitalism across the developed world. Working conditions and wages won over 200 years of often bloody struggle are being stripped away at the whim of capitalist governments facing economic “difficulties” for which they have no solutions other than to try to get the workers to bear the brunt of the burden for them.

Of course, they cannot tell the workers that that is what they are doing, so instead they do as they have always done: they lie. They say the economic difficulties are not the result of the failure of capitalism but are “inevitable”, virtually acts of God that could not be avoided and hence must be endured by everyone without complaint.

They promote “austerity”, by which they mean working people – not employers – accepting savage cuts to their income, along with equally savage cuts to welfare, government services, and working conditions. At the same time, and incredibly with the same justification, corporate tax is reduced and then reduced some more, public enterprises are sold off at bargain-basement prices to those same corporations, and the right of workers to organise in unions is assailed through legislation, the media, the judicial system and the police.

And all of it is put forward as necessary “reforms”, steps that will “improve” the lives of the people. At the same time the capitalist mass media does its best to distract the people with its usual diet of trivia and sensationalism, so that they will not notice the flaws in the line that’s being advanced, and won’t become angry enough to actually do something about it.

If capitalism can keep the people confused and distracted, while their living and working conditions are ripped away, it will – and no lie is too great if it will serve to advance that aim.

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